As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Minister for Overseas Development and the Diaspora of Ireland,
Ladies and gentlemen,
In democratic countries, education serves four key functions.
It provides us with a broad, advanced knowledge base.
It equips us to compete in the jobs market.
It furthers our personal development.
And it prepares us to be active citizens playing our part in civic and national life.
The very same principles underpin the Council of Europe’s approach to ensuring inclusive, quality education in the interests of learners and societies in Europe and throughout the world.
Yes, our Organisation is European –
But the aspiration for good, effective, and democratic education spans far wider than the borders of our continent –
Everyone wants - and deserves – a chance in life.
So, we want to share our best practices, experience and expertise with other countries and organisations that have the same aspiration for their citizens.
That sentiment is core to both the work of our North-South Centre in Lisbon and the Global Education Network Europe, which has done so much to develop and promote the concept and practice of global education for over twenty years.
Indeed, it is central to our Organisation’s broader outlook.
Education is one of the 12 key objectives outlined in the Council of Europe’s Strategic Framework, and the fourth of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Playing our role in delivering these objectives helps us to meet others, in turn –
Fighting inequalities, including economic inequality.
And supporting the work and diversity of civil society, which plays a key role in promoting global education.
So, our aims and targets are big, varied and valuable.
But how do we go about achieving them?
How should we help governments and others to deliver that quality, competence-based education that contributes to a culture of democracy and pluralism?
And how do we make sure knowledge and understanding flourish alongside democratic values and attitudes, – and that education helps advance human rights, democratic citizenship and sustainable development?
Let me try to give an answer to these two questions. First, over the years, we have put in place a range of standards to guide authorities in their actions.
Starting with the European Cultural Convention of 1954 which brought about co-operation in language learning, history teaching and student mobility.
Since then there have been a number of new instruments –
In recent years these have included our Charter for Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights –
A real catalyst for government action.
Encouraging authorities to use education as a tool to broaden young people’s awareness of their role in society and the fundamental rights that belong to every individual, by law, and which they in turn should respect.
And to support it we have adopted a Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture.
This is now our primary tool for ensuring democratic, inclusive and global education.
And it is divided into four clusters –
Values, Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge and Critical Understanding.
These contain a total of twenty competences –
Competences that allow learners to have a better insight into democracy, how it functions, how they benefit from it, how it helps confront the problems our societies face – and how they can defend it from attack.
But this alone is not enough – and that brings me to my second point:
Global education must provide both historical perspective and move with the times.
The Council of Europe, as far as I know, is the only international organisation that includes a history education programme –
Ensuring that people have knowledge and critical insight into European and world history –
And meeting our need to put the past into the current context and analyse events from a balanced perspective.
At the heart of this model is the concept of multiperspectivity –
Where students learn to differentiate memories, interpretations and perspectives –
To tell fact from fiction, and to detect propaganda –
And to bring people together in the confidence and trust that come with mutual understanding.
And finally my third point - we are also taking new and recent challenges head on.
For example, in response to increased migration into Europe, we have developed a European Qualifications Passport for Refugees.
This supports the recognition of qualifications from other countries, so that migrants can continue their education, find work and integrate more easily in their new country.
And it is being applied around the world through the important work of our friends in UNESCO.
More recently still, our member states adopted a Recommendation on Digital Citizenship Education.
This is our direct response to the ever-growing role of digitalisation in the lives and learning of children and young people.
It also builds democratic citizenship and democratic resilience –
And does so in the very particular context of the digital environment –
An environment, where disinformation and hate speech way too often abound.
And where it is vital that young people have the skills to spot and process what is untrue, unfair and unsafe.
In this ever-evolving context, we must always look for new ways to ensure effective global education –
With learning that is fit for the modern age.
Finally, let me end by highlighting that right now, the Council of Europe is at work on a new education strategy.
The aim of this strategy is to strengthen education’s role in democratic renewal and trust in democracy – and at the same time provide for a more developed, human rights-based approach to the digital transformation of education.
In doing so, I believe we will help meet a range of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
On quality education, on citizenship education and on their central, transformative promise to “leave no one behind”.
This Conference will no doubt address many of these issues.
So, I want to end by congratulating the Global Education Network Europe for organising it –
The Irish authorities for hosting it –
And all of you for attending it.
It is a valuable opportunity to commit to the Dublin Declaration on Global Education to 2050.
Twenty years after the Maastricht Declaration, the first strategy of its kind, which did so much to improve and increase global education –
This new, ambitious, but clear-sighted text commits its signatories to the long-haul.
And that is vitally important.
Because our common commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law through education – and every other means – should never be a short-term project.
Not in Europe, and not anywhere else.
Of course, it will require hard work and commitment.
As is often the case.
But I believe we – together - are ready for this challenge.
Thank you for your attention.