4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
In the education sector, the Council of Europe has a number of roles and responsibilities in supporting its member States in their efforts to achieve the Goal. In particular:
- Standing Conference of Council of Europe Ministers of Education
The Standing Conference of Council of Europe Ministers of Education (Brussels, 11-12 April 2016) supported a role for the Council of Europe in supporting national efforts to achieve SDG4 by developing a long-term strategy for more coherent and comprehensive Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (EDC/HRE) including, where possible providing evidence and data on EDC/HRE on which to base further policy recommendations.
In October 2016 the Steering Committee for Educational Policy and Practice (CDPPE) decided to include SDG4 as a standing agenda item to its bi-annual plenary meetings to exchange best practice and lessons learned in implementing the measures required to achieve SDG4. 0 -Education al SDG4 -Education 2030
- UNESCO Global SDG4-Education 2030 Steering Committee
The Council of Europe was selected as one of two regional organisations for the European and North America region on the UNESCO Global SDG4-Education 2030 Steering Committee.
The Council of Europe contributes to the work of this Committee by presenting regional initiatives, representing and reporting back to its member states, and identifying and promoting good practice in efforts to achieve SDG4 among its member States.
The Council of Europe’s approach to quality education is outlined in Recommendation CM(2012)13 on ensuring quality education and programmes supporting EDC/HRE, Competences for Democratic Culture, Ethics, Transparency and Integrity in Education (ETINED), inter-cultural dialogue, and education provision for refugees and migrants are also relevant.
The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQRP) contributes to the achievement of SDG4 by facilitating the recognition of refugees’ qualifications even in the absence of full documentation. The EQPR is a Council of Europe initiative based on the Lisbon Recognition Convention and was presented as an example of good practice at the UNHCR’s Global Forum for Refugees in December 2019. The EQPR was developed under the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe (2017-2019).
Additionally, through its co-operation and capacity-building programme, the Council of Europe’s Education Department offers tailored support to member States, individually or in groups, to identify and promote best practice across a range of education issues, allowing SDG4-related outcomes to be given more visible priority.
The European Social Charter, the human rights treaty on social and economic rights, guarantees the right of children and young persons to social, legal and economic protection in Article 17 of the Charter. This entails the right of children and young persons to a free primary and secondary education as well as to encourage regular attendance at schools.
Under Article 17 of the Charter, equal access to education must be ensured for all children. In this respect particular attention should be paid to vulnerable groups such as children from minorities, children seeking asylum, refugee children, children in hospital, children in care, pregnant teenagers, children deprived of their liberty, etc. Children belonging to these groups must be integrated into mainstream educational facilities and ordinary educational schemes. Measures for Roma children should not involve the establishment of separate schools or classes reserved for this group.
The denial of access to education will exacerbate the vulnerability of an irregularly present child. Therefore, children, whatever their residence status, come within the personal scope of Article 17 of the Charter. Furthermore, States Parties are required, under Article 17 of the Charter, to ensure that children irregularly present in their territory have effective access to education in keeping with any other child, even for those over the age of compulsory education.
Article 15§1 of the Charter makes it an obligation for States Parties to provide education for persons with disabilities, together with vocational guidance and training, in one or other of the pillars of the education system, in other words mainstream or special schools. Education and training are the essential foundation to obtain a position in the open labour market and to be able to lead a self-determined life. Young persons with disabilities with an education below the upper secondary level are per se subject to various disadvantages on the employment market. States Parties must take measures in order to enable integration and guarantee that both mainstream and special schools ensure adequate teaching. Furthermore, States Parties must demonstrate that tangible progress is being made in setting up inclusive and adapted education systems.
As regards vocational education and life-long learning, the Charter guarantees the right to vocational training in Article 10 of the Charter according to which States Parties must:
- ensure general and vocational secondary education, university and non-university higher education; and other forms of vocational training;
- build bridges between secondary vocational education and university and non-university higher education;
- introduce mechanisms for the recognition/validation of knowledge and experience acquired in the context of training/working activity in order to achieve a qualification or to gain access to general, technical and university higher education;
- take measures to make general secondary education and general higher education qualifications relevant from the perspective of professional integration in the job market;
- introduce mechanisms for the recognition of qualifications awarded by continuing vocational education and training.
The main indicators of compliance include the existence of the education and training system, its total capacity (in particular, the ratio between training places and candidates), the total spending on education and training as a percentage of the GDP; the completion rate of young people enrolled in vocational training courses and of students enrolled in higher education; the employment rate of people who hold a higher-education qualification and the waiting-time for these people to get a first qualified job.
The European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR) monitors the implementation of the Charter, not only in law, but also in practice. The ESCR examined the compliance by States Parties with their obligations under Article 17 of the Charter in its Conclusions 2015, respectively under Article 10 of the Charter in its Conclusions 2016.
The ECSR by its decision of 16 October 2017 on the merits of the complaint Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) v. Belgium (No. 109/2014) concluded that there is a violation of Article 15§1 of the Charter on the ground that the right to inclusive education of children with intellectual disabilities is not effectively guaranteed in the Flemish Community of Belgium and due to lack of an effective remedy against refusal of enrolment in mainstream schooling for children with intellectual disabilities; and that there is a violation of Article 17§2 of the Charter on the ground that the accessibility criteria to an inclusive education are not fulfilled.
The Council of Europe’s Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) supports its member States in implementing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and other European standards at the national level. It consists of three key elements:
The HELP Network of Judiciary Schools and Bar associations of the 47 countries of the Council of Europe (in addition to partners like the European Judicial Training Network and the Council of Bar Associations and Law Societies of Europe).
Human Rights courses for legal professionals (hosted on the HELP online platform). They cover a range of topical issues such as asylum, anti-discrimination, data protection, labour rights, ill-treatment, human trafficking, bioethics, counterfeiting of medical products or international cooperation in criminal matters. In 2018, the platform reached more than 20.000 users.
Methodology to develop courses and support the Judiciary Schools and Bar associations.
With regard to Roma education, one concrete example related to the support provided to the member states is the Joint Project “Inclusive schools: making a difference for Roma children (INSCHOOL)” which aims at reviewing and adapting education policies and practices in order to transform schools into inclusive places for all the children. Instead of focusing on the child as being the problem, INSCHOOL puts at the heart of its action the education system and its capacity to respond to the specific needs of Roma children, to accommodate differences and to support their learning experience.
Information about the SDGs is being included in educational resources made available to non-formal education practitioners.
In line with Recommendation (2004)4 of the CoE Committee of Ministers on the ECHR in university education and professional training, the HELP Programme has the potential of reaching out Universities, particularly law faculties) aiming at integrating human rights courses in their curricula.
The Committe of Ministers adopted Resolution CM/Res(2008)23 on the youth policy of the Council of Europe on 25 November 2008. It adopted Resolution CM/Res(2020)2 on the Council of Europe youth sector strategy 2030 on 22 January 2030.
The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) can finance education and vocational training projects and the related infrastructure, such as:
- Construction, rehabilitation of early childhood education facilities, schools, colleges, vocational training centres, establishments of higher education or specialised learning and/or research and development centres. Eligible investments may include sports and socio-cultural centres as well as residence facilities, learning materials, furniture and equipment;
- Adaptation of such premises in order to facilitate their access to persons with reduced mobility;
- Programmes providing assistance in the training and development of staff in the social and education sectors, training for the unemployed or in favour of vulnerable groups;
- Education related research and development programmes;
- Programmes for student loans.
In the last three years, the CEB has approved 10 projects in the area of education and vocational training, for a total value of €1.44 billion. Twenty-two other projects with a multi-sectorial focus, providing assistance to, inter alia, the education sector, have been approved in the same period.
The North-South Centre of the Council of Europe also contributes to this goal of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development through its Global Education programme advocacy, capacity-building and awareness-raising activities. Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)4 on education for global interdependence and solidarity is of particular relevance in this context.
Since 2009, the Council of Europe, through its North-South Centre, has a joint programme with the European Commission to promote and strengthen Global Development Education in new EU member States and acceding countries. This programme contributes to advocating for and raising awareness on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in formal and non-formal education sectors.
From 2016 to 2019, the iLEGEND project (Intercultural Learning Exchange through Global Education, Networking and Dialogue), through a series of advocacy, awareness raising and capacity building activities, contributed to i) including principles of Global Development Education in the formal education sector, ii) creating spaces of dialogue between practitioners and policy-makers and iii) reinforcing the knowledge and skills of educators and learners to promote Sustainable Development locally, nationally and internationally.
One of the main guiding tools which leads the Global Education programme are the Global Education Guidelines which support educators to comprehend and successfully design, implement and carry out global education initiatives and learning activities. In 2019 a revised version was published in light of contemporary challenges and on recent elements of tension at social, economic, political, cultural and environmental level. Thus, the pedagogical elements of the new GEG valorise intercultural understanding and practice, conflict prevention and democratic culture, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Building on the success of this project, iLEGEND II was signed in October 2019 and will take place until 2022. It aims to foster a better understanding of global issues and their economic, social, political, environmental and cultural interconnectedness among policy-makers, educators and youth workers."
Moreover, Resolution 2283 (2019) - Education and culture: new partnerships to recognise personal development and competences encourages Member states to embed creative and cultural competences in formal education systems, promote inclusivity in providing quality arts and culture education, and support innovation in education, as well as long-term partnerships between schools, communities, creative industries, cultural institutions and businesses to offer young people new opportunities to develop cultural awareness and expression. Resolution 2313 (2019) - Role of education in the digital era: from “digital natives” to “digital citizens” calls for European governments to overhaul teaching and improve coordination at all levels to reduce disparities in education systems, ensure equal access to digital education and fight against digital exclusion, insisting on the importance of raising higher on government agendas re-training teachers, rethinking curricula, invest in ICT facilities and digital resources to support learning and develop new digital-based learning methods.
The Assembly’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons prepared reports on fostering student mobility by giving incentives to students to study abroad and possibilities of remaining in host countries after graduation, and on “Integration, empowerment and protection of migrant children through compulsory education” which examined the gap between international undertakings and migrant children’s access to education (see Resolution 2220 (2018) and Resolution 2250 (2019) on Encouraging the movement of international students across Europe).
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted the following texts of relevance:
- Resolution 414 (2017) - Forever young? The role of youth policies and youth work at local and regional levels in supporting young people’s transition to autonomy and working life;
- Resolution 375 (2014) on ’’Promoting diversity through intercultural education and communication strategies’’;
- REC365(2014): Promoting diversity through intercultural education and communication strategies;
- Resolution 332 (2011) on ’’Education for democratic citizenship – tools for cities’’;
- Resolution 204 (2005) on ’’Youth education for sustainable development: the role of the regions’’.
Promoting inclusive and quality education for all has been a priority in the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights. Concrete recommendations were addressed to member states in country reports on ways of combating school segregation and achieving more inclusive education systems. In the Position Paper “on combating school segregation through inclusive education” (2017), the Commissioner described the state of play of school segregation across the member states of the Council of Europe, analysed its root causes and presented key principles for an inclusive education policy as well as specific recommendations addressed to member states. In 2017, the Commissioner also intervened as a third party before the European Court of Human Rights in a case regarding access to education of a child with a physical disability. The Commissioner has also made a number of recommendations concerning youth and economic crisis and access to employment.
See in particular:
- Position paper ´Positions on combating school segregation through inclusive education’
- Human Rights Comment ‘Inclusive education vital for social cohesion in diverse societies´
- Human Rights Comment ´Youth Human Rights at risk during the crisis´
- Third party intervention before ECtHR in Stefan Moshe Stoian and Luminitsa Stoian v. Romania
- Opinion article ´Addressing youth unemployment through human rights’