On November 30 2017, the Ministry of Education and Science hosted the High Level Group in Education and Training. This was the first of the events in sector ‘Education’ on the calendar of the Bulgarian Presidency i of the EU i Council i even before the first half of 2018.
Topics related to the future European cooperation in the area of education and training were discussed in the meeting. More specifically, these were the scope and the mandates of the Thematic Working Groups on Digital Skills and Competences and on Promoting Citizenship and the Common Values of Freedom, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination through Education in the period 2018-2020, as well as the other four thematic Working Groups which are operating within the European Commission (EC i) with all member states participating. They are TG on Schools, on Vocational Education and Training, on Adult Learning and on Modernisation of Higher Education. During this first discussion, the member states reached an agreement in principle on the mandates of these working groups, proposed by the EC.
“The most important feature of European Cooperation is the value added,” Stefaan Hermans, Director for Policy Strategy and Evaluation at DG Education of EC, said during the meeting. According to him, the meeting in Sofia coincided with the easing of the visa regime with Canada and this was yet another reason to rethink the policies and innovations in the area of education and their focus in the world. In the session on reviewing the implementation of the Strategic Framework for European Cooperation ‘Education and Training 2020’, the member states shared their experience and impressions from the value added of the cooperation between them. During the sessions of the various networks and working groups, aimed at sharing experience, good practices and using various common instruments at European level and mutual training were outlined as a catalyst of educational reforms. All these activities are standing out as main disseminators of the European culture.
Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Education and Science Denitsa Sacheva urged the delegates to continue the implementation of good examples in the area of civil education. She underlined that, at the moment, the topic of education has been brought to the top of the agenda of Europe and that it is an opportunity for optimizing national policies.
With its first event, the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council provided a platform for another exchange of opinion in the process of consultations with the member states regarding the development of European cooperation in education and training beyond 2020.
Some of the more important results that stood out after the discussions were the role of digital technology for the economy, the European citizens and the community as a whole. All EU citizens should acquire digital competences, which they need in their everyday life, at their workplace and in view of acquiring a higher level of education. Research shows that at the moment one in four EU citizens does not have any basic digital competences, and one in five does not have any digital competences at all. This is why education and training have to overcome this shortage and provide the advantages of the digital era to all.
A meeting in this format is traditionally held prior to the official start of each rotational EU Council Presidency. i Issues of strategic nature, related to the development of the cooperation at the EU level in the area of education and training, are discussed. The results of the discussions are then taken into account in the process of the activity of the Presidency of the EU Council and the European Commission and are reflected in a number of strategic and political papers of the EU institutions.
High level officials from the Ministries of Education of the member states, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the EU Council take part in this format. The meeting is chaired by the country, taking over the rotational Presidency of the EU Council in the following semester, in this case - the Bulgarian Presidency. The final mandates of all Working Groups will be approved at the next high level meeting to be organized in June 2018 by Austria as the next country taking over the rotational Presidency of the EU Council after Bulgaria.