The European Education Summit is the European Commission’s flagship event on education issues. This year’s edition was only the second. It took place in Brussels on 26 September under the slogan “Teachers first: excellence and prestige for the European Education Area”. An ETUCE delegation made sure our viewpoints were heard

The members of the ETUCE delegation were composed of Susan Flocken Director, Christine Blower President of ETUCE, Rob Copeland HERSC chair, Trudy Kerperinen ETUCE Bureau member, national trade unions of Greece, Ireland and Denmark, and ETUCE Secretariat. The 700 participants of the Summit included 20 ministers of education, policymakers, social partners, and 160 teachers.

The focus of the summit was teachers, with the theme “Teachers First: Excellence and Prestige for the European Education Area”. Opening the event, European Commissioner for Education Tibor Navracsics reminded the participants that teachers should be empowered, well respected and motivated. He said that teachers must come first and their concerns should be addressed, because they are the cornerstone of Europe’s schools. In response, our President Christine Blower took the floor to remind Commissioner Navracsics that giving teachers prestige does not put food on the table. She said that it is understandable that defining pay levels is a national competence, but EU financial policies still have an impact on teachers’ salaries and pensions. These must be improved, so it is important to keep in mind the effect of EU policies.

Speakers in the varied sessions were ministers of education, teachers and school heads. The topics of the event were shaped around the following headings:

  • Who is afraid of becoming a teacher? What else matters beyond salaries?
  • Teachers’ continuous professional development for an attractive profession.
  • Who is afraid of new technologies in the classroom? The challenges of ICT and AI.
  • Teaching foreign languages in schools: a must or a luxury?
  • Erasmus+ mobility for teachers and pupils: from eTwinning to physical mobility.
  • European Universities: a game changer for Higher Education in Europe?
  • Teaching common values, promoting a common sense of belonging in diverse classrooms.
  • Partnership between schools and companies.
  • Vocational Excellence: a skills ecosystem for innovation and social inclusion.
  • The importance of regional and minority languages in Europe.

Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director was a panel speaker in the workshop “Do teachers have a blues?” She highlighted that education is a public good which should get sustainable public investment. Teachers need support in initial and continuous teacher training, but in many cases the training is either not practical or teachers have to pay for it and study outside of their working hours. Investment in education is essential to attract and retain teachers, and to offer them quality working conditions and a rewarding salary.

John MacGabhann from Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) also took the floor to remind the European Commission and ministries that teaching is a tough and physically demanding job. Teachers are humans, and they get also old. It is not a solution to focus on young teachers only, especially if they work under precarious contracts and bad conditions, which push them to leave the profession. Real support is needed for teachers at all stages of their career, and salaries must be the focus or the debate.