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Resetting education and training for the digital age

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Today, the Commission adopted two initiatives that will strengthen the contribution of education and training to the EU’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and help build a green and digital Europe. Setting out a vision of the European Education Area to be achieved by 2025, the Commission proposes new initiatives, more investment and stronger cooperation of Member States to help all Europeans, of all ages, benefit from the EU’s rich education and training offer. The Commission also adopted a new Digital Education Action Plan, reflecting lessons learned from the coronavirus crisis, and devising a plan for a high-performing digital education ecosystem with enhanced digital competences for the digital transformation.

The Communication on the European Education Area outlines how cooperation can further enrich the quality, inclusiveness and digital and green dimension of Member State education systems. It shows how together, Member States can shape a European Education Area based on freedom for learners and teachers to learn and work across the continent and for institutions to freely associate with one another in Europe and beyond.

The European Education Area is underpinned by six dimensions: quality, inclusion and gender equality, green and digital transitions, teachers, higher education, a stronger Europe in the world. Initiatives will inter alia look at ways to enhance quality, notably with regard to basic and digital skills and to make school education more inclusive and gender sensitive and improve school success. They will help strengthen understanding of climate change and sustainability, foster the greening of education infrastructure, support the teaching profession, further roll out European Universities and enhance connectivity among education and training institutions.

The Communication sets out the means and milestones to achieve the European Education Area by 2025, supported by Europe’s Recovery Plan (NextGenerationEU) and the Erasmus+ Programme. In addition, it proposes a framework for cooperation with Member States and engagement with education stakeholders, including a reporting and analysis structure, with agreed education targets, to encourage and track reforms. Efforts to establish the European Education Area will work in synergy with the European Skills Agenda, the renewed Vocational Education and Training policy and the European Research Area.

The Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) proposes a set of initiatives for high‑quality, inclusive and accessible digital education in Europe. It is a call to action for stronger cooperation between Member States at European level, as well as with and between stakeholders, to make education and training systems truly fit for the digital age. The coronavirus crisis has put distance learning at the centre of education practices. This has shed light on the pressing need to improve digital education, as a key strategic objective for high-quality teaching and learning in the digital age. As we move beyond the emergency phase imposed by the outbreak of the pandemic, we need a strategic and longer-term approach to digital education and training.

The Action Plan has two long-term strategic priorities: (i) fostering the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem and (ii) enhancing digital competences for the digital transformation. In order to strengthen the cooperation and exchange in digital education at EU level, the Commission will create a European Digital Education Hub, which will foster collaboration and synergies between policy areas relevant to digital education, create a network of national advisory services and strengthen the dialogue between stakeholders from the public and private sector.

Both initiatives will also feed into the third European Education Summit, which the Commission will host online on 10 December to bring Ministers and key stakeholders together to discuss how to make education and training fit for the digital era.

Members of the College said

Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Education and training have faced huge disruption due to COVID-19 and a quick shift to distance and online learning. The mass use of technology has revealed gaps and exposed weaknesses. This is also an opportunity to reset education and training for the digital age. 95% of respondents to the public consultation on the Digital Education Action Plan see the crisis as a turning point for the way technology is used in education and training. This is a momentum to shape and modernise education for the digital age.”

Vice-President for Promoting the European way of live, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Education is a mainstay of our European way of life. Our vision for the European Education Area is deeply rooted in the values of freedom, diversity, human rights and social justice. Together with the Digital Education Action Plan, we propose new initiatives to learn and work together across the continent. For our youth, for our citizens, for our prosperity.”

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “The European Education Area and the Digital Education Action Plan are both essential for European recovery and future growth. They set out a common vision of the future of education linked to our commitments towards the digital and green transitions. We now need to focus on implementation and on creating synergies between them.”

Background

The European Education Area is rooted in decades of education cooperation at EU level. The strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) helped build trust and mutual understanding to support the earliest European Education Area initiatives.

In 2017, Heads of State and Government discussed education and training at the Gothenburg Social Summit, guided by the Commission’s communication setting out its vision for a European Education Area by 2025. This resulted in December 2017 Council conclusions calling on Member States, the Council and the Commission to take forward the Gothenburg agenda. Many initiatives have already been developed. Based on this rich legacy, today’s communication sets out a vision for the European Education Area, together with a reinforced approach in order to achieve it by 2025. The European Education Area also ties in with Next Generation EU and the long-term budget of the European Union for 2021-2027.

In that context, the Digital Education Action Plan is a cornerstone of the Commission’s efforts to support the digital transition in Europe. It builds on the first Digital Education Action Plan adopted in January 2018, running to the end of this year. It is more ambitious in its reach, notably with a wider scope going beyond formal education, and with a longer duration, running until 2027

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Substantial progress made in Vienna; sides focusing on Safeguards

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image source: Tehran Times

The third day of talks between experts from Iran and the EU centered around technical and legal matters regarding the Safeguards agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Delegates from Iran, the EU and the U.S. resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday after nearly a five-month hiatus. This round of talks started on Thursday without the presence of nuclear negotiators from the European trio – Germany, France and Britain. Only experts from these three countries have attended the negotiations.  

Iran believes that any agreement on restoring the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is dependent on putting an end to unsubstantiated allegations about Iran’s past nuclear program. Iran insists that these questions had already been resolved within the PMD, when the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015.

According to reports, substantial progress has been made in bringing the views of Iran and the U.S. closer together during the last three days. However, in Tehran’s view nothing is resolved until everything is settled.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), also confirmed on Saturday that talks are mainly focused on Safeguards issues.

“We are now negotiating,” Kamalvandi said of the talks between Iran’s nuclear experts with Mora.

On the atmosphere of the talks, he said, “It is not bad.”

Mohammad Marandi, a senior expert on nuclear issues, also told Al-Mayadeen TV that “progresses” have been made in Vienna, but one should be “cautious”. He argued the success of talks is 50 percent. Marandi said the differences remain only between Iran and the United States.

He added, “We have heard from certain European sources that the Americans have revived their views on certain issues.”

The Russian chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted that there is “no unresolvable issue” on the table in the Vienna talks.

Source: Tehran Times

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Escalation of violence in Gaza

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Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike (file photo) UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

The ongoing and serious escalation of violence in and around Gaza between Palestinian militants and Israel has claimed the lives of 13 Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes, including a 5-year-old child and one woman, informed Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the territory.

In a statement published on Saturday, Ms. Hastings expressed her grave concern for the situation that has left more than 100 Palestinians injured, as well as 7 Israelis.

Residential areas in both Gaza and Israel have also been hit and 31 families in Gaza are now homeless.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation.   The hostilities must stop to avoid more deaths and injuries of civilians in Gaza and Israel. The principles of international humanitarian law including those of distinction, precaution and proportionality must be respected by all parties”, she urged.

Basic services in danger

Ms. Hastings warned that fuel for the Gaza Power Plant is due to run out this Saturday and electricity has already been cut.

“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk”, she cautioned.

The Humanitarian Coordinator added that movement and access of humanitarian personnel, for critical medical cases, and for essential goods, including food and fuel into Gaza, must not be impeded so that humanitarian needs can be met. 

She also underscored that Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must immediately allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel in accordance with international principles.

“I reiterate the United Nations Special Coordinator’s appeal on all sides for an immediate de-escalation and halt to the violence, to avoid destructive ramifications, particularly for civilians”, Ms. Hastings concluded.

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Nuclear-free world is possible, test-ban treaty chief says

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Nuclear weapons will continue to pose a risk to humanity unless countries fully adhere to the treaty that prohibits their testing, a senior UN official said at a press conference in New York on Friday. 

Journalists were briefed by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the body that oversees the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago but has yet to enter into force because it requires ratification by a handful of key countries, which have nuclear capabilities. 

“Once in force, the CTBT will serve as an essential element of a nuclear weapons-free world. In order to achieve this world, we all aspire to, a universal and effectively verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is a fundamental necessity,” he said. 

World at risk 

Mr. Floyd was speaking against the backdrop of the latest nuclear non-proliferation conference, which began this week at UN Headquarters after two years of pandemic-related delays. 

Countries are reviewing progress towards implementing the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

At the opening on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, away from nuclear annihilation”

“Until we have full adherence to the CTBT, nuclear testing and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will continue to pose unacceptable risk to humanity,” said Mr. Floyd. 

Drop in testing 

The CTBT complements the non-proliferation treaty, said Mr. Floyd, and it has already made a difference in the world. 

“We’ve gone from over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1996, to fewer than 12 tests since the treaty opened for signature,” he said. “Only one country has tested this millennium.” 

The treaty has also received near-universal support. So far, 186 countries have signed the CTBT, and 174 have ratified it, four in the last six months alone.  

However, entry into force requires that the treaty must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify it: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States. 

Asked about these countries, Mr. Floyd replied “they have their own calculus and strategic objectives and geopolitical considerations as to whether they feel free to move forward”, adding that they all support the CTBT and its objectives. 

Helping nations 

Mr. Floyd also reported on the activities of the organization that promotes the treaty, which he heads. 

The CTBTO, as it has known, has built a state-of-the-art verification system to detect nuclear explosions, capable of 24/7 monitoring.  

Staff also train inspectors from Member States so that they are ready to conduct on-site verifications once the treaty enters into force. Furthermore, countries use CTBTO data for civilian and scientific applications, such as tsunami warning systems and other university research. 

“Even without having entered into force, the CTBT is already helping to save lives in countries around the world,” said Mr. Floyd.  “Even those that have not yet ratified the treaty are benefiting from this global collaboration and technological expertise.” 

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