Sustainability to become key topic in general and vocational education and training

Topics such as climate change, loss of biological diversity and sustainability are to become better integrated in general and vocational education and training.

The European Commission has published a proposal for a Council recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability. The proposal aims to support member states, schools, higher education institutions, non-governmental organisations and all other training providers in delivering knowledge and skills in the areas of sustainability, climate change and the environment. The new European sustainability competence framework developed by the joint research centre has also been published today. This highlights the competencies required for the environmental transformation including critical thinking, respect for nature, and an understanding of the impacts of everyday activities and decisions on the environment and the climate.

Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, with responsibility for Promoting our European Way of Life, explained: "With their commitment, young people have revolutionised our perspective on the environment and the climate. We are facilitating the efforts being made to promote sustainability by our young people with youth programmes such as the European Solidarity Corps and DiscoverEU. We are now taking a further step by campaigning for the improved integration of the topic of sustainability in education and training."

"Currently, much is being done across Europe to provide children, young people and adults with an understanding of the topics of climate change, loss of biological diversity and sustainability. We want to build on these efforts and work closely with member states to make sustainability a key topic in general and vocational education and training. From an early age, all learners must understand that environmental sustainability is a necessity and that they have to play their part in protecting our planet and our future," added Mariya Gabriel, the  European Union (EU) Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

In the Commission proposal, member states are called on to provide learners in all age groups with access to high-quality and inclusive general and vocational education and training in the areas of climate change, biodiversity and sustainability to establish learning for environmental sustainability as a priority in policy-making and general and vocational education and training programmes in order to support the education system such that it can contribute to the green transition.

to support whole-institution sustainability concepts which encompass the following: teaching and learning; visionary thinking, planning and governance; active involvement by learners and staff; management of buildings and resources and partnerships with local communities and the wider community to mobilise national and EU funds – for investment in sustainable and green infrastructure, Vocational education and training (VET) as well as tools and resources to increase the resilience and readiness of general education and vocational education and training for the green transition.

In a Eurobarometer survey of the top EU priorities over the years ahead, the most popular response from young people was the protection of the environment and controlling climate change (67 percent). This was followed by improving education and training (56 percent). This illustrates how great the need for action is.

The environmental transformation in general and vocational education and training is also a priority for the Erasmus plus programme for the period 2021–2027. Its annual work programme for 2022 includes priority for projects focused on developing green competencies and skills, future-oriented curricula, and systematic sustainability concepts. As part of a specific call for the submission of large-scale projects, funding is being provided for identifying, developing and testing innovative approaches to education and training which support environmental sustainability. The Commission is also providing training offers and resources for communities of practice via the School Education Gateway and eTwinning. The new Commission portal for the European education area makes it easier to access information about general and vocational education and training in the EU including specific information about green education and training.

Next steps

The Commission's proposal will now be discussed by member states and then accepted by EU education ministers. The Commission is supporting implementation of the recommendation by encouraging learning from one another and supporting exchange between member states, stakeholders and partner countries.


In order to prepare the proposal, the Commission ran an extensive consultation on the current situation regarding learning offers for sustainable development in the EU. More than 1300 individuals participated in the survey which ran from June to September 2021. 95 position papers were also received. Further input was also provided by a series of online consultation workshops involving decision-makers, teachers, youth organisations, social partners, researchers and other stakeholders. The consultations underlined the key importance of general and vocational education and training. It helps people to understand environmental sustainability and to act accordingly.

In the survey 71 percent of respondents said that general and vocational education and training has a critical role to play in this respect, followed by public bodies and governments (56 percent) as well as media (34 percent). In line with this, also seen as a priority was providing teachers, trainers, youth workers and academic staff with high-quality professional development opportunities in the areas of environment and sustainability as well as making sustainability a cross-curricular topic.

Source: German representation at the European Commission,, revised by iMOVE, May 2022