The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
Transforming societies from fossil-fuel based to circular and sustainable will require far-reaching changes in all sectors, including education. In an own-initiative opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) calls for transformative education that empowers young people to contribute to the green transition.
Humanistic values should be at the heart of education for sustainable development (ESD), with a focus on the environmental and social consequences of our actions. This requires education to be redefined, from pre-school to university, and for adults.
Sustainability is not only about the environment. There are many aspects, and all 17 Sustainable Developments Goals are equally important. Education plays a crucial role as it is a key enabler for all other SDGs, rapporteur Tatjana Babrauskienė said.
Young people are the leaders of tomorrow, agents of social change, economic development and technological innovation and can make a vital contribution to sustainable development, including in policy development.
Teaching critical thinking
Critical thinking and informed decision-making should be taught at school, so that children can grapple with sustainable development issues. At a basic level, children should be taught about sustainable energy, consumption and production, reducing food waste and making responsible food choices.
The recently adopted report on the Evaluation of the EU school scheme complements these recommendations: Improving food education measures with class time devoted to the origin and value of food products and visits to farms and agri-food businesses, could make the EU school scheme more effective and contribute to youth education for sustainable healthy eating, said Arnold Puech d'Alissac, the rapporteur of this evaluation report.
Making the teaching profession attractive
In the light of the current teacher shortage and in order to really transform the education system, the teaching profession needs to be made more attractive– with decent salaries, better working conditions, less bureaucracy for teachers, continuous training, and innovative pedagogy and organisation of schools.
The EESC also called for better use of funding for ESD, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Erasmus+, the European Regional Development Fund, and the European Social Fund Plus.
The implementation of ESD is currently at various stages across Member States and will need to be adapted according to the respective needs and realities.
We need to start transforming the education towards a sustainable future in the Member States without delay, and it is key to actively include youth, teachers and parents in the process, Ms Babrauskienė said.
What we need further are more linkages and visibility to support the Member States in their endeavours.