Today, Monday 11 April, the European Parliament Plenary will debate the report ‘Learning EU at School’. The own-initiative report drafted by Damian Drăghici MEP (Committee on Culture and Education) emphasises that an EU dimension in education will enable citizens to reconnect with the EU. It also calls upon the European Commission to support an EU dimension in education, while encouraging Member States to strengthen the EU dimension in their educational systems and to promote intercultural and inclusive education.
On the occasion of this debate, we would like to highlight the work of members of the European Movement International do in schools and universities in Member States across Europe. Our members have amassed vast experience in developing and implementing youth programmes that bring the EU into schools and universities, creating the EU dimension that is advocated in the European Parliament report ‘from the ground up’.
The broad range of projects and activities of European Movement members includes, amongst others:
In 2016, the European Movement Finland has run two school projects. The Vote of the Youth Counts – EU in Classroom is planned to take place in 70 Finnish secondary, upper secondary and vocational schools this year alone, and aims to raise awareness of the European Parliament’s role and activities through an interactive presentation of the EU and a simulation of the European Parliament’s decision making process. Erasmus in Schools is a nation-wide internationalisation project that brings international students studying in Finland to Finnish schools of all levels, where they will present their home country and culture, special skills or interests, or the Erasmus project and the perception of Europe in their home countries. The project has been active and increasing since 2010, with as many as 430 school visits in 2015.
The European Competition is one of the oldest creative competitions in Europe and Germany. For over 60 years, hundreds of thousands of pupils have been working on European history, culture, values and policies; no matter what age they are or which school they attend. With activities allocated according to their age, schoolchildren are able to methodologically and creatively work on projects, for example by painting, writing speeches, recording and producing videos, creating collages and presentations. With this call for creativity, the European Competition encourages children’s and teenagers’ interest and enthusiasm about Europe. The 63rd edition this year, with the motto ‘Living together in peace’, reached 77.139 pupils from 1.153 schools across Germany.
EM United Kingdom
The European Movement UK has been very active in providing speakers in schools for many years via its Speaker Service, often in conjunction with Civitas – the European Movement provides a pro-European speaker and Civitas provides the opposition! Speakers are drawn from the extensive UK branch network and are able to offer a broad range of experience, which is particularly interesting to students – they are not just listening to academics or politicians, but to people who have real experience in the EU and know how it works in practice. Most importantly they can relate how the EU will affect students once they start their careers. The project has been increasingly active, with speakers speaking mainly to 16 to 18 year olds and the audiences ranging from 20 to over 100. In addition to this programme, the European Movement UK is also active in other projects at both schools and universities across the UK.
Twice a year, a road trip to high schools across Denmark is organised. The project is organised by the European Movement Denmark and the European Parliament, European Commission and other organisations. The participating organisations will spend one day in different high schools, with debates, speakers and role plays on the programme. As a result of the high school road trip, students gain more knowledge about Europe, learn to discuss politics and reflect on European issues. In March this year, 5 high schools were visited, and 10 more visits are already planned this year.
The European Movement France works closely with the Young Europeans France as a partner of their Programmes pédagogiques in different French cities. They have run school- and extracurricular activities that aim to ‘discuss Europe differently’ since 1999. The aim is to to present young people with the opportunities and benefits of international mobility and to educate young people about European citizenship and the impact of the EU on their daily lives. To achieve this, they rely on self-developed education tools that have a more playful approach. MEPs are also invited to visit schools in the context of the programme. In 2015, around 200 schools and 5000 pupils around France were involved in the activities. Furthermore, European Movement France also organises an annual Université d’Automne on Europe.
Increasing the European dimension in education is a key priority for the European Movement Latvia in the next three years, following the signing of a cooperation agreement with the state agency in charge for educational reform in 2015. The aim is to make sure that EU issues and the competences linked to it will find a stronger representation in the education system in Latvia. This work will include seminars for book editors and publishers, teachers, decision-makers and others. Grassroots activities at schools include, amongst several other projects, the EU Knowledge Express, a bus with EU activities that visits regional schools and will reach 5000 pupils in 2016; the European Footprints project that also included geocaching and has an indirect reach of 100,000 pupils; and lectures and self-government trainings.
The Blue Star Programme is an education initiative for primary school students across Ireland. A venture of the Communicating Europe Initiative, it is managed by European Movement Ireland. Now in its fifth year, the Programme has gone from strength to strength with more than 590 primary schools and over 50,000 pupils throughout the country having taken part to date. The idea of the programme is to foster better understanding and knowledge of the EU and how it affects the lives of Irish citizens among Irish primary pupils through classroom projects and activities. Primary school pupils of all ages are encouraged, supported by their teachers, to get creative and think about Europe by carrying out projects in relation to four key elements (the history, geography, culture and creativity, and Institutions of the EU). Every year, an award ceremony in each school and community is organised, as well as a trip to Brussels for participating Blue Star teachers which is kindly paid for by the European Commission.
Erasmus Student Network
The Erasmus Student Network has a vast experience in putting the youngest generations in contact with the idea of Europe through the international project Erasmus in Schools. In Spain, for example, the Erasmus in Schools Camp took place two weeks ago, where eighty kids aged 8-12 shared a unique experience with 8 ESN volunteers and 8 international students. During the three-day camp, the international students shared their cultures through activities such as gastronomic and handcrafting workshops, international games or presentations about their home countries’ cultures. ESN Spain has already done 180 Erasmus in Schools activities during 2015/2016 and are planning to do around 250 by the end of the academic year. And this does not take into account the work of ESN sections across Europe, which are also running Erasmus in Schools activities!