Friday

19th Apr 2019

Focus

'Cultural shocks' on menu for future EU education strategy

  • The 'summit' of EU eduction ministers and experts on January 25 (Photo: Caterina Tani)

For the past three years, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the European Union has attempted to put in place a shared idea of what a 'European education' means - promoting EU values and identity, fighting extremism, and tackling unemployment are chief attributes.

This process started with the so-called 'Paris declaration' in March 2015, soon after the attacks, when EU education ministers and Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for youth, education, culture and sport, agreed on promoting EU citizenship in a bid to contain violent or extremist tendencies across the continent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Students in Barcelona. More experiences abroad, seen by the summit as positive "cultural shocks", must be part of the EU education strategy. (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)

This was taken a step further with the idea of a 'European education area', launched by member state education ministers in Gothenburg in 2017 and partially implemented by some measures from the commission in January – to be followed by a second package in May 2018.

On 25 January the commission held the first of a series of European education summits, as a way of taking stock of the commitments so far and to discuss future ideas.

During the summit, education ministers, secretaries of states and experts made clear that a very important topic is that of 'mobility' for students across the EU.

More experiences abroad, seen by the summit as positive "cultural shocks", must be part of the EU education strategy for coming years, participants said.

Meanwhile speakers also stressed the importance of the so-called basic skills, too often forgotten, and insisted it be put high on the EU agenda.

Erasmus+, the European programme that gather all the previous mobility programmes into one place, was praised and debated during the summit.

Portuguese education minister Tiago Brandao Rodrigues called Erasmus "equally important as treaties." Hungary's minister for human resources, Zoltan Balog, pointed out that appreciating cultural differences makes people "more tolerant."

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, a guest speaker at the summit, drew from her experiences orbiting the earth to explain that "cultural shocks should be a mandatory experience" so that people understand that they can 'recover' from it.

Participants said that to be more comprehensive, Erasmus should increase to include more people, such as school students and teachers.

Criticisms

Emphasis has so been mainly on "university students," complained S&D MEP Petra Kammerevert.

Some ministers stressed the importance of involving primary and secondary school teachers – who are currently under-represented in Erasmus+.

Since mobility and exchanges have good repercussions for language-learning and cultural openness, explained French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, teachers should go abroad on a "systematic basis."

Erasmus+ could then be used strategically to improve the "attractiveness" of teaching as a career, explained Swedish education minister Anna Ekstrom, by pointing out the opportunities for travel.

Concerning the financial costs - a thorny issue - Navracsis said he was ambitious to attract "political support" for increasing the budget.

However, there were no discussions at the 'summit' on budgetary issues, since the matter is strictly dependant on member states.

Another idea was to teach EU issues at school, which was debated and generally welcomed by ministers at the summit.

Portuguese minister Rodrigues said this was important since "some Europeans don't even know they are Europeans."

Navracsics said that the EU "recommends to teach the history of European integration" or how the EU works, because on European history itself "there could hardly be a common understanding."

In the EU, education is mainly a member states' competence. The EU can only propose non-binding recommendations, concerning mainly the exchange of good practices and transnational measures that member states can decide to what extent apply.

For changes in the budget for programmes like Erasmus+ a broader consensus is required.

"Some states are more reluctant while others are more reactive," Navracsics admitted.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us