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Europe’s ambition to double Erasmus+, boost language skills

The European Commission wants to double the number of Erasmus+ participants by 2025 and ensure schoolchildren within the EU learn two languages beyond their mother tongue.

Sören Andersson/Government Offices of Sweden The European Commission met recently at the Social Summit in Gothenburg. Photo:Sören Andersson/Government Offices of Sweden

"It is still the case today that only 3.7% of young people have the chance to take part in this type of mobility"

These are some of its big ambitions, as its vision was unveiled for a European Education Area by 2025. Language learning and cooperation in higher education are identified as key areas for improvement.

The Commission’s goal for a European Area of Education involves improving mobility, ensuring that school diplomas are recognised across the 28 nations, and improving language teaching at secondary level.

On Erasmus +, it wants to reach out to more learners coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. “Evidence shows that people who have taken part in Erasmus have excellent chances on the labour market,” a statement said.

“In times of globalisation, such experiences are bound to become even more valuable. However, it is still the case today that only 3.7% of young people have the chance to take part in this type of mobility.”

“The Commission is betting on Europe’s young people as they tend to be more supportive of an integrated Europe”

The “mother tongue plus two” initiative seeks to ensure that European school pupils will have mastered two languages on top of their mother tongue when graduating.

The Commission said around 60% of students enrolled in lower secondary education were learning two secondary languages, according to latest available statistics, but only 25% of EU citizens can “hold a conversation” in two further languages.

An EU Student Card to easily store academic records has also been proposed as well as initiating a new ‘Sorbonne process’ to ensure that certificates are recognised and valid across borders.

To ensure that the Erasmus+ program is available for everyone, alongside rolling out the new EU student e-card in early 2019, the Commission will simplify administrative rules and procedures to facilitate access to Erasmus+ grants.

It also hopes to create a network of European universities to ensure that HEIs work seamlessly across borders. It will support the establishment of a School of European and Transnational Governance, hosted by the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

To keep up with a digital revolution and globalisation, the Commission has outlined the importance of  boosting media literacy and increase blended learning and develop its eTwinning program.

“Europe does not excel in delivering high-quality skills, as even the best-performing member states are outperformed by advanced Asian countries,” the European Commission said.

Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport sees education at the forefront of combating future challenges.

“It is education that helps us adapt to a rapidly changing world, to develop a European identity, to understand other cultures and to gain the new skills one needs in a society that is mobile, multicultural and increasingly digital.

João Pinto, president of Erasmus Student Network, told The PIE News that integrated education across Europe will be the best way to combat the tide of Euroscepticism that peaked in 2016.

To fight Euroscepticism, the Commission is betting on Europe’s young people as they tend to be more supportive of an integrated Europe,” he said.

Member states will have a set benchmark of 5% of GDP to invest in education and a Digital Education Action plan will ensure innovation and digital skills are taught.

A communication from the Commission “identifies key issues and sets out possible ways forward in line with the principle of subsidiarity”, but points out that “the competences for education… lay primarily with Member States at national, regional and local level”.

But the pan-European body insists that education is not only a key priority for the bloc, but a central tenet of European identity.

“Education and culture are the key to the future,” said Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker – “both for the individual as well as for our Union as a whole. It is how we turn circumstance into opportunity, how we turn mirrors into windows and how we give roots to what it means to be ‘European’, in all its diversity.”

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