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The European school system “might soon collapse” if not reformed, European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas told a public hearing in Brussels last week (19 March), citing “alarming signs” like lack of teachers, cumbersome decision-making procedures and governments’ unwillingness to invest in infrastructure.

Acknowledging that reforming the European school system is a “delicate subject”, Vice-President Kallas, responsible for administration, told a European Parliament hearing organised by the EU assembly’s centre-right EPP-ED group that “if today sufficient political impetus is found, we can put together the final touches to ensure that, tomorrow, the provision of a high-quality, multicultural and truly European education becomes available across the EU”.

Reform process underway

Reform of European schools has been underway since the mid-2000s, Kallas told stakeholders including parents, teachers and officials from the EU institutions, outlining three main strands of the process:

  • Streamlining decision-making and cutting red tape to ensure that decisions are taken at the most appropriate level;
  • Ensuring that costs are shared fairly among all member states, and;
  • Opening up the system not just to make the European curriculum available where EU bodies and agencies are located, but in any interested member state.

“Together, we can ensure that European schools are no longer perceived as an elitist and closed educational system,” the commissioner told the hearing.

Opening up the system

At present, priority for places is given to children of officials working for the EU institutions directly. Luxembourg MEP Erna Hennicot-Schoepges (EPP-ED) said the reforms currently underway would open up European schools to a wider variety of pupils, including the staff of EU agencies (so-called ‘Type 2’ schools, of which four already exist).

National schools should also be given the opportunity to offer students the chance to take the European baccalaureate (‘Type 3’ schools), an idea hailed by Czech Deputy Education Minister Jakub Dürr as “highly inspirational”.

But Alain Scriban of the Commission’s administration department took a more cautious view, warning that opening up the schools must not become a “free-for-all” or lead to “variations from one school to another,” stressing the need to maintain the quality of the system.

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  1. As far as demand is concerned there is no crisis for European Schools as an ever-growing numbers of parents want to get their children to attend the schools. And that is what counts. The need is there. Look at how many parents are trying to get children in to a European School across Europe? Look across all countries, and specifically what is currently happening at the ES Culham? Parents there have worked and keep working very hard to keep the school alive after 2017, which is when the school’s status 1 is terminated and the school would have to close. With the help of the British Government, the school will now emerge as an Academy with a European Baccalaureate strand, probably leading to finally break the mostly dreadful foreign language teaching in the UK’s secondary school system.

    This would not only be a success for the UK education system, it also would help embedding true and deeper cross-cultural experience of pupils at a critical stage of their life. All what needs to be done is to restructure the administrative system, make it more flexible so that European schools can adapt enough to maintain its original success critical ethos and academic kudos and at the same time conforms to local curriculum. If the normally inflexible British administration can do it, why can’t the rest of Europe do it?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. “Apartheid” might be harsh, but this is effectively what is developing. Even more given the fact that the European Schools are increasingly shutting their doors to Cat. 3 pupils, those who are not children of EU institutions officials.

    This is due to overcrowding, but the final effect is to make the European Schools environment even more homogenous and to enhance the ‘bubble’ effect. For real integration with the hosting country children, a more open and proactive attitude would be needed, compatibly with the funds available. Money should not be an issue though, given that Cat. 3 pupils are actually paying their attendance to European Schools.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  3. The parents of the Culham European School are activly raising funds to not only keeping the European Baccalaureate teaching in the UK but also to open the system up to any potential pupil by turning the current school in to an Academy typ school with a European Baccalaureate strand. So no “Appartheit” with the new Culham European Academy.

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