Rodrigo Ballester, member in the cabinet of Commissioner Navracsics, delivered a keynote address, outlining and explaining the political priorities of the commissioner. He addressed in particular:
• the importance of investing in education and human capital despite austerity policies in many Member States. He explained that the EU may, next to using already existing instruments, further foster investments through special schemes such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI);
• the significance of encouraging further training of and exchanges among teachers through Erasmus+, a programme that is explicitly not limited to student exchange funding only; and
• the importance of ensuring the right focus of the EU’s ‘Agenda for new skills and jobs’ to the extent that education systems should allow to convey important values on the one hand and practically help young people integrate into the labour markets on the other hand – thus making education an important factor for social integration in general.
Commission education policy priorities at the heart of the debate
During the subsequent debate with CESI’s trade council members, Mr Ballester also underlined the priority of the commissioner to give the teacher’s profession the consideration and attractiveness it deserves. He recalled that this objective has already been featured in Country-specific recommendations of the European semester and that still further initiatives can be undertaken to improve the profession’s image – including via teacher exchanges under the Erasmus+ programme.
Exchanging on a training best practice project
Making reference to the Commission’s priorities in the field of the abovementioned Agenda for new skills and jobs, Education trade council Vice-president Salvatore Piroscia presented a training best practice project carried out by CESI’s Italian member organisation Confsalform and supported by CESI itself: the ‘LEAD-Scholarsjob programme for the mobility of students and skills’.
As Mr Piroscia explained, the rationale of the project is to use a specific online portal to enhance interaction between participating students and potential employers with a view to creating mutual benefits for both: An acquisition of competences for students and increased visibility for firms that take part. The project foresees to achieve this by guiding students through a specific dual education system experience which tries to find synergies between the competences of participating students and the business needs of the hiring firms. Importantly, during the internship foreseen in the project guidelines, students are being asked to analyse and improve the image of the hosting company by fostering its presence in the social media, thus allowing a win-win relationship between students (who can develop specific competencies in this field) and companies (which can benefit from more visibility for its activities and products).
Helping prevent radicalisation through education
The trade council also discussed how the education sector may help in the fight against radicalisation of young people. According to meeting participants, an adapted teaching of values and ad-hoc training for teachers on how to detect arising extremist tendencies among students and on how to engage in dialogue with them play an important role. Mr Ballester stressed that this topic is a central priority of the European Commission especially against the backdrop of recent terrorist attacks in Europe.
He went on to explain that the Commission and the Council of Ministers published a draft joint report in August this year which calls to make European education and training systems more socially inclusive. He added that as part of wider efforts to tackle radicalisation after the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, the Paris Declaration, issued by the national education ministers during an informal meeting on March 17 2015, also foresees actions at all levels to reinforce the role of education in promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination, strengthening social cohesion and helping young people become responsible, open-minded and active members of the society.
Mr Ballester’s points were taken up by Nacera Sanhaji, a Belgian teacher who presented the activities of the emridNetwork, a network for research, training and studies on Islam in Europe. She referred in particular to a past two-day training seminar for Belgian teachers which was carried out by the network and organised by the Belgian Ministry for Education and which aimed to equip teachers with important expertise on contemporary Islam and tools on how to prevent radicalisation of youngsters – for instance by encouraging dialogue in schools, offering young people opportunities to talk and teaching them how to better handle the vast amounts of often dubious and questionable information they are exposed to in the internet on a daily basis.
CESI event on the prevention of radicalisation forthcoming
CESI will continue to deepen the debate on this important topic. On December 15, CESI in collaboration with the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and the Danish Cultural Institute EU Brussels office and with the support of its member organisation ‘Alliance Police Nationale’ (CFE-CGC) will hold a conference in Paris on ‘Terrorism and radicalisation: New challenges for our societies’. More information about this event will be made available soon in the events section of CESI’s website. The conference will give the word to experts and professionals from the security, justice and education sectors.