MEP wants member states to teach 'positive attitude' to EU in schools

EU Parliament accused of attempting to 'dictate curricula' in schools across Europe.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

11 Apr 2016

Possible proposals to integrate learning about the EU into school curricula and teacher training programmes in member states have been condemned by critics who say these are a bid to "dictate curricula" in schools across Europe.

There will be an attempt to push through the controversial proposal when MEPs meet in Strasbourg this week.

It urges member states to teach "a positive attitude" towards the EU in schools.


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The own initiative report has been drafted by Romanian Socialist MEP Damian Draghici, a member of the culture and education committee.

His report, which is expected to be approved, blames the current crisis in the EU's democratic legitimacy on the fact that citizens have "insufficient knowledge about the EU mechanisms".

The "learning EU in schools" report calls on member states to "encourage and facilitate high-quality training on EU topics for teachers, other educational staff, youth leaders and trainers" and the creation of a ʻEuro Teacherʼ label award.

The 17-page report states that only 44 per cent of EU citizens feel they have "limited understanding" of how the bloc works. It also says that only 42.61 per cent of citizens - and only 27.8 per cent of 18-24 year-olds - voted in the last European Parliament elections, the lowest voter turnout since 1979.

"This situation may be remedied if citizens are better informed and encouraged to be engaged and take an active interest in the European unification project. One central way to do so is enhancing an EU dimension in school education that can help to overcome Euroscepticism," it states.

"Teacher training - initial and in-service training - needs to systematically prepare educators to teach about the EU and the values on which it is founded."

"Textbooks should guarantee a broader coverage of EU-related topics."

It goes on, "The EU dimension in education is crucial to help citizens better understand - and reconnect them with - the EU."

The report argues that "given its impact on the everyday life of its citizens" the EU "should be more visible and better integrated in teaching materials and extracurricular activities.

EU members should be "encouraged to support, review and update their education systems - and all forms of EU-related curricula content at all levels of education, including vocational education and training - with a view to strengthening the EU dimension."

The EU's competence in education, youth and training policy remains very limited, defined as being solely to 'support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the member states'.

For example, the 1996 UK Education Act requires maintained schools to prevent political indoctrination and ensure balanced treatment of political issues. Critics, however, argue that the proposals amount to a "desire to interfere with the sovereignty of our schools."

Even so, the European Commission is obliged to consider the report if it is adopted this week.

British Tory MEP Andrew Lewer said, "This is yet another example of the EU-project attempts to secure further power and influence over our lives - now to include our schools."

"It is unacceptable for the EU to meddle with what we - and other member states - teach in our classrooms. 

"Our schools and our curriculum are our business. We do not want to further the EU's quest for a united states of Europe by filling our classrooms with EU propaganda," added Lewer.

Reaction to the report was swift, with a UK government spokesperson saying, "While the government supports policy and best practice exchange on education amongst member states, the treaty is clear that education is a national competence. The EU has no power to intervene in the content of teaching or the organisation of national education systems.

"We do not agree that the EU should get more involved in the development of national curricula.UK legislation requires schools to deal with political issues, including consideration of the EU, in a balanced way. It is up to schools to decide how to achieve this. The EU should focus on contributing to the important area of international benchmarking on education standards."

Further MEP comment came from Ukip deputy leader Paul Nuttall who said, "This move shows that the status quo is not on offer and the EU intends to press forward to become a centralised state with continual power grabs over matters of parental and national interest."

 

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