European Education through Lifelong Learning Program
By : Brigitta Daniela Buda, Teacher of English
European Project Coordinator,
Education is one of the basic sectors which always becomes as the concern of a nation, and even the concern of the United nation. Therefore, European Union (EU) has established their policy regarding improving education in the member states.
Top-quality education and training are vital if Europe is to develop as a knowledge society and compete effectively in the globalised economy. Each EU country as such decides education policy, but together they set joint goals and share best practices. The EU funds programs that help citizens make the most of their personal development and the EU’s economic potential by studying, training or doing volunteer work in other countries.(http://europa.eu/pol/educ/index_en.htm)
Thus, EU supports a few programs in order to achieve top-quality education. These are:
· Leonardo da Vinci: vocational training, particularly placements for young apprentices and trainees in businesses outside their own country, and cooperation projects linking vocational training institutes and businesses.
· Erasmus: student mobility and university cooperation. 2.5 million participants since 1987. Erasmus Mundus allows post-graduate students and academics from all over the world to obtain a Masters or PhD through courses involving consortia of at least three European universities.
· Grundtvig: adult education programmes, particularly trans-national partnerships, networks and mobility.
· Comenius cooperation between schools and their teachers, plus pupil exchanges at secondary school level and school partnerships over the Internet (eTwinning).
· Marie Curie: professional training and international mobility opportunities for researchers, from post-graduate level on.
EU funding also promotes policy cooperation, language learning, e learning and dissemination, and exchange of best practices. The EU Youth Strategy (2009) and European Youth Pact (2005) established common principles on opportunities for young people.
Youth in Action promotes active involvement in the community and supports projects giving young people a greater sense of EU citizenship – for example, by volunteering in another country via the European Voluntary Service. Between 2007-13, the EU will have invested nearly €900m in these activities.
As a teacher, I have always tried to make my classes as interesting for my students as possible. That is why I got involved in international projects. Of course working in international projects is a kind of voluntary work, as we don’t get a salary for this work. But we have the opportunity to exchange best practices in the education field and get involved in intercultural experiences during the project meetings and team-research in the educational field by visiting our partners, using EU funds.
All these have the main objective the promotion of the 8 competencies established by the EU Commission:
Communication in the mother tongue, which is the ability to express and interpret concepts, thoughts, feelings, facts and opinions in both oral and written form (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and to interact linguistically in an appropriate and creative way in a full range of societal and cultural contexts;
communication in foreign languages, which involves, in addition to the main skill dimensions of communication in the mother tongue, mediation and intercultural understanding. The level of proficiency depends on several factors and the capacity for listening, speaking, reading and writing;
Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology. Mathematical competence is the ability to develop and apply mathematical thinking in order to solve a range of problems in everyday situations, with the emphasis being placed on process, activity and knowledge. Basic competences in science and technology refer to the mastery, use and application of knowledge and methodologies that explain the natural world. These involve an understanding of the changes caused by human activity and the responsibility of each individual as a citizen;
Digital competence involves the confident and critical use of information society technology (IST) and thus basic skills in information and communication technology (ICT);
Learning to learn is related to learning, the ability to pursue and organize one's own learning, either individually or in groups, in accordance with one's own needs, and awareness of methods and opportunities;
Social and civic competences. Social competence refers to personal, interpersonal and intercultural competence and all forms of behavior that equip individuals to participate in an effective and constructive way in social and working life. It is linked to personal and social well-being. An understanding of codes of conduct and customs in the different environments in which individuals operate is essential. Civic competence, and particularly knowledge of social and political concepts and structures (democracy, justice, equality, citizenship and civil rights), equips individuals to engage in active and democratic participation;
Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship is the ability to turn ideas into action. It involves creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. The individual is aware of the context of his/her work and is able to seize opportunities that arise. It is the foundation for acquiring more specific skills and knowledge needed by those establishing or contributing to social or commercial activity. This should include awareness of ethical values and promote good governance;
Cultural awareness and expression, which involves appreciation of the importance of the creative expression of ideas, experiences and emotions in a range of media (music, performing arts, literature and the visual arts).
These key competences are all interdependent, and the emphasis in each case is on critical thinking, creativity, initiative, problem solving, risk assessment, decision taking and constructive management of feelings. http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/education_training_youth/lifelong_learning/c11090_en.htm
Since 2001, I have been involved or collaborated in several types of such projects. I was involved in a Grundtvig project that designed an English language-learning platform for IT specialists ITEM Project http://www.infoproject.baiamare.rdsnet.ro/index.htm. I collaborated in the Grundtvig projects TIC-TAC – Technologies adapted to the people in search of a job http://www.infoproject.baiamare.rdsnet.ro/index.htm, Grundtvig conferences Promoting the Key Competences in Formal and Non-formal Education – the Way to ensuring the Professional and Personal Success in the Knowledge-based European Society http://www.infoproject.baiamare.rdsnet.ro/conferinta_main.dwt, Key Competences “Globalization and Integration in Labour Market: http://www.infoproject.baiamare.rdsnet.ro/index.htm. I also collaborated in the implementation of the Leonardo da Vinci project New Methods of Evaluating Student’s Performance in the Vocational Training System http://www.infoproject.baiamare.rdsnet.ro/Engl/index_en.htm
I have also been able to take part in some training courses within the Comenius and Transversal programs in order to develop my teaching skills: a “Teacher Refresher Course” for teachers of English, in Oxford, UK, a course on “Developing Intercultural Competencies”, in Italy, and a course on “Fighting Against School Failure in Under-privileged Regions”, in Marseille, France.
I have also coordinated 2 Comenius Multilateral projects “Junior inventors” in 2006-2008 http://junior-inventors.blogspot.com ) and “Ethno treasure hunt” in 2010-2012 (http://ethnotreasurehunt.blogspot.com ). I have had partners from Poland, Turkey, Lithuania, Italy and Bulgaria.
Within these partnerships all people involved have learnt a lot of things and developed their key competencies:
- Communication in mother tongue, as all research and materials to be published, as well as the activities done in the schools were mostly done using the mother tongue;
- Communication in foreign languages, as the materials to be published had to be translated into English, the language used as main communication tool, and as during the project meetings we have learnt a lot of words and expressions from our partners’ languages. W have also promoted language learning through special activities to celebrate the European Day of Foreign Languages.
- Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology, as some end products we had to make needed some such competencies, and some of the people involved had to learn how to plan and execute the budget for the project and certain activities;
- The digital competences, as we needed to use the pc and printers to write and edit the documents and materials for the project, we had to use the internet, email, e-groups, messenger, Facebook, etc., to communicate with our partners; we used digital cameras and video cameras to document the project, etc.
- We learnt how to learn by exchanging best practices in teaching/learning with our partners;
- Social and civic competences: We learnt how to work together as a team, how to behave in certain places (airports, train stations, other institutions abroad), what documents we need when we travel abroad. We learnt about the way people in other countries live and to accept and respect diversity and people with special educational needs. We learnt about our partners’ cultures and we enjoyed finding more similarities than differences between our cultures. Our students’ parents and other local institutions have been involved in the implementation of our projects
- Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship: we (teachers, students and their parents) were involved in all the stages of the project, from planning to implementing it and evaluating and reporting the results of the projects, as well as in different activities during their implementation.
In our cases, the cultural awareness and expression has been largely developed, as in the 2 projects we researched for our cultural heritage (games children play in their free time; customs and traditions observed for traditional holy days, festivals or celebrations, traditional costumes, cuisines, music, dances, etc.). We have also promoted our students’ and teachers’ creativity through visual arts: photography, drawings and paintings, toys, fashion design, origami, etc. Proof of these are the art exhibitions we organized for Christmas, Easter, Mohter’s Day, the International Children’s Day (1st of June), etc.
The two projects have been very well appreciated by our Ministry of Education, too, as in 2008 and 2011 the Romanian students who represented us in the national contests “Made for Europe” got 1st prizes at regional level and 4th prizes at the national level. As I have involved in the project students and teachers from different ethnic groups in our school, including some of Rroma ethnicity, in 2010 I was invited by the EU Commission to present the Comenius project “Junior inventors” at the European conference “EU Projects in Favor of the Rroma Community”, held I Brussels, where our presentation had a great success.
I strongly believe that all people involved in these projects: teachers (most of them are women), students (girls and boys) and their parents have learnt something during the implementation of the projects. In my opinion, this is what Lifelong Learning Program is all about: learning something new each day and developing your competencies for a better life. I have learnt a lot of things and I learn a lot of things each day from my students, my colleagues and my partners and from all the people I get in touch and have the opportunity to communicate with. I also believe that being different is a good thing, it makes life, more interesting. This is why I like to meet new people and learn about their cultures and way of life. And I think that this reflects my way of understanding the policies of the EU concerning education.