By Diogo T. dos Santos
The European Economic and Social Committee has recently released a study entitled “Youngsters and the EU: Perceptions, Knowledge and Expectations” with preliminary findings on how adolescents between the ages 14 and 18 regarding the European diversity. Apart from having desk research and a literature review done, a survey was conducted with teenagers of five Member States: France, Germany, Italy, Romania, and Sweden. Plus, in Brussels, the survey was carried on in the European Schools in the same language groups of those countries as for having comparative results between the national schools.
Among all positive and negative outcomes of the study, some of them were highlighted by ECEPAA.
In general—namely both in European and national schools—pupils tend to regard that belonging to the European Union benefits them personally, given the fact that they perceive language and culture learning as something important.
It is important to note that those students at European schools, though, are more likely to have traveled to other EU countries, hence being more inclined to define themselves as Europeans. That also led to the conclusion that pupils are very open to having friends of other EU nationalities—that is to say, they are more open to diversity, which leads to the other finding indicating that pupils associate being European with openness towards different cultural backgrounds.
Another relevant catch was that students in both schools are curious to learn more and regard it a required step for better involvement, participation in the EU as a whole. Having learned about the importance and roles of the European institutions could definitely ignite more engagement of EU citizens over time.
European schools pupils, through the means of quizzes questions, proved to have a better understanding of the functioning of the EU. However, the study indicates those students still learn more from their families, friends, and other written materials.
All in all, students perceived the EU as just moderately effective at tackling global challenges, though realizing the benefits of the European Union both personally and in their corresponding local communities.
As for having formal opportunities to learn about the EU system and its institutions at school, pupils do not feel that they have it adequately. In general, they have claimed to have only an average understanding of the European Union. In one school, for instance, complaints of neglect of the administration were pointed out as curricula are overloaded and there is no time for discussing extra-curricular topics. Another correlated shortcoming is that, when there is classes or courses on the missing topics, complaints tend to be the dissatisfaction with poor or not interactive.
“[…] complaints of neglect of the administration were pointed out as curricula is overloaded and there is no time for discussing extra-curricular topics.”
And finally, students tend to hold the position that the EU institutions do not listen to the opinions of the young people face to face, arguing, at the same time, that there should be a solution for that as for creating a more efficient channel of communication between them and EU officials and representatives.
What actions are still to be taken?
The study recommends that more communication is engaged, which can be accomplished by the other recommendation that is making use of social media and the internet for sharing more reliable information directly to young people.
Creating a mainstream learning possibility into the school curricula to provide more information to youngsters is another potential solution. That would stimulate and forge consistent knowledge and critical thoughts on the role and importance of the European Union and its institutions. Besides, the recommendation on face-to-face exchanges between youngsters and the EU would create the possibility of collecting more realistic complaints and requests from the public.
ECEPAA is for the recommendations risen by the people in charge of the study at the European Economic and Social Committee. Our general position is that European and national schools reach the same quality level concerning the teachings and learning material on the European institutions and its roles, as well as updates on important events which can directly affect the lives of European citizens.
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