A decision by the schools' board of governors to allow national schools to offer the European curriculum, taken in Stockholm last month and formally approved by EU education ministers at their meeting in Brussels yesterday, represents the first major step in implementing the current round of reform.
The ongoing reform process, launched in 2005 at the joint instigation of the European Commission and the European Parliament, has already seen "the opening-up of the European schools system so that national schools can be accredited by the board of governors […] to offer the European curriculum and award the European baccalaureate," the EU executive said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Vice-President Kallas had warned that European school system "might soon collapse" if not reformed, citing "alarming signs" like lack of teachers, cumbersome decision-making procedures and governments' unwillingness to invest in infrastructure (EurActiv 23/03/09).
Four schools are already accredited under the new rules and a further two are set to follow. All are located in the vicinity of EU agencies and other bodies, and pupils who are the children of EU staff receive a "pro-rata financial contribution" from the bloc's budget.
But following yesterday's developments, Commissioner Kallas said the conditions were now in place to set up accredited pilot schools elsewhere in Europe, and not just in cities hosting EU bodies.
The first school to do so will be a secondary school in The Hague (Netherlands), which is set to offer the European curriculum from September 2010.
Other aspects of the reform highlighted to ministers by the Swedish presidency of the board of governors include:
- Improving governance of European schools by simplifying decision-making processes and defining the responsibilities of the various actors more clearly.
- Offering schools greater autonomy to European schools in return for assuming more responsibility.
- Sharing costs more fairly among member states.
The reform could see more European schools allow non-native speakers to teach in the system's procedural languages of English, French and German.
The national schools already accredited are the Centre for European Schooling in Dunshaughlin (Ireland), close to the EU Food and Veterinary Office, Heraklion's School of European Education (Greece), next to the European Network and Information Security Agency, a school in Parma near the European Food Safety Authority (Italy), and another by the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki (Finland).