The board of governors of the European schools, used by EU officials, on Wednesday (4 December) decided to postpone further reforms to the secondary curriculum, following complaints of parents’ organisations that the changes aimed for cost-cutting, not better education.
European schools (EURSC) struggle to maintain a high quality education while preserving all language sections and getting enough teachers seconded by member states’ education ministries.
On Wednesday, the board of governors of the schools, made up of member state representatives, decided on:
- the introduction of a third language courses in first grade, and an expansion of the curriculum for children in the first three years of secondary education;
- the permission for an external review of the European baccalaureate – the certificate obtained at the end of the secondary education – on whether it still fits the needs of universities across Europe.
The initial proposal put forward by working groups also contained a reform of the curriculum of years 4 to 7, for example on the maths curriculum of the European Schools.
But the working groups were sent back to the drawing board to re-examine these proposals. The schools will now conduct a deeper assessment of the impact of such changes, conducted by an external body.
Around 5,000 parents signed a petition requesting such further pedagogic assessment, as well as a check of the proposed changes against universities’ acceptance criteria.
Hélène Chraye, president of the parents’ representation (APEEE) of the school Brussels III in Ixelles, said “This is a first victory, not the end”, speaking at a general assembly of the parents’ organisation.
The European schools have existed for over 60 years and attract mostly children from EU officials, but diplomats and expats' kids can also attend the schools and pay a tuition fee. The schools are mostly financed by EU member states as part of the EU budget.
There are fourteen European schools in seven member states: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and Luxembourg. The European Schools have around 24,000 pupils enrolled in their programmes. The schools were created in 1953 with the establishment of the then European Coal and Steel Community – the predecessor of today’s EU.
Asked by EurActiv if the board's conclusions acknowledged a lack of input from stakeholders, deputy secretary-general of the European Schools Giancarlo Marcheggiano said: "The decision to include in the external study also the proposal for years 4 and 5 is a sign of attention and prudence in the decision-making process. It can be seen as a sign of attention to the worries expressed by some stakeholders [like parents' organisations]."
He added that "a working group has been mandated by the Board of Governors in order to propose a reorganisation of the secondary cycle [and] mandated to draft a proposal for the new structure of studies in the secondary cycle, in order to improve its flexibility and efficiency, and for the financial aspects, as specified in the cost sharing debate."
"The modifications [adopted by the board of governors] should improve the quality of the education offered to the pupils in the European Schools," Marcheggiano said.
The European school project today educates around 24,000 pupils in 14 schools spread across 7 European countries: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and Luxembourg.
The schools were launched by EU statesman Jean Monnet in 1953 to educate the children of the staff of the Union's institutions. The schools would ensure that attendees "become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe," Monnet said at the time.
The European Commission launched a reform process in 2005 to fix the decaying quality of the European schools' education, which aims to modernise the system and make it more compatible to the general higher education in European member states, as well as improve the schools’ signature 'European Baccalaureate' programme.
- Sept. 2014: the proposed changes to the curriculum in the first three years of secondary education will be implemented.
- 2014: the external evaluation of the proposals for years 4 to 7 would be conducted.
- European Schools: Main website of the European Schools System (EURSC)
- EurActiv OpEd: Tower of Babel in the European Schools’ classrooms?
- BlogActiv: EURSC blog on reform of the European Schools