Sunday, March 27, 2011
How to integrate 27 strangers? Education and integration in Europe.
Unemployment, the economic crisis, negative press and of course the reluctance of our national political elites to let go of power, have seriously damaged the orientation and the purpose of this cause recently.
So far they attempted to create a pan-European identity or culture based on the American model. A United States of Europe, inspired and copied from USA. Our leaders try to integrate the populations of Europe following the American "panacea".
In my opinion instead of trying to "Americanize" Europeans, it would be better to "Europeanize" them! Why make them feel less for their national history, heritage, music, culture and lifestyle? It would be better to project each others' cultural elements on each other!
One way of achieving the above is by teaching European history and the benefits or obligations of EU membership to all our pupils, in schools across the continent. In this way, we create engaged and conscious EU citizens as soon as they leave school, instead of having an apathetic population.
If we explain to our students how the EU works and what it does for them, then not only they would be informed but also be able to take advantage of their EU citizenship. Then populism and nationalism could not settle as easy in their conscience.
European history with all its bad and good pages, is what unites us and we should learn from it. Our collective history shaped the continent, but our individual shaped each nation. I think the best way to understand each other and learn about each others shortfalls, is to actually examine both our collective and national history.
So that we will be able to reach to the root of a problem in each country and potentially even solve it, while working together. Share knowledge and experience to sooth any differences and inequality that stand in the way of further integration.
How do you expect to integrate 27 (and soon more) total strangers? Before the Soviet block collapsed, my generation hardly knew that countries like Latvia or Estonia even existed. We never learned anything about them because they were in the Soviet block. Suddenly they regain their independence and they join the EU.
But all I remember of them when I was in school is that these countries were located where the U.S.S.R started on the map. How many of the European population really saw 2004 as the year of European reunification? How many knew the history of those "new" nations? It is not as if Lithuania suddenly sprang out of Russia. But people just saw them as poor ex-communist populations that joined EU to work for us or receive subsidies by our hard earned taxes!
If we studied about our history and each others culture, we would both keep our national heritage, but also project it to another 500 million Europeans across the continent. And of course enrich our culture with another 27 elements!
So far not only we failed to promote European integration, but we failed to integrate the immigrants in our societies too. Many European countries are struggling to integrate their immigrant populations. Instead of having separate religious schools for immigrant youths, we should be putting our kids together from a young age, not segregate them. Religion should be taught in a more generic and academic/philosophical content, instead as a dogma that must be followed.
In the case of other European immigrant children, we could promote a more multilingual education. Why set up separate language schools that youngsters must attend to learn their native language, but not have optional classes within the state schools in areas with high populations of expatriates? They could opt in for classes of their mother tongue in the same school for example.And not just them, but any student that wished to learn a new language.
The teachers of those classes could come from any EU country but should be employed by the state that the immigrants reside in. So far in most cases, it is the responsibility of the country of origin to send teachers to the expatriate populations across Europe. Why we make immigrant children feel different from a young age?
To conclude, European integration must go hand in hand with the education of its youth. Being a pupil in a European school should be an exciting learning experience, that offers the best qualifications for the future. But also exposes the young in a more collective way of thinking, cosmopolitanism, tolerance and active citizenship.