EU Ministers debate on education for active citizenship for youths

Education Ministers discussed active citizenship education, and related educational policy objectives, at an informal meeting held in Gödöllő (Hungary) on 29 March 2011. Acting as the chair of the meeting, Hungarian Minister of State Rózsa Hoffmann, raised the question whether European educational systems prepare the youth appropriately to become active and responsible citizens.

The first part of this informal meeting was dedicated to debate over which are the most important skills which are necessary to build active citizenship within youths. EU ministers discussed how European cooperation can contribute to the acquisition of relevant knowledge, stressing the importance for young people to acquire entrepreneurial skills, as well as education for financial consciousness, in terms of both successful life and social responsibility. Ministers fully reviewed different practises, regarding the education of such skills, as well as experiences and initiatives of Member States.

In this context, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Andrulla Vassiliou, underlined that the crisis has made clear that European educational and training systems must be better adapted to the needs of society. Building up on citizens skills, specially for young people, is one of the key issues which lies upon EU agenda for new skills and jobs submitted by the European Commission in November 2010.

Although education falls within the competence of Member States, Commissioner Vassiliou supported that this matter must be kept on the agenda, highlighting dialogue between cultures should be kept on focus. The Commissioner also mentioned European programs such as the Programme Europe for Citizens or Youth on the Move, which play an important role in education for active citizenship. Ms Vassiliou also highlighted the importance of continuous teacher training, and e-learning, which takes advantage of high-tech information, and communication technologies.

Hungarian Minister of State for Education of the Ministry of National Resources, Rózsa Hoffmann, underlined that the Hungarian Presidency is working to ensure that education for active citizenship is represented with appropriate emphasis among the common European objectives, and Member states have set-up the tightest possible cooperation. The Minister of State reminded that this matter, for which the Hungarian Presidency also considers that the involvement of NGOs is key, will significantly contribute to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy as well.

Minister of State Hoffmann highlighted that this informal meeting has demonstrated that the issue about education for active citizenship has received intensive attention from Europe. All Member States try to ensure in its own educational system that young people attend school and are later able to contribute to their development as conscious citizens. In their meeting, Ministers agreed that educational materials should be put in place in order to achieve this objective and educate active citizens. The Minister of State did not conceal her opinion that maybe global economic crisis could have been less severe, if the youths had adopted a more conscious attitude to decision-making.