Churches and the European Commission discuss challenges facing the educational systems in an intercultural context
Education is a major factor for integrating migrants in Europe. Current projects and good practises need to be shared and their implementation financially supported. This is the conclusion of the Dialogue Seminar, which took place on 15 December 2008. It was jointly organised by the European Commission, CSC-CEC and COMECE. It brought together Commission officials, European experts on education from Churches, religious organisations and the academic world.
The EU has a significant role in the field of education in supporting good practises and so influencing education policies in the Member States. This Dialogue Seminar organised in the context of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008, was dedicated to “Quality education in an intercultural environment”. Participants discussed the benefits of cultural diversity and the challenges for educational systems in the multicultural society.
Education is one of the key factors in the process of integration. Many schools in Europe are nowadays confronted with the phenomenon of ‘White flight’. ‘White flight’ occurs when the parents from the indigenous population remove their children from schools where the majority of the pupils come from a migration background. Educational institutions must counter this phenomenon and become safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces of learning. The Seminar explored the ways church and non-church bodies play an active role in promoting this approach. The following examples were explored: innovative architecture, the value of participation of family and community members in the school life, interactive classrooms and tutored library. At the same time, the Seminar underlined the primary role of parents in educating their children.
European Commissioner for Education Ján Figel underlined the religious component of the intercultural dialogue and called for the continuation of the dialogue beyond the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008. A representative of the General Directorate of Education and Culture stressed the importance of continuing to share best practises. She welcomed inputs by the Churches and the religious communities to the current Commission’s consultation on Migration and Education. The Churches and Commission’s representatives also agreed on the necessity to keep the issue of education as a permanent point on the agenda of the Church and Commission institutional Dialogue.
Dialogue Seminars have a longstanding tradition in the cooperation between the European Commission and the Churches in Europe. Since their beginning in the early 1990s they have proved to be a significant discussion forum for matters of common concern. They represent an important element of the regular and transparent dialogue between the European institutions and the Churches in Europe. A previous Dialogue Seminar took place on the topic of Flexicurity in February this year.