The European Schools system was created in 1953 to provide high quality education, primarily for the children of staff of the European institutions. The main objective of the European Schools is to educate pupils from nursery school until the baccalaureate.
Of course, things have changed enormously since 1953: the institutions have grown and the EU has gone through several enlargements, so the European schools system has had to expand. The total population of the European schools is currently just over 21 000 pupils.
In 2004 the Commission and Parliament began reflecting on how best to reform the European schools system, so as to enable it to cope with new challenges in the enlarged EU, but also with the presence of agencies or other similar bodies within EU countries. This reform is at the same time a unique opportunity to make possible a wider access to the European curriculum.
The main principles of this reform are to:
- streamline the overall governance of the current system, so as to ensure that decisions are taken at the right level
- ensure that the costs linked to its functioning are shared fairly among all EU members
- make the European curriculum available at EU agency locations ("type II" schools) and in any other interested EU countries ("type III" schools).
Decisive progress has been made so far on opening up the system. In particular, all conditions are set for establishing pilot type III schools, allowing any interested EU country to award the European Baccalaureate. As for schools at EU agencies or bodies (type II schools), a number of them are already accredited:
Centre for European Schooling in Dunshaughlin (Ireland), located near the Food and Veterinary Office in Grange
School of European Education in Heraklion (Greece), located near the European Network and Information Security Agency
Scuola per l'Europa di Parma (Italy), located near the European Food Safety Authority
school in Strasbourg (France), near the European Parliament
European Schooling Helsinki (Finland), located near the European Chemicals Agency).
Other schools are in the process of being accredited (International School of Manosque, France, linked to the ITER Research Centre at Cadarache).
On the issue of a fair cost-sharing for seconded teachers, the Board of Governors agreed in 2008 on the possibility for non-native speakers to teach, with safeguards in order to guarantee the quality of education.
The reform process is now reaching its final phase, and the different measures adopted will be implemented in the coming months, concerning cost-sharing or governance, i.e. the role given to the different actors in the system at central and local level, and the opening up of the system. (see document 'Reform of the European Schools System' )
The governing body of the European Schools (the Board of Governors) is composed of 31 members:
- the Ministers of Education, usually represented by senior civil servants from the Ministries of Education or Foreign Affairs of each Member State
- a Commission official representing all the other Community institutions
- a representative from the European Patent Office
- a representative appointed by the teachers’ Staff Committee and
- a representative of the parents appointed by the Parents' Associations.
The schools are mainly financed by public funding and are independent from national educational systems. The EU contributes around 50% of the overall budget of the European schools. EU countries provide about 23% of the budget revenue directly by seconding teaching staff as agreed in a specific agreement.
See also Organs of The European Schools
See also the European Schools website (www.eursc.eu)