The first EU Thematic Forum on School-Business Co-operation, that took place in Brussels on 24-25 March 2010 underlined the many different advantages that collaboration can offer to both schools and businesses.
Around 100 participants discussed how school-business co-operation can increase interest in maths, science and technology, help students develop transversal competences and raise their motivation to learn and take initiative to create their own learning pathways. There was broad consensus that working together is not only about educating future entrepreneurs, but offers a wide range of concrete, meaningful and relevant learning opportunities for young people.
Participants at the forum agreed that schools cannot afford to exist in isolation. Co-operating with outside partners, including businesses, helps them to improve education. But while businesses should not get involved in curriculum development, they can play a supportive role in implementing it and in contextualising learning contents. As Germaine Noonan, Programme Manager at Ireland's Business in the Community (BITC) put it: "This is how students discover a context for their learning at school". She also underlined the motivating effect of school-business co-operation by quoting one student saying "Yes - I was going to leave school but now I’m not."
Collaboration needs to be built on trust and mutual understanding and here many participants saw need for further action and support. Intermediary bodies, facilitating communication between education and business, play an important role in setting up cooperation schemes and help them to start off. Teachers and school leaders and the support they receive are crucial factors for success.
The Thematic Forum presented successful cooperation models developed in different Member States as well as successful projects funded by the EU. Their exchange on European level as well as a better insight in success factors for school-business cooperation will help to develop these initiatives further and use their potential.