Erasmus Plus is about more than students in higher education - it supports teachers, young people, sport and apprentices. It's about a life experience
Commissioner Tibor Navracsics
On 22 September, the Ministry of Education and Science in Tartu, Estonia, hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Tibor Navracsics. Commissioner Navracsics was joined on stage by Volli Kalm, Rector of the University of Tartu.
The lively discussion with about 150 young people not only focused on education, Erasmus Plus, skills for the future and the role of universities, but also on the future of Europe and how young people can participate in shaping it.
The Dialogue began with the following question: “When you hear the word Erasmus, what first comes to mind?" Most participants seemed to associate Erasmus with youth, cooperation and learning.
Commissioner Navracsics reminded participants that 30 years ago there was no Erasmus programme and even before that, students in countries behind the Iron Curtain were not able to participate. Times have changed and since then over 9 million students have had the opportunity to travel, study and make friends. “But the greatest achievement of Erasmus Plus is bringing Europe together,” he added.
Several participants wanted to know what to expect in the future with regard to the Erasmus programme: would it still be funded after Brexit? Would younger students and teachers still be able to participate? Would the programme be able to help young migrants and refugees with language learning and access to university?
Commissioner Navracsics confirmed that he would like to reach out to many more young people, including those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds or from regions that are currently lagging behind others. He stressed that Erasmus Plus is about more than students in higher education since it supports teachers, youth, sport and trainees, and is very often a life experience for those who participate in it.
The discussion continued with questions about the EU's youth policy and the new Youth Strategy, youth unemployment and the skills that will be needed in the future and how best to prepare young people for it. Rector Volli Kalm said that there would be new professions in the future for which new skills would be needed. The best way to prepare for this is for universities to teach usable skills.
Commissioner Navracsics emphasised that employability is a broad societal term and instead of acquired knowledge, it means the ability to adapt to a rapidly-changing world. In this context, he stressed the role of universities which are vital in driving the social and economic development of the EU's regions.
On the EU's Youth policy and Youth Strategy the Commissioner reiterated the importance of citizenship education and employability, harnessing all formats of education: formal, non-formal or informal. He also stressed the need to motivate young people to participate in the democratic process.
The Commissioner was asked what he sees for the future of the European Union; what young people can do to shape the EU, instead of losing interest in it; how they can be part of the consultation process and whether the EU is becoming a federal state, similar to the US.
Commissioner Navracsics encouraged everyone to get involved in debating the future of Europe and defending the European idea. He explained that President Juncker’s proposal to streamline and simplify the very complex EU institutional landscape is a bold initiative that has already launched a debate about what kind of EU people really want. The future will depend on the Member States of the EU, but it is very probable that there will be closer cooperation in many specific areas.
The event in Tartu was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.