Matthieu Saglio – 40 – France

Matthieu Saglio – 40 – France

Erasmus+ Higher Education – Spain, 2000-01

The Erasmus+ programme is a cornerstone of the construction of the EU. Every time someone goes on an Erasmus to discover another culture, integrate into another culture, learn a language – they form new relationships with the people around them directly, and also indirectly.’

Matthieu found love thanks to Erasmus. He met his wife when she went on a year abroad to his university in Nancy, and the next year he followed her back to Spain as part of the Erasmus exchange programme that existed between their universities. Now they are raising their 3 Franco-Spanish boys together.

‘Erasmus+ changed my life. You could say that I became Spanish in a way. I really feel that Spain adopted me.’ In Valencia, Matthieu immersed himself in the Spanish culture, learnt to cook paellas and discovered flamenco. Erasmus+ also changed his professional choice. Without this experience, meeting the musicians in Valencia, he would never have made the decision to begin an international career as a cello player.

For him Erasmus+ leads to more openness and tolerance towards other cultures. He believes people discover intercultural exchanges ‘with passion, and at the same time with a certain distance as you come from somewhere else’. Matthieu tries to integrate this into his work and believes ‘this openness is something which is passed on through our concerts.’

Hacer Zeynep Yurtoğlu Tetik – 32 – Turkey

Hacer Zeynep Yurtoğlu Tetik – 32 – Turkey

Adult Education – Germany and UK, 2010-12

‘What I’ve learnt thanks to international exchanges was not to judge by the first impression. [If] you don’t know the cultural code to read behaviours, you can’t interpret the situation well.’

For Zeynep, a European project coordinator from Koacela’s city hall in Turkey, running international partnerships is an ongoing adventure. ‘I always learn something new,’ she says.

During her first project “Library of my dreams”, an Erasmus+ (formerly Grundtvig) strategic partnership between libraries from Turkey, Germany and the UK, she and other participants discovered how cultural differences make the world go round. Everything – from the way libraries operate to the activities used to attract readers – is culturally based.

Accustomed to formal library settings, Zeynep ‘found it very inspiring that libraries can be such a friendly and welcoming place’ in Germany. The experience resulted in adding a kids’ corner to the local library back home and opening new libraries. 

Another impactful learning experience had to do with hospitality customs. ‘In Turkey we took our partners everywhere by taxis and accompanied them all the time, whereas in Germany we were instructed how to use the metro and were left on our own’, she recalls with laughter. She points out that experiencing such differences may be difficult, but you learn not to judge too quickly by realising that these are actually cultural differences. 

In fact, Zeynep is convinced that ‘Erasmus+ does an enormous job in promoting openness and mutual understanding. The best way to challenge prejudices or to make people understand others is when they have a chance to meet or to cooperate together over reaching the same goal.’

Małgorzata Walentynowicz – 37 – Poland

 Małgorzata Walentynowicz – 37 – Poland

Erasmus – Germany, 2003

‘People who are able to travel can discover other cultures for themselves and appreciate diversity. This is something that you cannot learn just from television.’

Music breaks down barriers. Polish pianist and lecturer Małgorzata can attest to that. As an Erasmus student in Hannover, she immersed herself in ‘an abstract subject that at the time was completely unknown in Poland’ and got to know many cutting edge composers.

The experience left a lasting impression on the classically-trained pianist, who has since made it her mission to inspire students at the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk to explore contemporary composition. If it was not for Hannover she argues, she ‘would not have had anyone to show her this world of music’ in the first place.

This passion is also reflected in her involvement in 2 highly respected music ensembles in Cologne and Berlin. Małgorzata travels frequently to Germany, sometimes even 3 times a month, and says this has made her appreciate ‘the practical benefits of European citizenship’, particularly because she remembers life before Poland joined the EUThe Cologne ensemble is made up of people from 7 different countries, so she’s well versed in being open to others.

She appreciates the challenge of playing abroad, as well as having the opportunity to learn how other countries function, explore different cultures and embrace diversity. Erasmus was the programme that enabled her to follow her unique path of self-discovery. ‘I now feel European,’ she says.

Marco Meloni – 28 – Italy

Marco Meloni – 28 – Italy

Erasmus+ Volunteer (EVS) – Argentina, 2014

It was great to go into a community and really be recognised as part of a community.’

Since his first youth exchange to Russia at the age of 16, Marco never passed up an opportunity to go abroad. Upon arriving in Rosario, Argentina, with the European Voluntary Service (EVS), Marco could not anticipate how much he would have learnt, both culturally and by training volunteers to engage in community service activities.

Over a 7-month period, Marco carried out several activities primarily as a volunteer with the association Agenda Siglo 21, which coordinates projects all over the region with various local organisations including, among others, TECHO Rosario and the Banco Alimentar Rosario

Marco’s chief goal as a trainer was to ‘instil the community aspect’ of volunteering work and enlighten the importance of creating connections with people in need all over the world. For him and his team, it was important to not only boost solidarity but also respect the community. ‘They learned a lot from me and my background in non-formal education activities,’ he recalls. ‘Volunteering is not just about working better as a team, but about the social part… understanding and approaching the communities.’

In addition to training, Marco had the chance to be a part of another culture. ‘Now when I travel in a Spanish-speaking country, to them I am Argentinian.’

Marco feels that his Erasmus+ experience not only introduced him to a different culture but also inspired his PhD research at the University of Coimbra (Portugal): ‘I was going in one direction and I am now on another direction, studying, making research, a really fantastic experience.’ With the help of a national fellowship, Marco is entering his second year of his PhD at the University’s Centre for Social Studies, focusing on the field of public participation, social inclusion and democratic innovations in upscale budgeting.

Irene Goméz Arnáiz – 23 – Spain

Irene Goméz Arnáiz – 23 – Spain

Higher Education – Finland, 2016

Erasmus+ has not only opened my mind but allowed me to take responsibility of my capacity and build trusting relationships across nations with my hard work and dedication.’

Through Erasmus+, Irene learnt first-hand at an interior design architecture firm in Helsinki, Finland. In the office as well as the classroom, this eye-opening experience exposed her to a different culture and new ideas, ultimately giving her a stronger voice and personal direction.

From the cold to the cuisine, Irene recalls the transition to her Finnish routine. One of the main differences was the Finnish culture of respect, which translated into an enriching and encouraging atmosphere working on different design projects with the studio. This sense of respect was evident in her position in the group:  ‘I was not just an intern/apprentice or an Erasmus+ student, I was a part of the group and my opinion was important.’

This experience was not only inspiring for her own design style and skills but also had an impact on Irene’s perception of herself as a Spanish citizen, a European, a student, a designer, and so on. In her own words: ‘Through different encounters, I got to learn about various cultures, places and people,’ all of which contributed to ‘an increased feeling of belonging to the exceptional European community.

Irene recently started a one-year master’s programme in Interior Architecture.

Sandro Gozi – 49 – Italy

Sandro Gozi – 49 – Italy

Erasmus Higher Education – France – 1990

Don’t take the EU for granted. We are more European than ever before – we don’t need to change our money when travelling, we don’t need to show our passport at EU borders, we can go and study in a foreign city.’

Just after the fall of the Berlin wall, Sandro was one of the first students to take part in the Erasmus experience in Paris which kick-started his career and led to him becoming the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of Italy.

Paris made him feel like a true European citizen, he saw how he could fit in with locals and was made to feel at home, as if he was a native. By broadening his horizons, Sandro’s experience affirmed his interests and ultimately motivated his career path.

He was so inspired by the value of his experiences that he wrote a book: Génération Erasmus. Ils sont déjà au pouvoir (Erasmus Generation. They are already in power). In it, he details how Erasmus alumni ‘are in the position to make Europe even better’. He challenges former participants to ‘give back to the EU’ and ‘multiply the opportunities for young people’.

Sandro believes that as ‘more people know about the EU and what it stands for, this is the best antidote against poisons like populism, hate and discrimination’.

‘The biggest selling points of the EU are its culture and its language diversity. We must invest in these more,’ he says. He maintains that Erasmus+ is the best way of promoting these unique characteristics, adding that the programme is vital for attracting students, professors, and other talent from outside the EU.

Félix González Ardanaz – 28 – Spain

Félix González Ardanaz – 28 – Spain

Higher Education – Poland, 2008-09

‘The Erasmus experience made me feel like a global citizen. I’m at home in any place in the world.’

At the age of 28, Spanish classical pianist Félix has already performed on many of the world’s most prestigious stages. Forming part of the alumni of several music schools, including those in Warsaw, Paris, London and Vienna, Félix’s musical training opened his eyes to different European cultures and customs.

His journey began when he became an Erasmus student, travelling to study at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. ‘I was only 17 and living alone in a foreign country was a big change for me,’ he says. ‘Especially since there are many cultural differences between Poland and Spain.’

He was surprised to see his fellow students queue for hours to practice their instruments at school, and was moved at the popularity of classical music concerts. ‘I noticed that music is a large part of the Polish national identity.’

Félix’s Erasmus+ experience taught him to be brave and to trust himself.  Through an appreciation of other cultures, he began to understand music differently and applied this to the music he played. ‘Music is a dialogue between the performer and the audience. The more the musician is open to other cultures, the more this dialogue is feasible, rich and moving.’

The time he spent in Poland propelled Félix’s career: ‘I had the chance to be inspired by highly accomplished Polish pianists and conductors,’ he says.

Looking to the future, Félix believes that European education systems should teach more about diversity to foster openness to other cultures. ‘Europe is a marvellous mixture of cultures and we need to know how to deal with that.’

Ewa Skwarka – 59 – Poland

Ewa Skwarka – 59 – Poland

School Education, ‘European Folk Tales: Hidden Treasures’ project with 6 partner countries, 2016-18

'Erasmus has opened my eyes to the world and to other cultures.'

Ewa, a dedicated pre-school teacher and former host of a popular children’s TV show in the 1980s – ‘Domowe przedszkole’ (‘Home preschool’), says openness to other cultures had a great influence on her approach to education. ‘I noticed that in post-communist countries early education is extremely formalised whereas in countries like Italy, Portugal or Turkey the approach is much more relaxed. Teachers follow the needs of children, not the other way around.

Her first taste of international exchange at work came through the eTwinning platform. Inspired by the possibilities, she joined the ‘Little Europeans Know Each Other’ project (2011-13) and then successfully helped launch an on-going Erasmus+ project called ‘European Folk Tales: Hidden Treasures’.

The aim of the project is ‘to get to know other cultures through their folk tales’. By engaging senior citizens to perform the tales for kids, they are not only promoting not only cultural awareness, but inter-generational awareness too. It has helped Ewa discover ‘how at the basis of those tales the same archetypic stories about the fight between good and evil, love, friendship, etc. are hidden, … somewhere deep under the cultural coat of things which differentiate us, there are hidden treasures that connect us’.

Taking part in Erasmus+ projects gave Ewa opportunities to exchange knowledge and best practices with teachers from other countries. As head of a public school in Warsaw’s suburbs, she can pass this along and is ‘very proud of giving the teachers at [her] preschool opportunities for professional and personal development’. Being open has exposed the teachers to different learning methodologies and a range of techniques including ICT tools and e-books.

Enrica Sciandrone – 36 – Italy

Enrica Sciandrone – 36 – Italy

Vocational education and training – United Kingdom – 2010

‘I became more mature and confident as a result of the [Erasmus] experience. I am definitely more open to other cultures.’

The music industry is competitive. For Enrica, making the most of every opportunity enabled her to pursue her passion for music.

After studying composition, harmony, counterpoint and piano at the Conservatorio ‘L. Refice’ di Frosinone near Rome, Enrica moved to London to complete a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music. She stayed there and was accepted for an Erasmus+ traineeship (as part of the programme formerly called Leonardo da Vinci).

When her traineeship finished, she found out there was an open teaching position. Despite being ‘extremely young for a professor,’ Enrica got the job. ‘I was successful in part due to the praise I received from the students I taught during my internship,’ she said. ‘Thanks to my Erasmus+ experience, I was able to demonstrate that I had all the skills required.’

Several years on, Enrica is not only a university professor, but she has also composed soundtracks for many award-winning independent films, documentaries, animations and television commercials. Most recently, she worked on the 2017 film Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson. ‘Erasmus+ has played an important role in what I do today,’ she said.

Looking back, Enrica feels that she always aspired to prove her talent but couldn’t fulfil her true potential in Italy. ‘London brought me into contact with other cultures and gave me a good balance.’

Not only has her experience in different countries helped her become an internationally recognised composer, but it has also become woven into the music she creates. ‘Music is always about intercultural projects,’ she emphasises, ‘which is important for my inspiration.’

Sofia Jagbrant – 31 – Sweden

Sofia Jagbrant – 31 – Sweden

Youth in Action – North Africa/Middle East - 2005

‘I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I developed an understanding of how to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds.’

Before travelling to Egypt under the Erasmus+ EuroMed Youth Exchange Programme, Swedish native Sofia felt she was shy and unassuming. ‘The experience gave me more confidence and took me out of my comfort zone. Before, I was too shy to speak in front of people. Now, I’m regularly speaking in front of large groups,’ she says.

Sofia found her confidence by volunteering in various youth organisations, working on equality and human rights projects. By putting herself outside of her comfort zone, Sofia was able to gain a sense of self-assurance. ‘I challenged myself and it felt natural. It felt like skydiving with no safety net but it felt good.’

She has gone on to manage over 10 youth projects, including an international youth exchange involving young Swedish and British girls who had been victims of violence. Now based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Sofia is working as Bilateral Associate Expert for the Swedish International Development Agency based in the youth-focused non-profit organisation Restless Development Tanzania. One of the programmes of Restless Development, Youth be Responsible, is funded by the EU.

Alongside helping vulnerable groups, Sofia has learnt languages such as English, Swahili and Arabic. She has also taken a variety of courses in coaching and personal development, which she wouldn’t have contemplated had it not been for Erasmus+.

Being part of Erasmus+ has opened up new worlds for Sofia, and finding her confidence has allowed her to embrace new experiences. ‘It’s easier to relate to someone you have met in person. This reduces misconceptions of different cultures as you see things from another perspective,’ she says.

Gary Diderich – 37 – Luxembourg

Gary Diderich – 37 – Luxembourg

Youth – Spain, 2008-09

‘The Erasmus+ experience has deepened my understanding of all kinds of people from different backgrounds. This has continued to help me in my work, as I deal with lots of people every day.’

For Gary, the Erasmus+ experience was transformative on both a personal and professional level, helping him develop as an educational and social actor for change.

After co-founding a social enterprise in 2002, Gary was working and studying part-time in Luxembourg. This meant he wasn’t advancing as fast as he would have liked in his undergraduate studies. To accelerate his progress, Gary decided to take advantage of Erasmus+ and enrol for 2 semesters at the University of Barcelona, Spain, where he studied Philosophy while improving his Spanish.

Initially, he was moved by the sub-standard living conditions of the young people in Barcelona. Troubled by the lack of affordable housing for locals, Gary ended up becoming active in various student movements. ‘It was inspiring to see students refuse to accept what was happening and become politically engaged in society,’ he says.

Upon his return to Luxembourg, Gary resumed his work at 4motion with a renewed vision on training citizens to take part in their communities. Under the slogan ‘Education for social change’, the non-profit organisation encourages inclusion, active civic participation and employment assistance. Through tailored training sessions and forums, 4motion ‘train[s] all kinds of teachers, childcare agents, youngsters, and public servants to raise awareness about these issues.’

Since 2009, he has continued to innovate education through his role as an elected city councillor in his town

‘Holy Spirit’ project – Ireland

‘Holy Spirit’ project – Ireland

School Education – Ireland, 2016-18

‘Our teachers are now better trained and engaged, and it is noticeable that last year’s results from our first-year class were the best ever.’

Erasmus+ has enabled teachers at an Irish primary school to expand their horizons, connect with colleagues abroad and bring new ideas back to the classroom. Sending staff on training courses to the UK ‘has had a very positive effect on what we’re doing’, says Holy Spirit Boys National School teacher Alex O'Mahony, noting that ‘the feedback we received was that this was the best professional development many had ever had’.

The fact that some training courses were not readily available in Ireland ‘really shows how Erasmus+ can help to fill in the gaps in national systems’, adds Alex. As a result, new methods for improving literacy are being implemented, and the school is currently rewriting its English teaching policy. The impact has been felt beyond Alex's school: ‘if you take into account the networking that our principal does when she talks to the heads of other schools, then the reach of our Erasmus+ funding has been huge’.

Erasmus+ also enabled Alex to travel to Berlin to see how German schools are integrating migrant kids into the school system. ‘It was fascinating to see how this is being achieved through intensive language courses,’ he says. ‘We could think about applying this method for kids who are struggling in school.’ Alex is also thinking about a training course in Scotland, where new ideas for teaching Scots Gaelic could be applied to the teaching of Irish Gaelic. ‘This is the beauty of Erasmus+,’ he says, ‘you can take it where you want to.’

Maja Makovec Brenčič – 47 – Slovenia

Maja Makovec Brenčič – 47 – Slovenia

Higher Education – Cooperation among universities from 30 countries, 2009-12

I am a staunch advocate for teachers as a key factor in quality education that responds to the needs of students and our changing society.’

As an academic, a higher education administrator and a government official, Maja Makovec Brenčič, the Slovenian Minister of Education, Science and Sport, continues to champion international, multi-sectoral cooperation and openness as a key driver of quality education.

She witnessed this first-hand through the Consumer Behaviour Erasmus Network (COBEREN), which provided a platform to meet and share with higher education representatives from 30 participating countries. ‘For me, cooperation in an active international Erasmus network was a great experience from both a personal and professional point of view.’

For Maja, the Erasmus+ programme is about widening the scope of the teacher’s experience and cross-cultural understanding and, in turn, promoting transnational pedagogical innovation. ‘Higher Education must not be isolated within national borders. I am convinced that such high expectations and goals can only be achieved with national and transnational solutions’, she says. Her own participation in the Erasmus programme ‘only strengthened my belief that the international openness of education is a significant driver of quality’.

As a minister, she continues to promote excellence in teaching, encouraging young educators to take advantage of Erasmus+ opportunities in different academic and professional sectors. Whereas she previously viewed Erasmus+ from a higher education perspective, as a minister ‘every day I have the opportunity to get to know the programme, its activities and long-term impacts on all levels of education, on youth policy and grassroots sports development.’

‘European Astrobiology Campus’ project – Estonia

‘European Astrobiology Campus’ project – Estonia

Strategic Partnership in Higher Education – Estonia, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Iceland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, 2014-17

‘Today, science knows that the Big Questions like “is there life on Mars” or “what is the origin of life on Earth” cannot be answered by one discipline alone. That’s why our project focuses on fostering interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of astrobiology.’

Established in 2014 by 10 higher education institutions and 2 non-academic entities, the European Astrobiology Campus (EAC) has created extraordinary opportunities for scientists, researchers and educators. With partners from 9 European countries, the project is able to provide comprehensive, high-level training; build bridges between scientists from different disciplines and at different stages of their careers; and increase the quality of education in the field of astrobiology.

During the last 3 years, project partners have assembled a strong team of trainers providing high-level courses and summer schools on various topics such as ‘Biosignatures and the search for life on Mars’, ‘Impacts and their role in the evolution of life’ or ‘Formation of complex molecules in space and on planets’ – just to name a few.

We have managed to bring together true science enthusiasts capable of working beyond the boundaries of their discipline. Some have already become leaders of important scientific projects’, says Professor Wolf Geppert, the deputy coordinator from Stockholm University. Drawing from teachers and former students involved in the summer schools, 4 interdisciplinary research teams have been established to investigate the colonisation of volcanic environments. Their research contributes to the search for life on Mars, and one of the teams has been awarded significant financial support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Framing the above achievements, the project has set a foundation for international training and exposure, with a view to future generations of scientists and researchers. ‘For young scientists, these are absolutely extraordinary opportunities’, says Prof. Geppert, ‘because it increases their employability and thus stirs up their scientific engagement.’

The impact of the Erasmus + strategic partnership already goes beyond funded initiatives to serve the wider public. With this in mind, some of the partners plan to establish a European Astrobiology Institute, with EAC as its training entity.

PEOPLE project – Slovenia

PEOPLE project – Slovenia

Knowledge Alliance in Higher Education – Slovenia, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, 2016-19

You have to engage with people and meet them where they are: instead of telling them, you show them.’  

To improve the employability of social sciences and humanities graduates in the European Union, the PEOPLE project (People-centred Development Approaches in Practical and Learning Environments) engages students, educators, business professionals and consumers. Through this interdisciplinary collaboration, the project’s underlying premise is to identify and solve real-life business challenges and collectively develop and test various products and services in the energy efficiency and sustainable living sectors. As Anna Kirah, a member of the PEOPLE Advisory Board, notes, ‘You have to engage with people and meet them where they are: instead of telling them, you show them.’

According to PEOPLE project coordinator Gregor Cerinsek, ‘We think that meaningful products and services in the sustainable living and energy sectors can only be developed with the people who use them.’  In line with this view, Gregor and his colleagues recognise the need for People-centred Learning Cycles so ‘students, teachers and researchers are directly exposed to the needs and requirements of the industry.’ In the Netherlands, for example, 4 students are helping the energy company Alliander map customer behaviour as part of its ‘natural gas transition programme’, which is working towards a smooth and people-friendly transition to a natural gas-free future.

Thus far, the PEOPLE framework has proven to be a win-win situation for all concerned, and a testament to the added value of the Erasmus+ experience. Students, teachers and researchers acquire new knowledge and entrepreneurial skills working with companies which, in turn, are training future employees.

Looking ahead, Gregor and his colleagues are confident that this cooperative inter-sectoral project approach will give European economies a competitive advantage, while ensuring humanities graduates have real employment prospects.

Borderline Boardgames – Norway

Borderline Boardgames – Norway

Erasmus+ Youth Project – 10 countries (Norway, Hungary, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Portugal, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Greece), 2014-16

‘We came up with the idea of developing an interactive and attractive learning tool to address financial literacy among young people.’

In the aftermath of the credit crunch, a group of youth workers spanning across 10 countries came together to address the lack of financial literacy and conflict management among poorer young EU citizens.

And so the Borderline Boardgames project was born. The project comprises two ‘high-quality game-based learning exercises’: Mission Z, an interactive board game which simulates a conflict management scenario, and Real Ideal, which is designed to train young people to think seriously about their finances as well as their futures.

In its early stages, a 5-person team from a small Portuguese village was engaged to craft each board game. Project coordinator Joakim Arnøy describes the 5-month production process: ‘They produced, sandpapered and painted thousands of the game pieces by hand’. Both prototypes were tested on youth groups, school classes and in international training courses across 8 countries, reaching over 800 people.

Today, the board games have been employed in a variety of learning and training environments: helping teachers make their lessons more interactive and engaging, in addition to providing a unique training tool to improve staff performance in not-for-profit organisations as well as corporations. In Lithuania, even banks have expressed an interest in using Real Ideal in their Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes. 

In addition to project outputs across the 10 countries, Joakim has benefited personally from the Erasmus+ experience: ‘To be project coordinator was a steep learning curve for me. It challenged me to step up to the plate and has made a big difference in my career.’

Jose Tomas Pastor Perez – 43 – Spain

Jose Tomas Pastor Perez – 43 – Spain

Adult Education – Slovenia, 2016-18

 ‘Students need to learn to effectively communicate, to express themselves, to process information, to be active citizens, so that their education transfers into their employability.’

Jose Tomas Pastor Perez is head of the Science and Technology Department at CFPA Mercè Rodoreda, a public learning centre for adults located in the small city of Elche, Spain. In this role, he has positioned himself as an innovative educator and a teaching enthusiast. Through participation in different Erasmus initiatives, Jose has come to view the model of adult education in a new light, one based on asking students ‘How can I assist you in reaching your goals?’  

Reflecting on his experiences, Jose sees his work as complementing and helping innovate school curricula, with courses that stress practical skills for the new knowledge society such as online job-searching techniques, creating online portfolios and social media recruitment. He has also introduced non-formal teaching methods into the learning process. For instance, at his centre students learn about science and technology by creating and overseeing their own science museum.

Preparing objects for the museum not only helps students learn about aerodynamics or optics but also organise events, conduct guided tours, and interact with the local community. That is much more beneficial than just sitting with a book’, he says.

His efforts have translated into tangible benefits for the students, securing their entry into the job market, their future employability and career development. While Jose’s contribution to quality adult education has been recognised by numerous awards, such as the ‘Miguel Hernández award’ from the Spanish Ministry of Education, this is merely a positive ‘side-effect’ of his efforts. ‘My main goal is to introduce new innovative teaching methods into the training process in order to offer better services for society. The Erasmus + programme helps with this significantly.’

QUAL4T2 – The Netherlands

QUAL4T2 – The Netherlands

Vocational Education and Training – Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, 2016-19

‘Improving quality culture ultimately means giving students a better education and better job options for the future.’

The QUAL4T2 project, which brings together 5 European countries, aims to improve the quality of teaching by sharing best practices, holding workshops and developing online guidance tools. While the first QUAL4T project, which ran until 2015, focused on supporting individual teachers, this follow-up phase is committed to improving the quality of teaching by supporting team culture. ‘Even if everything looks satisfactory on paper, negative team culture can make classrooms and staffrooms miserable, says project coordinator Margrieta Kroese.

Launched less than a year ago, the project has already delivered some 17 guidance tools, all of which are available online. The two most popular tools so far focus on raising teachers’ awareness of quality culture and strategic planning. ‘A lot of feedback from the first project was about activity planning, with many teachers asking for more help at the team level’, notes Margrieta. ‘Teachers are under too much pressure, partly because they are not always sure whether or not they are doing the right thing for certain tasks.’

By providing guidance on the professional development of individual teachers in a team setting, the QUAL4T2 project aims to instil a culture of quality in schools. ‘Invest in teams and ultimately the students will gain’, says Margrieta. ‘For educational staff, the real benefit is being able to identify an objective and feel satisfaction from achieving it.’

‘Puppets mission: childhood without borders’ project – Lithuania

‘Puppets mission: childhood without borders’ project – Lithuania

Strategic Partnership in School Education – Lithuania, FYRM, Italy, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Romania, 2014-16

‘Art is an amazing educational tool. It engages children intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially. It makes the whole educational process more fun and enriching.’

Travelling puppets, cultural activities, education through drama, dance, computer games and other artistic media – all of these components contributed to the Puppets mission: childhood without borders project. Involving 8 kindergarten facilities from different European countries, the project aimed to encourage preschool teachers to integrate new, under-utilised teaching strategies (e.g. play, drama, experiments, music) into the educational programmes for school children ages 3-7 years old.

We often see that teachers tend to avoid crossing the “safe circle” of traditional teaching, which views preschool education as less important than basic school education. We wanted to challenge that attitude and improve the quality of our teaching’, says Jolanta Varanavičienė, project coordinator from Žilvitis, a Lithuanian kindergarten.

Project activities revolved around using traditional puppets to promote cultural and pedagogical exchanges among the partner countries. These puppets were sent from one partner to another, with tasks related to the culture of each country. Children performed the tasks: from drama and dance exercises, to computer games and other activities. Complementing student engagement, teachers took part in transnational training sessions dedicated to studying new educational approaches and best practices.

Overall, the project championed the arts in driving pedagogical innovation, and as a result, new teaching strategies have been implemented in the everyday operations of the participating facilities. ‘The creative arts give children an opportunity to cooperate, to create together and to find a way to effectively represent ideas, events or feelings. It stimulates their overall development.’

Stasele Riškienė – 42 – Lithuania

Stasele Riškienė – 42 – Lithuania

School Education – Finland, Austria, Greece, Italy and Spain, 2013–15

Each project pushed me forward, giving me tools, ideas, inspirations and new contacts so that I could become a better teacher and work to improve the quality of education in my school.’

Interactive learning materials, online quizzes and exams, secure school social networks – ICT tools have shaped the way we think about and promote education in the 21st century. Thanks to Stasele Riškienė, an English language teacher from the Kuršėnų Pavenčiai School, mobile learning has become a reality for pupils in Lithuania.

After becoming familiar with different applications through Erasmus+ educational projects, Stasele was one of the first in the country to introduce smart devices into her teaching. She saw the potential of different applications for tracking and improving the performance of both teachers and students. ‘E-books, interactive exercises, assisting kids with disabilities – these are just a few examples of how ICT technologies may be used in education’, she says.

Today, as an Apple education trainer and eTwinning ambassador, she provides teachers from all around the country with training and assistance in introducing ICT tools into their teaching plans. She also runs a blog to reach out to teachers and promote smart learning and encourage participation in international exchanges. In her own words, ‘international exchanges have also helped us to give our teaching a European dimension’, adding that ‘This is very important as we are part of a united Europe.’ Her hard work has earned her the Teacher of the Year award from the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science.  

For Stasele, the Erasmus+ experience has informed her view of education more generally. ‘School should be more about helping kids get to know the world instead of locking them in four walls. The more engaging the educational process is, the better outcomes we get.’ In her particular profession, the added value of Erasmus+ for teachers is wide-reaching: ‘Improving the language skills of educational staff and pupils, gaining intercultural competences and broadening the scope of teaching techniques and methodologies are just some of the benefits.’