Education : Going Abroad To Learn

Going abroad to learn – Commission launches a public consultation on mobility opportunities for young people

The European Commission today published a Green Paper on “Promoting the learning mobility of young people” with the aim of opening up a debate on how best to boost the opportunities for young people in Europe to develop their knowledge and skills by going abroad.

Spending a period in another country for studying, learning, work experience or volunteering is one of the fundamental ways in which young people can strengthen their future employability as well as their personal development. With this Green Paper the Commission is launching a public consultation which will be open until 15 December 2009. Responses will be gathered via an online questionnaire and by written submissions.

Commenting on the Green Paper, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figel’, explained that ” learning mobility is good for individuals, for schools, universities and training institutions and for society at large.

It helps build skills, language knowledge and intercultural competences, and enhances individuals’ and organisations’ ability to innovate and compete at the international level. We need to encourage mobility, so that going abroad to learn becomes the norm, and not the exception. This is important, as much for the strength and sustainability of the EU’s economic recovery as it is for the social cohesion of Europe’s societies in the 21 st Century.”

The state of play

The EU has a long track record of supporting young people through various programmes and initiatives. In the 22 years of its existence the Erasmus programme, for instance, has supported 2 million students in doing parts of their studies or work placements abroad.

But the EU’s support covers a much broader range of areas, from higher education to business, research, vocational education and apprenticeships, from secondary level education, to youth exchanges and volunteering, and from the cultural sphere to young entrepreneurs and the civil society.

In addition, the European Commission has helped to develop a number of tools to make it easier for young people to go abroad for learning, including the Europass and the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) for higher education.

Taken together, the current mobility programmes, tools and initiatives reach out to young Europeans in a wide range of situations and contexts. However, going abroad still remains the exception rather than the rule and it is more accessible to some groups, such as students, than to others, such as vocational trainees and apprentices.

In 2006, around 310,000 young people were able to go abroad with support from European programmes. This represents a mere 0.3% of the age group of 16-29 year olds in the EU which shows that much more could be done in this area.

The Green Paper – Finding the right strategy

Over the past years, numerous discussions and reflections on the benefits of learning mobility have taken place in expert circles and at the political level. The Commission considers that the time is right for a wide public discussion on this issue.

In doing so, the Commission is also responding to a request from the Council of Ministers in November 2008, which invited the Member States and the Commission to develop further the concept of mobility for all young people, in different learning contexts such as school, higher education, vocational training, internships, apprenticeships or volunteer work.

Public consultation

The Green Paper asks a number of questions and seeks feedback on issues such as:

  • How can we convince more young people to go abroad to acquire new knowledge, skills and experience?
  • What obstacles to mobility do we have to overcome?
  • How can all stakeholders – the Commission, Member States, regions, education and training institutions, NGOs – join forces in a new partnership for learning mobility?

The consultation period ends on 15 December 2009. The Commission will then evaluate the feedback and prepare a proposal for practical follow-up.

The Commission invites all interested parties to comment on the issues raised in the Green Paper

From 15 July, there will be an on-line multiple-choice questionnaire at:

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