Brussels, 11 December 2012
School partnerships improve pupils' and teachers' skills
A new study on the impact of partnerships between schools in different countries has found that pupils - particularly at secondary level - significantly improved their skills, including cultural and social skills, IT and foreign languages. The impact of the partnerships was strongest on pupils who visited partner schools. Seven out of ten schools said that the partnerships had a strong to very strong impact on pupils' cultural awareness and expression as well as social and civic competences. This was followed by computer skills (54%) and communication in foreign languages (52%). The partnerships were funded through the Comenius exchange programme, the schools' equivalent of Erasmus.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "School partnerships enable young people to acquire the basic life skills and competences necessary for personal development, future employment and active citizenship. Comenius also helps pupils and staff to get to know different European cultures and languages. These partnerships will continue to receive support under our new Erasmus for All programme in 2014-2020."
The study also found that the scheme benefits teachers and schools within their local community. Teachers said partnering a foreign school improved their knowledge of other education systems and strengthened social skills, as well as helping their language skills.
Two out of three schools claimed that the partnership had improved their image and 80% said it strengthened their European dimension. Teaming up with schools abroad also helped develop closer ties both within the school and with local authorities.
Comenius partnerships have a comparatively greater impact on teachers and on schools and their environments in pre-primary and primary schools because it is easier to mobilise and involve an entire school and to integrate new ideas and activities into curricula at this level. In contrast, the impact on pupil skills is stronger at secondary level.
For many schools in remote parts of the European Union, partnerships financed from EU funds are the only opportunity for pupils and teachers to get involved in a project abroad. 85% of schools covered by the study said they intended to apply for funding for future partnerships.
The study surveyed 50 schools in 15 European countries (Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom) which received grants from the Comenius programme to set up partnerships running from autumn 2009-2011. Monitoring the schools over the two years, and beyond, the study examined in-depth how the partnerships affected pupils, teachers and the school.
Since 1995, the EU has provided grants to schools for joint projects. Comenius school partnerships are funded under the Lifelong Learning Programme, which is open to 33 countries (EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey).
The partnerships bring together at least two schools from different European countries, which set up a joint two-year project to improve teaching quality and to work together on innovative ideas or exchanges. The projects focus on pupils’ areas of interest, on current educational issues in the countries concerned, or on priorities set by the schools themselves.
Since 2007 the EU has supported more than 7,000 Comenius projects, each involving 5 schools on average. Every year these partnerships receive around €120 million, enabling more than 130 000 pupils and their teachers to visit their partner schools, and around 650 000 pupils to participate in local activities. In addition, the EU offers grants to teachers and trainee teachers to follow training or gain work experience abroad.
From 2014, EU support to schools will be part of Erasmus for All, the proposed new programme for education, training, youth and sport. The new programme aims to double the number of pupils, students, teachers, apprentices, youth workers and others receiving grants for skills-enhancing opportunities through study, training and volunteering abroad, to 5 million people in 2014-2020. More than two-thirds of the programme's proposed €19 billion budget would support individual exchanges abroad, with the remainder allocated to projects focused on cooperation for innovation, policy reform and sharing good practices.
Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU
Figure 1: Impact on pupils
Figure 2: Impact on teachers
Figure 3: Impact on schools and their environment