Brussels, 4 March 2013
Launch of 'eTwinning Plus' virtual classroom network for schools
The European Commission’s 'eTwinning' network, which has encouraged 100 000 schools in 33 European countries to talk to each other via the internet, will be extended from today to schools in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The launch of 'eTwinning Plus' will enable these countries to join a massive virtual classroom in which pupils and teachers can learn more about their counterparts and take part in interactive projects focused on language learning or maths, for instance. It is also an opportunity for youngsters to discover different cultures and traditions– as well as to find out what they have in common.
"eTwinning is a brilliant educational project with enormous potential to break down barriers. The contacts we have facilitated between schools are incredibly beneficial to everyone involved; eTwinning gives them the freedom to develop creative and inter-cultural educational projects, while also encouraging children to develop their ICT skills. With eTwinning Plus, we are taking this network to a new level," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
eTwinning Plus is a pilot project initiated as part as the EU's Neighbourhood policy, under the 'Contacts between people' Eastern Partnership platform which aims to enhance dialogue with Eastern partners. The Commission plans to gradually roll out the scheme to Southern neighbourhood countries, starting with Tunisia. To start with, the eTwinning Plus platform will use English and Russian as its main languages, with French and Arabic to follow at a later stage. As well as serving as a meeting point for pupils and teachers to share ideas, it will also enable schools to find partners for joint projects.
Commissioner Štefan Füle, responsible for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated: “Increased EU involvement in education, higher education and vocational training will help partner countries and especially the younger generations to be better equipped to respond to economic and social challenges in our neighbourhood.”
To help establish the network, a partner support agency has been set up in each of the neighbouring countries involved. These organisations will promote eTwinning Plus at the national level, ensure it meets the needs of schools and organise training sessions for teachers. They will select participating schools on the basis of their computer equipment and knowledge of languages. They will ensure that rural and urban schools, as well as children from different socio-economic backgrounds, are involved.
The budget for eTwinning Plus is € 834 000: around half of this sum will be invested in developing the new online platform and coordination work, with the remainder allocated to co-funding the partner support agencies. The allocation by country is as follows: Armenia € 64 000, Azerbaijan € 80 000, Georgia € 64 000, Moldova € 80 000 and Ukraine € 96 000.
Created in 2005, eTwinning is a growing community of schools in Europe. Almost 200 000 teachers and more than 100 000 schools from 33 European countries (the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) have signed up to use its free and safe online environment for teacher training and joint educational projects. The eTwinning portal is available in 25 languages.
eTwinning is part of the EU's Comenius programme and receives around €10 million in funding each year. It does not finance individual projects but offers tools and support to teachers and pupils such as the eTwinning portal and seminars for teachers.
A recent study found eTwinning to be an easy and cost-effective way for schools to engage in international cooperation. It also found that teachers involved in eTwinning improved their skills, their relations with pupils and developed their professional networks. Pupils felt more motivated and were better at working in a team.
As part of the new Erasmus for All programme which will start in 2014, the Commission has proposed to develop eTwinning as a platform for all schools that wish to co-operate across borders with EU support.
The eTwinning scheme contributes to the EU's objectives of improving digital competence and collaborative peer learning. Later this year the Commission will publish a strategy on Opening-up Education in order to enhance education and skills development through new technologies and open educational resources.
For more information
European Commission: Comenius programme
Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU
Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)