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Brussels, 8 July 2009
Frequently asked questions: Green Paper on "Promoting the learning mobility of young people"
The European Commission today published a Green Paper on "Promoting the learning mobility of young people". The purpose of the Green Paper is to open up a debate on how best to boost the opportunities for young people to develop their knowledge and skills by going abroad. With this Green Paper the Commission launches a public consultation which will be open until 15 December 2009.
Why this Green Paper?
Under the French Presidency of the EU , in November 2008, the Council concluded that " every young person should have the opportunity to take part in some form of mobility, whether this be during their studies or training, in the form of a work placement, or in the context of voluntary activities ". It invited the Member States, and the European Commission in particular, to further develop the concept of mobility for all young people. Given that a clear consensus exists at political level to expand mobility opportunities the Commission now wants to open up a debate with a wide range of interested parties, including Member States, regions, education and training institutions and NGOs, on how best to boost the opportunities for young people to spend time in another country for learning.
Doesn't the current international economic and financial crisis imply that periods of learning or studying abroad are now a luxury that no-one can afford?
No. We know that the present crisis makes learning mobility more difficult to realise. But it is precisely now that investment in education and training is crucial, to help Europe overcome the crisis by providing it with a highly skilled and innovative workforce. This is why we are appealing to all stakeholders to engage in a new partnership to boost learning mobility. The Green Paper deals with medium- and long-term issues, looking beyond the present economic and financial situation.
Is the Commission being too ambitious in promoting more widespread mobility at a time when the growth rate of participation in the Erasmus programme in higher education is slowing down?
No. Erasmus continues to be a major success. A lot has been achieved since the launch of the programme 22 years ago, much more than could have been imagined at the outset: going abroad for studying and teaching proved not only to be very beneficial to individual students and teachers, but it also lead to quality improvements at institutional level. Moreover, it triggered far-reaching policy developments such as the Bologna Process for higher education reform in Europe 1 .
Interest in Erasmus continues to grow: overall student numbers are still increasing, new opportunities have been successfully added (in particular student placements in companies) and new countries are joining (Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Erasmus is now inspiring mobility actions in other areas such as Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. In short, the extraordinary track record of Erasmus justifies the ambition to promote widespread mobility for all groups of young people.
What tangible evidence does the Commission have that a period abroad is beneficial to an individual and to our society as a whole?
There are numerous studies (see footnote 2 of the ) that confirm that learning mobility adds to human capital by giving young people the opportunity of accessing new knowledge and of developing new linguistic skills and intercultural competences. There is also evidence that employers recognise and value these skills. As for the impact at the systemic level, a study (footnote 3 of the ) showed how the Erasmus programme has helped higher education institutions improve the quality of their teaching and services and become more European and international.
As long as language barriers exist in the EU, there will be barriers to mobility. How can we realise our ambitions of increasing mobility without significantly increasing funding for language learning?
It is true that the opportunities for language learning offered at European level need to be complemented from national and regional sources . But funding is only one factor in persuading young people to learn foreign languages. In its Communication "Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment" (September 2008) the Commission analysed the linguistic situation carefully and proposed a number of concrete actions, to be taken at European and national level (to know ).
Why does the Green Paper exclude mobility for work purposes – this would seem to be an important issue?
Mobility for learning and mobility for work are closely interlinked, and learning mobility can prepare for job mobility later in life . It can help to overcome the paradox whereby even today, during a severe crisis, there are unfilled vacancies in certain countries and sectors, because people are not prepared to be mobile.
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