'More pupil mobility - through partnership between schools and exchange organisations' was a campaign launched in 2017 to bring formal and non-formal education together to unleash the transformative potential of learning mobility for the benefit of pupils and the internationalisation of schools.
In a more and more interconnected world, where cooperating across borders is essential for responding to global challenges and fostering peace, all young people need to develop global competence from an early age. Spending a period of immersion – in a host family, host school, local community – in another country has proven to be a transformative experience through which transversal key competences are developed. The schools where students experience mobility are enriched in their practices and relation to the world.
Since 2009, the EU funding offers this transformative experience to pupils and schools across Europe. In the context of the revision of the Erasmus+ programme, we called on the EU to expand this opportunity to a wider range of young people and schools: to reach this objective we advocated for more funding and the possibility for schools and expert mobility providers to work in partnerships, to ensure outreach and quality.
Pupils between 15 and 18 yers old are increasingly mobile thanks to exchange programmes (+3% every year). To the knowledge of AFS Intercultural Programs, every year more than 40.000 pupils are coming on an exchange in an EU country and about 70.000 pupils from EU countries are going abroad. The large majority of pupils goes on an exchange programme offered by specialised organisations. Since 2009, the EU has included individual pupils’ mobility within its funding programme ‘Comenius’, after the successful implementation of the pilot action run in 2008.
The Erasmus+ programme was evaluated in in view of the negotiations for the EU budget post 2020, and the design of its successor programme. Between 2014 and 2016 only 800 pupils went on individual pupil mobility with Erasmus+, with a 54% decrease in comparison with the Individual Pupil Mobility strand of the Comenius Programme. The mid-term evaluation showed that schools wanted to engage more in pupils’ mobility but at the same time were struggling with drafting and managing project applications and dealing with aspects related to risk management and support of the exchange students.
The European Commission, in November 2017, launched the European Education Area, through the Communication ‘Strengthen European identity through education and culture’, recognising that mobility at a young age is crucial to foster European identity and to reach a wider range of young people. The target is 500.000 pupils mobile by 2025.
In May 2018 the European Commission published the proposal for the future of Erasmus+ and pupil mobility was moved to Key Action 1 Mobility of learners: this is a clear move to make pupil mobility projects more accessible to schools and therefore to youth.
This campaign highlighted the importance of partnering up to make mobility happen. The challenge laid in the implementation: how to make schools and non profit organisations expert in mobility join forces for outreach? Here is how:
Non-profit exchange organisations can support schools in increasing pupils mobility through Erasmus+, by applying for the EU funding, on behalf of a consortium of schools:
– Reaching out: offering support to small schools in rural areas, as well as schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods of cities to draft and manage a mobility project. Exchange organisations are structured in local chapters all over the territory of a country and can look out for schools needing help.
– Facilitating partnerships: enabling contacts with schools from different countries, for in-person and virtual exchanges among teachers and pupils. E-twinning is a tool which supports the creation of partnerships. Exchange organisations are part of international networks of trusted partners who have strong relations with schools, therefore can reach out to schools in any other country.
– Supporting schools in internationalisation: assisting the school in developing an internationalisation plan and valorising in a systematic way the mobility experiences of the students, both in-person or virtual, individual or group ones.
– Fostering Intercultural learning and the use of new pedagogical methods: introducing experiential learning methods typical of non-formal education, which help students and teachers reflect on intercultural encounters, and therefore foster intercultural competence.
– Ensuring quality: offering trainings to students before, during and after the exchange, supporting teachers in managing risks, preparing for and supporting cases of cultural shock , emotional counselling and other typical scenarios in long-term international pupil mobility.
– Making an impact in the local community: the exchange experience is meaningful when it provides an immersion in the local community, which is beneficial both for the student, and the community itself. This is possible thanks to the placement of students in volunteer host families. Exchange organisations are expert in recruiting and supporting host families, making the exchange a learning experience also for them.
– Promoting volunteering and active citizenship: being non-profit and mission-driven, exchange organisations offer the opportunity to engage in volunteering activities, both during and after the exchange. Thousands of volunteers are active in different capacities, united by the common mission of increasing intercultural understanding. Through a cooperation between schools and exchange organisations, pupils can be part of this growing community and engage in concrete experiences of lifelong learning and active citizenship.
The campaign advocated to make sure the future EU funding programme for pupils mobility facilitated and promoted this opportunity of partnership between formal and non-formal education.