Europe’s youth is facing challenging times right now. High unemployment rates form a harsh reality for millions of young Europeans. The economic crisis may be the main culprit, but it would not be wise to ignore the failures of most European governments to invest in education and job creation.
For example, even though Greece’s educational system has been reformed numerous times since I was a student, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
I remember wondering why I had to study religious subjects, learning by heart the bios of the Greek Orthodox saints. What modern European and Greek youths need are skills that will open opportunities for employment, in an ever changing and competitive European job market.
In addition, as our European societies change, we need subjects that teach our children diversity and tolerance.
Sex education in schools should not only inform young people about having healthy sex lives, but it should also help them understand human sexuality. Discrimination against homosexual people, the bullying and social exclusion they face could become a thing of the past, if pupils learned and understood everything about homosexuality.
Teaching tolerance towards individuals of different skin, religion or ethnic background is also essential, in an ever diverse European society. Being taught subjects from a strictly national perspective, does not allow pupils to comprehend or accept different ethnic groups.
History teaching in particular is a subject with plenty of room for improvement. Until now, in most EU countries pupils are taught the history of their nation. But as Europe is becoming an increasingly integrated continent, the exclusion of its collective history seems outdated. How can you integrate a growing number of nations when their citizens do not know anything about their shared history? For example, if young Europeans were taught more about the events that took place during WW2 and after, they would understand better the modern reality of our continent. Once they learned about the Holocaust for instance, there would be no room left for anti-Semitism in our societies.
Blind nationalism would be a thing of the past if our history books used a broader narrative. This negative version of patriotism often acts as an obstacle in European integration and tolerance of other nations and ethnic groups.
And that is not all. With the free movement of people across the continent, European classrooms often include pupils from several ethnic backgrounds. Shouldn’t expatriate students be taught an extensive version of history and other subjects?
Learning our rights as national citizens is essential but how about being active and informed European citizens too? It is time that young people across the continent were educated about the opportunities their EU citizenship offers. Active citizenship requires information, as well as platforms to get involved and express your ideas or concerns. It is clear that our classrooms should offer the first practice of European civic society.
Our continent is in desperate need of a diverse, multilingual workforce. So instead of teaching useless subjects such as religion in European classrooms, it would be more constructive to teach languages. At least the three most popular European lingua francas, French, German and English should become standard subjects throughout the union.
In addition, new subjects should be included in Europe’s education institutions. If we want a continent of entrepreneurs, we should teach our youths how to become one. IT related subjects must also become a standard in European schools.
It is evident that Europe needs to create new industries, to tackle the economic crisis and its youth unemployment problem. The field of green renewable energy could provide us with a new industrial revolution.
In the past, the explosion of Europe’s industries was what kick-started our continent’s economic growth and dominance. Nowadays we could reinvent ourselves by becoming pioneers in promoting environmentally-friendly industrial exports. For this plan to materialise, we need to provide our youth with relevant education, fields of research and of course job opportunities.
Europe’s Generation Y is our continent’s most valuable asset and it is worth investing in. Just like in a greenhouse, by taking extreme care of the young shoots, we could reap the rewards of our efforts later.
Our continent’s educational systems need reforms and modernisation. Some traditions can offer sentimental attachment to the past, but solutions to our problems require ground-breaking investment in our future.