21 recommendations for more learning mobility are the result of a randomly selected EU Citizens' Panel. The 150 participants from all member states of the European Union decided on their proposals on 30 April 2023.
Learning mobility refers to transnational, regional or online mobility. Students, teachers, trainees or trainers use a certain period of time for educational exchange online or in other places. Educational mobility is used, for example, to acquire or transfer new knowledge, skills, attitudes or values.
Too few citizens benefit
Under Erasmus+ alone, almost 13 million people have studied, trained, worked or volunteered abroad since the programme was established in 1987. 95 per cent of participants expressed satisfaction or great satisfaction with their mobility; 99 per cent recommended it to others. 78 percent improved their foreign language skills, 75 percent increased their career opportunities and 76 percent had a clearer idea of their professional future afterwards.
Although transnational education has proven to be an extremely valuable experience for people, too few citizens actually benefit from it due to numerous obstacles, according to the EU Commission's website.
European education area by 2025
The Commission and Member States are working together to build a European education area by 2025 to improve the quality of education and training, promote inclusion and gender equality, drive the green and digital transformation, support teachers, strengthen the higher education sector and make the EU a partner in education for countries and regions around the world.
The recommendations of the Citizens' Panel participants are intended to help the EU Commission identify obstacles and develop measures at different levels to overcome the hurdles.
English as first foreign language
Among the 21 recommendations from 12 separate groups, one of the more popular suggestions involved urging member states to teach English as a first foreign language. The recommendation noted that English is established as a “vehicular language” within the EU and is “easy to learn”. Participants noted that English is already widely spoken and would not contradict a multilingual Europe.
Another suggestion was the promotion of learning abroad for employees which would involve time off work to learn certain skills in other EU countries. The recommendation would see employers obliged to allow employees to spend a maximum of six months learning languages or skills related to their profession.
Learning mobility for all
The Citizens' Panel also recommends that the EU creates a framework for learning mobility that includes people of all ages. This should also include job seekers and people with low education and income. In addition, existing programmes are to be extended to people of all ages and promoted via a platform. Workers should be able to complete part of their training online and the other part abroad.
The EU is called upon to launch a pilot project that would allow several family members to train together abroad. Children should also be included. Digital technology and artificial intelligence should facilitate language learning in particular. In addition, existing EU offers for language learning are to be better promoted.
Increasing EU funding
The participants of the Citizens' Panel also consider an increase in EU funds for learning mobility to be useful in order to make financial support possible for more students, trainees, employees and workers, but also for companies and smaller businesses. Companies and those seeking further training should be able to network with each other via an online platform. Tutors are to facilitate integration in the host country. For the journey and mobility on site, a favourable offer for the use of environmentally friendly means of transport is suggested.
The EU is to provide funding and take measures to make schools and workplaces discrimination-free spaces for young people and professionals in terms of age, gender, health, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Within the framework of the Erasmus+ programme, the search for the host location should be facilitated. This also in so far as people are encouraged to travel to places they would not otherwise consider as a place to study or work. The EU is also to identify obstacles to the use of learning mobility opportunities and remove them. Within three years, all EU citizens should be aware of the Erasmus+ programme.
Comprehensive consultation process
The Citizens' Panel was part of a broader consultation process that aims to gather the views and suggestions of all interested groups. The panel focused on the following questions.
- How can we involve the diverse groups of students, teachers, trainees and trainers and in particular people with special needs (due to disabilities, health problems, economic, social, geographical and other barriers) and less mobile groups (e.g. students and teachers, trainees and apprentices, adult learners and trainers)?
- How can we make mobility as environmentally friendly as possible and promote sustainable behaviour to contribute to the fight against climate change?
- How can we make better use of the opportunities and challenges that digitisation could offer (e.g. better use of digital learning platforms, combining face-to-face and online learning)?
- How can we use the potential of educational mobility for intercultural dialogue, civic engagement and the promotion of shared values?
During the three sessions of the Citizens' Panel, participants received information on each point that enabled them to understand the issue, identify obstacles and trade-offs, and discuss and evaluate solutions.
The participants of the Citizens' Panel on learning mobility were randomly selected by an independent polling company. In order to reflect the diversity of people in the EU, the panel members were mixed according to the criteria of geographical origin (nationality and urban/rural), gender, age, socio-economic background and level of education to represent a reflection of the EU population.
Young Europeans over-represented
These criteria were supplemented by a question on the attitudes of those selected to the EU, so that EU critics are as adequately represented in the Citizens' Panel as EU supporters, according to their share of the population. Young people between 16 and 25 were over-represented. They made up one third of the participants. A gender balance was also maintained.
The Citizens' Panel met for three sessions. These took place in Brussels from 3-5 March 2023, online from 24-26 March 2023 and again in Brussels from 28-30 April 2023. The recommendations produced here are intended to support the Commission's work in the field of learning mobility.
"An incredibly valuable experience"
At the final session of the Citizens' Panel on 30 April 2023, there were also some German participants. Among them was 18-year-old high school graduate Fritz Kamm from Lübeck. When the call from Brussels reached him, he initially thought it was a bad joke. Although he did not find much information about the EU Commission's project on the internet, he agreed to participate. During the three meetings, he tried to contribute his opinion as much as he could: "I am a fan of such projects and I think it is nice when pupils get such an opportunity. It's an incredibly valuable experience in my opinion ."
The 18-year-old student Cilin Waked from Duisburg has learned through her participation in the Citizens' Panel what it means to help shape democratic decisions in the European Union: "I take away with me that it can be quite meaningful to meet with so many different people from different countries. But I also saw that when you come from such different backgrounds, it can be quite difficult to agree on one thing. It takes a lot of work to find solutions that really satisfy everyone."
The Citizens' Panel was organised and moderated by experts from The Danish Board of Technology (DBT), deliberativa, ifok and Missions Publiques. These four participating companies brught their long experience in organising mini publics to the forum.
Citizens' Panel follows citizens' recommendations
The Citizens' Panel is a direct result of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Within the framework of this conference, 800 randomly selected citizens from all over the EU had also discussed the further development of democracy in the European Union. One of the recommendations that emerged was the wish to use randomly selected citizens' panels on a regular basis in the EU. The EU institutions have followed this request.
Prior to the Citizens' Panel on learning mobility, a panel on food waste already took place from December 2022 to February 2023. A Citizens' Panel on "Virtual Worlds" also ran from 24 February to 23 April 2023.