Why aren’t we teaching pupils more about the EU?

Ask Brian: Neglect in schools could prove costly if we fail to address it

There are have a number of programmes in our education system relating to the EU – but we could do more. Photograph: iStock

There are have a number of programmes in our education system relating to the EU – but we could do more. Photograph: iStock

 

I moved to Ireland from France on an Erasmus programme many years ago, fell in love and am happily living here since. It surprises me that my children have acquired very little information on the European Union at school. My concern is that misinformation – as we’ve seen elsewhere – can take hold and undermine positive developments of the post-war years.

In my own travels in Europe, I have met a number of couples whose relationships formed during their Erasmus year. Yours is one of the great success stories of European cooperation (although I suspect those who initially devised it did not imagine that we would quickly have a growing cohort of Erasmus children growing up in our European Union!).

I agree that we have neglected to educate our children about how the European Union actually works, but we do have a number of programmes in our education system relating to the EU.

The Blue Star Programme is the main education initiative that teaches primary school pupils about European cultures and the EU through creative activities and projects, which complement the national primary curriculum.

European Movement Ireland is the national implementing body for the Blue Star Programme, which has had just over 1,000 primary school registrations across the country since 2011-2012.

At second level, the European Parliament Ambassador School programme aims to create a network of schools, teachers and students that engage with the European Parliament and its MEPs, raising awareness of European parliamentary democracy and European citizenship values. Generally, it is geared towards TY students. Last year it had 65 schools taking part across the country.

When it comes to the university sector, only two free-standing undergraduate programmes with the title European Studies exists today in the University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin.

Neglect

Unfortunately, it seems your children have not encountered any of the above initiatives in the schools they attended.

I agree with you that this neglect in teaching our children about the EU and how its institutions interact with its member states could prove very costly if those forces who want to undermine the EU ever secure a foothold.

It happened to our nearest neighbour over a number of years and proved to be an unstoppable force when the question was eventually posed.

Part of the reason for this neglect is, I suspect, an unwillingness among our political and administrative leaders to acknowledge how much real power we have pooled with our fellow member states for our mutual benefit.

A senior member of the European Parliament recently stated to me that up to 60 per cent of legislation which gets written into Irish law each year derives from decisions democratically enacted within the EU institutions.

Our pooled sovereignty has brought us many benefits which we take for granted: the single market, the protection of GDPR, freedom of movement, cross-border education, etc.

We need to do more to educate our children openly and unapologetically about the union of which they are citizens.