Is there a future for European schools?

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With many problems facing the European school system and with their humongous and inefficient bureaucracy that forgets that the main goal is to provide quality education for the children, the big question is, is there a future for European schools?

The European Schools system promises that students from any member state will be provided with an education on par in that of their home countries, which provide teachers according to the proportion of pupils studying their languages.

As a general rule, European schools have lofty goals. They revolve around providing a complete education, one designed to help students continue the work of their fathers and mothers before them and bring about a united, thriving European.

Behind the flowery rhetoric, though, European schools have a host of problems, to the point where the European schools crisis has strained the education system to the breaking point. The issues include overcrowding, ongoing struggles to recruit and hire qualified teachers, and an overly complex organizational structure that undercuts every aspect of the education they’re supposed to be providing, from fair grading standards to maintaining a viable infrastructure.

Disastrous managment of public funds

The European schools’ system is financed with public money. Shares are split between member countries and European Commission who still contributes the most significant part.

There are yearly audits from the European Commission internal audit team and the European Court of Auditors where they prepare suggestions on how to improve and fix recurrent problems.

Unfortunately, the Office of the Secretary-General doesn’t take these recommendations seriously. Although they have a dedicated team of experts behind them, the Office doesn’t want to use their expertise and is inventing new rules just to show they are actually doing something.

Administration grows faster than number of pupils

This didn’t bother the previous incompetent secretary-general of the European schools, Giancarlo Marcheggiano, to add three highly paid posts. The first one was deputy director for finance and administration. This upgrade in salary didn’t help with the improvement of the management of public money. Everything stayed the same, the same people, the same problem, just salaries are higher now. Did they ask a question is there a future for European schools before deciding?

The second and third highly paid posts came this year in the form of assistant deputy director. Now each school has two new assistant deputy directors, one for primary and one for secondary. Do they have anything to do? Not really. They invent new tasks and reports to show they are actually doing something, although everybody around them has more work because of this. Or they are doing the jobs of deputy directors, either because deputy directors are incompetent, lazy, or just don’t know how to communicate with the schools’ community and would like to avoid it at any cost.

On the other hand, there are posts like prevention adviser or data protection officer that two schools have to share.

Discrimination of SWALS

This is a repeating topic and the Office of the Secretary-General never bothers to help minorities. The students who have the right to tuition in their mother tongue, also attend European schools. According to the funding rules, they should have the opportunity to learn their mother tongue at the same quality as other, bigger language groups.

SWALS are already given reduced L1 tuition as compared to other students in European Schools having as mother tongue the language of the section they attend.

But year after year, with the encouragement of the Secretary-general of the European schools, directors of the schools push for a drastic reduction of hours and vertically joining groups, that discriminates against children without a language section and is seriously compromising the children’s fundamental right to equal education of their L1 language. For administration, it’s easier to reduce the number of hours per week for SWALS L1 and join classes vertically, than provide a proper solution.

As stated in this document, Educational Support and SWALS support, there are special funds dedicated to providing learning support for SWALS but directors prefer to use those funds for other means.

The infrastructure is a royal mess

The EU schools have tried to mimic the education systems of each individual country, which means that rather than have one standard, the system consists more of 28 slightly different “mini-schools.”

As a result, the grading standards are slightly different, which has led to a significant chaos factor that’s taken a toll on students, teachers, parents, and administrators.

Teachers have to take on an unfair burden

Teachers’ workloads have become huge, and all this while their salaries were cut by as much as 20-30 percent due to budgetary issues. Throw in some old and antiquated buildings, and the headaches become even more massive.

Schools are saving money on locally recruited teachers. They employ and pay some of them only for 24 hours per week although they have to work full time and have their own classes to teach. Basically, they are only paid for the time they are in the classroom with children but they are not paid for all the administrative tasks and preparation they have to do if they want to teach properly.

I believe this is against the law but it looks like it doesn’t bother anyone. At least, in Luxembourg, they are not treated at the same standards as pedagogical staff in Luxembourgish schools. Since they are locally recruited and work in Luxembourg the same laws and regulations should be respected for all the teachers.

Is there a future for European schools?

So what’s the solution? Better, more competent, and more efficient administration. Improvement of digital competencies for administration, teachers, and students.

Educators and parents shouldn’t stop trying to make the system work and push for a change. Most of them see these schools as Europe’s best chance to maintain a union, and the school system is really the only one that crosses borders in what’s become an increasingly mobile Europe.

The students, though, have learned to take all the issues and problems in stride. They’re having a very different education experience, and if nothing else they’re learning ways to adapt and learn that will serve them well in the future, despite the fact that this isn’t what their parents had in mind at all.

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Aim of the European Schools

Educated side by side, untroubled from infancy by divisive prejudices, acquainted with all that is great and good in the different cultures, it will be borne in upon them as they mature that they belong together. Without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe.

Marcel Decombis, Head of European School, Luxembourg between 1953 and 1960