Event at the European Parliament: The role of non-governmental schools in the modernization of European Education

Last Tuesday onthe 5th of February, OIDEL, together with EMIE and the MEP Remo Sernagiotto, organized an event in the European Parliament in Brussels. The event focused on “Freedom of Education, a cornerstone of the Modernization of European Education”. Most of the audience of the event were MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) and members of the civil society representing non-governmental schools. Among the MEPs that took the floor were Remo Sernagiotto and Innocenzo Leontini of the European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR), Nuno Melo of the European People's Party Group (EPP), Luigi Morgano and Silvia Costa of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). In the panel, there was also Susanne Conze, Director General of Education and Culture, representing the European Commission. Finally, there were three presentations by members of the civil society, including one done by OIDEL. Remo Sernagiotto (ECR) initiated the discussion by affirming that freedom to establish Independent Schools (IS) is at the root of the European Union. He spoke of his commitment to set up an intergroup on freedom of education if he is reelected in the next elections, to protect families and civil society in the development of educational policies.  Along the same line, Innocenzo Leontini (ECR) stated that quality of education requires educational pluralism in order to give parents the right to choose the school for their children. Like Mr. Sernagiotto, Nuno Melo (EPP) agreed that the right to education includes freedom to establish non-governmental schools. He believes that the existence of plurality in the educational systems – both governmental and non-governmental schools- has proven to be the best formula to guarantee diversity. Luigi Morgano (S&D) recalled the importance of the European Parliament Resolution on the modernization of education in the EU. He made special emphasis on points 76 and 93, which concern the public funding of non-governmental schools and the key role of parents. He welcomed the notion that the EU resolution enables the recognition of schools created by civil society, and acknowledged the importance of public funding to guarantee their existence. Suzanne Conze spoked on the European Education Area and how school autonomy plays an important role in achieving better quality education. She recalled that 18 % of the European Union’s youth attend independent schools, so we must make sure that the EEA works for them. The members of the Civil Society that participated in the event were Georg Jürgens (ECSWE), Rodrigo Melo (ECNAIS) and Ignasi Grau (OIDEL). OIDEL presented some of the results of the Freedom of Education 2018 Index adapted to the EU. It was interesting for the MEPs to observe the positive effect that freedom of education has on the construction of strong democracies and the important role it plays in guaranteeing individual liberties. To conclude, Simon Steen (Coordinator of EMIE) brought some remarks, and Silvia Costa (S&D) acknowledged the importance of this event. Also, she pointed out that independent schools should become partners with the European Education Area. Finally, civil society organizations took the opportunity to welcome the interest of the MEPs, especially Remo Sernagiotto, on freedom of education and demonstrate their will to keep working together in this field.