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

Last Tuesday 5th of February, OIDEL together with EMIE and the MEP Remo Sernagiotto organized an event in the European Parliament in Brussels on freedom of education, under the heading “Freedom of Education, a cornerstone of the Modernization of European Education”. Most of the audience of the event was MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) and members of the civil society representing non-governmental schools.

Among the MEP that took the floor there 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 in representation of the European Commission. Finally, there were three presentations done 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 roots 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.  In the same line, Innocenzo Leontini (ECR) stated that quality of education requires an educational pluralism in order parents can choose the school for their children.

Like Mr. Sernagiotto, Nuno Melo (EPP) agreed that the right of education includes freedom to establish non-governmental schools. He believes that the existence of a plurality in the educational systems – both governmental and non-governmental schools- has proved to be the best formula to guarantee diversity.

Luigi Morgano (S&D) recalled the importance of the European Parliament Resolution on modernization of education in the EU. He made special emphasis on points 76 and 93 which concerning the public funding of non-governmental schools and the key role of parents. He welcomed 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 is playing an important role on it to achieve better quality education. She recalled that 18 % of European Union’s youth are in independent schools, so we must make sure that 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 adapted to the EU. It was really interesting for the MEPs to observe the positive effect that freedom of education has on the construction of strong democracies and as cornerstone to guarantee 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 that independent schools should be partners of 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 show their will to keep working together on this field.