More must be done to educate our primary and secondary school students about the EU to broaden their knowledge and opportunities, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator O’Reilly welcomed the latest Eurobarometer poll[i] showing strong support among Irish citizens for EU membership, with 83% thinking it is a good thing. However he said more must be done to communicate the tangible benefits of being an EU citizen to our young people such as increased participation in school initiatives.
Senator Joe O’Reilly, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Foreign & European Affairs, Defence and Brexit said: “As citizens, we should have a good base knowledge of the European community to which we belong. Furthermore, lack of information leaves future generations susceptible to misinformation campaigns, such as were seen during the Brexit referendum in the UK. Indeed, last year my colleague, Neale Richmond, TD, successfully campaigned to thwart the relocation of Brexit campaign group Leave.eu to Waterford.”
Senator O’Reilly said the issue has been further highlighted by Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, in her recent letter[ii] to the Irish Times calling for us to “raise the game” in relation to EU education.
“Despite the positive attitudes towards Irish EU membership, the latest Eurobarometer poll also showed that 93% agreed that EU citizens’ voices should be taken more into account for decisions relating to the future of Europe, while 89% agreed there is still work to be done to strengthen democracy in the EU. Furthermore, 91% agree that there is still work to be done to protect democracy in the EU,” Senator O’Reilly continued.
“These results are largely compatible with the EU average and show that many believe there is still a lot of work to do.
“We should feel confident about the benefits of our EU membership and put more of an emphasis on teaching our young people how the EU works. At a glance, terms such as the Single Market and GDPR can appear confusing and complex, however, these hallmarks of EU membership have tangible effects on daily life. We can do more to communicate these to our young people.
“There are some excellent initiatives that already serve this purpose. The Blue Star Programme, provided by European Movement Ireland (EMI) is an excellent initiative that uses creative activities and projects to teach primary school pupils about European cultures and the EU. Since its inception in 2011/2012, the Blue Star Programme has had over 1,000 primary school registrations.
“The European Parliament Ambassador School Programme (EPAS) is another valuable initiative for secondary and vocational schools. It aims to increase student awareness of European parliamentary democracy, the role of the European Parliament and European values. Last year, 65 schools across Ireland took part in this programme.
“The Model Council of the European Union is another exciting and engaging way for students to learn about the EU processes. I would invite more schools to take part in these initiatives.
“As we enter into a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of Ireland’s accession treaty, we should reinvigorate our education of the EU in schools, and give our younger generations the knowledge to be informed and engaged members of our European Union.”