It is more necessary than ever to ensure that inequality in Europe is addressed and does not grow further with the health and climate crises. How can we achieve a just recovery and work towards a truly social Europe? What is the role of education in tackling this challenge, and what has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the digitalisation of our societies in schools?
As part of the Green Screen project, which engages citizens in contemporary issues through films and debates, we explored how education can be a tool for bettering communities and providing equality of opportunity. Mar Garcia, Secretary General, European Green Party, explains the project:
"When the corona crisis hit us, we were all very shocked. A lot of people were talking about the difficulties that the cultural sector was going through. (...) We thought that screening films would be a nice way to support the cultural sector and foster political debate around different topics. That's the soul of the Green Screen."
Last month, we featured the film 'Children of Chance' and held a debate on the education system. 'Children of Chance' follows the lives of 11-year-old students with an immigrant background who are coming to the end of their primary school education with teacher Brigitte. The documentary takes place at a small local school in Cheratte, a former mining town. The children are the grandchildren of miners who are mainly from Turkey, and also mainly Muslim. The film evokes the challenge awaiting these children to integrate into Belgian society as they navigate the complexities of growing up amid terrorist attacks and harassment on social media.
Watch now: Children deserve equal opportunities! How education can make a difference in communities
Education is among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic and one of the most underfunded public sectors in several countries in Europe. But education has a great potential to change communities.
In the debate, we discussed education as a tool of empowerment and equal opportunity for all citizens, and the difference ambitious educational programs can make in the lives of children today. As Dr. Merike Darmody, Research Officer at the Economic and Social Research Institute and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, stated, school is not just a place for learning but also 'an essential place for coming together and discussing differences in a safe environment.'
"Often, we see schools just as a site of academic endeavour, but it is much more than that. It is a space where they meet up with their friends, where they get support from their teachers, where they have a nice and quiet place to engage with their schoolwork (...) We have to consider that COVID hit us all differently. In some households perhaps we have all the resources available, but not in others." - Dr. Merike Darmody, Research Officer at the Economic and Social Research Institute and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin
"One thing that we find interesting is that equal attention and equal opportunities does not enable equality at the end. (...) In Utrecht, to create equal outcomes, we try to invest unequally where the resources are more needed to foster a more equal result and ensure that no one is left behind." - Sebastiaan Rood, City Councillor for GroenLinks in Utrecht (the Dutch Greens), spokesperson for Education, Sports and Buildings
"How do you make children from within Europe from other cultural backgrounds that are for example not included within history and are often also ignored in terms of cultural habits that might be slightly different – How do you include them? (...) In my experience we take steps during the start of the year to get some information from the children themselves through surveys and dialogues." - Elias Verhalle, Secondary school teacher in Merchtem, Belgium
"Referring to my own experience as a student in really changing times... I was born in 2001 which means that we started school in an 'old school way' and when we graduated, we had all our exams were online, and digitalisation was more present. School is changing, at least in Finland where I am now. The role of schools is really important in (...) creating a safe space for learning and for building up your own opinion." - Anja Presnukhina, Student of Theology and Religion Studies, Helsinki, Vice Council member of Kirkkonummi town council, local education and culture committee
"A teacher is first of all a motivator, that's what we do. Education has really changed in the last ten years because for hundreds of years it was all about passing on the knowledge but it's not so anymore, students can find knowledge anytime they want to, they can Google stuff faster than I thought, they can correct my mistakes so it's no longer about imparting the knowledge on them. Maybe the role of the teacher today would be more of a guide, a guide through their life (...) for opening their possibilities, their potential." - Dalibor Levíček, English Teacher, Head of Languages Department, Akademia Grammar School. Participant in the Futuropolis project
As part of the Artistic Spot, puppeteer Pablo Ponce explains his project of creating puppet theatres with children in the Katwijk refugee camp located in the Netherlands.
The debate reflected the changing landscape of education, as different pedagogical approaches have emerged in the last several decades, and schools have been thrust into the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the digitalisation of education has become accelerated, the role of teachers has changed, and new forms of inequality have emerged.
Ensuring equity and inclusivity in education will be vital to help schools and students recover, and work towards a more social Europe. As the Greens, we are working to ensure that the recovery package and its national plans will act as a driving force towards a real transition to a more resilient and sustainable economic model. A crucial part of the just and sustainable transition is working towards a truly social Europe. The role of education in guaranteeing equality of opportunity is central to this challenge.
Register today for free tickets to future film screenings! The upcoming session features the documentary film 'When tomatoes met Wagner', a story of two Greek cousins who defy industrial farming by cultivating organic tomatoes that are sensitive to Wagner's music. You can enjoy this film screening on The Green Screen platform, which will be made available for 48h this month, on 20-21 October! Free tickets are available, book yours NOW!
You can read more about our resolution 'On the Future of Europe', which inspired The Green Screen project.