Children to learn to be modern Europeans;Briefing International

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
The new commissioner for education has pledged to help EU states prepare pupils for life in an open continent, report Keith Nutthall and Alan Osborn.

The European Union's new education commissioner has said she will try to add a European flavour to national teaching programmes, when she takes office in September, by boosting the teaching of foreign languages and cultures.

Speaking to The TES, Viviane Reding, 48, a former MEP and journalist from Luxembourg, said: "I want to add another dimension, to give them a supplement to help youngsters - when they are adults - to move freely around Europe without having a barrier in their minds.

"You cannot continue to make education based purely on national considerations. Young people today will grow up in a completely different world, with a big Europe, in which they will

circulate. We have to prepare them for that."

Mrs Reding will have to tread carefully. Education is one policy area where EU states are jealous of their rights and she stressed that she did not want to "intervene" in national programmes.

But as the new commissioner for education and culture, she will have the right to "contribute to the development of quality

education by encouraging

co-operation between the member states and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action".

She can also "implement a vocational training policy which shall support and supplement the action of the member states".

Mrs Reding said she was happy with the merging of the responsibilities of education and culture in one position, allowing her to help erase barriers

preventing people moving their homes and employment from country to country.

The current education job is held on a caretaker basis by Frenchwoman Edith Cresson, who was strongly criticised in this year's stinging report on Commission corruption and

mismanagement, leading to her resignation and that of her colleagues. said that restoring

credibility to her department would be hard work and stressed that she would support European Parliament proposals to create "transparency" in Commission programmes.

As a former MEP, Mrs Reding might expect this to be a formality, but, back home in Luxembourg however, not everyone is a huge fan of the would-be commissioner for education and culture.

Political commentators have attacked her for being a ruthless self-publicist and something of a political lightweight, albeit with a reputation for expressing bold and often well-researched opinions on a range of social issues.

Mrs Reding holds a doctorate in communications sciences from the Sorbonne and speaks fluent French, English, German, Italian and Greek. She is also widely experienced in politics from grass roots local government up to the European level.

If you want to know more, visit her remarkably extensive

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