Where do we go from here?

30th September 2005 at 01:00
When we conceived the idea for this supplement, we thought Britain would be gearing up for a fierce referendum debate about the European constitution. But comprehensive No votes in France and The Netherlands have killed that project and signalled what Tony Blair has described as a "wide and deep discontentment with Europe".

This has left our prime minister, who for the second half of this year holds the presidency of the European Union, breathing a sigh of relief at having sidestepped an awkward battle, yet struggling to nudge European citizens and leaders into a debate about where we want to go from here.

The world won't stand still while Europe dithers. There are many issues affecting us that can best be tackled collectively through our European power-sharing arrangement - whether it is tackling climate change or pollution, fighting terrorism or honing the single market to compete with the emergence of China and India as economic big-hitters.

As Tony Blair told the European Parliament this summer, the EU is a "union of values, of solidarity between nations and people, not just a common market in which we trade, but a common political space in which we live as citizens".

Today's pupils have a right to be fully prepared at school to take their place in Europe, adding their voices to the debate and exercising their democratic right to vote in future elections from a position of knowledge.

But while thousands of schools have established cultural exchanges and collaborative curriculum partnerships through Comenius and other linking programmes, teachers are strugglingto find ways to promote understanding of the EUin the classroom.

According to the UK Office of the European Parliament and a number of former European resource centres for schools, a central problem is the dearth of information on what the EU actually does.

Funding regional resource centres on European issues is one step the Government should reconsider. Another would be to find a way to emulate the work of the Department for International Development in supporting teacher development and the production of materials for global citizenship.

Brendan O'Malley TES international editor The contents of this magazine are the responsibility of The TES, not the sponsors

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