Summary – Opening Speech
held by Sophie Beernaerts
The beginning of the conference bearing the title “Freedom of choice under threat: What can European citizens do?” was set with an opening speech by Sophie Beernaerts, head of schools and educators unit of the Directorate General for Education and Culture.
Mrs. Beernaerts addressed the need to improve both formal and informal education in Europe in order to meet rising challenges, such as discrimination and insufficient integration in classrooms. She brought attention to the important link between education, citizenship and freedom, explaining how freedom can exist only by providing all people in Europe with good education opportunities. Ensuring diversity and inclusiveness in classrooms is essential for developing a positive mindset and encouraging innovative approaches, and helpful to tackle current issues in the educational system. Mrs. Beernaerts spoke about communities with different methods of education and the need to design collaborative practices in order to solve problems, such as early school leaving or heavy transitions from one level of education to another. The Waldorf Steiner education provides a good example of expanding forms of an education, which supports the individual development of each child. Building a school environment of trust and respect is a main goal for the future, where each learner takes a central role and benefits from holistic educational approach, based on creativity and social response, cultural awareness and communication skills. Another important step for the progress of European education is acquiring a wider look on human intelligence and talent, together with working on ways to assess and implement this. Mrs. Beernaerts ended her highly inspiring speech by saying that a key initiative for the future is to support educational facilities in trying new approaches, exchanging good practices and most importantly – sharing lessons learned.
Summary by Lora Ivanova