We need your help!
The Trust is wholly reliant on volunteers to carry out its objectives. We are currently working to create teachers' networks across the UK and Europe, as well as organising events and lectures on the topic of European Education.
The passion for these schools and our goal to preserve and expand this system is beautifully expressed by the well known author and presenter Liz Fraser (www.liz-fraser.com) herself a former pupil of Culham European School:
|Choosing to send me to the European School at Culham is by far best present my parents ever gave me.
It was a considerable risk – and one that paid off, in spades.
I was educated there for twelve years – some of them happy, some very difficult, as is quite normal in any school. But what’s not normal about European Schools is that they teach their pupils what cannot be taught in any classroom, from any book, or by any teacher. They teach, silently but with great strength and lasting affection, an understanding of – and a feeling for – the people and characteristics of other European nations. And there is no price you can put on this. It is invaluable.
A child educated at a British school will know, of course, that French people speak French. That child may even learn to speak very good French themselves, and try eating snails and wearing strings of onion around their neck, as we know all good French people do. But a child educated at a European school knows what a Frenchman means when he speaks; she knows what an Italian means when he says ‘Si!’ (Usually he means ‘no!’, of course.) A child educated at a European School understands what makes a German laugh, a Dane cry, a Dutchman angry (not much makes a Dutchman angry, incidentally) and a Spaniard go into business – or bed - with you.
This deep, cultural and personal understanding only happens by being marinated deeply in a European sauce full of children and adults of all nationalities from the EU. It gets pretty sticky at times in this Euro hotpot, but it’s a perfect recipe for success...in life. Because only by sharing packed lunches, kicking each other on the football field, kissing each other behind the abri à vélos (keep up....) and arguing in six languages over a chemistry experiment, can you come to truly understand each other, and thus to get along with – and work with - such very different people. (You also learn that Italians really do cheat at football, and Danish people really do have pink salami in their sandwiches, and that can probably come in useful too.)
But what, you may ask, is so important about this kind of cultural love-in? Can’t we all just learn pocket-book Italian on weekend breaks to Venice? Do we really need to know what kind of underwear Belgian people prefer in order to do business with them? Well, of course we can get by in life perfectly well without knowing our European cousins so intimately. There is, after all, Google translate to rely on, and anyway, everyone speaks English so maybe there’s no point learning Espanol. But let me give you a great example of something that happened to me recently, which beautifully demonstrated how a European School education can come in fantastically, and unexpectedly useful, and put an English education right in the corner.
I’m an author. I write books, in English. For two years my publishers and my agents have tried to sell my books to other countries in Europe, with no success. So a few months ago, frustrated by this lack of progress in countries that, thanks to my European education, I felt strongly should be a great market for my books, I decided to take matters into my own Euro hands. I sent an email to a big German publisher, written in German. It contained many mistakes, but I knew exactly what a German person reading it would like to hear. (Mostly this consisted of saying how much I love Germany, and the German language, and beer, but anyway. At least I could back that up!) A month later I was invited to Munich for a meeting with the publishers. Two hours later, after speaking non-stop German, I came away with an offer for translation rights not only to Germany but also to the whole of Scandinavia. In two hours I did what ten people had failed to do in two years. Why? Because I speak da lingo. Not just the language of words, but of customs, handshakes (or kisses), habits and, crucially, humour. Yes, the Germans do have some – I’ve seen it.
What happened to me in Munich that day demonstrates what a European School education can do. It opens not only eyes, and ears and minds, but it opens doors.
The Baccalaureat system itself is, I believe, exactly what is needed for the children of today, and adults of tomorrow. In a fickle world, where jobs are as unstable as any government policy, the more adaptable and multi-skilled we are the better, and this is where the European Baccalaureat triumphs. A system which gives every pupil leaving school the possibility of moving into fields as diverse as medicine, politics, economics, journalism, drama, IT, history, business or graphic design is surely one that should be encouraged. Even the marking system is excellent. There’s no arguing over “good As” or “medium As” - 76% is 76% and that’s it. It’s not 75% and it’s not 80%. It’s clear.
Finally....going to school is much more than just acquiring the skills and knowledge to get a job: it’s about learning how to live. How to get things done yourself, and communicate, understand and work with other people. Curiously, though we work more and more from home, or in isolation via the internet or on the phones, interpersonal skills are becoming more valuable than ever, as they become rarer. And interpersonal skills across country borders...they’re rarer still, which makes anyone who has them a hugely valuable asset to any company or organisation.
There are many International schools around, and they offer something very valuable too. But the atmosphere in a European School really is absolutely unique, and provides something quite different, not least proper foreign language sections. Far from closing down the only European School in the United Kingdom – a statistic that I still find so unbelievable it beggars my belief – we should be opening one in every city! And why try to turn it into yet another International School? If there are 400 shoe shops in town and you are the only hat shop, with a superb track record of selling excellent hats for which there is an increasing need and demand, why on Earth would you want to start selling shoes as well?! It makes no sense at all.
As Europe lives through a difficult, troubled period, with problems of migration, economy and cultural identity raising their ugly heads, the last thing we need to do is isolate ourselves further, and become more nationalistic. We need now more than ever to let our children grow up together, not apart, because it’s only by doing so that they can celebrate our differences, and learn to tolerate, not segregate.
Business, politics, science, the arts, fundraising, education, design, journalism....every kind of work you can think of – even, perhaps especially, writing as I do - benefits from a European School education. And the amazingly diverse and successful career paths of our alumni, are proof enough of this.
And as for learning how to seduce somebody in their native language, well, can there be anything more useful to be learned at school?
(c) Liz Fraser, September 2010, by kind permission
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