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The future of Erasmus+: More opportunities

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From a bigger budget to more opportunities for disadvantaged people, discover the new Erasmus+ programme.

Parliament adopted the Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027 on 18 May. Erasmus+ is a flagship EU programme that has proven successful in creating opportunities for young people and increasing their chances of finding a job.

MEPs negotiated an additional €1.7 billion for the programme, helping to almost double the budget from the 2014-2020 period. This should enable about 10 million people to participate in activities abroad over the next seven years, including students, professors, teachers and trainers in all sectors.

The centres of vocational excellence, which were proposed by MEPs, are now part of the new Erasmus+. These international centres provide quality vocational training so that people can develop useful skills in key sectors.

A priority of the Parliament, the programme is now more accessible and more inclusive. This means more people who are disadvantaged can participate and benefit from language training, administrative support, mobility or e-learning opportunities.

In line with EU priorities, Erasmus+ will focus on the digital and green transitions and promote a healthy lifestyle as well as lifelong learning for adults.

What is Erasmus+?

Erasmus+ is an EU programme supporting opportunities for education, training, young people and sport in Europe. It started as a student exchange programme in 1987, but since 2014 it also offers opportunities for teachers, trainees and volunteers of all ages.

More than nine million people have taken part in the Erasmus+ programme over the last 30 years and nearly 940,000 people benefited from the programme in 2019 alone. The programme currently covers 33 countries (all 27 EU countries as well as Turkey, North Macedonia, Serbia, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and is open to partner countries across the world.

According to the European Commission, a third of Erasmus+ trainees are offered a position by the company they trained in. In addition, the unemployment rate of young people who studied or trained abroad is 23% lower than that of their non-mobile peers five years after graduation.

How to apply

Erasmus+ has opportunities for people as well as organizations from all over the world.

The application procedure and the preparation can differ depending on what part of the programme you apply for. Discover more information about it here.

Erasmus+ 2021-2027 

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coronavirus

Germany's lengthy pandemic school closures hit migrant pupils hardest

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A foreign language children's book is pictured in the hands of Social worker Noor Zayed of the Stadtteilmuetter migrant integration project run by Protestant charity Diakonie in Berlin's district of Neukoelln, Germany May 4, 2021. Picture taken May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
Social worker Noor Zayed of the Stadtteilmuetter migrant integration project run by Protestant charity Diakonie speaks to Um Wajih, a Syrian mother of two children, in Berlin's district of Neukoelln, Germany May 4, 2021. Picture taken May 4, 2021.  REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

When a teacher told Syrian mother Um Wajih that her 9-year-old son's German had deteriorated during his Berlin school's six-week shutdown, she was saddened but not surprised, writes Joseph Nasr.

"Wajih had picked up German fast, and we were very proud of him," said the 25-year-old mother of two.

"I knew that without practice he would forget what he had learned but I couldn't help him."

Her son now faces another year in a 'welcome class' for migrant children until his German is good enough to join native peers at a school in Berlin's poor neighbourhood of Neukoelln.

School closures - which in Germany have amounted to around 30 weeks since March last year compared to just 11 in France - have further widened the educational gap between migrant and native pupils in Germany, amongst the highest in the industrialised world.

Even before the pandemic the drop-out rate among migrants stood at 18.2%, almost three times the national average.

Closing that gap is crucial, otherwise it risks derailing Germany's efforts to integrate more than two million people who applied for asylum in the past seven years, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, experts say.

German language skills and maintaining them - are critical.

"The biggest impact of the pandemic on integration is the sudden lack of contact with Germans," said Thomas Liebig of the OECD, a Paris-based grouping of industrialised countries. "Most migrant children don't speak German at home so contact with natives is crucial."

More than 50% of pupils born in Germany to migrant parents don't speak German at home, the highest rate in the 37-member OECD and compared with 35% in France. The figure rises to 85% among pupils not born in Germany.

Migrant parents who may lack academic and German language skills have sometimes struggled to help children with home schooling and to catch up on lost learning. They have also had to contend with more frequent school closures as they often live in poorer areas with higher COVID-19 infection rates.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and the leaders of Germany's 16 states, which run local education policy, chose to close schools during each of the three coronavirus waves while keeping factories open to protect the economy.

"The pandemic amplified migrants' problems," said Muna Naddaf, who leads an advice project for migrant mothers run by the Evangelical Church's charitable arm Diakonie in Neukoelln.

"They suddenly had to deal with more bureaucracy like administering coronavirus tests on their child or arranging a vaccination appointment. There is a lot of confusion. We've had people ask us if it is true that drinking fresh ginger tea protects against the virus and if vaccination causes infertility."

Naddaf connected Um Wajih with Noor Zayed, an Arab-German mother and mentor, who advised her on how to keep her son and daughter active and stimulated during lockdowns.

Long-running flaws in Germany's education system like weak digital infrastructure that hampered online teaching and short school days which left parents having to pick up the slack, compounded the problems for migrants.

'LOST GENERATION'

Only 45% of the 40,000 schools in Germany had fast internet before the pandemic, according to the Teachers Union, and schools are open until 1.30 pm compared with at least until 3.30 pm in France.

Schools in poorer neighbourhoods more likely lacked digital infrastructure and parents couldn't afford laptops or after-school care.

Between 2000 and 2013 Germany had managed to halve migrant school dropouts to about 10% by boosting language assistance in nurseries and schools. But drop-outs have crept up in recent years as more pupils from countries with lower educational standards like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan joined German classrooms.

The Teachers Union says that 20% of the 10.9 million pupils in Germany need additional tutoring to successfully complete this school year and the total number of drop-outs is expected to double to more than 100,000.

"The educational gap between migrants and natives will grow," said Prof. Axel Pluennecke of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research. "We are going to need massive investments in education after the pandemic, including targeted tutoring, to avoid a lost generation of pupils."

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Education: Commission launches expert group to step up investment in education in times of COVID-19

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The expert group on quality in investment in education and training launched by Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel in February 2021 has met for the first time. The 15 experts, selected from almost 200 applicants, will identify policies that can effectively boost education and training outcomes as well as inclusiveness and efficiency of spending. Gabriel said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how critical teachers, schools and universities are to our society. Today, we have the chance of rethinking the EU's education and training sector, and put it back at the core of our economies and societies. Therefore, we need clarity and solid evidence on how to best invest in education. I am confident that this expert group will help the Commission and the member states to build stronger, more resilient and more equitable education and training systems than before.”

The group will focus on the quality of teachers and trainers, education infrastructure and digital education. Their evidence-based evaluation will help the Commission and member states to find innovative, smart solutions to current educational challenges. This work is key to achieve a sustainable recovery and complete the transition towards a green and digital Europe. The expert group was set out in the Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025 to maintain focus on national and regional investment and improve their effectiveness. It will present an interim report at the end of 2021 and a final report at the end of 2022. More information is available online.

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French primary pupils return to school despite high COVID numbers

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Schoolchildren, wearing protective face masks, return to classes at Lepeltier primary school in La Trinite, near Nice, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, April 26, 2021.    REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Schoolchildren, wearing protective face masks, are seen in a classroom at Lepeltier primary school in La Trinite, near Nice, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, April 26, 2021.    REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

France sent primary and nursery pupils back to school on Monday (26 April), the first phase of reopening after a three-week COVID-19 lockdown, even as daily new infections remained stubbornly high.

President Emmanuel Macron said a return to school would help fight social inequality, allowing parents who struggle to pay for childcare to get back to work, but trade unions warned that new infections would lead to a "torrent" of classroom closures.

In the upmarket Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, pupils wore face masks and rubbed disinfectant gel on their hands as they filed through the front door of the Achille Peretti primary school. A poster reminded the youngsters to stay a metre apart.

"They're young, they need an adult to help them, but most parents have a job and it's burdensome to ask them to do the school work," said teacher Elodie Passon.

Middle and high school pupils are due to return to the classroom next Monday, when the government will also lift domestic travel restrictions that have been in place nationwide since early April.

The open-air terraces of bars and restaurants, as well as some business and cultural venues, might be allowed to reopen from mid-May if the curbs have sufficiently slowed the spread of the coronavirus, the government has said.

Some doctors and public health experts have warned it may be too early to ease restrictions.

On Sunday (25 April), the seven-day average of new cases fell below 30,000 for the first time in over a month, from about 38,000 when the lockdown began, though the number of COVID-19 patients in critical care still hovered near a third-wave high of 5,984.

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