A new study on the impact of partnerships between schools in different countries has found that pupils - particularly at secondary level - significantly improved their skills, including cultural and social skills, IT and foreign languages. The impact of the partnerships was strongest on pupils who visited partner schools. Seven out of ten schools said that the partnerships had a strong to very strong impact on pupils' cultural awareness and expression as well as social and civic competences. This was followed by computer skills (54%) and communication in foreign languages (52%). The partnerships were funded through the Comenius exchange programme, the schools' equivalent of Erasmus.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "School partnerships enable young people to acquire the basic life skills and competences necessary for personal development, future employment and active citizenship. Comenius also helps pupils and staff to get to know different European cultures and languages. These partnerships will continue to receive support under our new Erasmus for All programme in 2014-2020."
The study also found that the scheme benefits teachers and schools within their local community. Teachers said partnering a foreign school improved their knowledge of other education systems and strengthened social skills, as well as helping their language skills.
Two out of three schools claimed that the partnership had improved their image and 80% said it strengthened their European dimension. Teaming up with schools abroad also helped develop closer ties both within the school and with local authorities.
Comenius partnerships have a comparatively greater impact on teachers and on schools and their environments in pre-primary and primary schools because it is easier to mobilise and involve an entire school and to integrate new ideas and activities into curricula at this level. In contrast, the impact on pupil skills is stronger at secondary level.
For many schools in remote parts of the European Union, partnerships financed from EU funds are the only opportunity for pupils and teachers to get involved in a project abroad. 85% of schools covered by the study said they intended to apply for funding for future partnerships.
The study surveyed 50 schools in 15 European countries (Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom) which received grants from the Comenius programme to set up partnerships running from autumn 2009-2011. Monitoring the schools over the two years, and beyond, the study examined in-depth how the partnerships affected pupils, teachers and the school.
This study provides an analysis of the impact of Comenius school partnerships on participating institutions.
The results of the study show that these types of school partnerships have a highly significant impact on the school community as a whole: in 75% of cases observed, it was perceived as being “quite strong”, “strong” or even “very strong”. It was on pupils themselves that the impact was greatest, followed by teachers and then by the schools and their environment.
GLOSSA is a European Union education project under the LifeLong Learning Program. The project is for language educators and authorities across Europe. It is building methodologies, practices and courses specifically to help develop language learning and teaching for the less widely taught languages of Europe.
This is being completed by:
- Building methodologies for learning in online environments (advanced levels & autonomous)
Developing a Greek e-learning multimedia courses at C1 & C2 (CEFR)
Creating transferability to other European languages
Developing a common European professional profile for language teachers
Adapting an accreditation tool for non-formal and informal language teaching skills
- Creating courses for the less widely taught and learnt languages, including Greek. What courses are available do not utilize the possibilities of today's Internet (multimedia) and often use outdated methodologies
The project has now developed a Greek e-learning multimedia courses at C1 & C2 (CEFR) http://www.actione-learn.eu/glossa/mainHome.php#
You can find much more information on the project website at: http://www.ellinikiglossa.eu/
In this paper we describe two activities proposed by the Italian team that well illustrate the spirit of this project. Though different in aspects concerning the length of the activities, the content knowledge addressed, the kind of tasks proposed and the ICT tools used, the examples we describe share several qualities. In both cases students were asked to create a particular product according to their interests and experiences and directed to a public outside the classroom, and therefore real. In both cases they were also requested to use creativity and they were totally free to conduct the activity, leading them to feel protagonists and responsible for their own outcomes. Both activities can be easily adapted to different educational situations, because their strength depends on the underlying ideas more than on the products developed.
The innovation of these examples is not the methodology nor the technology applied, but rather the way they are used. These examples suggest that working in inventive ways may actually be effective and not difficult nor expensive to implement. To this end, teachers need to use creativity in their pedagogical planning and learn to look at ordinary tools with different eyes.