Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

European Education in Decline*

Martin Velichkov, July 9, 2012

euinside was media partner in Bulgaria to the "My Europe" initiative of ICCA (Institute for Corporate Culture Affairs) and the Frankfurter Zukunftsrat (Future Think Tank) Through a series of workshops with young people in 29 European countries, under the patronage of Ms Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission, the project aims to create a transnational network of young Europeans. “My Europe” awards ceremony took place in Sofia on 29 June 2012. We are presenting here the article of the national winner, Martin Velichkov, a student in the 91st German Language Highschool “Prof. Konstantin Galabov” in Sofia.

On 23 November 2011 in Brussels Mrs. Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, who is ironically 68 years old and besides her mother tongue – Greek, speaks only English with a well-noticeable accent, announced with great confidence that the current European education and culture policies had been highly successful. At the same time, thousands of students fail to see any purpose in going to school or look upon education as an unpleasant obligation on their way to prosperity.

What is this discrepancy due to? Are the immature students simply overlooking the fact how useful their education might prove in the future? Is this another whim of theirs or are we to doubt Mrs. Vassiliou’s word? "You don’t learn anything in school that is even remotely applicable in real life. Just memorize stupid facts, take a test and forget learned material: wash, rinse and repeat," shares Samuel in an Internet forum. This sarcastic metaphor for following instructions or procedures slavishly without any critical thought, which is found on many brands of shampoo, illustrates quite distinctly the image of public education in the eyes of modern teenagers.

According to experts, indoctrination and forcible conformity stand out as the gravest problems in our education system. Although their very existence has been categorically denied in any European country, these are subtly making their way into the classrooms, inculcating a sense of national and cultural identity in the growing up students, teaching them to conform to the conventional pattern and showing them the only right way of behaving, functioning and even thinking. All this impedes children’s natural development and uniqueness. Their lateral and divergent thinking, this essential capacity to see lots of possible ways of interpreting a question, gradually deteriorates. Children spend 12 years in school learning strictly what is expected from them to learn even if it marginalizes their personal interests and priorities. Twelve years being told that there is one answer – it’s at the back. Otherwise, they are labelled as underachieving and consequently of little value for society.

"I dislike school because anyone with an opinion that differs from the teacher’s is automatically wrong," admits a high school girl. So why is education moving towards standardisation and uniformisation when children need individual approach in order to develop naturally and freely? Why is this harmful intervention necessary at all? "The answer is quite simple," says Sir Ken Robinson, a world-renowned education expert. "Public education globally does not support individual choices, dreams or desires, but is rather bent according to the imperative demands of society. We have to get over this old conception and encourage our children to explore their perception of the world and create their own imprint and not one of parents, culture or society."

And while the honourable Mrs.Vassiliou and her distinguished colleagues are sitting comfortably in their offices in Brussels, occasionally making bombastic statements about how wisely they have spent the taxpayers’ money, students will remain oppressed at school with the only consolation of being able to socialize with peers. Unless concrete measures are undertaken, the future generation will have to put up with the lyrics of the well-known song**: "Society, have mercy on me. Hope you’re not angry if I disagree..."

*The text was originally written in English and euinside decided to keep the text unedited in order to provide readers with a full image of the talents of this young author

**Eddie Vedder`s song "Society"