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Strong education systems build tolerant societies

PARIS – The European Students’ Union (ESU) welcomes an initiative to hold a ministerial conference on 17 March to discuss how education can support social inclusion in Europe. Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, presented the idea on 9 February, following the tragic event at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January.

We welcome the fact that education ministers in Europe want to put this subject on the agenda. The student movement in Europe has for decades advocated the idea of education as a human right, that will help to structure more tolerant and inclusive societies. It is heartening to see these issues rise to the top of the agenda despite the tragic reason behind these developments.” says Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU’s Chairperson.

ESU has on several occasions voiced its concerns about the increasing nationalism, fascism and radicalisation in Europe. Those concerns are regularly brought up by national unions of students at ESU’s Board Meetings, in which student representatives from 39 countries in Europe attend. ESU also participates in numerous projects, events and debates to develop processes that support peer learning, social inclusion and quality education. Last year, the Council of Europe presented a new initiative to support inclusive history teaching and shared cultures as well as initiatives supporting the role of higher education institutions in generating democratic innovation. ESU has taken an active part in these initiatives, and throughout underlining that not only should teaching methods be inclusive, but the whole learning processes.

The educational environment needs to be one that generates a genuine understanding of different cultures. For this to be a reality countries needs to take internationalisation seriously and ensure that the student population is more reflective of society at large,” Gehrke continues.

From the European Commission’s press release:

In the wake of recent events, EU education ministers will meet in Paris on 17 March to discuss new measures to tackle radicalisation across the EU. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, who will attend the meeting, said: “Now more than ever, we need to build cohesive communities, and find ways to live together as a society. Education helps us to understand and accept our differences, overcome alienation, and create belonging and inclusion. I hope to see all education ministers in Paris so that we can show solidarity and start a debate on the role education can play – and how Europe can make a difference.” The meeting is a joint initiative of the French government, the European Commission and the Latvian EU Presidency. It is part of the EU’s wider efforts to foster inclusion and tackle radicalisation.

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For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU Chairperson: +32/479.591.499 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.


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