2014/02/28

Erasmus With a Big Plus

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Marcin Kotus, co-creator of international internships portal Feender.com
 
Erasmus+, the next part of Erasmus, a famous European international exchange program has been approved lately. It will let four million people travel and gain experience to improve their chances for employment. It’s a unique solution compared to other continents, but it’s not as good as it could be.
The announcements of the program are quite promising and it is clear that EU officials made conclusions from its previous edition. It is still well worth to take a sceptical look upon it as there are clearl points that could be improved.

Consolidation without coordination

 
Some people point out that it will be another big institution with even bigger administration and no flexibility. On the other hand EU has proven many times that it can handle a vast bureaucracy. I believe that the consolidation will bring us more good than harm. Combining numerous programs that have been working separately up until now is a clear sign of coordination and strategic thinking.
However what Erasmus+ is lacking is coordination with other big programmes. In official communication UE did not refer in any way to plans of allocating 6 billion Euro to reducing youth unemployment. Those are programmes with very similar aims and any explanations of how they will interact should have appeared in officially published announcements.

Knowledge-based economy

 
It is very important to properly judge the stress being put on practical aspect of education. Its results are “Knowledge Alliance ” and “Sector Skills Alliances”. This is how EU called the system of partnerships that are supposed to be established between universities and companies in order to help students receive internships.

This relates to mobility being one of the priorities of the new Erasmus. According to official information more than 60 percent of its means will be spent on activities aiming to improve the EU citizens’ mobility. This is very important if we realize that distribution of unemployment in EU member states is clearly uneven. Northern countries have vacant workspace, and southern – people eager to work.

Transfer of good practices

 
We should also stress the importance of broadening the program so that it now also includes teachers and tutors. Creators of this solution would like them to learn what others do better and introduce similar solutions where they live. This can bring a lot of additional benefits to methods and ways of education in various countries.

This will hopefully create grassroots change in education systems. If teachers notice that methods of their equivalents from abroad are more efficient, they will try them out doing their own job.

Volunteering brings experience, too

 
Another thing we can be happy about is that volunteer work has also been included as a part of the program. Such activities may be a source of valuable experience useful in future development of one’s career. This fact has been noticed by “VolunTourism Institute” blog.

The author of the blog underlines that this solution is unique. USA, despite a few projects conducted by the Congress and Building Bridges Coalition organization, were unable to create a similar solution. According to information I have, no international organization from both Americas, Middle and Far East has yet created such a program.

Is higher education necessary?

 
In its official documents, EU claimed that one of its objectives is increasing the amount of young people with higher education from 36% to 40% in 2020. It is motivated by prognosis concerning requirements for qualified workforce. Even though it is hard to disagree that employers need more and more employees that posses specific skills, you can wonder whether it is possible to learn those skills while studying.

In my opinion, the only way to gain certain skills is paved with practical experience. That is why I think Erasmus+ and similar projects should oblige their participants to go for an internship during the program. Some universities and institutes of technology, especially from countries with developed dual mode of education, already have their students sent for internships because it is an integral part of education. For many other schools this is still incomprehensible.

This is how we reach the question of what is more important – studying or gaining experience. I believe it needs to be a mix of both. We all know great business leaders accomplished without completing their curriculum (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Ingvar Kamprad), but we have to stress that three of them had once studied. That is why I believe no one should be afraid of resigning from studies in order to develop their career, but after reaching a certain level of education beforehand.

See also: Erasmus Today - Erasmus Tomorrow 
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