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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, does the Minister say that we need to be taught in schools about the euro because we travel to euroland? If that is the case, do we need to be taught about the dollar because we also travel to America?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, within the school curriculum young people need to know and understand changes in currencies, and about currencies in general. I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that it is important that students know about the big change in currency and that they know what happened when those members of the European Union who chose to do so joined the euro.
There is an issue about whether we describe information as propaganda or propaganda as information. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, dealt well with that issue. But from the briefing I have read, I believe that we stand in slightly different places as regards what is information and what is propaganda. I shall attempt to be clear about my understanding of what is spent, and what it is spent on. I refer to Sections 406 and 407. I hope to address the questions raised by noble Lords. However, should I fail in any respect, I shall write to noble Lords and shall address questions outside your Lordships' House.
The Government are committed to increasing the awareness of European and wider international issues in schools. Teachers, of course, must have the right resources in order to do that. From 1997 until December 2002, the European Commission subsidisedby 360,000 euros (approximately £250,000)the provision of information to schools and some colleges in the UK through a network of European resource centres. The host organisations,
Those centres played an important role in providing information to students and teachers, face-to-face and on the phone, as well as offering a range of materials including, for example, the loan of European Treasure Chests. The Treasure Chest project, with financial assistance from Building Europe Together, was funded through the EU Prince Programme. It was developed in response to demand from teachers for European information resources and activities for use in primary schools, when organising, for example, European activities. Chests contain CD-Roms, books and maps about Europe. The project subsequently extended to the secondary sector. The European Parliament has also funded 12 for the north-west region to the tune of £6,741. There are approximately 65 of those projects in the UK at a cost of £400 each.
In January 2003 the Secretary of State set up a review of the provision of information to schools and colleges in England. As a result of the findings, the Government propose in future to provide information through an enhanced website with clear signposting to sources of information on a wide range of European and international issues. We think that this is the most efficient way forward. Want to build on the support that we are currently providing through a number of organisations who produce materials with a focus on global citizenship, which includes understanding Europe and beyond. This will reach not only schools, but also parents, students, colleges and members of the public and will provide more information to a wider audience.
I firmly believe, as noble Lords would expect, that the teaching of citizenship and democracy is important for all schools, young people and local communities. Global citizenship is an important part of the citizenship national curriculum. Through citizenship education, young people learn about the world as a global community and are able to debate and discuss the political, economic, environmental and social implications of this community, of which they are part. Through citizenship education young people will learn about their role as active members of our global community and how they can make a difference as members of this community. It is essential for young people to learn about the relationships which exist within both the European and international communities.
It is important to contribute to pupils' sense of identity through knowledge and understanding of Britain's diverse society and the local, national, European, Commonwealth and global dimensions of their lives. The citizenship website is devoted to languages and discussions of issues linked with European citizenship, such as human rights, freedom of movement, communications and sustainable development. The Department for Education and
Teaching about Europe and Britain's relationship with the European Community is essential in the global community in which we live. It is not designed to encourage particular European views, but helps give young people a broader and more global perspective. Nevertheless, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has rightly pointed out, there are safeguards in lawSection 406 of the Education Act 1996to guard against biased or unbalanced teaching. I agree that teachers are professional in their approach to teaching controversial issues and must, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, offer pupils a balanced presentation of opposing views. It is for teachers to choose the teaching materials which best meet the needs of their pupils in the classroombut that should happen within the provisions of Sections 406 and 407.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I cannot give an exact figure. I shall try to give the noble Baroness a figure. My presumption is that within the range of materials available to schools it is, as the noble Baroness would acknowledge, for schools to choose those materials that best suit the needs of their pupils. It is also, within the work that is provided, for them to ensure that a range of views is represented. I shall attempt to provide the noble Baroness with something.
It would be surprising if I did not make reference to the importance of language, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, also raised. The importance of communication in other languages is increasingly important. Your Lordships have heard me talk many times about the needs that businesses have over their ability to have the opportunities to trade with other partners by taking on people with the capacity for languages. So we are building that capacity to support business in particularand to give greater opportunities for our young people.
I shall deal with universities. The majority of UK higher education institutions, and all the larger ones, have European or international officers, funded by the individual university. They provide detailed information about the ERASMUS programme mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. An ERASMUS bulletin board is located at the University of East Anglia, which receives many e-mails and exchanges from ERASMUS students sharing information about their time spent abroad.
In the UK, ERASMUS is managed by the Socrates-ERASMUS Council, which receives an administrative budget from the DfES and expects, in 200304, to spend £196,000 of that on information activities. That includes information about TEMPUS, the EU co-operation scheme for higher education, which provides technical support for higher education institutes to run the ERASMUS programme. It supports the process of HE reform in eligible countries.
European documentation centres are an EU-wide network providing EU information to the academic community. They help universities and research institutes to promote and develop education and research on European integration.
Many noble Lords raised the Jean Monnet project. Its aim is to provide start-up subsidies to facilitate the introduction in universities of studies into the construction of the European Community and its related institutional, legal, political, economic and social developments. There have been 491 chairs since 1990. On that basis, it does not surprise me that the European Union plays a key role. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is right: the approval of the choice of chair must be granted by the European Commission. As I say, that does not surprise me.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, we could debate whether there is an axe to grind, but the way in which the project is set up is very specific. Because of the nature of what the Jean Monnet chairs are designed to do, I do not think there is any strangeness about how it is then proposed that people be appointed. The noble Lord may disagree; that is one of the joys of debate. Within the objectives of the Jean Monnet chairs and what is proposed, my view is that it would make complete sense for there to be a strong role for those involved in that way.
National agencies are responsible for administering the Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and youth programmes. They are about disseminating information, but that is not related to publicity about the EU in any shape or form. Rather, it is geared to ensuring that the UK gets the maximum take-up it can from those programmes. We receive funding direct from the department, and grant from the EU; it varies from programme to programme. For completeness, I shall say that the EU contribution to Socrates is
As I said as I began, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for raising this important issue and I have listened to all the contributions and read the briefing with great interest. I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise that it is important for us to keep all those in our educational establishments informed of current developments in the European Union and the effects that they are likely to have for us all. The provision of impartial information encourages debate about the kind of society we wish to create for ourselves and our children. Once the facts have been placed in the public arena, it is for all of us to consider them and come to our own conclusions. To withhold information would be to the detriment of us all.
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