There is a difference between teaching/learning about the EU and experiencing European identity first-hand.
Education happens life-long and life-wide and comes in three forms – formal (in schools), non-formal (in youth and other associations and other projects) and informal (via the media, through peers, etc.) – and we need to ensure these various forms complement each other.
In the case of formal education, we must improve how young people are taught about the EU in civic education classes or, better still, across subjects. The idea is to go beyond descriptions of EU structures by letting pupils experience the practical benefits of the EU and EU values.
In non-formal education, there are many projects currently ongoing. Examples of these include youth exchanges, which are key for learning about diversity in the EU by enabling young people to communicate with each other. In this respect, it is vital to increase the future Erasmus+ budget and its youth chapter, in order to reach more people, including older groups.
Obvious recommendations for making informal learning about the EU a success include reaching out beyond the bubble of the EU institutions, using accessible language and adopting a more practical approach. However, these recommendations are not always followed in practice. Increasing media literacy across the whole population is essential. Good storytelling can also help – for instance via comic strips, as in the case of #EUsupergirl, who was with us this afternoon.
In the EESC, we are currently finalising an opinion on Education about the EU for the Romanian Presidency. The opinion is due to be adopted in March and will cover all of these recommendations.