Participating in a school partnership under the EU's Comenius programme brings clear advantages to the pupils, teachers and schools involved. This is the main finding of a recent study of the impact of European school partnerships funded through Comenius. Such school partnerships have been found to help pupils to learn better, they improve schools' teaching and learning environments, motivate pupils and teachers to learn foreign languages, and improve intercultural awareness and competences.
Jсn Figel', Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, welcomed these findings and stressed the need to strengthen the European dimension in school education. "Comenius brings 'Europe' into the classrooms and enriches school education. But it is not only about bringing young Europeans together. It also helps pupils and teachers to improve key competences and skills that are needed for a successful career in our increasingly advanced, knowledge-based society. This study shows how much pupils, teachers and schools have to gain by taking part in Comenius. I encourage many more to join in, particularly in this European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008."
The Comenius programme, which is currently part of the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme for the period 2007-2013, supports projects between schools in different European countries. Through these projects, pupils and teachers work on agreed topics, exchange project results between the partner schools and develop small publications, web sites or DVDs to present their results. Comenius School Partnerships mainly use communication technologies to carry out their work, and consequently there is only limited travel. More than 800 000 pupils were involved in such partnerships in 2007. 30 000 of them took part in a mobility activity to meet their partners in other countries.
The European Commission commissioned a study in 2007 to assess the impact of these Comenius School Partnerships on teachers, pupils and the participating schools as a whole. The results are strikingly positive: both pupils and teachers improved their languages skills, gained more intercultural competences, and experienced a better school climate.
Better computer and social networking skills
Teachers reported that through Comenius School Partnerships, more than 70% of their pupils boosted their social skills and their ability to work in teams. According to their teachers' assessments, two-thirds of pupils gained specialist knowledge and ICT competences, and they became more self confident and motivated to learn. Moreover, 75% of the teachers improved their capacity to work in inter-disciplinary teams. They also dealt with new subject matter and learned about new teaching methods.
Language skills boosted
Through the Comenius School Partnerships, more than 75 % of the pupils become more interested and motivated to learn foreign languages; while 62 % substantially improved their proficiency in English and 23 % in a language other than English. In addition, two-thirds of the participating teachers improved their English skills. English is often used as the main communication language in the partnerships, whereas other languages are less commonly used. Nevertheless, one third of the teachers also gained better skills in a language other than English.
Improved school climate
Further, the respondents to this survey reported an improvement in the school climate (60 %) and a boost in interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning. Project work reportedly became increasingly popular, and the more intensively and actively pupils participated in project activities, the more positive was the impact of the school partnership. A large majority of all teachers (79 %) saw a stronger European dimension in their school as a result.
Intercultural awareness raised
The survey showed that more than 80 % of teachers noted that their pupils became more interested in other countries and cultures. They improved considerably their knowledge of life in general, and school life in particular, in the partner countries, and also showed more tolerance towards other cultures and foreigners. The impact on teachers is similarly noteworthy: 90% of the teachers improved their knowledge and understanding of the partner countries´ school system, and 82% established lasting personal contacts with teachers from partner schools.
The study involved nearly 8 000 schools that had participated in the Comenius programme over the last six years. It was undertaken on behalf of the European Commission by the Gesellschaft fќr Empirische Studien in Kassel, Germany, in cooperation with the Centre for School and Education Research at the Martin-Luther University in Halle Wittemberg, Germany.
(Rapid press release)
More information on the study results