Once again, very few young people voted at the European elections in 2014. Only 39.6 % percent of first-time voters aged under 21 and 35.3% of young people between the ages of 21 and 24 chose to exercise their right to vote. They don’t vote because they don’t believe it will change anything, or because they don’t know enough about Europe to want to play an active role in the political process.
To encourage young people in Germany to participate in the European idea, the TUI Foundation teamed up with the Schwarzkopf Foundation to implement the UNDERSTANDING EUROPE project. Compact courses on the EU are provided to young people so that they can gain a fundamental understanding of how European politics work. The Schwarzkopf Foundation has been running very successful compact courses on the EU in Berlin and Brandenburg since 2009, and in North Rhine-Westphalia since 2013. In cooperation with the TUI Foundation, it will now offer them in Hamburg.
The objectives of the UNDERSTANDING EUROPE project are:
- To answer schoolchildren’s questions about European integration.
- To encourage young people to form their own opinions on European policy issues.
- To draw young people’s attention to the opportunities available to participate in European issues.
- To integrate “Europe” into the everyday school life of as many children as possible.
- To encourage the development of European school profiles.
- To increase the number of young people who participate in European policy issues in the long term.
100 EU compact courses on relevant European issues will have been held for young people by December 2016. They are aimed at children in tenth grade and above at regular and vocational schools in Hamburg. These courses can be booked by the teachers in German or English, so they also enhance the school’s multilingual profiles.
The course concept is based on the peer education approach. Young, specially trained course leaders travel in pairs to the schools to teach the EU compact courses. Each course lasts four hours and communicates basic knowledge about European policy. Participants are also encouraged to talk openly about relevant future issues. The trainers contribute their personal experiences and talk to the pupils as peers.
The EU compact course is supported by a range of digital products. All course content videos are published on the project website www.europa-verstehen.de for free use.
The TUI Foundation is proud to be involved in this project and that our expertise has provided new ideas on how to improve the trainers’ professional expertise. We firmly believe that being educated about and understanding the major European Union institutions is essential to everyone, especially young Europeans.
We, the trainers and the participants talked to MEPs at the kick-off event on 16 October 2015.