I accepted my colleagues’ invitation to take part in the “Back to School” programme this autumn. I will therefore visit two schools: my former school in Tătăranu, the Romanian village where I grew up, and the school where I used to teach for about 22 years in Focșani, Romania.
This invitation was the reason of going back in time and checking a collection of news article and other pieces of content I saved during the years when I managed the “Back to School” programme at European Schoolnet, my former working place.
15 years of school visits
The “Back to School” initiative was born in 2002. We were asked by our former management team to come up with an activity idea to bring face-to-face public figures and classes to exchange ideas on EU related subjects.
Year by year this activity became popular among teachers and public figures. In addition to the emotional link of the guest with her or his former school, there was a strong need of students to meet public figures. The students wanted to question the guests directly and experience idea exchanges live on the latest developments in the field of EU policies.
There were teaching communities fearing to welcome politicians to their schools, as the political campaigns were banned in schools, especially during the years of elections.
Despite this fear, our team was able to come up with an attractive school programme. For a number of years I developed a twin guide, for both teachers and guests, with concrete “Dos and don’ts” and relevant suggestions on how to increase both informational and pedagogical values of a school visit.
There was a timid start of the initiative in 2002 and 2003. Year by year, famous guests adopted the idea as an effective way to encourage young people to speak out and express their views on what matters most to them. Key European and national public figures joined the initiative: European Commissioners, state presidents, prime ministers, members of the European and national parliaments, writers, singers, composers, to name a few.
Based on the emotional link with the former school, a guest found a common ground to share ideas and thoughts with young people.
Because of an increased popularity, many institutions adopted the exchange model and encouraged their staff to take part in the “Back to School” activity. The European Commission supported the initiative by encouraging its own staff to get involved while spending their holidays in their home countries. A strong promoter of the action was Margot Wallström, a former EU Commissioner.
The first body that officially adopted the Back to School initiative, at a larger scale, was the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. About 200 Germans, national and EU staff went back to their schools between January and June 2007. From 2007 on, each country holding the rotational presidency of the Council of the EU integrated the Back to School action into their presidency programme.
I am glad to see that our idea was turned into an ongoing activity that become popular among institutions and schools.
My latest Back to School experience in Romania, in 2017