What role does education play in the European Youth Parliament?
The European Youth Parliament (EYP) is one of the largest European programmes dedicated to non-formal political education of young Europeans. But what role does education play within our network and what does non-formal political education mean in practice?
The mission statement of the EYP is „to inspire and empower young Europeans to become active citizens“. Annually around 500 EYP events are organised through which around 30.000 participants are reached thanks to the involvement of over 3000 volunteers. More than 1000 schools in 40 countries are annually involved in EYP activities.
The events organised develop and grow rapidly across Europe. With more events and different formats our target audiences and participants change and become more diverse. Nonetheless, the core aims and methods of our educational work remain.
WHO gets educated through our events?
As formulated in our mission statement our target audience is young Europeans. Though definitions of youth vary, this broadly means people between the ages of 16 and 25, although the vast majority of our participants are in the last years of secondary education or beginning university. Whilst the majority of our participants will go on to university, the EYP’s mission is to reach all young Europeans, without limitation through education or background.
The educational value is to some extent different depending on the group of participants joining our events. The biggest group of participants at all of our events as well as the starting point for most of our volunteers is the role of a delegate. Most of our educational methods and priorities are focused on them since other participants mostly learn through the experience of providing opportunities for delegates. Many participants choose to stay involved with our activities and take roles of responsibility at our events so whilst delegates make up the majority of our participants, volunteering is a key aspect of the education EYP offers, and our volunteers’ learning experience is consciously developed through offering a wide range of trainings and educational experiences.
WHY do we promote non-formal political education?
In our mission to empower and inspire young Europeans, the education offered by our network is set to help participants take an active role in society. To us this means helping our participants gain the skills, attitudes and understanding to have a positive impact on their environment.
A wide array of skills is learned and gained by our participants due to the wide range of tasks a participant can take on. Most skills are social skills applicable to different fields such as creativity, leadership, initiative or communication. However, practical or technical skills can also be learned as a volunteer ranging from photography to working with Excel sheets. As a non-partisan organisation the attitudes fostered are to be open-minded in discussions, being tolerant and understanding in disagreements. Promoting active citizenship through experience the rewards of volunteering shape our participants into active actors in civil society. Other than academic knowledge about European topics, the European Youth Parliaments lets participants live through political processes and aims to promote their deeper understanding. Exchange between peers should not only occur on issues regarding political institutions or mechanisms, but also on a social and cultural level.
HOW do we do it?
The European Youth Parliament has a clear methodological focus to help our participants gain the competences we aim for. As an organisation focusing on non-formal education, our methods differ from an institutional classroom context and focus on the experience rather than knowledge transition in a formal matter. The methodological structures of our work are the following:
Experience-based learning: In the EYP, learning occurs mainly through experiences. We aim to minimize frontal, lecture-style teaching at all times.
Interactivity: EYP events are interactive, and involve active participation from both those giving and receiving knowledge/training/skills
Internationality: We aim for our participants both to meet people from different places, and encourage them to travel abroad.
Peer-to-peer learning: EYP events are organised and run by young people. Content and skills are passed on between people around the same age as the participants are themselves. This is integral to EYP’s educational work, because the act of organising EYP experiences for others is in itself an educational experience and empowering to young people.
Consensus-based: Debating and discussion in EYP is consensus-based. We avoid confrontation and seek consensus within a Committee Work structure, at least. This does not preclude ideological conflicts and debates, but the aim is to develop ideas and solutions together.
No role-play: The vast majority of our events are conducted in a parliamentary format, but participants always represent and debate their own views. Despite our name, we do not seek to exactly simulate the European Parliament.
The European Youth Parliament is originally a school-based programme and the majority of our participants join its activities whilst still in high school. We aim to complement formal education and welcome teachers as supporters and often key recruiters for our programme. Professional educators are consulted and represented as there is a quota of teachers in our governance structures and within the so called educational council, an advising body within the EYP network.