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Manifesto 2015

of European Parents for a European Future of Our Children in the 21st Century

Celebrating 30 years of being the sole representative of parents in Europe, the European Parents’ Association (EPA) has reviewed its policy and activities to formulate a list of necessary measures in order to provide our children with an upbringing ensuring that they become responsible 21st century European citizens and reach their full potential for a happy and fulfilling life. This requires that the EU and national governments provide equitable (and not equal) and inclusive opportunities in education for children and their parents. Measures should be taken to support the reconciliation of work and family life and ensure fundamental rights within EU.

Considering that

–       the future of Europe lies with our children, and parents are solely responsible for educating them in the format of their choice, to become lifelong learners and active citizens, helping them in the harmonious development  physically, morally and intellectually;

–       challenges of the 21st century in the field of employability need an aptitude for learning, the ability to embrace change and entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial skills;

–       parenting is lifelong learning and participation in parents’ organisations is the most hands-on possibility for parents to be active citizens;

–       challenges of the future, especially that of the digital age are huge for the adult population;

–       parents and their organisations need support and acknowledgement of their rights and responsibilities by the EU, governments, decision makers and schools;

–       there are several policy initiatives and EU-level recommendations affecting the lives of parents and children;

–       trust in European, national and other democratic institutions is at its lowest;

–       in the past years there has been substantial progress in the acknowledgement of parents as crucial stakeholders and EPA on European level and in some countries while some other countries made huge steps backwards in the field of parents’ rights and participation;

–       little has happened in the field of acknowledging parenting as a valuable job, the legal recognition of parents’ rights and responsibilities, and training is still not supported enough;

–       the most important policies regarding children (especially education and social issues) belong to national competence in the EU and thus could only be influenced by financial incentives, lobbying and sharing of good practices.

The European Parents’ Association and its members envisage a 21<sup>st</sup> century Europe where children and their parents are fully supported in the following:

1. 21st century education

– A holistic approach to education should be adopted including a cradle-to-grave lifelong learning, a learning and learner centred approach focusing on key competences and skills instead of information and encouraging learning environment other than traditional.

– Fundamental rights of the child are to be ensured with special focus on the right to freedom, health, well-being, and play bearing in mind the harmonious development of their personality in all aspects.

– Education systems providing equitable learning environments for all children and their parents, a free and informed choice for parents of the education of their children, focusing on the well-being of children instead of competitiveness and standardised testing. This choice should never be restricted by the financial capacity of the family.

– A school leadership approach based on school autonomy and sustainable financial provisions that ensures children and parents to have a real impact on all aspects of education.

– Right to mother tongue and native culture as well as support to achieve an operating (B2) level knowledge of the official language of the country should be ensured to both parents and children while plurilingualism should be promoted in the whole of Europe, especially when Europe is facing massive migration from outside and internally. However it should also be acknowledged that the common language of Europe is English, and thus the learning of English as a second or third language should be encouraged not only by school systems but also the media (eg. by subtitling instead of dubbing).

– Schools should become autonomous community learning spaces providing settings for lifelong learning, mutual learning of parents, teachers, children and the whole community, open nearly every day of the year and every hour of the day depending on the needs of the community, in a true realisation of the principle of subsidiarity to help parents fulfil their rights and duties as primary educators as well as real child participation.

– With special education needs becoming more and more widespread, individual approach to the learning process should be adopted and supported on all levels of education.

2. Active citizenship and participation

– Teachers and parents alike need information, training and incentives to embrace new approaches to education including the importance of their own lifelong learning.

– Participation in parents’ organisations on all levels (from institutional – eg. school, kindergarten – level to national/international level), paralel with participation of children of all ages in student representation, should be promoted and encouraged as the most hands-on opportunity for active participation and democratic citizenship. This needs parents’ organisations to have a meaningful role in all levels from policy making to school leadership and also to have financial support for their operation.

– No parent should be prevented from participation by their employment status. Time dedicated to parents’ organisations should be acknowledged by governments and employers. Incentives should be introduced to encourage employers to provide flexible working frameworks, but at the same time schools and other institutions supporting the parents in the education of their children are to adapt timeframes that are adjusted to parents’ working hours.

– Policy frameworks should be adopted for all levels that ensure the consent of children and their parents when major decisions are made affecting them.

– The importance of active citizenship is to be promoted by incentives, trainings and the media with special focus on including people of low socio-economic status in democratic processes.

3. Supporting parenting

– Support systems and training opportunities should be provided and promoted to all parents in order to empower them to be the best possible educators of their children from birth and also to become equal partners for teachers if/when the child enters formal education.

– Flexible, equitable quality services should be provided to parents from birth to provide day-care and education if they want to opt for them.

– Exchange of experiences and mutual support should be promoted by offering communication channels online and offline alike.

4. Validation of parenting skills

– Policy should encourage the acknowledgement of various skills acquired during parenting, especially in the fields of education, social and health care, and management.

– Validation schemes are to be introduced for parents and employers to assess parenting skills, supported by focused training and assessment schemes.

5. Reconciliation of work and family life

– Policy and financial incentives should be introduced to increase the employability of parents, to make flexible working hours, part-time work, distance work and other non-traditional work setting more widespread.

– Financial support systems are to be strengthened and/or set up to provide at least minimum living income for those caring for small children, elderly relatives or ill family members.

– Fundamental rights of parents, including the right to be mobile employees should be ensured by a European education framework guaranteeing smooth transition between schools (e.g. from one country to another) for their children.

– School holidays and compulsory school activities should be designed to serve the interest of children and their families and avoid to cater for the interests of the schools themselves or the tourist industry

6. Digital literacy

– Awareness raising campaigns should be organised and supported in the field of digital literacy, including the features and challenges of the digital age, the use and nature of the internet, social networks, the great opportunities of digital tools and dangers associated with using them.

– Parents (and teachers) should be provided information and training to understand the digital age, the environment their children live in and to help them provide them with a warm, open and supportive climate to ensure digital comfort and safety for all.

 

Who we are:

The European Parents’ Association (EPA) is an umbrella association of national level parents’ organisations from 31 countries in Europe reaching out to 150 million parents. EPA has been advocating for the a acknowledgement of parents as the first and most impacting educators or their children as well as the need for governments and the EU to support parents in this role especially by empowerment. EPA works without a centralised Brussels-based staff, managed by a board and a small staff from different countries thus having a live relationship with the field. As the sole representatives of parents as stakeholders EPA is involved in civil dialogue on European level in all aspects of parenting and children, especially education, social affairs and human rights. EPA advocates not only for the involvement of parents, but also of children in every aspect and level concerning their lives.

References:

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

European Convention on Human Rights

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Articles 3, 5 & 18

Demands of Presidents of Parents’ Associations in 2000 at the 15th anniversary of EPA

Leave of Absence resolution

Resolution on Vacations 2006.