Erasmus, Bologna, mobility. The air is full of buzzwords on the form of our education. But what about the content? Does our education system prepare young people for their role in society? Does it give them awareness, interest, and tools for the bigger things in life? A better chance at finding a job?
“You learn a lot at school, but not everything. Even when you finish university, you have to start from the beginning and you don’t know anything”, says Silvija (23, Law student). The answers of young people across Europe consistently point out that none of our project’s topics—European politics, youth participation, sustainability, and entrepreneurship—are being taught at high school and university in a meaningful way—if touched upon at all.
Additionally, graduating with a Master’s degree is less and less a guarantee for finding a job in today’s economic climate. Mateusz (23, Computer Science): “More than half of Polish youth are studying, so if you want to have any chances at getting a job, you have to do something extra, like being active in an organisation. It can really help you with your career.” Justyna (22, Logistic Studies) continues: “By being active in an organisation, you show that you care about something more than studying. You want to meet people, be creative, manage a project, manage people.”
So plenty of young people are taking care of their broader development, next to pursuing a formal education at university, increasing their chances on the job market. But does it also make them more active citizens? Do they have a better understanding of for example politics? “The best way for young people to learn more about politics is to start debating with each other, for example in youth organisations”, says Justyna. The role of youth organisations, they agree, is to facilitate this debate, arranging meetings with young politicians and offering a space for discussion.
Surely many young—but also older—people have reasons for venting their disagreement with current politics and policies. The answer, however, lies not in merely complaining, but in taking action. This applies for education but also for politics, says Diana (29, American-Finnish Studies). “If you think politicians are doing nothing for you, educate yourself and get into parliament!”