By the CoSup, the student union of the European Schools.
As this unusual year nears its end, the CoSup, the student union of the European Schools, has decided to publish a report to the wider student constituency about its actions taken this scholastic year of 2019-2020: its duties of representation, its projects and its initiatives for the student body. In total, the CoSup held 4 meetings in this scholastic year as per usual, on the 12th of October 2019, the 30th of November 2019, the 8th of February 2020 and the online meeting on the 30th of May 2020. Throughout these meetings, the 26 representatives in addition to other participating representatives of the 13 European Schools debated, discussed and formulated proposals for the issues affecting students within the system. With this report, our hope is to inform you of these developments and to bring awareness of CoSup to the 14000 or so secondary students within our schools across Europe.
For each meeting, the public minutes and the annexes will be attached for further detail, but the report is destined to provide a quick and chronological overview of the projects the CoSup has been working on. Please note that some of the policy issues were discussed at all meetings, but they will only be included in the meetings’ descriptions at which they were first brought up, and the decisions eventually taken on them, perhaps later, are added already in these descriptions.
The first meeting was on the 12th of October, where the CoSup discussed issues in preparation for the Joint Teaching Committee in October 2019 and the Pedagogical Reform WG such as Brexit secondments, theater as a complimentary course (this will be implemented across all schools), L3 in P4 (this was implemented later in the year), HCL as L2 in all European Schools, suggested and agreed on pushing for Physics2 and Chemistry2 as subject options, teachers leaving in the S6 and S7 cycle (our opinion was to keep them in the cycle at all cost), the New Marking Scale, harmonized curriculum planning for more consistency across teachers (+schools) and issues with Chinese L5 (a more rigorous selection process for teachers is needed due to the Chinese Confucius institute’s bias). For more information, including the decisions taken, see the minutes here.
Apart from policy changes, discussions about climate initiatives dominated the meeting. With Mr. Matthew Pye, a teacher and climate activist from EEB2, the author of the Philosophy curriculum and of the book “No Common Sense”, we talked about how the CoSup and European School students can make a difference. For example, the idea of the common strike that eventually happened on the 14th of February 2020 was born there, and so was the Ecology Budget, which proposes a fixed sum for each European School to spend on climate projects, such as solar panels, insulation and other eco-friendly projects.
In addition, three major projects that would be improved upon over the remaining three meetings were introduced. One of these being the ES Newspaper Project, which was later completed as the 13 Stars Newspaper, the independent student-run newspaper of the 13 European Schools. EEB1 presented their Harmonized Science Festival, which served as encouragement for the other schools to organize their own Science Festivals. Finally, a proposal for Ethics and Religion as Elective classes was thought up, along with a proposal for giving students the right to vote at the OSG-level Committees (OSG is the Office of the Secretary-General, those who are in charge of the whole European Schools system when the Board of Governors is not in session), such as the Admin Board, the Board of Governors, etc.
Another major issue was mental health within the European Schools. There have been cases of death of students across the system linked to drug, bullying and mental health problems. As such, the CoSup eventually drafted a plea, appealing to the European Commission to:
- Provide experts to develop official policies and support structures that could be implemented and followed across all European Schools regarding issues of mental health, bullying and substance abuse, including long-term support and prevention measures, as currently each school develops its own amateur policies. Via the European Commission in cooperation with host country expertise, it is only a matter of will.
- Make sure schools have adequate access to care professionals such as nurses and psychologists who students and staff alike can turn to in case of such issues. Currently, pastoral care is lacking in many schools due to lack of funding for such posts.
- We suggest the involvement of national social services to be ensured for European Schools (e.g. centres psycho-medico-sociaux in Belgium) and closer cooperation with the European Commissions’ Education and Culture department.
- With the current scale of the European Schools where 27000 or so students are enrolled, we urge the European Commission to step up its efforts in order to address overcrowding across the system for a better general environment.
This plea (which is approximately 3 pages long and in-depth describes the issue) is being signed right now, and it will be sent out and made public once both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 CoSup will have signed it.
For the November 30th meeting, the ideas discussed at the first meeting were drafted in written form (already attached above), namely the 13 Stars Newspaper, Ethics and Religion as an Elective, the Ecology Budget, and the Vote for Students at OSG-level Committees. Another two proposals were approved, drafted and added to the pipeline, these being a proposal to open up the Past BAC Exams SharePoint site to S5 and S6 students as well (not just S7), and a document describing steps to take on reforming the CdEs of each school modeled on the EEB1 CdE Reform that took place in 2018-2019.
The CdE Reform document tackles issues common to most CdEs such as a lack of transparency (incl. financial transparency) and communication between students and the CdE, lack of institutional memory, lack of continuity and the lack of a clearly defined governance system.
These issues are tackled through (quoted, EEB1’s example):
“The CdE Document Storage System made it possible for future CdEs to look into the archives of past CdEs and thus become more efficient at their duties, and to build up CdE Continuity. Based on this system, the CdE Transparency Project resulted in an organic PR campaign which, as a proof of its success, resulted in the doubling of our Instagram followers from around 430 at the end of 2017-2018 to 950 at the end of 2018-2019. The CdE Transparency Project involved updating students on projects, finances, meetings and their documents (e.g. meeting minutes and notes), current issues and more. In addition, it also involved asking students their opinions on a variety of subjects through our Instagram, thus involving the students more in the activities of the CdE. Finally, through the introduction of a new CdE Statute and a templating system, a Sustainable Governance Model integrated with the CdE Document Storage System was created which also helps with CdE Continuity and the CdE Transparency Project.”
At this meeting, two presentations were also made (1st) and shared again (2nd) for CdEs to spread the word about CoSup amongst students.
As for policy discussions, there were discussions centered around overcrowding, as there is a working group for overcrowding at the OSG. E.g. EEB1 had the following to say at the meeting on the 30th of November 2019:
Thus, based on this directly-collected student feedback, it was agreed that the CoSup Presidency will raise the important issue of overcrowding and mental health at the Office of the Secretary-General working group, in order to catalyze the Regie Des Batiments to hasten their steps in solving this issue for the Brussels schools. Especially with the Munich incident in October 2019, in which one student from the S6 German section was beaten just 350 meters from the perimeter of the school by 4 other ESM students and one non-ESM student, the issue of mental health is ever-more pressing.
Other policy issues included PE not being fair (gender divide), the concept of having civic education classes, L2 classes for SWALS, and the issues relating to the Bio2 and Maths3 syllabus. Finally, Alumni Europea came down to present their organization, encouraging S7 students to join their network and requesting the CoSup’s help with this which we agreed to.
By the next meeting, the 8th of February 2020 meeting, another proposal was added to the pipeline, this being that of incorporating more LGTBQ+ inclusivity within the curriculum. The 13 Stars Newspaper had been launched by this point: it is the newspaper on which you are reading this right now, and it has already had more than 15 articles published ?. The 13 Stars Newspaper is not only for articles, but also serves as a hub of information and communication for the CoSup and CdEs, e.g. the CdE Transparency Project of EEB1 is hosted here and so are the CoSup’s reports, in addition to being a part of the curriculum and helping with the 8 key competences for students.
At this meeting, which was held jointly with CoSEEA (student union of the Accredited European Schools), it was agreed that the CoSup Presidency would bring up the approved proposals at the next Joint Teaching Committee (14th-15th February 2020), namely Ethics and Religion as an Elective, the Ecology Budget, Past BAC Exams, Inclusivity and OSG-level votes for students. In addition, ideas such as making the minimum classroom sizes proportional to the schools’ population was discussed, PreBac / BAC issues were collected for feedback to the OSG (e.g. one was more special assistance to students who would, for example, have panic attacks), and preparations were made for the common strike for climate on the 14th of February 2020. Naturally, EuroNight preparations stretched out to all meetings, but they are not included for obvious reasons (RIP). Improvements to PR for the CoSup were drafted, one of them being the publication of reports such as this one, to increase transparency (other ideas included presenting CoSup to students by the CdEs, more activity on social media, etc.).
Thus, these proposals were put forth in the system shortly therafter, and the JTC meeting was favorable to the students’ proposals, see the report here of the JTC meeting on the 14th and 15th .
For more information on where the CoSup’s projects are in the system, and their progresses, please read the Visionary Agenda for CoSup Continuity. These include proposals such as ICT4, ICT on the BAC, removing the max 7 students per class requirement but also proposals like the Ecology Budget and the Ethics and Religion as an elective reform.
By the next meeting, which was held online on the 30th of May 2020, some of the proposals, namely Ethics and Religion as an Elective were refined (already attached above). Now, they are ready to be put forth again in the system for approval next year at the JTC and the Board of Governors.
At this meeting, a new proposal was presented, called Pedagogical Quality Assurance within the European Schools. It is a short document, which has been already send to the OSG’s Pedagogical Development Unit, designed to:
- To eradicate bad teaching practices, especially in S7 classes and L2 English classes, such as (only) handout worksheets, watching movies and reading aloud, which do not bring any value to the students’ preparation for the BAC.
- To encourage the use of digital platforms for the above activities – if the aforementioned activities are deemed to be needed in a class by the teacher – and in other cases as well, for a digitally literate, progressive school system.
- Thus, to push for system-wide cultural changes to ensure the quality of pedagogical matters in the schools.
In addition, before this meeting, the CoSup’s opinion on the European Baccalauerate for the 2019-2020 cycle was written and was taken into consideration when the Board of Governors took its decision on the steps to take in relation to this year’s BAC cycle. In addition, together with INTERPARENTS and the Polish delegation, the CoSup has managed to annul a proposal by the OSG with mathematical analysis to have the final marks be 10% A1, 10% A2, 40% B1 and 40% B2, rather getting a better deal of 20% A1, 20% A2, 30% B1 and 30% B2.
The CoSup with its 13 Stars Newspaper has also hosted Victor Garvalov’s (EEB2) BACCalc2020 application, designed to allow S7 students to calculate their grades provided a certain A2 mark/needed C mark for University under the new formula.
Other steps taken by the CoSup was the publication of a survey on Remote Learning, a proposal for Workload during Covid-19 times, and a proposal to accept L3 English as C1 (or adequate) level for Universities across Europe. As for the climate, EEB1 has managed to install solar panels on their buildings through the Sun For Schools non-profit (and informed the other schools of this opportunity), and students from across the system (many originating from EEB2) have launched the so-called Climate Academy of the European Schools with Mr. Matthew Pye, an integrated solution for pushing for climate action by European School students. The 13 Stars Newspaper is a crucial part of this, with many articles already published by the Climate Academy on 13 Stars.
In addition, at this meeting, CoSup Statute modifications for an Alumni Europea representative and financial transparency of the CoSup passed. For an interesting idea, the idea of an ERASMUS-type exchange between national Belgian schools with European School students was brought up. Templates for PreBac access to papers and appeals how-tos were made, and the CoSup attempted to find solutions to this year’s S6 trips, this being pushing it to S7 for those affected, and also discussed possible graduation scenarios under Covid-19. L2 “enrichment” classes were also discussed, in relation to under- and overachieving students.
The CoSup is currently moving its bank account to the APEEE of EEB3, so as to have access to the funds (it is currently by EEB1’s administration, and due to the stricter financial regulations implemented last year, it is not possible to access it). The CoSup currently has 3.748,77 euros to spend, and is awaiting the CoSup tax from CdEs for this year.
The New Marking Scale issue was put on the Visionary Agenda at the 30th of May 2020 meeting, with the New Presidency (President Hugo Gallstad from Lux2, Vice-President Elisabeth Lindner from Frankfurt and Vice-President Ilan Einstoss-Pato from EEB1) pledging to bring up this issue as soon as possible following the start of the next school year.
We wish you a great summer and hope to see you again next year, back in school for a great year!