EU leader reaches out to China youth

Updated: 2011-10-30 07:48

By Mike Peters (China Daily)

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 EU leader reaches out to China youth

With 23 languages in the EU, Androulla Vassiliou says Europeans know language is key to understanding another culture. Deng Jia / China Environment News

Androulla Vassiliou, the EU commissioner for education, culture and youth, came to Beijing last week to talk up a new series of youth exchanges between Europe and China. After conference with government officials, she hosted a youth camp in the capital for about 200 students, who exchanged information and ideas about climate, aging societies, volunteering and entrepreneurship.

This high-level dialogue will build on the past year's EU-China Year of Youth and ongoing projects in the fields of education, training, culture, multilingualism and youth.

We caught up with the commissioner for a few questions:

You've come to China to launch a new "people-to-people" initiative. What sort of people do you hope to connect?

Education professionals, students, teachers - all levels of the civil society. We have an ongoing EU-China language project, and we want to make more people aware of Erasmus Mundus, our program that offers financial support for institutions and scholarships for individuals. Erasmus funding is available for European joint masters and doctorates (including scholarships), and partnerships with non-European higher education institutions and scholarships for students and academics.

What are the biggest roadblocks for students who want to move between the two systems?

Language, awareness of the opportunity, and mobility of students. We are working on all three. Mobility issues, including visa issues, has been an ongoing discussion with progress on both sides.

Will these initiatives make it easier for Chinese students to apply directly to European universities, and vice versa, instead of going through their own university?

The real issue is credits. It's essential that students on both sides get their credits recognized back home. So participation of the universities is a key part of the mobility challenge.

How important is language in these programs?

It's huge. We have 23 official languages in the EU, and all of the member states want to expand their relationships with China. So it is important for more Chinese to learn European languages and important for more Europeans to learn Chinese. When we value language, we appreciate culture.

In the EU, everyone now learns the mother tongue and two other languages - as early as possible.

Why do so many EU-China youth programs stress volunteer work?

It's not new for Chinese young people, there is a strong tradition of volunteering here. But it is an important way to engage in the civil society, the global society. So we want to explore the needs of both sides: training, recognition - sometimes there is lack of acknowledgment - and benefits. Volunteering helps people get transferrable skills, builds leadership and self-confidence. It should be an important part of career development.

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(China Daily 10/30/2011 page4)