By Melissa Burbidge
In the days following World War II, Winston Churchill told European citizens they must “acquire a United States of Europe,” said Asta Sarjala, at her speech Thursday, March 29.
The topic of Sarjala”s lecture, sponsored by the David M. Kennedy Ambassadorial Lecture Series, was the cooperation in European education.
As counselor of education for the National Board of Education, Sarjala has been engaged in furthering Churchill”s words through education.
Through European unity, the Council of Europe and the European Union have created an agenda for education in Europe.
The Council of Europe has outlined three major initiatives in improving European education.
First, the council is dedicated to the education of democratic citizenship.
“We must ask, what values and skills people need to be fully fledged citizens in Europe,” Sarjala said.
By encouraging learning activities to promote skilled citizens, Europe”s international role will be strengthened, she said.
Secondly, the council is addressing the need to educate students about the history and heritage of Europe.
“Good history teaching can make a significant contribution to the process of democratization,” she said.
The council has sponsored many conferences for teachers, historians and academics to improve teaching methods and exchange ideas, she said.
Third, the council is concerned about the changing role of teachers in the information society.
With advances in technology and the mass of information becoming important to educational institutions, teachers face new challenges, Sarjala said.
“The nature of the teaching process is changing and it is more demanding today than it was 10 years ago,” she said.
While teaching remains a key aspect of education, Sarjala said perceptions of the occupation have changed.
“Not long ago a teacher had respect, prestige and even power. This is not he case anymore,” she said.
Teachers are now challenged by a world rapidly changing, and they are expected to stay abreast.
Regardless, the European Council is dedicated to maintaining the value of educators and promoting the need to instruct a responsible society.