[appeared in Kyouiku Katei Shinbun November 1998]
Although the European Union has a central parliament and "government" (the Commission with its "ministries": the directorates, cf. http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs_en.htm), understanding of these institutions remains comparatively low in the member states, where the public still shows more interest in national politics.
In this situation the use of information and communication networks for Europe wide projects from the primary and secondary school level onwards has been recognised as one means to enhance understanding between remote regions of Europe, recognising central political institutions, building bridges between the different educational systems within Europe and developing a sense of European citizenship.
One of those projects funded by the Commission has just started this
year. It is called ParlEuNet, because students (aged 15-17) from all
over Europe are going to work together on different projects
concerning the European Parliament. They will use information on the
parliament like we find at EUROPARL (http://www.europarl.eu.int/sg/tree/en/default.htm), collaborate with members of the
parliament on issues of their daily work and in the process produce
their own educational multimedia material about the parliament to be
used by other students later.
ParlEuNet also aims at the creation, experimentation and evaluation of a collaborative multimedia telematic learning environment for students, at the development of models for student-centered problem based learning, qualification measures for students and teachers as well as at cooperating with students' parents, so that after experimentation and evaluation recommendations for all European schools can be made.
In the experimentation phase 12 schools from 8 European countries participate, and they are supported by cooperating organisations like parents organisations, universities, and the Pegasus Foundation in Brussels. Equipment for each school is intended to consist of all important means of modern office communication: Internet connection, videoconferencing equipment, telephone and fax. Sub-projects are being carried out by groups of schools from 3 different countries.
ParlEuNets home page can be found at http://elect10.jrc.it/parleunet/, and reports on related European projects are being collected by the "Educational Multimedia Task Force" under http://www.ecotec.com/mes/.