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Cross-border training programmes
In a Europen without borders, internationalisation of education is also a hot issue. An important aspect in this cross-border region is the bilingualism (or even tri-lingualism) of the population. This is not just to improve communication between the two communities on either side of the border, but also to facilitate exchange of human resources within the region as a whole. The most effective way of doing this is probably to start with the youngest generation. In a playful way, there are several primary schools in the region which are teaching the basics of their neighbour’s language. As early as 1995, Eurode was implementing the Eurobabel project. Eurobabel involved several primary schools in Kerkrade and Herzogenrath devoting some of their lessons to the language and culture of their respective neighbours. The programme focussed on broadening the children’s knowledge of the region where they live, and developing an understanding for the children on the other side of the border who speak a different language. The programme was a parallel project, which also entails the mutual exchange of German and Dutch teachers. Because this required a large input of staff, a number of participating schools were ultimately forced to scale down the project.
Nonetheless, having a command of each other’s language is an important issue in this border region. Even more so perhaps for young people wishing to expand their horizons on the cross-border employment market. Because this is becoming more widely acknowledged, the Eurobabel educational project has been given a fresh impulse, with the aim of getting more and more schools to adopt the principle of bilingual education. The ever increasing interest on the part of pupils in all secondary schools for learning the language of their neighbours clearly shows that we are on the right path.
Furthermore, the transfer of “Euregional competence” has now become a fixed part of many degree courses in colleges of higher education and universities throughout the region.
Another example of this flexible attitude to external circumstances can be found in vocational education. Due to a limited number of college places in Germany in the past, many so-called Dutch-based Regional Training Centres (ROCs) in the border region started offering vocational training courses to German trainees. The Eurode administrative body supported, for example, the start of a German-language hotel & catering training course at Vista College in Heerlen (NL) - comparable to the German Hotel-Betriebswirt training. The difference with the German dual vocational education system is that during this 4-year study, trainees spend more than one quarter of their study time in on-the-job training in related businesses.
Because this form of study has become so popular amongst Germans, more vocational training programmes will be added over the coming years. It’s worth knowing that Vista College in Heerlen is currently able to offer more than 200 different vocational skills to around 10,000 students.