The European Parents’ Association (EPA) is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year. Our November conference – co-organised and hosted by our Luxembourgish member, FAPEL -, taking place in the EU Presidency country, Luxembourg is aiming at taking stock of the state of play and highlighting some of the areas to be developed in the field of parental involvement. A Manifesto about the direction of parents’ representation for the years to come is launched at the event.
In our event we will revisit the past 30 years, present the results of two recent Europe-wide surveys on parental involvement and school costs, with special focus on the achievements of the past 15 years and give the floor to our members to share their experiences and try to find answers to our questions.
Over 85 representatives from 27 countries are gathering on 27/28th November to celebrate this anniversary in a period when Europe and education are clearly at crossroads. The migrant crisis as well as recent acts of terror made EU institutions more open to civil society, an important actor in highlighting the importance of active citizenship, and also plays a major role as volunteers. Parents, responsible for the present and future of our children, are aware of the necessity of dialogue, and lobby for it on all levels from local to international. Parents are very often the sole advocates of the rights of the child, especially on local and national level, but even on EU level it has only been EPA that raised its voice for the right to mother tongue and native culture, a burning issue not only in relation to the refugee crisis, but also in the general education context in Luxembourg.
EU-wide surveys conducted by EPA this summer clearly show that we have a long way ahead. Parental involvement in education is still often formal or non-existent in many areas concerning children. Recognition of parents’ rights has not fully happened, recognition of time devoted to parenting is not yet a reality and parents receive insufficient help in the form of training and counselling for best parenting.
The surveys also show that education is not free and thus not organised in an equitable way in most European countries. There are certain compulsory, education-related purchases for parents in every European country, while the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union demands states to offer education free.
The European Commission has recently decided to withdraw the Maternity Leave Directive that would have offered all parents the right to a leave of sufficient length to support them in bringing up their children. A more ambitious plan, a roadmap on reconciliation of work and family life is promised to be launched by the end of this year. The new EPA policy paper, Manifesto 2015 highlights the main concerns of parents in this field.
Manifesto 2015 also reviews and lists demands of parents in the fields of 21st century education, active citizenship and participation (of parents and children of all ages), supporting parenting, validation of parenting skills, digital literacy and cyberbullying.
Established in 1985 in Milan, the European Parents’ Association has been the ‘Voice of Parents in Europe’ for 30 years. As the sole representative of this important stakeholder group, EPA advocates for the recognition of parents as the primary (not only the first, but also the most impacting) educators of their children, as well as the need for supporting parents to be able to fulfil this role. The basis for this is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, explicitly giving parents the right and responsibility for the upbringing and education of their children, obliging states to give all necessary support to parents, financial and substantial. EPA, an umbrella organisation, currently covers 31 countries and reaches out to 150 million European parents through its members. EPA is an active member of the European civil society platforms in the field of education and social affairs, the Lifelong Learning Platform and Social Platform.
Read our jubilee publication, including Manifesto 2015: http://issuu.com/grafium/docs/epa30