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When Education Met Democracy

The eTwinning Annual Conference kicked off on Thursday 24 October in Mandelieu-la-Napoule, France, bringing together teachers, policymakers and experts from all over Europe to discuss the role education plays in shaping tomorrow’s citizens.

What kind of society will our children live in tomorrow? How can they fully participate in the society of the future? These questions were explored, discussed and analysed thoroughly during the three-day conference in Mandelieu-la-Napoule, France.

On the first day, more than 500 teachers gathered to hear the welcome addresses delivered by Jean-Marc Merriaux, Head of the Department for Digital Education at the French Ministry of Education and Youth, and Sophie Fouace, Regional Director of Réseau Canopé. Both emphasised that eTwinning not only helps students develop key digital skills for the future but also helps them practise and strengthen their fundamental democratic values, as it is an intrinsically democratic tool.

The conference was officially opened by Sophia Eriksson Waterschoot, Director for Youth, Education and Erasmus+ at the European Commission. Ms. Eriksson Waterschoot reminded us that schools must be places where pupils are educated to have an active role in society and be prepared for democratic participation: “Democracy is not a given. It only works when everyone participates actively.

The keynote address was delivered by Isabel Menezes, Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal. During her speech, Schools as Democracy Labs, she analysed the fundamental role education plays in the creation of active citizens by stressing that “education is the key element in fostering civic participation”. For Isabel Menezes: “Children and young people represent our future and must have the opportunity to shape that future.

After the keynote address, it was time to celebrate the European Prize Winners of 2019.

Category “up to 6 years old” - Winners:

Storytelling leads to robotics / La robotique au service de la littérature enfantine

Category “7-11” - Winners:

The story of a 1 €uro coin


Category “12-15” - Winners:

The truth behind palm oil

Category “16-19” - Winners:

In Sight, In Mind

During the second day, teachers participated in various workshops. Among them were eTwinning friends: Karen Polak of the Anne Frank House, Lysiane André of the Terre des Hommes, Laurence Bragard of the House of European History, Harri Beobide of Euroclio and many more.

You can download the PowerPoint presentations and read the descriptions of the workshops ran by our eTwinning friends as well as other notable experts.

Finally, eTwinning ambassadors shared their best practices and their own experiences and expertise through interactive workshops, helping participants to explore new ways of teaching. The prize winners also presented the secrets of their success through their own workshops.

On the third and final day of the Annual Conference 2019, participants joined an interactive learning activity about democracy. They had to pitch their ideas, convince their peers, debate, and finally vote for the best idea, thus practising participative democracy.

The learning activity was followed by a panel discussion on the question, “How can we influence school systems to be more democratic?” One of the main outcomes of this discussion was the bold opinion of a Belgian student, Berkan Alci, who said that “If you give your students autonomy, you will discover that even the less involved students can get motivated.

learning activity at the eTwinning conference 2019

The closing speech was delivered by Markus Rester, Head of Sector for Online Education Platforms at the European Commission. During his speech, Mr. Rester thanked all the participants, reminding them that now that the conference has ended, teachers of Europe must take action to ensure that education will always be a place where democracy is taught and practised.