How to give Europe a human face

Hans Torrekens, an EU Official, met about 120 students at the Sint Maarteninstituut Aalst, in Belgium, on 4 May 2009. He spoke about the history of the European Union and also the latest developments which influence people’s day-to-day life.

Hans Torrekens while talking to students at Sint Maarteninstituut Aalst, Belgium

The Sint Maarteninstituut, which is a secondary school in Aalst, Belgium, has some 1200 students. Wouter Van der Spiegel, who was in charge of the event, teaches history, and for that reason he invited about 120 students attending the final year to take part in a special history lesson about the European Union. The lesson was given by Hans Torrekens, an EU official working at the European Commission, who put himself in the shoes of a teacher for about two hours. The guest presented the key steps in the European integration project, in a combination of speech, video and PowerPoint presentation. A debate closed the event.

Referring to the purpose of the “Back to school” initiative, Hans Torrekens told us that “it helps give a human face to the EU for European citizens and students in particular. These direct contacts and discussions help us officials (re)connect to the real world and real concerns, and students have a unique opportunity to enter into direct debate with something which looks so far away from them in general but is at the same time present throughout their daily lives without them noticing what the EU brings them and how it influences their way of life.”

In the coming years both participating teachers and students would like to invite guests and host debates. Such events help students realise that Europe is not an abstract subject but a reality which is part of their daily lives.

Related info

Back to school to Sint Maarteninstituut Aalst, Belgium: Photo-gallery

20/05/2009 by: Petru Dumitru