The GC maintains bilateral relationships both at the national level (with the other Communities and regions of the country) and also at the international level (with countries or regions). For the relationships with certain countries, the GC is attached to different international cultural agreements, which Belgium concluded in the 50s and which have been dropped as a result of state reforms in the areas of responsibility of the Communities.
These bilateral relationships at least lead up to agreements on future cooperation, which, depending on the legal possibility of the partner, can take the form of a joint declaration or a cooperation agreement.
In the majority of bilateral declarations or agreements, the fields of education and training take up a central position.
- 1992: Joint declaration regarding cooperation with the autonomous Province of Bozen in South Tyrol (Italy); (exchange of experience at administration level; exchange of experience in the field of education for multilingualism; teacher exchange programme within the framework of a Socrates project);
- 2000; 2008; Cooperation agreements with the Republic of France; (possibility of conducting joint actions in the context of the European programme with the aim of promoting cooperation between schools and educational facilities and institutions and also the exchange of students; cooperation in matters of the approval of courses, advanced training in French as a foreign language); exchange between the Autonome Hochschule and IUFM (Institut de la Formation des Maîtres); Partner of the Formaprim programme;
- 1994; 1997; 2000; 2002: Cooperation agreement with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg; (In agreements: among others, financial compensation for accepting students from Luxembourg in the special school system in the GC; agreement: Awarding scholarships and allocating accommodation for internships; information and experience exchange);
- 2002; 2006: Cooperation agreement with the Republic of Hungary; (with special focus on the education system: Information and experience exchange; promotion of cooperation in the fields of education, preschool pedagogy, methodology of dual language education and the learning of foreign languages, from German as the mother tongue, in professional education and advanced education and in special education; motivation of teacher-student exchange programmes and partner relationships between educational institutions);
- 2002: Joint declaration on the cooperation with the Federal State of Tyrol (Austria); (Information and experience exchange in the context of the European networks and sponsorship programmes in the general education system including preschools and high-schools, basic and advanced training of the teaching staff, training and counselling on professional occupation and professional research)
- 1993; 1997; 2003: Protocol / Joint declaration regarding the neighbourly cooperation with the Federal State of Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany); (General information and experience exchange; utilisation of European programmes for strengthening school partnerships and the exchange programme of teachers, students and authorities; cooperation in the fields of advance training, recognition of school leaving certificates and education for a professional occupation)
- 2004: Joint declaration regarding the neighbourly cooperation with the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany)
Cooperation and Participation in Worldwide Programmes and Organisations
As a result of the multi-lateral international relationships maintained by the GC, many of those with positions of responsibility in politics, administration, education and training may attend conferences and conventions in which current topics and trends are discussed and debated. Last, but not the least, in the fields of education and training, which belong to the most important competence areas of the Communities, such contacts at the European level are very enriching and are reflected even in their own legislative activity. Thus, for example, many aspects that are handled in the so-called foundational decree of 31st August 1998 are attributable to considerations and recommendations that have been discussed in the European context.
Apart from their membership and active cooperation in international committees such as the "Assembly of European Regions" (V.R.E. / A.R.E.), the Euregio Maas-Rhine, the Greater region of Saar-Lor-Lux, in which, among others, even topics relevant to education and training are discussed and occasionally cross-border projects are encouraged, the GC also maintains the following international relationships:
- Continuous contacts with the European Council of Ministers; among others, active participation in the events on the occasion of the Belgian presidency in 2001;
- Representation in the education committee of the European Commission; Youth committee;
- Participation in the collective action programmes:
SOKRATES I and II: Comenius, Erasmus, Grundtvig, Lingua, Minerva, Arion and Eurydice;
LEONARDO DA VINCI I and II: Internships abroad and pilot projects;
As of 2007: Programme for life-long learning (PLL)
TEMPUS PHARE :
- EUROPARAT: Participation in the Minister conferences (Education; Sport; Youth) and at the Pestalozzi education programme
- OECD: Participation in the PISA studies; participation in the PEB programme on the developments in school construction;
- Participation in the PIRLS study (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study)
- Introduction of the EUROPASS
Other Initiatives and Programmes
The topic of the Netdays stated in November 2003: Dialogue between cultures. In cooperation with multiple external partners, those in charge at the Ministry have resolved to allow this topic to be treated in a very true-to-life manner, by considering the current situation and circumstances in many schools, where an increasing number of foreign fellow citizens attend the course. The students were called upon to get acquainted with foreign cultures in their immediate vicinity, to have a closer look at how the classmates from Africa or the Czech Republic live in Belgium, what they think of them and how life in their former home is.
European Label – European stamp for innovative projects on teaching and learning languages. The European stamp should notify the results of innovative projects and encourage their utilisation. Moreover, interest in improving their linguistic skills should be awakened in the citizens. Schools and other educational facilities and institutions or associations from the GC have already been participating with great success in this action of the European Union for a few years. In the last few years, between 2 and 4 projects have been awarded with certificates of excellence every year.
Linguistic exchange project Immersion (every year as of 2004): This bilateral exchange project has been in place for a few years and encourages 12-year students from the French Community, who would like to 'experience' the German language, to spend time in the GC and conversely encourages those from the GC, who would like to 'experience' the French language, to spend time in the French Community. This linguistic immersion programme consists of two-week stays and takes place at the end of the long school holidays in a school and in a boarding school; the youngsters are given pedagogic support there from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
Thanks to their multilingualism, five teachers from the GC have been relieved from their teaching position and have been designated as teachers or educationists at European schools.
After many years receiving an information brochure, the VADEMEKUM, published by the Ministry of the GC every two months, since 2006-2007 the staff members of all school education facilities and institutions have been receiving the pedagogic advanced training manual every quarter. With this publication, it is ensured that information relevant to pedagogy (literature, conventions, advanced training courses, pedagogic assistance services, language immersion projects, student and teacher exchange programmes, all offers of the Agency for European Education Programmes NPI, ...) not only reaches all schools but also every teacher and educationist. Much of this information has a European or international dimension.
Each year on 5th May (Foundation day of the European Council), an initiative is kicked off with an action day for political education and reminds all teachers who this is a favourable opportunity to take up a European topic during the lesson and to treat it in greater detail.
In the Ministry of the GC, by the end of 2006 their own GC education server "Learnbox" had developed into a very valuable instrument for students and teachers within only a few short years. It provided information, among others, about interesting initiatives from the neighbouring regions and Communities, other European countries and other continents. In this context, even course materials, brochures or other information material (books, comics, CDs, video cassettes, films,...), which the European Parliament publishes in multiple languages, are presented and made accessible to the teachers who are interested. They deal with the EU member countries or those aspiring to become members as well as the endeavours for European unification and thus promote an international dimension in the education system. Unfortunately, the educational server "Learnbox" had to be blocked as a consequence of repeated attacks by external hackers on its data content and data systems. Efforts are being made within the ministry of the GC to build a new educational server; it should be functional again in the course of the 2008-2009 academic year.