The quality of education has been one of the key topics of priority for the European Youth Forum since its creation. It’s a key element of all the Youth Forum’s policy work because of its impact on all dimensions of the life of a young person, and in turn, in the life of a community as a whole. It therefore concerns everyone in society and it is essential that the Youth Forum and its Member Organisations contribute to discussions on how to improve access to, and quality of, education.

The Youth Forum’s main focus within the field of education has been on non-formal and informal learning, especially the education provided by youth organisations. It is generally acknowledged that school and universities alone are no longer capable of transmitting all the skills and competences on their own which young people need to succeed in contemporary society. In formal education systems, the emphasis is on the transmission of ‘hard facts’ by the teacher using traditional pedagogies in the classroom. However, the ‘hard facts’ of yesterday are not enough for young people to become active citizens and have a positive impact in the information societies of today. ‘Soft skills’, such as adaptability, intercultural awareness, critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills, problem solving, leadership and teamwork are more and more necessary. It is not always possible to teach these skills in the classroom, as they are best “learned by doing” in real life contexts.

Youth organisations provide such real-life contexts for learning soft skills, and thus serve as complementary, non-formal education and youth work providers to school and universities. Through their participation in various activities, young people are empowered to take responsibility for their own learning process, and to become active citizens in their society.

  • Citizenship Education
  • Critical thinking
  • Digital literacy
  • Education for sustainable development
  • Global education
  • Inclusive education
  • Learner-centred methodology
  • Life-long learning
  • Non-formal education (NFE)
  • Quality education
  • Youth Work

Education is a human right and all young people are entitled to a quality education. Given the interdependent and interrelated nature of all human rights, fulfilling this right means contributing to the right to life with dignity and to young people’s development as autonomous, supportive, responsible and committed citizens. 

The Youth Forum considers access and quality as indivisible elements for the exercise of the right to education. Education is seen as a lifelong and life-wide learning process that pursues the objectives of personal and professional fulfilment, social inclusion and active citizenship. Education should not only enable young people to build up their personal and professional competences, but also to learn to be part of multicultural and complex societies and to take up the rights and responsibilities that this entails. Therefore, as recognised duty-bearers of all human rights, states are responsible for the fulfilment of the right to education and should be made accountable for the education that young people have access to. Governments should, therefore, take the necessary steps and measures to invest in educational opportunities for young people, life-long and life-wide.

Despite budgetary pressure, education should not be considered a monetary burden but rather a strategic long-term investment for society: education is a value by itself. The quality of the education our young people receive will determine the quality of the human capital we want for our societies. Investing in our societies requires investing in quality education for all.

Key Policy Messages

  • The European Youth Forum calls for free and equal access to education, as part of a commitment to quality education for all.
  • Policy and decision-makers at local, national, European and global levels should assume their responsibility to bring about sustainable reforms towards quality education, providing young people with lifelong and life-wide learning opportunities.

The European Youth Forum believes that learners should take an active role in their own learning, becoming agents of change within the educational process. Education must be driven by the role that the learner is to play in this process. By putting the learner at the centre of the education process, we provide them with the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning; this in turn reinforces their confidence in their capacities and their motivation to learn.

A learner-centred approach also implies bringing the educational experience close to real-life concerns of the learner and their community through participatory activities, where young people are given incentives to work with their peers or their local community through specific projects. Therefore, a learner-centred approach to education means putting education at the service of the learner’s dispositions, needs, capacities and possibilities, to be developed, lifelong and life-wide, to their full potential as a citizen.

Key Policy Messages

  • Learners should be empowered to take an active role in their own learning, becoming agents of change within their own educational process.

Non-Formal Education (NFE), and the increase in its recognition, has been among the top priorities for the European Youth Forum. That the recognition has not been sufficiently achieved is in part due to a lack of understanding of and confidence in the quality of NFE within society and within youth organisations themselves.

Non-Formal Education is defined by the European Youth Forum as: ‘an organised educational process which takes place alongside mainstream systems of education and training and does not necessarily lead to certification’. Individuals participate on a voluntary basis and, as a result, the individual takes an active role in the learning process. Unlike informal learning, where learning happens less consciously, with non-formal education, the individual is usually aware of the fact that they are learning. Non-Formal Education in youth organisations takes place in the specific environment of youth work. Youth organisations are providing quality education through their non-formal education programmes. 

Both on the European level and global levels, the European Youth Forum has been instrumental in developing the concept of NFE and initiating related political debate with institutions including the European Union, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the World Bank. Through European Youth Forum policy papers produced in 1997, 2003 and 2005, this political process was led by youth organisations. The European Youth Forum has also contributed greatly to the development of the concept of quality assurance in NFE, as well as its practical implementation.

Key Policy Messages

  • Calls for wider recognition among all stakeholders of the quality of Non-Formal Education as provided by youth organisations, in Europe and globally. Given the key educational role of youth organisations, particular support should be provided to them, including the further recognition of non-formal education and the validation of competences gained in this setting.
  • The Youth Forum believes that youth organisations can further the recognition of NFE by clearly ensuring the quality of Non-Formal Education through the setting up of a framework to assure and communicate this quality.

Citizenship education has been at the heart of the Youth Forum’s education policies since the very beginning. There is no common understanding or definition globally or in Europe of what citizenship education is. One of the many policy recommendations the Youth Forum has made, therefore, is on fostering an on-going and Europe-wide dialogue on a common understanding of citizenship education. This dialogue should happen among all actors, including political institutions from the local to the European level, both youth organisations and other formal and non-formal education and youth work providers, aimed at finding and defining a holistic and leaner-centric approach to citizenship education that provides young people with the skills and competences they need to be confident and effective in democratic processes. Such skills should include political skills, social engagement, embracing new and different forms of youth participation and political activism, and financial, digital, and media literacy.

European and global-wide political processes that aim to promote citizenship education should receive continuous promotion, investment and further development. Youth organisations, in particular, play an important role as providers of quality citizenship education. Being part of the range of social and political actors of society, youth organisations and other civil society organisations serve as a kind of laboratory for active citizenship. By participating in these organisations, young people have the opportunity to engage in activities/actions that enable them to experience first-hand the principles and practical aspects of democracy.

Key Policy Messages

  • Governments at all levels, education and youth work providers, and other stakeholders, should implement the necessary measures to ensure everyone has equal access to quality citizenship education.
  • Youth organisations and other non-formal education and youth work civil society organisations should be supported and recognised as key quality providers of citizenship education in the non-formal education system.

Global Education is understood by the Youth Forum as an educational concept with political, philosophical and pedagogical backgrounds. It is global citizenship education preparing people to fully take up their role as citizens of one world, by exploring world realities, providing information and by developing understanding and respect. Global Education enables people to develop empathy, a sense of belonging to the global community, and responsibility towards other people and the environment. Global Education, through developing awareness of the interdependence between people’s local realities and the global context in which these realities exist, enables them to see their responsibility in bringing about a world of greater justice, solidarity, equality of opportunity and one enjoying the genuine universality of human rights. Global education is often, in more recent times, also referred to as education for sustainable development.

Technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone cannot achieve sustainable development. We need to change the way we think and act. This requires quality education and learning for sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts. Education, both formal and non-formal, as well as youth work play an important role in supporting new and emerging forms of democratic structures. Citizenship education serves many functions that are essential for the creation of a more sustainable and just society, such as mobilising young people for this cause, empowering young people to engage in political life, and developing citizens’ common sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity. New democratic models cannot flourish without the right educational structures in place.

Key Policy Messages

  • Global education, or education for sustainable development. should be promoted and included as part of citizenship education curricula and supported to be included as a priority focus of non-formal learning programmes.

Key Documents and Resources