The European Commission's eTwinning network, which has encouraged 100 000 schools in 33 European countries to talk to each other via the internet, will now be accessible to schools in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine following today's launch of theeTwinning Plus project. It is expected to also cover the Southern Neighbourhood partners at some stage, beginning with Tunisia.
A press release said the €834 000 worth initiative would enable these countries "to join a massive virtual classroom in which pupils and teachers can learn more about their counterparts," helping youngsters to discover different cultures and traditions and to find out what they have in common.
"eTwinning is a brilliant educational project with enormous potential to break down barriers, " said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
eTwinning Plus is a pilot project initiated as part as the EU's Neighbourhood policy, under the 'Contacts between people' Eastern Partnership platform which aims to enhance dialogue with Eastern partners. As well as serving as a meeting point for pupils and teachers to share ideas, it will also enable schools to find partners for joint projects. In each of the EaP countries, a Partner Support Agency has been set up to select and assist schools.
Commissioner Štefan Füle, responsible for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said the EU's increased involvement in education and vocational training "will help partner countries and especially the younger generations to be better equipped to respond to economic and social challenges in our neighbourhood."
The €834 000 budget will cover coordination and the development of the new online platform (in English and Russian, with French and Arabic to follow at a later stage). The rest will be used to co-fund the partner support agencies, with €64 000 envisaged for Armenia, €80 000 for Azerbaijan, €64 000 for Georgia, €80 000 for Moldova and €96 000 for Ukraine.The new platform will be progressively opening to other neighbouring countries, starting with Tunisia.