Our project aims at encouraging young people to lead a dialogue and be tolerant. This is a project that will popularize debate so that it could reach to as many people as possible. Young people nowadays aren’t confident in their own skills and communicate less and less with each other.There is a lack of tolerance towards other people’s opinion. Many people feel uncomfortable when it comes to speaking in front of others and youths hardly ever commit themselves to active social thinking on modern society problems.

The key objective of the project, which includes five schools from five different countries, is to help build a well-informed, capable, questing and active civil society. The project participants will learn how to express their own opinion openly and appropriately, defend their position with conviction and reason, and be tolerant to those who have conflicting opinions. Through practical lessons they will develop their oratorical skills and critical thinking. They will also acquire communication and presentation skills, which in turn will help them present better at a job interview. As partners in this project, we want to teach our students how to examine a problem from different points of view and put themselves in the place of each of the affected parties. This leads to an agreement and resourcefulness when solving these problems.

Our students will develop skills which are less present and referred to in education – articulation, way of expression, freedom of thought, holding their ground. A person should be able to think and make decisions in a split second – a valuable skill in today’s world. We would like to draw our students’ attention to the present-day social issues because it is exactly young people who are the future builders of United Europe. We would also like to help our students get knowledge about other countries and learn how to cope with cultural differences intolerance. Having the opportunity to travel and communicate with other European countries, we want to give them a chance to practice their English language as a foreign one, and also show them how to adhere to European values. Young debaters will simulate sessions of the European Parliament and debate. The participants will be divided in committees and will work on specific topics which will be potentially interesting for the participators.

This project aims at debating reaching as many people as possible in Europe.  That’s why, we will make a handbook on “How to start a debate club and debate at school”, which will help those who want to debate freely and without having attended any trainings. At the training meetings we will explain the methods and the admissible ways and means when it comes to debating, present meetings and conversations with members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the project partner countries, visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg and share our impressions from the work of local parliaments. This will contribute to forming an active citizenship and a desire to cope with social apathy. The attitude towards debates in the schools of the different European countries varies from poorly practiced to strongly promoted. So, if debating is a school discipline in ES and it has spread to 40% of the schools, in RO there are debate clubs in only 10 % of the schools. Debates are getting more and more popular in Turkey but they are still weakly practiced in IT and BG. After developing the handbook that we will publish, we will try to change the ratio between weakly practiced and strongly promoted. Each partner school will organize voluntary initiatives, too. By involving our students in different moral acts, we will reveal altruism as a possible way for a life together.That’s why, we believe that volunteering is the key to overcoming heartlessness, cruelty and indifference towards other people’s fate. The history of volunteering also varies in different countries. In some of them there is a long-term tradition in this sphere, while in others – the voluntary sector is still poorly developed or hasn’t appeared yet. Volunteering is most popular in the countries from Eastern Europe and is poorly covered in Romania and Italy. Students from the 5 countries will exchange knowledge and experience and will apply the lessons learnt in planning voluntary initiatives. In addition to that, we will help students with SEN find their place in the project so that they won’t feel isolated, unworthy and a burden to society. They will collect information for debaters, distribute the handbook among their school-mates and will collect clothes and provisions for voluntary initiatives.

Students, who have traveled and being trained on the training meetings, will have the opportunity to teach their coevals. They will prepare courses which will be uploaded in Moodle. We will also train teachers-mediators, trainers and mentors who will assist students to look for information, systematize it and make up arguments by using it.

In what way is the project innovative and/or complementary to other projects already carried out?

Education is a conservative system and it is extremely important that we let the new come in. You can often hear us say that students lose motivation for studying and this is so because useful innovations don’t make their way fast enough. Debate is a way for a person to advance as a personality and as a professional, too. Debate is also a means through which a person understands that his/her opinion matters. Students who participate in education debates learn how to think creatively and critically not only about issues and questions from the world of politics, but also about their daily life problems. Students will organize and realize debates on current problems by themselves, since they have to keep up with what is going on around them. If something happened yesterday, we would be ready to discuss it today. In the process of discussion skills are born, which are less present and referred to in education itself – articulation, way of expression, freedom of thought, own position. Participating in such a project will give students an opportunity to think and make decisions in a split second, which is really valuable nowadays. This is an innovation in comparison to previous projects. What is more, students will gain confidence that they have the necessary knowledge, can be responsible and be part of the world’s future. Debates teach tolerance, accepting the different point of view, ethics and culture of communication. And this is extremely important in a time, when there is aggression and lack of tolerance among youths.

There exist debate clubs in partner schools and debaters would like to join a project that will give them a chance to show what they have learnt in the club so far, help them advance and improve. Young debaters will simulate sessions of the European Parliament, debate on present-day issues and examine them from all different points of view. Students will prepare the topics they will discuss on their own by reading articles and searching for information on the Internet. The preparation itself gives a lot to students. In the process of preparing a topic, a student is introduced to different perspectives so that he/she can create his/her statement on a given topic with all the necessary arguments. Teachers will be consulting the students all the time, give them ideas on where to look for information, guide them, train their speaking confidence and draw new debaters, but one thing they won’t do, is give information without students making any efforts. They will be trained to train skills in their students to lead debates, find information, systematize it and make up arguments by using it. The good practices and innovations will be enclosed to the curriculum. Pupils will also hold meetings with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), keep track of the work of local parliaments, examine political forces’ different opinions on a subject which they will later be debating on, be introduced to their ideas and programs. Thus, they will also enter the world of politics and will become a part of it. We will cooperate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local school parliaments, formal and informal institutions and regional schools for distribution of products and project results. Mediators will be able to use this synergy for achieving project goals. This project unites students with different interests, coming from different socio-economic environments. “Being in the shoes” of MEPs, they will gain confidence and trust, which is a step towards preventing early school leaving. One of the best activities will be students writing an essay on “I – Citizen of United Europe and a Future MEP”. The best essays will be awarded and a long-term distribution will be ensured by publishing the essays in a project collection.

We will offer a certification program in our project to motivate students, make them feel responsible citizens and help them get more self-confidence. And that is definitely an innovative moment.

After each training, where students will demonstrate the skills they have acquired, we will give a certificate “The ability to debate”. With this certificate the following skills will be certified: argumentative discourse, non-verbal behavior, logical and critical thinking, defending your own position and making decisions fast enough. Each creative product will be certified. Teachers will also receive certificates after their training for mentors, trainers, juries and mediators of students’ debates.

This will give the students the opportunity to continue and upgrade their education in different countries and institutions and make them more flexible and mobile. These certificates will be evidence for employers on labor market for the knowledge and skills the participants have acquired. They will also enrich beneficiaries’ portfolio.

Project’s sustainability will be ensured by making films, which will be shot during debates, and will be given in the form of a CD to each participant.