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Academy of Central European Schools
an initiative of ERSTE Foundation
coordinated by Interkulturelles Zentrum
in cooperation with VČELÍ DOM

Thoughts for aces

Werner Wintersteiner

A school called Europe
Learning to live together with those who are different

Systematic learning requires special institutions, even schools. But in turn, schools require contact with the outside world in order to make living learning possible. Because through all learning in individual subjects, we must not forget that the point of learning, that is learning with a capital L, is not specialised knowledge, but education, i.e. the ability to integrate knowledge from individual disciplines into a world view and therefore develop into a person who can make an active contribution to the tasks of society.

The most important lesson we learn today is to live together peacefully, but with inevitable conflicts, in a globalised world. Only a democratically organised and politically conscious world community will be in a position to solve the challenges of our time – a humane life     for all of the earth's inhabitants, the conquering of environmental threats and the preservation of peace.

For this purpose, Europe is both the ends and the means, both the problem and the solution: learning for Europe means learning to live together in a united, but by no means unified continent.  But how can we learn for Europe? Only as an encounter with the never-ending diversity in Europe. This diversity results from the long and rich history of the continent, which – we mustn't forget - is both a history of racism and colonialism and a history of enlightenment and emancipation. For the future, learning means learning from both these strands of history.

That's why the Academy of Central European Schools (ACES) is so important: ACES is a central European project, but a project with no centre, created for transversal exchange. ACES is more trans-cultural than intercultural, which means that individual cultures are not seen as self-contained and completely different units, but as different and dynamic mixtures which yearn for new exchange and new mixtures. And it could even turn out that immigrants sitting in more and more European classrooms are an important connecting joint between European youth, who don't have to use a foreign language in order to communicate with others. ACES is a project of political education, but not on a national level. It is rather about inventing "European citizenship", which is currently showing the first signs of existence politically, for example in the right to vote in municipal elections for EU citizens.

Finally, it is significant that relations between teachers and pupils have also been revolutionised by projects such as ACES: pupils receive new tasks and significantly more responsibility. They must organise their learning themselves, muster all their linguistic and communicative abilities in order to communicate with young people from other countries, and they must to a certain extent teach themselves. They don't need teachers so much to tell them what they should do, but more to show them how they should do what they want to do and help them actually do it and evaluate it. That means that teachers also have new tasks and probably more responsibility. But that is the other side of it, that learning in projects such as this is more relevant to life than normal schooling, and therefore also more personally important. "School Europe" can therefore become a factor in the renewal of school.


Biography Werner Wintersteiner
Lives in Villach (Austria). Teacher of didactics of German at the Department for German Studies at the University of Klagenfurt, editor of the periodical information zur deutschdidaktik, lecturer at the European Peace University, Stadtschlaining, Austria, member of the Council of the Peace Education Commission (PEC) of IPRA (International Peace Research Association) and member of the Advisory Board of the Global Campaign for Peace Education. Founder of the peace educational NGO Alpen-Adria-Alternativ, co-initiator of the European Youth Academy, co-editor of the peace-educational periodical Friendeserziehung konkret, member of the scientific board of the periodical Wissenschaft & Frieden (Bonn).

His books include
Pädagogik des Anderen. Bausteine für eine Friedenspädagogik in der Postmoderne (1999), „Hätten wir das Wort, wir bräuchten die Waffen nicht“. Erziehung für eine „Kultur des Friedens“ (2001), co-editor of: Education towards Intercultural Understanding. The European Youth Academy Handbook (2002)


© 2007 ERSTE Foundation and Interkulturelles Zentrum
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Werner Wintersteiner

„L'Europe occidentale, foyer de la dimination la plus importante qui ait jamais existé dans le monde, est aussi le seul foyer des idées émancipatrices qui vont saper cette domination.“
Edgar Morin