I believe in today’s world, and especially for a European, foreign languages are essential. Many would agree, but too often we only see languages as a mean for communication or better opportunities in the labour market. While this aspect is indeed relevant, I believe that studying foreign languages gives you a much better insight into another culture and thus the ability to see the world from a different perspective and keep an open-minded attitude.
Many countries do fail to offer sufficient opportunities for children and young people schools should offer another foreign language beyond English from the start and throughout high school. When high school offers different tracks, all tracks should have access to languages even if as an afterschool activity.
Another central aspect is the lack of work experience of the youth in some countries. When they graduate high school, most Americans and many kids in the Anglo-Saxon world more in general have been part of the labour market with temporary part time jobs. This allows them to develop at an early age those general skills necessary to succeed. Moreover, younger students often intern in businesses and volunteer organizations before entering university. That constitutes an enrichment opportunity for teenagers and can aid them in selecting their educational path, especially in a system in which we select our major when entering university.
Personally, I was able to access similar opportunities through volunteering. It has given me many chances to grow, also helping fellow students or children in the process. Moreover, when it’s a long-term commitment, you are able to learn a large set of skills as your responsibilities change over time, and also have “work experience” in fields and tasks that often would rarely be covered by an official internship.
Schools could also play an important role, working closely with local associations they can better direct students where opportunities in line with their interests are, creating a more active community and giving kids a chance to prove themselves, feel passionate about a cause or help people in need.
Incentives should be put in to place to encourage students to take up these opportunities, also building on programs already into place, giving preferential treatment to students that enriched their education through languages and volunteer experiences.