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Following wind from the European Youth Work Agenda: Cultural Child and Youth Education also counts as youth work

The demand is clear: Integrate Non-formal Cultural Education into European Youth Policy Strategies is the title of the current statement, with which the German umbrella organisation Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung (German Federation for Arts Education and Cultural Learning) (BKJ) positions itself in terms of youth policy. The European Youth Work Agenda has now almost overtaken this demand; cultural activities are listed in the definition of youth work* in the Resolution of the Council on the Framework for establishing a European Youth Work Agenda. So why this push?

Cultural youth education hardly anchored in youth policy

In its statement, the BKJ points out that cultural youth education, which in many countries is assigned to cultural or educational policy, must also be included in the national and European processes of the European Youth Work Agenda from a youth policy point of view:

Non-formal cultural education (…) is not explicitly mentioned in the various European publications and consequently receives less political attention in a number of EU member states. The current European youth strategy for 2019 to 2027, for example, makes no explicit reference to non-formal cultural education for young people.

The reference is justified. Currently, the BKJ has only one partner country, France, where non-formal cultural education is also seen as part of youth work and its organisations. "Even though it is not called youth work there, but ÉducationPopulaire, Rolf Witte knows. He heads the Cultural Education International department at the BKJ. There is no comparable structure in Europe like the BKJ, a German umbrella organisation for more than 50 nationwide professional organisations and regional umbrella organisations of cultural education in different fields.

That is so, although cultural education for children and young people is part of practice elsewhere, as the BKJ statement notesThe Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture (youth and cultural centres) in France, child and youth theatres across Europe, Dom Kultury (cultural centres) in Poland, youth centres with a cultural focus in various countries, youth art schools in Germany, music schools, libraries and youth circuses in various countries and a myriad of other types of non-formal cultural education providers reach a large number of young people across the European Union every day.

Europe-wide networking

There is also a Europe-wide informal network – ACEnetMembers are staff from European ministries of culture and education, subordinate authorities, and national organisations responsible for cultural education. The BKJ is also a member. "The co-operation here is quite uncomplicated," Rolf Witte tells us. "Between the half-yearly meetings, thematic homework is given on topics that are currently in discussion, which are then answered and bundled from country perspectives." A broad range of expertiseis brought together this way.

But how do focus on youth work when the responsibilities are so differently distributed in Europe? Rolf Witte reports that the bilateral and multilateral project partners of the BKJ in other countries come almost exclusively from the educational or cultural sector. "We are the only ones who bring in the youth policy point of view. The others are mainly concerned with either good schools with cultural education or good art education or children and young people as a target group for audience development."

However, he also knows, that the European colleagues take the argumentation and approach of the BKJ very positively and see the strategic advantage of not being part of the hierarchical systems of education policy or cultural policy. "They therefore accept our argumentation, for example on considering the living situations and participation of young people – this parameter is not dictated from above." The BKJ thus refers to principles of youth work: With its diverse forms of work, offers and organisation, cultural youth education in all European countries directly and motivationally addresses the interests and different life situations of young people. It thus reaches young target groups who do not feel addressed by other forms of youth work and youth education.

Youth policy on the agenda

To address the implementation of the BKJ demand, intersections between youth, cultural and education policy will soon be addressed in ACEnet. "We hope that this will meet with interest and that colleagues will be given the homework to research what role cultural education plays in their country's youth policy, who is responsible, and where they see points of connection or overlap with education and cultural policy. These findings would then be discussed at an ACEnet meeting and we could work out what further steps would be useful," says Rolf Witte.

"We are very happy," he continues, "that cultural youth work is explicitly part of youth work in the understanding of the European Youth Work Agenda." In any case, the BKJ has a lot of plans as a contribution to the so-called Bonn Process: And yet, with new momentum from the implementation of a European Youth Work Agenda, the 56 regional and national professional organisations and associations from all areas of art and culture in Germany – and the BKJ itself as an umbrella organisation – can and want to play an active and creative role in pan-European networking, in professional exchanges, in learning from each other and in the strategic collaboration with their many European partners.

* The definition of youth work in the ‘Resolution of the Council on the Framework for establishing a European Youth Work Agenda’ refers to Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on youth work’ of the Council of Europe.