Education International
Education International

European educators unite for quality education

published 29 October 2013 updated 31 October 2013

EI's European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), held a special meeting on 23 October in Brussels. Entitled "What is needed to improve the quality of education in Europe?", it brought together trade unionists from across Europe to reflect on challenges ahead and discuss measures to improve the quality of education within the region.

The meeting was chaired by ETUCE European Director Martin Rømer and moderated by ETUCE President and the General Secretary of UK’s National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower.

The EI/ETUCE initiative, Unite for Quality Education, was presented to participants by EI’s Deputy General Secretaries, David Edwards and Haldis Holst. They both emphasised the need for joining forces and mobilising during EI’s year of action to make free universal quality education a priority in political agendas worldwide.

Equitable and democratic educationEdwards highlighted the importance of the word ‘ free’ versus ‘ affordable’ and warned about global privatisation trends in education. “We want quality education that is equitable and democratic,” he stated.

EI’s Deputy General Secretary, Haldis Holst, referred to EI’s Policy Paper on Education as a fundamental tool to advocate for the education we want, since it reflects ”a common vision on quality education shared by over 400 teacher organisations worldwide”.

Europe’s job-focused strategyKey speaker JanTruszczy?ski, Director General of Education and Culture at the European Commission (EU), said that education has a key role in the EU’s 2020 strategy.

Truszczy?ski noted that, despite increasing access to higher education, youth unemployment remains a major challenge in Europe, especially in Southern countries.

To help overcome this challenge, he explained, the EU’s strategy will put “a special focus on reforming vocational education and training in many countries, to make them more job-focused and relevant”.

Truszczy?ski also outlined some of the initiatives to enhance education and training within the EU. These include: ‘ Erasmus for All’, the ‘ Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe’, and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.

The representative of Lithuanian EU Presidency, Saulius Zybartas, talked about the need to “enhance competitiveness”, “increase efficiency and effectiveness” and “build strong partnerships with education providers”.

ETUCE President Christine Blower pointed out that challenging youth unemployment or increasing ‘efficiency’ in education systems will simply not happen by reducing public funding and investing fewer resources, as is the trend in Europe.

Innovation, equity and collegiality Other key speakers included OECD analysts David Instance and Diana Toledo.

Instance talked about innovative learning environments and how moving towards quality through innovation and knowledge is central to society.

For this, a holistic approach is necessary instead of a fragmented high-stakes testing approach. “Measuring learning outcomes does not change them. Moving towards quality education needs innovation,” he said.

Toledo focused on the equity aspect of education. “Data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2007 shows that students from low income backgrounds are twice as likely to perform lower in the PISA reading test that their counterparts from more prosperous backgrounds,” she said.

Toledo explained that system-level policies and school-level policies are necessary to address this gap. The involvement of the broad community is also crucial.  “Schools are not islands; reaching out to parents and community engagement is key to address equity and quality in education.”

Way forward: EI’s year of actionA plenary discussion on strategies to improve quality education in Europe followed.  After this, a series of presentations on different topics were delivered by EI member organisations:  ATL (UK), AOB (The Netherlands), SNUipp (France), FENPROF (Portugal), and OAJ (Finland).

At the end of the meeting, participants discussed  a document with 10 Key Messages to be delivered. The declaration grounds quality education on three pillars: Quality Teaching, Quality Tools for Teaching and Learning, and Quality Environments for Teaching and Learning.

The ETUCE Committee also issued an action plan to effectively disseminate and deliver the 10-ETUCE Key Messages.