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Rethinking education

Parliament magazine.com 23/10/2013

Katarína Nevedalová is parliament's rapporteur on rethinking education

Current education systems are in need of a new impetus. The European parliament has adopted the report on rethinking education. Open discussion and mutual cooperation between all political groups laid the basis for such an excellent report which should serve as a source of inspiration for member states and educational institutions in updating their educational systems.

The unemployment rate of young people in European Union is alarming and is still on the increase. The most recent figures speak for themselves. In July 2013, we had 5.56 million young people under 25 who were unemployed. These numbers represent a 23.4 per cent unemployment rate across the 28 member states. Just for comparison, in July 2012 the unemployment rate was 22.9 per cent. It is important not only to consider the causes of such an increasing trend, but to come up with concrete solutions to unemployment.

The report on the rethinking education, however, does not focus only on the specific role of education in combating unemployment, but also on its role in preparing individuals for life, which must go hand in hand with the development of personal skills and social attitudes. Therefore, in support of the commission communication on Rethinking education: Investing in skills for better socioeconomic outcomes, parliament argues that it was extremely important to identify the key skills and challenges for students and people entering the labour market. Only with employability can come opportunity.

However, education and training has a broader mission than just addressing the needs of the labour market. It prepares individuals to become active citizens and develops their personal competences and wellbeing. Therefore, we must ensure there is a balance between theoretical knowledge and practical skills, as well as an increased focus on promoting vocational education and training, the positives of dual-learning systems and work-based learning, and encouraging studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Identifying the challenges for learners and the skills needed for people entering the labour market in the contemporary world must lead to solutions to help people maintain their individual and economic independence. Moreover, recognition of experience and skills gained through non-formal and informal learning, the work of youth organisations, good-quality internships, apprenticeships and volunteering should facilitate the transition from education and serve as stepping stones for young people to find employment as well as developing their life skills.

I believe that further cooperation between educational institutions and their counterparts in social, civil and private sectors would be more effective in addressing the issue of skill mismatches and provide a solid base for a public debate on new learning strategies. Furthermore, the report on rethinking education addresses the gender imbalance, social inclusion for the most vulnerable groups and promotes the opportunities which digital literacy, open educational resources (, ICT and language skills can bring.


Milan Zver is parliament's EPP group shadow rapporteur on rethinking education

On the basis of the open method of coordination, the member states have in the last two decades, with the active role of European institutions, including the parliament, made a great step forward towards the harmonisation of educational systems.

Adopted programmes and mechanisms that are available at EU level have been implemented in the member states and used, but not all were equally successful. Therefore, we cannot be entirely satisfied at EU level with the implementation of the main goals of harmonisation. We could further raise quality, especially in terms of educational outcomes. Also, we should make access to education broadly available, considering the fact that in recent years the increase in numbers of young people who are not employed and not enrolled in education has been enormous.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the main message of this report is that we have to rethink educational policy and European incentives. Education should in the future function in such a way that it would be more beneficial to its participants, as well as to the economy and society as a whole. The report also encourages the opening of educational systems, as well as the best possible cooperation of schools with businesses and the general social environment. It calls for a more rational use of public resources in education.

Finally, in the context of rethinking education, strong support is given to educational content in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM subjects – mainly due to the belief that in the future, not only it will increase the employability and employment of young people in the EU, but also significantly improve the EU's competitiveness on a global scale.


Hannu Takkula is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteur on rethinking education

The member states have complete autonomy when it comes to education and training systems. The EU does not rule in this area. Yet, imagine, even for a second, if in the future we could be rid of the huge disparities that exist in this very area. If we could improve literacy and numeracy in all member states, particularly for disadvantaged minority groups. If we would be better in delivering the right skills that the EU economy needs. If we could truly learn from one another's best practices and jointly develop and utilise new technologies in education.

Actually, I am not sure if we even have to imagine. If we succeed, the impact would be huge. We would make sure that vast skills mismatches do not exist – currently there are millions of unemployed, yet hundreds of thousands of jobs, that need to be filled – and youth unemployment would look a lot better. The list of positives goes on.

What is best yet, we do not need legislative powers to make this happen. Because, quite simply, collaboratively determined actions in this area can be extremely effective. Examples are plenty: think of the Bologna process, which has ensured comparability in standards of higher education qualifications; think of the 25 year old Erasmus programme, which has arguably been one of the EU's greatest success stories.

When it comes to education, there is much work that must be done at the EU-level also. Education needs some serious rethinking. I welcome the European commission's communication on the topic and applaud Katarína Nevedalová's report adopted by parliament.


Malika Benarab-Attou is parliament's Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur on rethinking education

This report was for us an opportunity to remind member states that education spending is a necessary investment in the future. They should be aware of their full responsibility to ensure that education is shielded from austerity measures. The report also recalls the primary mission of education as being the preparation of individuals for life, as well as for being active citizens in increasingly complex societies, while reinforcing the crucial role of lifelong learning for all.

Member states should consider the competences identified by the European commission as key for the development of learners, such as communication in the mother tongue, learning to learn and social and civic competences. It is also necessary that they use the tools developed at EU level, such as the European youth guarantee, which will require a significant level of funding and quality partnerships with the world of education, training centres, public services for employment and youth associations.

I regret, however, the strong focus on public-private partnerships with regard to the planning of curricula, the provision of guidance and the provision of education, training and specialisation, with a wide range of curricula which better set the demands of the labour market. We should better involve associations and professionals from local authorities in the planning of curricula as well as in the choice of methodology.


Inês Zuber is parliament's GUE/NGL group shadow rapporteur on rethinking education

Rethinking education – yes, but not this way. To legitimise the decline in public investment in this sector, imposing online methods and the like as a standard solution and, thus lowering the quality of education. Not to suggest rethinking education debt of students to stop the debt school. Not rethinking an education system subject to market interests, to allow private interests to determine the curricula and educational content. We should never rethink education at the service of big capital.

Rethinking education – yes, but to ensure the right to education for the individual, the right to public education that is free and of high quality, with a public and collective investment of all and for all. That is what is needed.


Kinga Göncz is parliament's employment and social affairs committee opinion rapporteur on rethinking education

Despite every fourth young person in Europe is unemployed, workers cannot be found for two million job vacancies. The statistics indicate significant problems in our education systems, for they are incapable of preparing our youth for working life, thereby balancing demand and supply. Education and training are in need of a radical overhaul, so that school leavers have the abilities and skills to quickly and easily find work and to adapt continuously to the ever changing labour market situation.

In education, we must give strong emphasis to the need to develop such transversal skills as innovation and entrepreneurship, creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking. It is equally important that school-leavers should have a clear understanding of their rights as citizens, are able to make use of the opportunities for mobility within the EU, have knowledge of the game rules in a democracy, and are sophisticated consumers of the global media.

All people must be given equal access to quality education; moreover, special attention should be paid to vulnerable social groups in this respect. In particular, we call on the member states to provide high-quality early childhood education and care programmes to all children, but first of all for children living in disadvantaged areas or at great distances from the local educational institution. In order to reduce the number of dropouts from school, we suggest the introduction of mentoring and tutoring, as well as an expansion of the various forms of support – scholarships, grants, and student loans.

We urge member states to share their successes in reducing youth unemployment with other member states. We call on the need for advanced and lifelong further training for teachers. Those involved in teaching must be prepared to familiarise themselves with various cultures and to master teaching methods suited to the individual needs of pupils.