As the world rapidly shifts from an economy based on labor and industry to one driven by knowledge and innovation, Europe’s education systems aren’t keeping pace. Indeed, some seem to be slipping into virtual dysfunction. It’s well known that the continent’s underfunded and overbureaucratized universities produce too few graduates with often outdated skills—an obvious threat to Europe’s prosperity. Less well known is the fact that many European countries, for all their talk of social equality, foreclose opportunities for education and social advancement.
[…] A scathing report comes out this week from London’s Centre for European Reform. A “grim” educational “malaise” grips higher learning in Europe, the authors conclude. Most of its best universities are “clearly in the second division,” they say, worsened by an “exodus of academic talent.” The criticism comes on the heels of a February inspection tour by U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Vernor Muñoz Villalobos, who blasted Germany for keeping many of its immigrants stuck in third-rate, dead-end schools. He could easily have said the same of France, Spain or the Netherlands, where so-called black schools have become synonymous with poverty, underachievement and violence. If that weren’t enough, a shocking recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that third-generation immigrants in Germany and several other countries actually do worse in school than their second-generation peers—an alarming trend that stands the upwardly mobile nature of immigration on its head.
[..] In the most recent global ranking of top research institutions compiled by Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, only nine European colleges made it into the top 50, the majority of them in the United Kingdom. Less than a quarter of Europe’s working-age population has a university-level degree, compared with 38 percent in the United States and 36 in Japan. Study after study, by the OECD and others, has shown high-school achievement stagnant or slipping. The problems are particularly acute for the Continent’s Big Three, drivers of Europe’s economy.
[…] At the heart of the problem are education systems that often seem stuck in another age. In France and Germany, bureaucrats in giant ministries micromanage curricula, budgets and personnel assignments. Austria, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have retained 19th-century school systems that divide up kids as early as the age of 10 into different-level schools, all but cementing their future careers. Lower tracks, such as Germany’s Hauptschulen, offer only a rudimentary education. This relic of feudalism might have made sense for industrial societies that needed a small university-educated elite and masses of simple workers. Today, in a globalizing, flexible world, such fixed hierarchies are more out of date than ever.
[Referring to Germany] Despite 4.5 million registered unemployed, companies complain that they can’t find skilled workers—not just engineers and specialists but plain-vanilla graduates with the social and learning skills to start simple on-the-job training. “The education system is sending us people who aren’t even ready to be trained,” says Labor Office chief Frank Weise. In contrast, countries like South Korea that have invested in education and raised the number of university graduates have enjoyed both higher growth and declining unemployment.
[…]Even today, the education debate is marked by absurdity and distortion. Politicians talk about creating “elite” universities, yet they refuse to allow selective admissions. After the Rütli School’s case became public, politicians demanded everything from salary bonuses for Hauptschule teachers to a new law making “refusal to integrate” acrime. Anything to avoid having to talk about the elephant in the middle of the room: that the system of ducational segregation is ineffective and cruel.
Finland, ranked by the OECD as having the world’s best education system, faced many of these same problems in the 1960s. In international tests, its students barely made the OECD average. Since then, Finland has devolved decision making from Helsinki bureaucrats to the schools themselves, setting only guidelines for what students should be able to do. Schools and teachers are monitored for quality, and constantly evolve in terms of curricula and methods. The old-fashioned sorting of kids into different-level schools has been abandoned. Now Finnish 15-year-olds not only score highest in a number of skills, but also show the least effect of class background on achievement, a key measure of meritocracy. Small wonder that Finland is today a high-tech powerhouse with high growth and low unemployment.
“None of these countries are having a strategic debate over where they want to be in 10 years,” says the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. Nor do they seem willing to address the true causes of the malaise. Unless that changes, Europe’s future will be bleak indeed.
The article also notes that:
visit the Rütli School in Berlin, where more than the walls are crumbling. Located in one of the capital’s poorest Arab-Turkish neighborhoods, a whopping 83 percent of its students don’t speak German as their mother tongue.
And then Spanish Government whose leader is Zapatero changes (again!, I do not know how many times the education system has been changed in Spain for worse) the system and issues a new law. Aznar’s law was called “Organic Act for Education’s Quality”. Zapatero’s law is called “Organic Act of Education”. See what word is missing?
Anyway it’s very interesting the fact that the 3rd generation inmigrants are doing worse that their fathers. It is another proof of the lack of sense of the inmigration policies introduced in Europe and of the real failure of multi-culturalism. If really multiculturalism was a the ideal way to integrate people, these ones would do better than their parents. But the ghettos that really builds the multiculturalism, given that even the University students do not know German, are really lowering the possibilities in life of the teenagers now in school and at university.
Another thing is that they are not investing what education is worth. The horizon for educational policies in Europe was 2010 and had two objectives:
- Improving the quality and effectiveness of education and training systems
in the EU.
- Facilitating the access of all to education and training systems.
- Opening up education and training systems to the wider world.
According to European Comission’s study (PDF):
- In the EU, presently (2005) about 6 million young people (18-24 years olds) have left education prematurely. Reaching the European benchmark of no more than 10% early school leavers would imply that 2 million more of these young people would have continued in education.
- At the age of 15 about 1 million out of over 5 million pupils are presently low performers in reading literacy. Reaching the European benchmark for 2010 would imply that 200.000 pupils would have to improve their performance in the field.
- The EU would need to double the amount it invests per higher education student (i.e. an increase of nearly 10 000 euros per student and year) to match the spending level in the USA. The EU suffers from under-investment in human resources, especially in higher education. Public investment in education and training as a percentage of GDP has grown slightly since the adoption of the Lisbon strategy, and is comparable with levels in the USA (and higher than in Japan). Rates of private investment in educational institutions seem to be (however, data availability and comparability is limited) modest in most Member States compared with the leading countries in the world, especially in higher education. There is also a need to increase the efficiency of investment and ensure that it supports the development of high quality education and training systems which are both efficient and equitable.
- During the coming 10 years, the EU needs to attract at least 1 million new qualified teachers if those who will leave the profession due to retirement should be replaced.
- Most EU students are not taught at least two foreign languages from an early age as requested by the Barcelona 2002 European Council. At present (2003), an average of only 1.3 and 1.6 foreign languages per pupil are taught in the Member States in general lower- and upper-secondary education respectively.
Another of the problems accordng to the report is the fact that there are a lot of teachers near the age of retirement. So more will be needed in the years to come. The problem is: with so bad conditions, is there any possibility of finding people interested in being a teacher? But they have taken this possibility into account:
Main messages on teachers:
- Considerable teacher recruitment needs during the next decade put focus on policies and initiatives to motivate older teachers to remain in the profession and to offer them continuous professional development.
- The attractiveness of teaching is on the policy agenda in several countries. Policy objectives are directed towards improving the image and status of teaching, improving teaching’s salary competitiveness, improving employment conditions, and securing an adequate supply of teachers in all subject areas.
They are not considering one other factor: people who LIKE their job are more productive than people who dislike it. And the perspectives on this job are not precisely marvellous. Because one of the things that are not told here are the attacks on teachers: for example, in UK 90% of teachers think the problem is getting worse each day. Some have even left their jobs. Not only the agressions come from the children or teenagers, but by their parents. And schools are told to cover up these attacks. In Spain these attacks are not now rare. And there is also violence against other pupils and Internet pages giving advice as to what to do in those cases. Some teachers have even gone on strike for repeated cases of school violence. In France, the violence has reached the schools, with hald of the shool pupils confessing being subject to verbal attacks, more than 1/4 between the boys and 1/8 between the girls having been harshly beaten at school. Although the agressions to teachers don’t happen often (2.4%), the violence in school is growing. Especially the agressions of private and public goods (+40%) and the utilization of a weapon (+35%).