“Our progressive societies” – An initiative led by Pär Nuder, former Swedish Minister of Finance Coordinated by Sebastian De Toro With the support of [Arbetarrörelsens Tankesmedja]
Pär Nuder – former Minister of Finance in Sweden – has been appointed to lead a Social Democratic study on how Europe should face the challenges of globalization in regard to education.
The study, unveiled in December ’09 during a fringe meeting of FEPS to the PES Congress in Prague, covers the entire education chain from pre-school to R&D, including life-long learning and vocational training. The authors have visited 12 countries and organised 8 seminars in European cities, and have met numerous scholars, politicians and representatives from NGOs and business. Researchers accross Europe have been hired to write reports on different parts of the educational chain.
One reason that Western Europe performed well after WWII were the large investments that was made in education. Today however, other countries have narrowed the gap and sometimes even surpassed Europe. This poses a new challenge for us as Social Democrats and Socialists. If we want to keep and improve our welfare models, we must improve our education policies so that our citizens have the necessary skills to compete in the future, says Pär Nuder.
The study will cover the entire education chain from pre-school to R&D, including life-long learning and vocational training. It will go on until the end of 2009, when a final report should be presented. During the study’s course seminars will be held throughout Europe and scholars, representatives from the business community, policy makers and others will be consulted to contribute with their expertise.
The project is developed under the auspices of FEPS and organised with the support of the Swedish foundation Arbetarrörelsens Tankesmedja. If you have any comments or want to contribute in any way please send an e-mail to Sebastian de Toro, who will assist Pär Nuder during the course of the project.
The foundations of learning are laid early in human lives. Pre-school can be a valuable part of this process, and should not only be considered as a child care institution. For this to happen several important questions need to be addressed: How is Europe doing comparing to other economies when it comes to how many children that attend pre-school, and the quality of pre-school? How are different countries in Europe performing in these respects? What needs to be done in order to increase the number of children going to pre-school? How should we resolve the conflict between financing pre-school and universality of attendance, i.e., do we need to finance more of child care and pre-school through government spending, and which system are the best one’s to promote equality and a high labour supply? How well educated are the pre-school staff in European countries? What needs to be done to increase the quality of European pre-school? What needs be done to attract more males to work as pre-school teachers? How should the demands of increased internationalization be taken care of in pre-schools? Should foreign languages be taught before children start compulsory schooling? If pre-school is increasing in importance, what should be done to secure that attendance is not correlated with social background?
The compulsory school is the cornerstone of the educational system and must work properly in all countries. However, the results in Europe differ heavily. Southern and Eastern Europe is lagging behind. But even many countries in Western and Northern Europe are underperforming given their potential. To raise quality in European schools several questions must be addressed: How is Europe performing compared to other economies, and how are different countries performing within Europe? What can we learn from each other and from countries outside Europe? What distinguish top performing school systems? What needs to be done to raise the quality of compulsory schooling in Europe? Are the right people becoming teachers? Are we giving these people appropriate training both while they are studying to become teachers and thereafter when they are acting teachers? What needs to be done in order to minimize the differences in school results due to social background and nationality of the pupils? What should be done in order to improve the results of under-performing boys? How should we handle the conflict between pupils freedom of choice, private schools and equality in the educational system? In which countries can pupils choose the school they want to go to? What effects does it have on an egalitarian school system? How should the demands of increased internationalization be taken care of? Should foreign languages been taught at an earlier age? Should Europe try to increase the possibility of exchange already when children are in compulsory schooling?
Upper secondary education and vocational training | Volker KÖDITZ – Rainer PEEK, Burkhart SELLIN [download report]
Upper secondary education and vocational training after compulsory school function as introduction to the adult life. This chain in the educational system must prepare the students to working life or/and further studies. Many questions regarding quality and design must be addressed for this particular part of the educational chain: How is Europe performing compared to other economies on upper secondary education and vocational training, when it comes to attendance and quality? At which age is it proper to split up education into theoretical studies and vocational studies? What needs to be done so that vocational training is not a dead-end in the educational system, i.e., so that those attending vocational training can study in universities after finishing vocational schools and vice verca? What needs to be done in order to create or improve the bridges between high schools and vocational schools/training? How should the demands of increased internationalization be taken care of? Should more foreign languages been taught in vocational training? Should the opportunity of exchange increase? Should it be possible to study a hole term abroad?
Higher education is the jewel of the educational systems. However, today many of Europe’s best talents go to the US to study or later on to do research. What does Europe need to do to gain in competitiveness in this segment? How is Europe performing compared to other economies, and how are different countries performing within Europe? What needs to be done in order to increase the quality and attractiveness of European universities and polytechniques? Do we need to increase spending? Should a European body be created to monitor the quality of European universities? How do we create European equivalents to Harvard? What changes needs to be done in order to be able to cope with the demands of the labour market? How many of each annual cohort does continue to higher education in different European countries? How is the distribution according to social background, sex etc? Should we set up European goals? How should the demands of increased internationalization be taken care of? Should entire university programs be taught in English? Is there anything that can be done at a European level to speed-up the Bologna process? Could the EU facilitate for universities to find partners abroad?
Research and development are of great importance for the economy as a whole, in a medium as well as long perspective. But is Europe up to competition in this field? How is Europe performing compared to other economies, and how are different countries performing within Europe? What can be learned from other economies? How should we increase the production of good research and development at universities and in the business sector? Do we need to increase the money spent? Do the quality needs to increase? What can the states and the EU do in order to improve research? Is European university research sufficiently international? What can be done to improve its internationalization? Does the number of graduated PhDs need to increase? What do we need to reach acceptable levels?
Life-long learning is a topic that has been talked much about. But now it is time to go beyond beautiful wording. It is not only that people need to re-train themselves continuously during their working life. More profound changes than that is necessary: people need the opportunity to change tracks in midst of life, in order to learn something new and thereby improve their productivity. But how should it be done? How do we ensure that people get proper training,, before they get unemployed? What kind of re-training is needed? How should it be financed and how should it be organized? What part should be played by individuals, the state and the businesses? What part can the EU play? How do we ensure that both blue-collar and white-collar workers get re-training? Are there any examples of how this could be organized?
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