European cooperation on schools
This communication outlines the Commission’s proposal for an agenda for European cooperation on schools. The main focus is on improving the implementation of the key competences for lifelong learning, efficiency and equity in education, as well as the quality of teacher education.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 3 July 2008 – Improving competences for the 21st Century: an Agenda for European Cooperation on Schools [COM(2008) 425 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The European school systems are today facing challenges that will have consequences for the European Union’s (EU) socio-economic future. Therefore, the reform process of the education systems must be strengthened. This communication presents the measures the Commission will take to support cooperation between EU countries in implementing the reforms with regard to the framework for key competences, quality of learning, equity and quality of teachers and school staff.
The European framework for key competences sets out the knowledge, skills and attitudes required in the knowledge society that should be placed at the core of competence development in schools. The 2007 public consultation on “Schools for the 21st Century” established the need for a flexible environment in which students may develop these competences. In this regard, a holistic approach should be taken to curricular reform.
Literacy and numeracy are essential areas of key competences to consider. The current decline of reading competences experienced in the EU needs to be addressed as a priority. Furthermore, the diversity in classrooms, as a result of the differences between genders, socio-economic backgrounds, abilities or disabilities, mother tongues and learning styles, needs to be taken into account. Hence, teaching that is better-tailored to the individual needs of each student and specific training for teachers need to be provided. The importance of defining and assessing learning outcomes, that is, the competences that students should have acquired and can use, should also be considered.
Therefore, the Commission encourages EU countries to cooperate in implementing the “key competences” by:
- establishing action plans that promote literacy and numeracy;
- promoting “learning-to-learn”;
- providing a comprehensive approach for developing competences.
The European Council conclusions of March 2006 asserted the need to step up reforms with regard to providing high-quality learning for all. Education systems must be both efficient and equitable, with further consideration given to the relationship between students’ socio-economic backgrounds and educational outcomes. In this regard, the 2007 public consultation on school education highlighted the significance of early learning opportunities and inclusive school systems.
Early learning opportunities, such as pre-primary education, are seen to diminish the educational disadvantage usually experienced by children from lower socio-economic and minority backgrounds. Improving access to these opportunities is one of the greatest contributions school systems could make in the long run. Furthermore, the systems need to ensure a high quality of teaching and to put into place policies that provide for flexible learning pathways, which will take into account the needs of each student. At the same time, efforts need to be made to achieve faster progress in combating early school leaving. This is a particular problem within disadvantaged social groups, incurring costs both at the individual and societal levels.
Consequently, the Commission intends to support EU countries’ cooperation in implementing efficient and equitable school systems to:
- improve access to pre-primary education;
- asses and measure the equity impact of school systems and make improvements to reduce differences in quality between schools;
- facilitate student transfers from one level or type of school to another;
- decrease the number of early school leavers;
- offer tailored learning approaches to all students and teach students with special educational needs in mainstream settings.
The competences of teachers are the main within-school factors that shape students’ educational outcomes. Nevertheless, in most EU countries there are deficits in teaching skills and not enough resources are allocated to training and development. The public consultation emphasised the need to balance theory and practice in teacher education, link teaching to children’s learning and progress and accredit teachers’ training and development activities.
The Commission intends to support EU countries’ cooperation in improving the quality of teacher education concerning the:
- initial education, induction and professional development of teachers;
- recruitment of teachers and school leaders.
- The European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture website on school education