Education policy have been one of the success stories of the European Union if we look at it from the perspective of education institutes, teachers and individual students. The past decades have opened the mobility in several ways. Overall funding, projects like ERASMUS and recognition of diplomas have rose the collaboration between the countries and education institutions. Generally, we are much more aware of the current situation of European Education Policy than earlier, which gives us the possibility to develop our own national systems.
When we look at the European Union's own education policy, we can see that many of the strategical steps are current. Digitalization, life-long learning and study and career counselling are that kind of key objectives. The question is that whether these identified directions are also directions for implementation? And what will the role of the European Union itself be in organizing these objectives to come to reality.
When we discuss education, we will easily see national boundaries: history, religion, languages, national policy and cultural differences are part of this discourse. We are also very effective in ending the debate by invoking the separation of states, something what is possible in Finland, is never something, what you can add to some other country education policy. If so, we can stop here, and continue as before.
But if we still like to continue this discussion a bit further, when we take look of latest PISA results, we can see two things, what could be good to think about?
1st The difference between European countries is phenomenally large. Even the nations have developed their education systems, bench marked all the best practices, we are still in the situation that the variation of results is too big. We have a lot of explanations for that, like resources, unsustainable education policy, etc. If we accept this, it is ok, if we do not, then we should ask, what shall we do?
2nd When we look at top performance countries or cities, we can see a strong influence of Asian education. It shows that in global education market the focus is shifted to Asia. So the question is, whether we accept that in higher education and the labor market the future students are coming from top performance countries and Europe regresses to the second or third place? In the newest McKinsey report of European labor market is a lot of interesting data. First notice is that Europe will soon need an effective life long training and education program, because most of the new workplaces are in the areas, which need high quality training and continuous service training.
Second notice is that development of Europe is not anymore national. It focuses on the twentieth city metropolis and a number of other bigger cities. This question is very crucial; that when we speak about the nations of Europe in education, are we still speaking about a whole nation or just areas of high capacities to develop? Are we comparing Shanghai and Finland, or Shanghai and London metropolitan area? The main purpose for these questions are that both of cities are future economical hubs, which need most educated people in their service.
In these questions there are not right or wrong answers. But perhaps it`s good to be open minded and think that we can do something differently in European education. Nobody needs to see any new testing culture to be born, but to some level the quality standards must rise to the next level. And the good strategies of the European Union education policy must be as binding as the roundness of the tomato or the curvature of the cucumber.
Principal / CEO
Finnish Education Institute