Thursday, 24 November 2011

WHY? - facing the crisis of European education

You may be just like me. You may be the biggest fan of quality education, public school, innovation and ICT, cohoperative learning and European actions (read: LLP).
And you may think you're doing your best and you're a brave, curious and engaged teacher. Maybe not the best ever, we're not so self-confident, yet working hard. You see lots of fellow teachers in different countries striving through tons of red tape, stressing day-to-day routine, economical crisis, dysfunctional schools, lack of ICT equipment: yet we set our projects, we run them, we motivate our pupils and we try to promote culture and a sense of belonging to something bigger than just "my" country.

Then you happen to read the 2010 Joint Report of the European Commission about the 5 benchmarks we were supposed to reach for 2010.

"There has been a general improvement in education and training performance in the EU. However, the majority of the benchmarks set for 2010 will not be reached in time, while in the case of the vital benchmark on literacy performance is in fact deteriorating. Attaining these benchmarks will require more effective national initiatives."

So, the situation is actually getting worse. You can find the complete document here and in the TNG twinspace as well. Rest assured, not a funny reading.

Just look at the picture, it says more than tons of words.

Now, where is the mistake?

Obviously we (them?) did something wrong. It's interesting that the document goes on explaining how we need more effective national measures. Is the EU giving up?

What do you think?

Were the European measures not good enough?

How much - in terms of energy, money, people - did the EU spend on education? Was it too little an effort? Was it in a wrong direction?

Were the benchmarks simply too difficult to reach?

In a time of crisis, is Europe - just as all of the individual countries - trying to save on education? (not a smart move, as we all can guess).

I've no answers for all of these questions. Yet I can't help wondering WHY those goals were not met. And HOW we are supposed to meet the new ones, if we don't know the reason why we failed. I would have loved to stop all of the very important people, all of the researchers and all of the policy makers I met in Genova and ask them these questions. So, if any of them is reading me, please give me your point of view.

Otherwise, I think we can go on exchanging ideas among us "normal" teachers. I know this is not an amusing post. But as my favourite blogger says "Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but sometimes a girl has gotta vent"!


  1. Dear Laura, Dear All,
    your questions would be my questions too. I think, I am lucky because I can teach small children in a primary school and at the same time students at the university too, so I can see the "start" and the "end" (of course talking about LLP, maybe the "first end") of a process in the education.
    When I had the possibility to have an own class, I was so exciting: I will be the teacher to teach them how to read, write, count. I had my diplom as well as a primary school teacher, but I was not sure if it will really work in the practice. And, it happened three years ago. Actually where we are in the reading?
    Maybe you have the same experience like me? In my class there are pupils who are really talented and there are some who have very serious difficulties, with special needs. I don't find in my class the "medium" part. So there are big differences, and it is not easy to find out an exercise which is not too difficult for them who have problems, but at the same time is not too easy for the others. My pupils read, and they like fairy tales, what I think is very good. We practice the reading every day. It is not easy to know in every case, if a child just know the metod of reading or/and understand what does the text mean. Actually in my class (there are in 22) I think 18 can really understand the meaning. What can I do as a teacher? I just try to help the others as well, I don't would like to lost them. And every day I try to find a possible solution.I like the creativity, and my pupils like to be at school.
    But they have social disdvantages too. So live in an ambient where their families have problems, are disoccupated and so is very sad: on Friday a girl arrived at school without any food, she was very hungry. Now I try to find a solution: if somebody is hungry, can't study, the importance of school, books in these families is low.
    It is a problem, where we need help too.
    And..I don't know how does it work in your countries, but I see here the practice of reading together in the class after the first years of school is not enough. Children for example have serious exercises in many subjects, but next these there isn't enough time to practice what they studied before. Many pupils have difficulties to find the important information in a text, or just write a summary about it.
    I think, it depends not only on teachers but on the national curricula too.
    And yes, talking about the money..I believe we are working for the future of our countries/Europe too. If there is not enough money in the education sector what future could be?
    It would be nice to see the stability,and even if as I believe, we need the modern pedagogical results, new ideas, sharing, projects and all these great things...why we have so often big changes in all education system?
    And at the university? The LLP works. I would like to share a very positive example. Sometimes I meet there groups where there are adults, who study next their job. I met a lady moreorless 60 years old. I write about her age only to describe the situation. She works not in the educational sector, but her principal ordered: everybody who doesn't have a diplom is obbligatory to study, or will lost the job. She think: it is the best moment to realize her dream. When she was a little girl, she wanted to be a teacher in a nursery school, but it was no possible. Actually she lives at the capital, and for being at the university at 8 o cloc'k in the morning in our town (200 km from the capital) she wake up at 3 o cloc'k at night. I think, I respect her a lot. And when she will finish to work, she would like to open a privat afternoon school. A dream what can be reality with LLP.
    I am happy to have the possibility to teach her someting.
    And I hope, my small pupils will not give us their dreams.
    Sorry for this long-long comment.
    Hugs, Mónika

  2. I agree with you Monika, it's very difficult to teach in a class with mixed abilities students. Some of them end up being bored to death, while others cannot even understand what you're talking about.
    In one of my classes, out of 21 students, I have 5 suffering from dyslexia, 6 whose mother tongue is not Italian and one authistic child. Now, talk about different needs!
    How cab I meet the needs of all of them?
    I think our policy makers - both at national and European level - should help us here. We should find support in istitutions.
    Anyway, in a time of crisis, governments are more likely to spare money on education rather than elsewere.
    But as you say: if the EU doesn't spend money on education, how are we supposed to build our pupils' future?

  3. I also wonder WHY and share your concern. My second wonder is WHAT CAN WE DO for spreading our concern among our fellow citizens.
    As an answer to Monika I may say, that being a teacher in the higher level of Secondary Education, I also find among my pupils the serious problems with the interpretation and handling of written information she describes.This is quite sad and quite a paradox in the so called "age of information"
    Thanks again both you for your engagement in the tough work of trying to improve education.