I've been reading A joint vision for Secondary and Higher Education for All in Europe. This is a report on the SDGs from a formidable grouping, the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU), the European Students’ Union (ESU), and Education International (EI), to their members and partners. Its purpose is to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
My first eyebrow was raised when I saw that this report covered both secondary and higher education and that a "joint" vision was proposed. Given how different these sectors are, and that they have quite different purposes and cultures, is that wise, I wondered; or possible?
My other eyebrow joined in the calisthenics when I read the 8 policy priorities. Here they are:
We recommend that all countries implement specific policies at institutional and national levels that ensure students’ as well as teachers and academics’ fundamental right to democratic representation in all decision-making bodies. Students, teachers and academic staff should hold the majority of votes, as they know their system and context better than external stakeholders.
Governments must ensure adequate public funding for research and education, including areas that do not yield economical but rather societal, environmental or intellectual contributions. This will secure a significant leap forward in education for sustainable development. Only by developing ESD as a horizontal approach for all research areas, we will be able to achieve the comprehensive understanding of our societies.
In collaboration with stakeholders, countries should develop and implement National Access Plans, in order to tackle challenges of access and participation at both secondary and tertiary education levels. For higher education this has already been agreed within the framework of the Bologna Process (London Communique 2007, Yerevan Communique 2015), but this is yet to be realized.
Europe already has provisions in place that should help facilitate the recognition process of refugees without documentation of their skills. However, so far governments have to a large extent neglected the implementation and adherence to the Lisbon Convention. Now is an ever more pressing time for aligning national legislation and frameworks with the Lisbon Convention, and develop similar policies for secondary level education.
Ensuring quality continuous professional development for teachers and academics is essential for increasing the quality of education. This includes didactical and pedagogical skills as well as subject knowledge. All teachers in secondary schools should be trained and qualified. Continuous professional development should be publicly available and funded for teachers and academics at both secondary and tertiary level.
Rankings, other kinds of “league tables” and mechanical use of learning outcomes have proved to be misleading as indicators of relative or absolute quality. The testing regime takes resources away from teaching and learning, causes stress among students as well as teachers and academics, and has created its own industry of companies profiting without being held accountable. It is time that governments reject the testing regime and instead rely on national curriculum and quality assurance systems, institutional decisions, and the academic community as a whole to foster conscious and skilful graduates from both secondary and tertiary education.
The key to further economic and social development in Europe lies in education. However, quality education cannot be achieved without sufficient funding, something the Education 2030 Framework for Action also emphasises. Governments therefore must meet the target of spending 6 percent of GDP or 20 percent of the total public expenditure on education. This will help reverse the trend of decreased spending per student that we have been witnessing following the financial crisis. The key to further economic and social development in Europe lies in education.
A number of donor countries rely heavily on scholarships to boost their Official Development Aid (ODA). With increased attention to the UN’s recommendation that 0.7 percentage of the GNI should be allocated to ODA we worry that the tendency will only increase, but we simply cannot accept that scholarships should be counted as ODA, since historically the donating countries are the ones who benefit the most, and it will harm the equitable approach to scholarships. Therefore, we recommend that need-based scholarships are created and not counted in the ODA contributions.
Much left-liberal sentiment is on show here amidst all the usual virtue signalling. There's a touching faith in ESD, and in the lack of need for accountability. Who, apart from nerds like me, will read this? And what, if anything, will they do? What's certain that there will be much solidarity on show.