Committee on Culture and Education
Don’t school me: Seeing that our current models of education devised for the industrial age are not always fit to support young people in becoming active, self-actualised and responsible citizens in this new era, what could education in the 21st Century look like and what skills should it equip graduates with?
The Topic in Depth
written by Illia Koshytskyi (UA)
The UNESCO, OECD and EU emphasise the importance of education for economic growth. However, having a degree does not guarantee employment anymore. The current European educational systems were developed to meet the industrial age’s needs, making the content and values they bring often obsolete. Moreover, those values vary at different levels of education.
The European Commission insisted on the importance of unification of core skills and values taught from kindergarten to adult education and vocational training. Such a system of life-long learning  would help students of all ages find their place in society and become self-actualised . However, it is hard to achieve complete unification since the core morals and ethics vary from one country to another and can change rapidly.
Education falls under the area of supporting competences, meaning that the EU can only give recommendations to the Member States, who are not obliged to follow them. Each country has different priorities, and as a result, the rate of adoption of EU recommendations is very low. Nevertheless, some common problems - such as a skills deficit in the workforce, ageing society, global competition, and early childhood education - require joint actions and knowledge sharing.
The strategy for life-long learning by the European Commission suggests that cultural sensitivity has to be developed at all stages of education and carried on after graduation. Fast-growing rate of globalisation and technological innovation requires all generations to be able to adapt to new challenges of living in a diverse world.
Life-long learning has already shown to be effective in the Finnish educational system and their experience could be shared with the other Member States who are working on reforms in education. Finnish education is considered one of the best in the world, giving freedom to creativity, developing cultural sensitivity and responding to student’s well-being. Meanwhile, the Slovakian educational system is not considered culturally sensitive and the recent cuts to the education budget led to the decrease of average grades within the country.
Equal opportunities are the key concept of life-learning. According to Article 26.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person has the right to education. However, the issue of social exclusion remains both within private and public educational institutions: refugees have no or low access to education, many educational institutions do not respond to the needs of people with disabilities, language exclusion grows constantly since 2004, and the gender gap in tertiary3 education still remains.
The diversified nature of educational systems from within the Member States is the next stone to creating a unified educational system. The admission requirements and fees can differ a lot from one country to another, leaving some students unprepared for international admission.
The obsolete nature, inability to develop cultural sensitivity and provide a secure environment for personal growth led to an increase in dropout numbers at all stages of education. As of 2018, only 11% of adults within the EU reported being enrolled in education, alongside a high level of dropouts from education amongst the youth.
Another reason for the low interest in education is the lack of creativity and real-life examples often found in educational programs and methods. Such education does not create a platform for self-actualisation, which is considered the main problem of modern pedagogy. Self-actualisation is essential to be considered in education, as it is directly related to a person’s creative self-expression. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self-actualised people focus more on problems outside themselves, which is very important in a democratic society.
With the educational institutions being overcrowded and lacking human resources, online learning became more popular. Digital education is more attractive to learners as it provides live cases, flexible schedules, and is more affordable. Nevertheless, the last year showed that digital education has its downsides with the lack of Internet access, as well as both teaching staff and students having bad digital literacy skills.
Lastly, most major EU initiatives in education came to an end in 2020 and require further revision. The EU as a whole and the Member States, in particular, tend to focus on short term solutions reacting to the needs of the labour market, rather than working on developing long-term strategies that will also address the needs of the students.
 The process of gaining knowledge and learning skills throughout life for either personal or professional reasons.
 The final stage of development when a person is able to take full advantage of their skills and talents while being mindful of their limitations.
 The educational level pursued after the completion of a school.
created by Candice Telouk (FR)
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Food for Thought
Should the Member States strive for total unification of the European education system?
What values should European education promote?
What makes Finnish education so attractive to the rest of the world?
What is the value of inclusive education?
What are the main needs in European education as defined by students, teachers and policymakers?
Changing education paradigms, systematic overview of education systems worldwide (2010): a critical overview of global educational systems and suggestions to improve it;
How can we prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? (2020): an outline of the best practices in education worldwide;
Higher education in the twenty-first century: vision and action - p. 2-3 (1998): a brief summary of the main outputs of the World Conference on Higher Education (1998) that set the frames for cooperation in educational systems worldwide and defined the basic rights of each stakeholder in education that are applied nowadays;
Shared challenges in education and training (2020): a short description of the key challenges in education within the European region;
Sustainable development begins with education (2014): shows why education is a catalyst for the proposed post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals;
The complexity of self-actualization and how to help students achieve it (2020): reveals the structure and content of professional self-actualisation in the modern pedagogical interpretation;