Published on July 5th, 2016 | by ECSWE0
European Parliament criticises teaching to the test
ECSWE welcomes the adoption of the the European Parliament’s resolution on the 2015 review of the ET 2020 Framework. The document reflects on the new priorities in education and training and makes recommendations for educational reform.
While respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the member states responsibility of their education and training systems, the ET 2020 framework supports member states in addressing common challenges in education by sharing best practices, mutual learning or gathering and disseminating information. The framework also measures progress of member states towards a range of EU benchmarks such as bringing the rate of early leavers from education and training aged 18-24 below 10%. In order to ensure the successful implementation of ET 2020, Working Groups composed of experts nominated by member countries and other key stakeholders work on common EU-level tools and policy guidance (see article on ECSWE membership in the ET 2020 Working Group Schools).
The first chapter welcomes the structural changes to the ET 2020 Framework such as the reduction of the ET 2020 priorities to six and the extension of the work cycles to 5 years. While acknowledging the creation of the new ET 2020 Working Groups (see mandate and results of the call), the resolution calls for a better representation of civil society in these groups. The EP also suggests the creation of informal steering and coordination bodies within ET 2020 to better link the various Commission directorates working on education with other European institutions, civil society and social partners. MEPs highlight the need for exchanging best practices, suggest improving initial teacher education and continuous professional development and stress the importance of raising the attractiveness and status of the teaching profession. Furthermore they highlight the need of quality Early Childhood Education and Care and point to the importance of the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and democratic values through education.
The second chapter on the quality of education and training makes suggestions for educational reform. While the resolution follows the current trend of promoting digital skills and media literacy and misses the opportunity to call for an age-appropriate approach (see reader on media competence and Waldorf education), MEPs find very clear words on the negative effects of standardised testing on the quality of teaching and learning. In paragraph 38, the European Parliament:
“[d]raws attention to the fact that standardised tests and quantitative approaches to educational accountability measure at best a narrow range of traditional competences, and may result in schools having to adapt teaching syllabi to test material, thus neglecting the intrinsic values of education; points out that education and training have an important role in developing ethical and civil virtues and humanness, whereas teachers’ work and students’ achievements in this area are overlooked by test scores; highlights in this regard the need for flexibility, innovation and creativity in educational settings which can boost learning quality and educational attainment;”
The report therefore informs and supports ECSWE’s advocacy for pluralism in assessment and finding assessment methods that support students’ learning outcomes and their well-being holistically. Another strong point of the report is its clear vision on individual-centred pedagogy that is complementary to the holistic approach of Steiner Waldorf Education. The European Parliament:
“[e]mphasises the crucial role of an individual-centred approach in education and training systems which benefits the development of creativity and critical thinking while focusing on students´ personal interests, needs and abilities;”
The third chapter focuses on the role of education and training in the integration of migrants and refugees, the better recognition of their skills and qualifications, and the necessity of giving refugees access to higher education.
The resolution was adopted with 409 votes in favour, 108 against and 65 abstentions and is non-binding.
ECSWE welcomes the clear position of the European Parliament on assessment and calls on member states to take it into account when reforming their educational systems. Standardised tests are a serious threat to our freedom of curriculum while their benefits for learners are at best questionable. ECSWE therefore calls for a general paradigm shift towards assessment for learning and seeks to form strong partnerships with other stakeholders to promote a profound change in educational policy.
Executive & Administrative Officer
European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education