Europe's schools lag behind US and Asia
14.03.06 @ 09:58
BRUSSELS - Europe is falling further behind the US and Asia in education, with Germany and France no longer among world leaders in developing knowledge, an expert from the Paris-based economic institute, the OECD, has stated.
According to Andreas Schleicher, the author of the report written for the Lisbon Council, Europe's educational systems should "be made more flexible, more effective and more easily accessible to a wider range of people," to stand up to global competition.
He points out that pressure is mounting not only due to the US and Japan, but also due to emerging Asian superpowers, China and India, which are starting to deliver "high skills at low costs and at an ever increasing pace".
While some European countries, like Ireland, Portugal and Spain have improved their relative standing, most of the major economies – including France, Italy and the UK – "only held their ground or, in the case of Germany, significantly fell."
Mr Schleicher said both Germany and France are falling behind in terms of a number of people with high-skill qualifications, which he views as a sign that both countries "which make up 35% of the EU's €11.6 trillion economy, are no longer among the world’s leaders in developing knowledge and skills."
One of the main reasons behind the gloomy trends is lower investment in education in Europe at every level.
"The US outspends Europe on tertiary level education by more than 50% per student, and much of that difference is due to larger US contributions from tuition-paying students and the private sector," noted the OECD paper.
On the other hand, it stressed that most continental European countries do not allow their universities to charge tuition fees but at the same time do not support them with the required public investment.
"European countries tend to argue that charging fees for university education would be unfair or inequitable, but many of the very same countries charge fees for childhood and other primary education, where equity really is at stake," writes Mr Schleicher.
Despite European ideals like equality and equity, several OECD's studies reveal that "social background plays a larger role in determining a student’s performance in countries such as Germany, France and Italy than in the US."
"Europeans from difficult socio-economic backgrounds don't receive the same educational opportunities as children from rich and middle-class families," notes the paper.