Quality education through new forms and means

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The European institutions suggested some new education methods and tools to help schools and universities in the member states to accommodate to modern challenges and to activate progressive sustainability teaching. All levels of education and training in the states (incl. schools and universities) have to reach three vital objectives. 

The EU-wide objectives include three main directions: a) introduce new cross-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approaches in education and training, b) activate inclusion of SDGs and circular-economy’s issues into programs, modules and curricula, and c) facilitate new tools and methods used in online and digital teaching; in this way the national education policies can accommodate to modern challenges.

Modern process of e-learning and online-type lectures in modern education and teaching is closely connected to another vital issue: selecting the most qualified lecturers and teachers. The revolutionary part of modern education requires new approaches to educational premises and venues, as well as to organizational structure of the educational process and teachers’ quality.
However, not all is clear at present: probably, the “socializing aspect” of education is at risk: e.g. student-staff relations are being jeopardized due to restricted communications; the issue can be somehow resolved through chats, LinkedIn and other digital applications. Among other problems are, for example: scheduling learning and instructions, reasonable and balanced control in learning resources, nourishing learning ability with e-assessment, etc. All these mentioned issues are vital for countries and universities in sharing their experience and suggestions in order to improve students’ active SDG general and digital learning.
Global efforts have been slowly but constantly directed in the right directions; however, the UNESCO’s “Education-2030 Agenda” adopted in 2015 did not provide any guidelines concerning the distant and e-learning, though most of the SDGs goals require good reference tool for increasing education quality.
More in: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000245656.

In line with the perspective digital technology’s development, UNESCO launched a global education coalition to support countries in scaling up their best online learning practices; it established the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, IITE in 1997 with the headquarters in Moscow/Russia; it is the only UNESCO institute that holds a global mandate for ICT in education. IITE has developed its strategic priority areas to meet new demands and tasks ahead. The mission of IITE in the new era is promoting the innovative use of ICT and serving as facilitator and enabler for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) through digital solutions and best practices.
More on IITE in: https://iite.unesco.org/teacher-professional-development-ict-empowered-innovative-pedagogy/

The new trends towards active usage of technological accessories and applications shall be kept in mind for quality teaching; the European Commission has worked in partnership with the states’ ministries of education and experts on technological aspects in education to develop education quality services. Thus, the EU partners’ institutions include the European Training Foundation, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) and UNESCO’s Institute for Information Technologies in Education.
Note on CEDEFOP. To inform the design of VET and employment policies, Cedefop identifies and anticipates future skill needs and potential skill mismatches. It provides high quality evidence on trends in the labour market and skill needs by producing regular skill supply and demand forecasts for Europe and analysing the potential labour market mismatches and imbalances. Cedefop also investigates skill and competence needs in selected sectors, has collected its own European data on skills and jobs and is currently working on collecting and analysing data on skill demand using online job postings. All data and intelligence is delivered it to end-users in a fit-for-purpose and timely fashion via the EU “Skills Panorama”.
More on CEDEFOP in: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/themes/identifying-skills-needs; About the Center: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/; On ETF: https://www.etf.europa.eu/en; More on the EU education area in general at: http://ec.europa.eu/education/education-in-the-eu/european-education-area_en

An early version of the mentioned quality’s tool was tested during 2017-18 in 650 schools in 14 countries; the trial-version produced 67,000 comments on further simplification and improvements. The Commission’s official launch of the digital teaching initiative took place in October 2018 in Warsaw at the e-twinning annual conference; it showed students and teachers how new technologies in digital learning in schools can be implemented.
See the conference’s web-link at: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/349262/751115/?&t=fd7ae2464ec2ca6d4d0013d

Cultural heritage and teaching
According to Eurobarometer, “nine out of ten Europeans think that cultural heritage should be taught in schools”. The European Commission dedicated 2018 the European Year of Cultural Heritage: citizens and educators have been encouraged to discover Europe’s diverse cultural heritage at the European, national, regional and local levels, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. The “Community for Schools in Europe” (and e-Twinning) has a strong role to play in supporting this discovery.
As a cornerstone for collaborative projects between classrooms across Europe, e-Twinning has enabled, in its 13 years of existence, more than two million pupils to work together, harness their cultural differences and develop their European citizenship. During the annual e-Twinning Conference, which took place in Warsaw, Poland at the end of October 2018, more than 500 teachers from across Europe explored Cultural Heritage, and the intrinsic role it can play in both teaching and learning. With both a keynote address and over 40 different workshops led by experts in the field, participants were sharing new and effective educational approaches, methods and materials to introduce and reinforce Cultural Heritage education in schools.
In particular, the e-Twinning Annual Conference in 2018 supported schools to raise their capabilities to: = raise awareness of the common history and values; = reinforce a sense of belonging to Europe; and = demonstrate ways of better safeguarding, enhancing, but also reusing and promoting Europe’s cultural heritage as a shared resource.
More on the conference: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/349262/751115/?&t=fd7ae2464ec2ca6d4d0013df65f9e854. The seminar’s content can be followed on the Commission’s audiovisual service’s website at: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/ebs/schedule.cfm?sitelang=en&page=3&institution=&date=10/25/2018. General source: Commission press release in all EU languages and a factsheet at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_AGENDA-18-6171_en.htm

Quality teaching and reforms in education
Both in Europe and around the world (e.g. in the UN Sustainable Development Goals) education quality has become a hot issue. Hence various European education facilities are willing to take part in education quality assurance: e.g. annual European Quality Assurance Forum provides a platform for discussion involving teachers, academics and professionals.
European efforts in education quality, i.e. “quality assurance” (QA) have shown both significant similarities and various specifics in the ways the quality of higher education is assured and enhanced. However, specialists in the field are almost unanimous that there is a widespread agreement that approaches to QA need to be tailored to specific disciplinary, institutional, national contexts and cultures in order to allow them to be both embedded into daily work and deliver efficiency. Recent European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF), as a major focal point for discussion, professional development and exchange of experiences among main interested parties in the process of QA took place this November in Ljubljana, Slovenia. First EQAF took place in Munich in 2006; since then it meets annually attracting each time about 500 participants. The 11th EQAF, entitled “Quality in context – embedding improvement” was organised by ENQA, ESU and EURASHE with the European University Association (EUA) as a co-organiser.

Education policy’s efficiency
At the EU-wide level, the education policy’s efficiency is of utmost importance. In fact, public attention to this issue was announced at the first (?) European Education Summit at the end of January 2018, with an idea of gathering every second year the states’ decision-makers in education policies. The summit’s ambition was to formulate “foundations of a European Education Area by innovative, inclusive and values-based education”, in which education quality and efficiency would contribute to a “successful Europe”. The latter means not only increased workers’ competences and skills needed for perspective growth, including basic, digital and entrepreneurial skills, but as well as the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education in helping to transform societies.
The states’ decision makers shall translate new ideas in education efficiency policy into executive reforms and practical steps to advance in tackling modern challenges: improving basic and professional skills needed to equip young people with the right knowledge for progressive sustainable growth. As Jonathan Swift once said: “Vision is the art of seeing invisible things”, so the present EU actions would make sure that modern steps towards adequate education policies produce tangible results.
“Common vision” of the European education Area for 2025 suggested that education policies should be “values based, inclusive and innovative”. This education summit presented a first package of initiatives to start building the European education area (EEA). Among most important are the following measures:
• Digitalisation on education: to ensure that young people are both digitally confident and also digitally competent;
• Providing for eight most important “Key Competences for every European” to learn throughout life;
• Promoting European common values in the European dimension of teaching: learning the EU history (and that of Europe, in general) will encourage pupils to embrace common values, heritage and identity and better understand European shared roots.
• Providing possibilities in early childhood education and care, as a prerequisite for such issues as equality and inclusion to start in the classroom;
• Language learning so that Europeans speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue; and
• Mutual recognition of university diplomas to enable more mobility.

These proposals will help shape the outline of a true European Education Area and that the EU states will embrace them for what they are: an ambitious attempt to set common objectives and seek convergence in full respect of national competences.
Source: European Commission press release in: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-18-446_en.htm

At the second European Education Summit (September 2019), the European Commission presented the eighth’s issue of the “Education and Training Monitor”, which analyzed the education and training systems in the EU states; it shows besides, further progress towards important EU education and training targets and highlights the need to better support teachers and make the teaching profession more attractive.
On the 2nd EU Education Summit in: https://ec.europa.eu/education/summit_en

The quality of teachers is considered to be the single greatest factor within schools and universities impacting students’ educational outcomes. For example, the “Education and Training Monitor-2019” uses the latest OECD’s TALIS data on school environments, career progression and opportunities for lifelong learning.
European Commission experienced numerous efforts to stimulate modern education culture in teachers’ activities, providing them with the optimal tools to work with and recognizing their needs. It is clear that the success of any education reform depends on teachers; hence the better states respond to teachers’ needs the better it is for creating a true European Education Area by 2025. The Education and Training Monitor-2019 has a vital role to play in driving further reforms in the states’ education systems while helping to ensure that schools and universities use best and most talented teachers.

Europass and “qualification” framework
Although it is up to the states education making “priority list” of needed qualifications and specializations for the perspective growth, the EU institutions assist them in easing numerous ergo-technical aspects in making skills’ certificates universally recognized in all EU states.
The main objective of the European framework for the transparency of qualifications (Europass) is to both support the labour mobility in Europe and facilitate perspective education strands and employment purposes. Europass increases awareness of and access to tools which make skills and qualifications visible and easy to understand amongst learners, job-seekers, employees and employers, as well as in education and training institutions.
The following documents are at the core of the Europass framework:
• the Europass Curriculum Vitae (CV) completed by any individual to report on his/her qualifications, professional experience, skills and competences;
• the Europass Language Passport (ELP) completed by any individual to report on her/his language skills;
• the Europass Certificate Supplement (ECS) issued by vocational educational and training authorities to their students along with their award certificates adding information to make certificates more easily understandable especially by employers or institutions outside the issuing country;
• the Europass Diploma Supplement (EDS) issued by higher education institutions to their graduates along with their degree or diploma to make these educational qualifications more easily understandable, especially outside the country where they were awarded; and
• the Europass Mobility Document (EMD) for recording any organised period of learning or training time that a person spends in another European country, completed by the home and host organisations.
Since 2005, Europass has had more than 126 million website visits; over 93 million document templates have been downloaded while more than 60 million Europass CVs, by far the most popular tool, have been created online.
An evaluation of the Europass Framework carried out in 2013 highlighted its achievements. Europass documents have been taken up by all groups of stakeholders and have helped people change their job or location (CV, Language Passport and Certificate Supplement were all reported to be instrumental in this by more than 60% of their surveyed users) and gain learning opportunities such as admission to educational institutions (46% of Certificate Supplement users, 50% of Language Passport users, and smaller proportions of surveyed users of other documents).
Moreover, Europass played an important role in mobility within the same country (40% of surveyed users were mobile in their home country). The documents have become widely used within countries such as Italy and Spain, which display above average usage rates of the CV, while in France the Europass Mobility Document has been adapted for use by individuals to profile their own skills.
More in: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-3213_en.htm.

Altering teacher’s profession
When it comes to investment in education, the Monitor’s data shows that public expenditure on education in the EU has remained broadly stable at EU level; however, the member states still invest less in education than they did before the economic crisis of 2007-08. The Monitor reveals that the EU states have now almost reached their target for reducing early school leaving. Yet, while the share of pupils dropping out has declined from 14.2% in 2009 to 10.6% in 2018, progress has slowed since 2016. The percentage of young people holding a tertiary education diploma rose from 32.3% in 2009 to 40.7% in 2018. The Monitor also shows that higher educational attainment corresponds to higher employment rates among recent graduates and more significant participation in adult learning. The share of children enrolled in early childhood education rose from 90.8% in 2009 to 95.4% in 2017. While participation in education has been growing in Europe, one in five 15-year-old pupils still cannot solve simple reading, math’s and science tasks, while too many children remain at risk of educational poverty. The 2019- Education and Training Monitor marks ten years since the start of the EU cooperation framework Education and Training 2020 (ET-2020), which was agreed by all EU states about ten years ago. The ET-2020 not only measures progress in the states’ education and training policies but includes “the treatment of education issues” in the annual European Semester process. Besides, ET-2020 helps to identify where EU funding for education, training and skills should be targeted in the EU’s next long-term budget. On EU education & training program-2020 in: https://ec.europa.eu/education/policies/european-policy-cooperation/et2020-framework_en. The Monitor analyses the main challenges for European education systems and presents policies that can make them more responsive to societal and labour market needs.

    More information in the following web-links: – the Education and Training Monitor website (including EU and country-specific factsheets and infographics); – European Education Summit website; – European Education Area website. General link: https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-5729_en.htm?locale=en/ Brussels, 26 September 2019. Note: e.g. in Latvia over 90 percent of respondents in summer 2020 appreciated the teachers’ role and contribution to socio-economic progress, however, only 6 percent would like to be a teacher.

    There are numerous approaches to quality assurance (QA); although the QA’s agenda is only about a couple of decades old (i.e. European standards and guidelines for internal/external QA were adopted at the 2005 Education Ministerial Meeting), the European universities do not have a clear and comprehensive approaches to modern QA’s challenges. At that time, the “Framework for Qualifications in the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA)” was introduced.
It is important to mention that QA’s system is closely connected to the revolutionary changes in the European education systems since the Bologna process. Thus, P. Walsh, President of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and Chief Executive of the Quality and Qualifications in Ireland (QQI) in 2010s, underlined inherent connections between the Bologna process and quality assurance with analysis of various impacts, connections and issues.
Numerous EU states have been active in the QA process, e.g. in the Baltic States: EKKA in Estonia (through higher education and VET); AIC in Latvia (through higher education, NARIC and NQF). Already 24 of the 49 European Higher Education Area (EHEA) countries have agencies that are ENQA members and further 16 countries have agencies with the ENQA affiliates. Other forum’s participants underlined that the modern QA’s trends consist of 3 dimensions: a) cross-border quality assurance (mobile agencies); b) quality assurance of cross-border higher education /transnational education (mobile institutions), and c) quality assurance of joint programmes (mobile students).
However, the process is not that easy to implement: thus, presently only 28 of the 49 member states in the EHEA have implemented ESG. See more: http://www.eua.be/activities-services/events/event/2016/11/17/default-calendar/11th-european-quality-assurance-forum

The EU and national context in QA
Already in the first European Quality Assurance Report (2005) it was recognized that education institutions should have a policy (and associated procedures) for QA as well as corresponding standards. To achieve this, “institutions should develop and implement a strategy for continuous enhancement of quality”, said the report. For example, the report specified the necessary “ingredients” in QA policy statement: including relationship between teaching and research/publications; the institutions, departments and universities are bearing all the responsibilities for the QA; the students’ involvement in QA and, finally, describing the ways in which the QAs are “implemented, monitored and revised”.
However, after revealing all the important features of the report (more than 10 years’ old !), Catherine Owen, from University of Glasgow was still trying to find out: 1) what values, ethos, culture and practices European higher education community wants presently to reflect in QA measurement and evaluation tools? 2) What practices and models should be supported and developed? 3) What practices, tools and materials represent national culture and values in an authentic way? 4) Have the quality processes reflect and support academic identities? 5) Whose needs should universities primarily serve? 6) Do existing quality evaluation practices and tools reflect those needs? Same interest has been around developing and supporting curriculum. Recent publication -Drivers and barriers to achieving quality in higher education. (Ed. H. Eggins), – Springer Science & Business Media Publ.-2014) is an evident proof of the growing interest. The publication has shown that, in fact, quality of teaching is very difficult if impossible to measure!
Bengt-Ove Boström, senior adviser from University of Gothenburg, Sweden and a leader in the development of the new QA system for education at the University, together with Åsa Kettis, the head of the division for Quality Enhancement at Uppsala University have underlined that “over the last decades higher education in Sweden had been subject to a number of different national QA systems”, which have been met with criticism.
However, in 2012, the Swedish Association of Higher Education (SUHF) decided to take a constructive and long term position on the issue, which proved to be successful: hence the new national system was being launched. The authors describe the opportunities and challenges that this new system brings. Not least, because the political decision about the system “means that parts of the old system could be fused into the new system, which might cause unwanted effects”, the authors’ argued.
In 2012, the Swedish Association of Higher Education (SUHF), i.e. the Swedish rectors’ conference, commissioned its expert group on education quality to analyse long-term effect of such a system, which was adopted by SUHF in October 2013. However, some questions still were opened: 1) how can a national organization of universities (i.e. a rectors’ conference or the like) influence national policy on QA of education? 2) Is it possible to mix QA processes emanating from different QA regimes and ideologies, what might happen if a mix happens? 3) What are the potential possibilities and challenges of a national quality system that provides a high degree of ownership and responsibility on behalf of HEIs?
References to: http://eua.be/Libraries/eqaf-2016/papers/p4_boström_kettis.pdf?sfvrsn=0

One of the European University Association (EUA) deputy-director for higher education policy analyzed learning and teaching as a European priority in “developing pedagogies as means for improving education quality”. Present EUA’s “Learning and Teaching Initiative” follows the 2015-trends, i.e. more attention is needed on the learning and teaching process in European universities; it is necessary to facilitate the exchange of experience on learning and teaching among the states; the first European Learning and Teaching Forum took place in Paris in September, 2017.
More in: http://eua.be/Libraries/eqaf-2016/presentations/effect_eqaf-nov-2016_tz_publish.pdf?sfvrsn=0


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