The troublesome effects that the regressive austerity political measures undertaken by European governments have had on national leaded an increasing number people to join the call to focus on quality education all around Europe. The bell rang by students and teachers, in hundreds of demonstrations, on the disastrous effects that budget cuts and the process of privatisation of schools and universities, brought a wide civil society consensus on the need to oppose indiscriminately to such short-sighted remedies to save public money.
At the same time another important call has been raised by civil society organisations: there's a greater collective need to re-establish a constructive discourse on the quality of education rather than simplistically talk on source of finance and money spent. This struggle has never been so urgent: we must reconsider Education as lifelong and continuous process, which does not only take place in classrooms but more importantly out of formal education settings; we urge to focus on the quality of the educational process and the relevance of what is taught to learners, rather than simply looking at their learning outcomes. The European Youth Forum uphold this cause with with the approval of a new Policy Paper in Quality Education urging for a holistic approach to quality education. Education International, the teachers’ network worldwide launched the “United for Quality Education” (www.unite4education.org) identifying in quality of tools, learning environments and preparation of teachers the driving principles for quality.
The word quality suffers weakness which everyone involved in the fight for better education should better consider carefully when using it.
First of all quality education doesn’t have a unique meaning, everyone can give a subjective interpretation, which can result to be very tricky if we want to asset a campaign on Quality Education. So far I haven’t find anyone that disagrees with the sentence “Education should be quality”. At the same time I always found difficult to find people agreeing on what exactly quality education is.
One of the basic principle of Education is its subsidiarity, which means that there’s never a unique good solution but the education provision must adapt and reflect the difference of the learning context and learning needs of individuals or group. For this reason a top-down definition of quality can never been effective nor applicable because it doesn’t take into account the the multifaceted nature of Education. On the contrary a bottom-up definition of quality is the one that better reflects the diversity of the learning needs. In other words: it’s pointless to have a very high level research group that draw conclusion at very high stakes; it’s very useful however that every educational provider has its research and quality assurance team which can give a much more contextualised and personalised assessment how to improve learning. The higher we abstract, the more we lose important details we need to take into account if we want to talk about quality education.
So what else to focus then if not Quality Education? Given the very complex socio economic context, we should rather focus on the fact that according the Humans’ Right Declaration Education is a right and as such should be made accessible in all its forms. We need to educate young people to be active citizens and we should start to do this by educating them to their rights. That’s why it becomes very important to call everyone to support Right-Based Education. We should stop looking at education as quality or less quality service, but rather as a right which is granted at various levels and forms in Europe. We should spread the “call to action” to all the different stakeholders involved in Education: the striking differences in providing education among and within the various European countries must be tackled seriously. European and local policy makers have to understand this and start acting together with civil society organisation to fully provide Right to Education to all European citizens.