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Symposium 2011

Proposal - Inclusive education needs the best pedagogues

The Challenge

Global competition and the global financial crisis have put additional pressures on education programs around the world—what they should deliver, how they should be delivered and how they should be ...

Global competition and the global financial crisis have put additional pressures on education programs around the world—what they should deliver, how they should be delivered and how they should be financed in terms of the relative contributions of the public and private sectors.

Proposed Solutions – Inclusive education needs the best pedagogues
Global Economic Symposium 2011
Aart De Geus, Bertelsmann Stiftung

Education should be looked at from a holistic perspective. It is the key for economic growth and social cohesion, it is essential for any individual to find their identity and purpose in life; it enables people to participate in society and in the labour market. Education is more than the school system – it starts with birth and continues throughout the whole life. Education is a value in itself: it does not need to solve all other problems. Thus, schools cannot fulfil the enormous expectations to act as a trouble-shooter for all societal problems and compensate everything going wrong in other fields.

Investing more effectively - investing earlier
Governments must allocate sufficient resources to their education systems. However, it is not always just a matter of investing more. Changes do not necessarily come at higher cost but can also be reached within existing budgetary constraints if budgets are re-distributed more intelligently. Researchers widely agree that investing in early education is better than fixing problems later. Early investments have the highest returns. They also enhance equal opportunities and higher achievement at the same time, as shown by Nobel Prize winner James Heckman. Children who participated in pre-primary education perform significantly better in the PISA tests than those who did not.

Investing in quality – investing in high quality pedagogues
We should invest in more quality, not just more quantity – and high quality education institutions need, most of all, highly qualified pedagogues. Requirements for good pedagogues have risen: they have to cope with the ever more increasing cultural and ethnical heterogeneity of the children in their care and compensate what has been missed in a child’s family – for various reasons such as changing family structures, increasing time that parents spend in their jobs, social exclusion and poverty. Investing into enabling pedagogues to meet these demands is one of the main tasks of any government. Pedagogues must be highly qualified and trained to use methods of individual support, in their studies and in on-going advanced training courses. In addition to their professional expertise, pedagogues need to have the ability to serve effectively as learning coaches. Good schools need a faculty providing subject-specific and didactic skills as well as expertise in psychology, social pedagogy, and career counseling. Childcare centers and schools must cooperate closely with parents, religious institutions, medical professionals, immigrant associations, sports clubs, government job centers and the business community. Schools should be open all day as well as during school breaks for communal learning activities, so that they evolve into education centers serving the whole community. Good teachers are not only a matter of training, but also of recruitment: strict selection processes should make sure that only the most eligible candidates become teachers. To achieve high quality education for all children, governments have to spend more resources on those facing the greatest challenges and focus on higher quality in socio-economically disadvantaged schools. Particularly in these kinds of schools, highly qualified pedagogues will make a huge difference.

Change education metrics
Quality also matters in education metrics. If the call for more efficient and effective education investments is taken seriously, we must know on the one hand which measures are really working to enhance high quality education, and we should on the other hand put more effort into measuring quality of education instead of just quantity. To achieve the first aspect, reforms or specific measures should be evaluated systematically, not just sporadically. An intelligent transparency of schools should be combined with more school autonomy: schools should be allowed to take their own lead in teacher recruitment, curriculum design and finance, while still having to fulfill national curriculum standards and making their work and results transparent. This transparency should not only rely on the comparison of test scores, but take into account the specific environment, the starting point and the progress that children have made. The second aspect concentrates more on measuring quality of education more accurately and no longer rely on quantity alone, e.g. on variables such as “years of schooling”. On an international level, a new possibility is e.g. the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) by the OECD which measures the connection between skills and their outcomes on economy and society.

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