Europe split over selection

May 8, 1998

DIFFERENCES between north and south European education systems are hampering attempts to develop joint lifelong learning policies, according to London Institute of Education research.

A paper to be published next month for the European Commission includes the first survey of all 15 European Union member states' education systems.

The paper, Convergence and Divergence in the European Education Systems (DG XXII), by Andy Green, shows that "common economic, demographic and cultural forces" have led to the growing convergence of policy objectives among member states, but little convergence of education systems themselves.

The paper, to be published by the European Commission DG XXII next month, will show how the "lifelong learning" agenda has become central across Europe.

Economic "globalisation", the greater importance of high-skilled, non-manual jobs, growing job insecurity, demographic change and higher unemployment have all led to a convergence of education policies, the study found.

But diverse traditions and social environments between member states are preserving markedly different systems.

One difference was in work-based post compulsory education and school-based systems.

"The German-speaking states have retained the status of the craft-type occupations, and have a predominantly work-based system with strong trade union links and a strong ethic of social partnership," said Dr Green. "This has allowed the apprentice route to remain popular and close regulation allows the system to be very beneficial."

Similarly, the German-speaking states, and the Netherlands, had rigidly preserved selective schooling, while the southern European states, including France, all tended to have comprehensive education.

The report concludes that distance learning could be one way to marry lifelong learning with the conflicting education systems.

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