MEP raises cash alarm

July 5, 1996

The European Commission should investigate streamlining its funding to promote research into education and training, according to Euro MP Sue Waddington.

Ms Waddington, former chair of Leicestershire County Council's education committee, and MEP for Leicestershire and South Lincolnshire, is to report to the European Parliament this autumn on the EC's White Paper, Towards A Learning Society, which calls for improved education and training to help people meet personal, social and economic challenges.

Following a joint hearing of both the parliament and commission, Ms Waddington said research was needed on how education, training and lifelong learning could be used to combat social exclusion, and also on new ways of funding the chance to learn.

But the fragmentation of European Union funding for action research was clearly a major problem, she said.

"There are all sorts of different funding programmes, such as Socrates, Leonardo, social policy structural funds, and funds for employment. I'm hoping to persuade the commission to set up a task group that will cross the boundaries to see how they can combine some of their resources."

It was crucial to investigate new approaches to funding, such as individual learning accounts and adapting the taxation and benefit system, since public spending cuts were leading to a worsening situation for students in many member states, Ms Waddington said.

She warned that the White Paper tended to concentrate on schools and the links between school and work, and suggested that there should be more emphasis on adult education and training if lifelong learning was to become a reality.

Ian Johnston, deputy principal of Sheffield Hallam University, giving expert evidence to the hearing, called for a much stronger role for information technology in education, backed by a Europe-wide accredition system for IT skills.

"It is incredible that the information technology revolution seems to bypass actually delivering education and training, yet the potential is enormous. Standards of achievement in basic skills like reading and mathematics could be increased significantly. History, geography, music, science and modern languages can all be brought to life and enriched by multimedia software."

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