The European Schools System: State of Play, Challenges, and Perspectives

20 September 2022/Study

Our team has completed its work on the study “The European Schools System: State of Play, Challenges and Perspectives”. On June 15th of 2022 in cooperation with Dr. Sandra Leaton Gray we presented the findings at the CULT Committee Meeting of the European Parliament.

The ESS is a unique educational system, the main function of which is to provide high-quality multilingual and multicultural education with a European dimension to its students. Due to its multicultural and intergovernmental nature as well as the involvement of a great variety of stakeholders, the ESS is constantly evolving and adapting to both educational and operational challenges. The CULT Committee of the European Parliament has paid continuous attention to the ESS, producing an own initiative report on the ESS in 2011, which is also known as the Cavada report. Despite the sophisticated nature and importance of the ESS, ever since 2011 there has been a lack of comprehensive studies assessing the ESS from both educational and operational angles.

Our study has focused on identifying good practices and challenges in both educational and operational dimensions of the ESS. To conduct the study, we have employed extensive data collection methods in the course of five months. The triangulated sources of the study included not only desk research material and statistical evidence, but also the results of a large-scale online survey of the ESS stakeholders (more than 3,500 respondents) as well 39 semi-structured in-depth interviews. The study findings were further validated during a dedicated online multi-stakeholder workshop.

The key takeaways:

  • While the current ESS mission and objectives are still seen as relevant today, they need to be broadened and include more explicit references to the values of diversity, inclusion, cooperation, and tolerance.
  • After introducing the competence-based approach to teaching and learning, the ESS still needs to update its monitoring and evaluation indicators for pedagogical quality assurance and develop a continuous professional development offer for teachers.
  • The current ESS governance and funding setup limits the system’s ability to respond to challenges. This can be alleviated by higher delegation and transparency standards, feasible cost-sharing alternatives and strengthened employment package for teachers.
  • Language learning is seen by many stakeholders as the strongest side of the ESS, especially the Content and Language Integrated Learning method. However, it is heavily impacted by staff shortages and COVID-19 after-effects.

During the CULT Committee session, an exchange of opinions on the subject of the study took place with the Members of the Committee, representatives of the European Commission, Secretary General of the European Schools as well as representatives of his office (a recording of the webstreaming can be found here). Based on the findings of the study, the Committee will produce their own initiative report, which would then be followed-up with another public hearing.

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