Parents and the European Education Area

Position on the European Commissions policy initiative and

the role of stakeholder involvement for it

The new initiatives of the European Commission (EC) detailed in its new education package is surely a first, although so far a little shy step in the right direction towards a 21st century education for Europe. to succeed in that, a demand of parents all over Europe for years first summarised in EPA’s Manifesto 2015, there is a need to build on previous good policy initiatives as well as rigorously implement a community-owned education approach involving all major stakeholders.

The EC made the link to several previous policy documents, some of them not fully supported by major stakeholder groups, but so far the 2016 policy messages have been side-lined and need to be put in the centre again. It is also necessary to revise more recent policy documents, especially some elements of the Pillar of Social Rights on early childhood, lifelong learning and work-life balance as well as the School Communication published last year in order to win the support of parents. It would be necessary to use these revisions as an opportunity for making a link between the Social Pillar and education to deliver a holistic cradle-to-grave lifelong learning policy to meet real citizen needs.

It is high time for European education policy to implement the UNESCO approach to education to meet SDG 4 and provide equitable quality education for all. We hope Europe will embrace the approach set forward in the 2015 Rethinking Education policy publication and base its policy direction on defining education as a common good. First, we need to stop talking about education as a public good as on the one hand in many countries it has a bad connotation of something not belonging to anybody, on the other hand some countries only support public schooling and no other forms of education that may be more equitable for certain learners. The notion of education as a ‘common good’ expresses exactly what we need: a good the quality and ways of delivery of are defined by the community, in a way that best serves the individual and the community itself.

Adhering to UNESCO education initiatives would also help Europe to change the official EU approach and start talking about Early Childhood Development with parents and family in the centre and institutional care as a last resort, instead of the current ECEC approach that puts institutions first and thus the best interest of the young child second.

Parents – as well as nearly all experts and stakeholders in recent high-level meetings on the revision of the key competences framework – have been calling for a braver revamping of the framework. There is a clear need to re-think and possibly re-group other competences areas, not only digital and entrepreneurial competences as it has just been done. Commissioner Navracsics has announced a new policy on ‘mother tongue plus 2 foreign languages’ an approach long left behind, and especially hazardous in current Europe where millions of learners, millions of children live and learn in a country that has a different majority language from their mother tongue. In this field multilingualism has been accepted generally as a right approach.

Citizenship education is to be linked to creating responsibility for everybody’s own learning, and needs to be made a reality by re-creating education systems to become democratic rather than ticking off a box by introducing a school subject on it. Being responsible for your own learning is especially true for parents whose role as primary –  first and most impacting – educators of their children need to be openly acknowledged and supported. This needs not only to be done by policy, but also by schools and parents’ employers. It is also necessary to include the task of educating parents into the work of professional educators, teachers, and this task to be remunerated in an appropriate way, while reality also shows that experienced parents should also play a more prominent role in teacher training, especially in-service training.

It is high time to restart social dialogue, but in such a way that makes the participation of major stakeholdersother than employers and employees of formal education settings – in this case learners, parents, alternative learning providers – a reality. In the field of education, it is possible mirror what has been done in the field of social affairs where Social Platform has been acknowledged as a ‘quasi social partner’, the voice of civil society. In education Lifelong Learning Platform has a similar representative status and rightfully demands a similar position and inclusion is social dialogue.

Erasmus+ has been highlighted several times and by several speakers recently as the most successful European funding scheme. The outcomes of a major survey among parents clearly show that a substantial group of tax payers actually funding the project, parents are far from happy with it, and while everybody agrees that there is a need to increase funds available for education, this has to be preceded by a rethinking. Parents clearly wish Erasmus+ funding to shift from university education to other education areas, and from individuals benefiting from mobility to more impactful collaborative projects. There is a need to make the intellectual outputs of projects available in a searchable way and to allocate more funding to implement and upscale successful projects than innovation.

EPA, the sole representative of parents as stakeholders is always open to dialogue and ready to support European efforts towards reaching SDG 4. This is one of the reasons we dedicated 2018 to Equitable Access to Education, and we are taking this opportunity to invite other stakeholders as well as the European Commission to our major international conference on the topic in Milan on 27/29 April 2018.

About EPA:

The European Parents’ Association (EPA) gathers the parents’ associations in Europe and thus reaches out to more than 150 million parents through its network. EPA works in partnership both to represent and give to parents a powerful voice in the development of policies and decisions at European level affecting the lives of parents and their children. In the field of education, EPA promotes and works for the active participation of parents and the recognition of their central role as the primary educators and those responsible of the education of their children.

EPA supports the participation and collaboration of parents in many educational respects by:

  • Gathering and disseminating information,
  • Highlighting and supporting innovation in educational partnership,
  • Promoting parents’ ongoing support and training,
  • Supporting research

Current and recent education EPA projects are aiming at supporting parental engagement focusing on the following fields:

  • 21st century parenting
  • active citizenship and participation
  • rights of the child and rights of parents
  • equity and inclusion – with special focus on migrants, special needs and disabilities
  • multilingualism
  • participatory leadership
  • stakeholder cooperation – focusing on parental engagement, child participation, school head and teacher training
  • safety and confidence in the digital world
  • educational success of children
  • lifelong learning of parents
  • STEM education
  • early childhood development