BRDEK, M., VYCHOVÁ, H. Evropská vzdělávací politika : Programy, principy a cíle. Praha: ASPI Publishing, s.r.o., 2004. 167 s. ISBN 80-86395-96-0
Educational policy stands as one of the essential criteria to assess the educational reality of individual states. This fact is implied by the basic role of education as a fundamental instrument of economic growth. In educationally developed countries the importance of education is considered in relation to other various areas of human and social life. After the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union, Czech educational policy has become the subject of many comparative studies within the European context.
The book “European educational policy. Programmes, principles and objectives,“ published in the same year when the EU was enlarged by ten new member states, presents a general view of the EU educational policy illustrated by concrete examples of its implementation in the original fifteen member states.
The first chapter deals with the theoretical background of educational policy. The term itself has been defined in many different ways. With respect to all these definitions, the authors of the reviewed book suggest a conception of educational policy as “a strategy resulting from the consensual setting of fundamental approaches to the issue of education which could bring about solutions to practical problems of educational policy“.
This definition implies that educational policy does not represent a mere conceptual issue of a particular ministry or one of the policies of a certain government or political party in power. This is extremely important to realize since educational policy is supposed to guarantee a continual development of the school system regardless of political changes taking place in particular countries. According to the theory of educational policy, several targets are considered crucial:
· defining the link between education, workforce and economic factors
· respecting the social aspect of educational system
· correlation between general access to education and educational quality
· evaluation of the pedagogical process
· the issue of educating teachers
· school system control and management
· school system funding
These priorities are implemented using particular instruments such as planning, legislature, funding, curricular policy, evaluation, monitoring or the educational reform. Each of these instruments is briefly defined by the authors in terms of its significance and purpose. An equal amount of attention is given to the subjects of educational policy, the most important ones being elected politicians, school system administration, teachers and their organizations, parents and their associations, students, churches, employers and education experts. I should like to point out that these subjects are important within the scope of the theory of the EU educational policy. Therefore, their significance may not necessarily be the same in the context of the Czech educational policy. Parents, for instance, tend to be interested in finding solutions to concrete problems at their children’s school rather than in trying to influence the course of the national educational policy.
The concluding part of the first chapter is dedicated to the principles of educational policy. They comprise basic intellectual concepts, the most significant ones being:
· the principle of equal opportunities to education
· the lifelong learning principle
· the individualisation and differentiation principle
· the internationalisation principle
All these principles are also implemented in the educational policy of the Czech Republic.
The second chapter focuses on the educational policy of the European Union that is defined in the introductory part of the chapter as “the set of activities and initiatives of the European Union in the field of education and professional training“. The authors point out that educational policy is not one of the common policies of the EU since the powers concerning education are not delegated to the European institutions and stay in the hands of individual member states. This means that most EU initiatives in the field of education are not binding for the member states. The fact that the European Union attributes vital importance to education is illustrated by the development of its educational policy. The authors give an outline of this development starting with the Rome Treaty of 1957, drawing attention to the Action programme on education of 1976 and concluding with the significance of the Treaty of Maastricht as a legal basis for the field of education. The development continued with Article 149 of the Treaty of Amsterdam dealing with cooperation in the sphere of educational policy. Nowadays the questions of youth and education are treated institutionally by the European Council and the Council of the European Union where the Czech Republic is also represented.
The third chapter describes legal documents, i.e. statutory provisions of the EU for the field of education, dividing them into primary and secondary ones. Besides, the authors mention documents resulting from discussions within the European Union or between the European institutions and particular member states, generally known as the Green Book and the White Book.
The title of the fourth chapter “The European Union’s educational programmes“ suggests its contents. The authors list and describe the individual programmes, their goals, structure or the range of possible participants. The participation of Czech schools and educational institutes in the Socrates programme (and in its sub-programmes Comenius, Erasmus, Grundtvig, Lingua, Minerva) or in the Leonardo da Vinci programme is nowadays seen as a matter of fact.
The fifth chapter is the longest. It gives descriptions of educational systems in the original fifteen member states of the EU, i.e. in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The authors characterize each country’s educational system in a clear and structured way. They include the following:
· a brief presentation of the country
· objectives and principles of the educational system
· management and funding of the school system
· the structure of the school system
· international and European dimensions in education
Although individual educational systems vary, certain common points are apparent at first glance such as the demand for university training of nursery school teachers, the effort to integrate pupils with special needs in the most effective way, the concept of multi-stage tertiary education etc. In all countries the implementation of the lifelong learning concept is mirrored in the development of other educational strategies. Curricula reflect the multicultural character of present-day society by focusing education on the exchange of intercultural knowledge and experience.
The book “European educational policy. Programmes, principles and objectives“ offers a concise theoretical background for the comparison of educational systems. I warmly recommend it to those interested in a deeper insight into European educational policy. We can expect that due to the current processes of globalization and integration, the importance of educational policy will grow. It is therefore highly desirable to study its practical implementation in all educationally developed countries. In this regard, the reviewed publication appears to be extremely beneficial. Let us hope that a similar study will be published before long, offering a consistent overview of educational systems in all current member states of the European Union.
Mgr. Zuzana Tichá
Profesně poradenské centrum
Fakulta tělesné kultury Univerzity Palackého v Olomouci
Třída Míru 115, 771 11 Olomouc