|Prospects - Quarterly Review of Education, Vol. 04, No. 2, 1974 (Issue 10) - International aid for educational development (UNESCO, 1974, 164 p.)|
|Notes and reviews|
The proceedings of the second Conference of Ministers of Education of European Member States (Bucharest, 26 November to 3 December 1973)1 highlighted two fundamental facts: first, the need for the qualitative renewal of higher education, a process that is, in fact, already under way in many Member States, and which is, in part, the result of a considerable quantitative growth that has occurred during recent decades and will no doubt also continue in most States during the decades to come; and, second, the need for increasingly intensive international, and more especially regional, co-operation among the States of Europe. Not only is this intensified cooperation possible because of political circumstances, which are much more favourable in Europe than at the time of the Vienna conference; it is also clearly a prerequisite to the qualitative changes in higher education systems which most States feel to be necessary.
1. See the dossier in Prospects: 'The European University in Change', Vol. III, No. 4, 1973.
The following concepts were given special emphasis in regard to the qualitative renewal of higher education: the gearing of higher education to the needs of the individual and of society, the transformation of higher education into a system at once integrated and differentiated, the democratization of higher education, the introduction of innovations in content, methods and techniques - all of these within the context of lifelong education.
The process of gearing higher education to the needs of society involves both individuals and institutions. In the first place, mass access to post-secondary and higher education must be facilitated by gearing higher education to the needs and providing them at the same time with scientific, cultural and civic training. A no less necessary task is to link higher education to society, the economy and practical life by associating the right to education as closely as possible with the right to work and by training the specialists that society needs. To attain these objectives, studies in depth must be carried out including forward-looking studies on the development of higher education and society up to the end of the century.
As regards differentiation and integration, study courses varying greatly in length and type should be introduced so that all those who wish to pursue higher education and are able to benefit from it may find types of courses that suit their cultural and occupational requirements as well as meeting the increasingly diversified needs of society; secondly, all these forms and types of courses must be incorporated within a single whole, within a coherent higher education system, and due account must be taken of the interrelationships and possibilities of transfer existing between them. Education must, furthermore, be linked with research, theoretical and practical learning must be combined and, in this integration, allowance must be made for the 'informal' structures of higher education.
Democratization does not merely relate to participation in the democratic management of higher education, but rather to the entire organization and role of such education, which, being a key sector not only in the educational system but in the life of nations at large, should be in the image of. modern society, a real preparation for living through living. Democratization further signifies the consistent opening up of higher education to sections of the population which, for various reasons, have been or still are at a disadvantage with regard to the possibility of taking part in such education. This purpose could be achieved by structural innovations and changes (establishment of courses open to people already in active employment), by making it possible to switch from 'short courses' to 'long courses', and from 'informal' to 'formal' higher education, and by technical innovations and new methods enabling people who do not live near universities or are in regular employment to undertake higher studies.
Innovation relates in equal measure to organization and to structures, to content, to teaching methods and learning methods, to the introduction of new fields of study, interdisciplinarity and methods of evaluation. In order that teachers should play their full part in such changes, their training should be improved and refresher training promoted. Innovation presupposes a living link between educational and research activities within higher institutions, naturally taking account, in the determination of fields of research, of the particular features and possibilities of each institution. Such links are essential, among other reasons, for the judicious and continuous renewal of the content and methods of higher education.
It is now apparent that continuing or lifelong education affords a valid means of solving the problems arising in these fields. Only in this context can adaptation to the needs of society, the creation of integrated, differentiated systems, innovation and democratization becomes realities. Any restriction of access to higher education and any reform of its structures must take the prospects of lifelong education into account. The following principles must always be observed in any steps which are taken: (a) selection can never be irreversible; (b) higher education is always available to any person, of whatever social background, who is able to benefit from it and use the knowledge he acquires for access to culture, his personal development and the good of all. While this means that higher education no longer represents the culmination and conclusion of studies, but appears rather as a stage and a part of the whole, it will also have the result of freeing it from its isolation and making it part of the cultural, scientific, economic and social life of the whole nation.
The effect of European and international cooperation should be to promote the mobility of teachers, research workers and students and to bring institutions of higher education closer together, to stimulate the exchange of information and the 'twinning' of studies and experiments and greatly to increase the frequency of contacts; but it is obvious that, in doing so, it will serve the interests of understanding between the nations of Europe in a climate of détente and strengthen their solidarity with the developing countries, thus making a contribution to social justice and international peace by abolishing all discrimination, national and international, and developing international understanding in all fields.
A final conclusion which may be drawn is that the Ministers of Education of European Member States, who in Vienna met with each other for the first time, have, thanks to Unesco, continued their dialogue in an even more favourable climate in Bucharest, and that, through the agency of Unesco, they will henceforth proceed to action, be it the strengthening of the links already established or the conclusion of conventions on the international recognition of higher studies, degrees and diplomas. A milestone in this respect is the establishment in 1972 of the European Centre for Higher Education, the tasks and functions of which the conference was able to define more clearly and which will certainly be instrumental in the development of higher education in Europe, especially if it manages to establish good working relations with the appropriate national bodies. The recommendation adopted by the second Conference of Ministers of Education of European Member States to ensure the continuity of contacts and efforts at cooperation in education, the sciences and culture, by envisaging the introduction of periodic conferences of European States, for its part opens up particularly hopeful prospects, bearing in mind the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe meeting in Geneva.
The general wish was expressed, itself reflecting the success of the conference, that the series of conferences of Ministers of Education of European Member States should continue, and it was even envisaged that the next conference should, if possible, take place before the expiry of the usual period of six years.