EU Needs Better Education To Face Globalization

EU education ministers said at a meeting in Vienna on March 17 that education needs to be improved in the EU in order to meet the challenge of globalization. "We have a good average quality in our higher education but not enough excellence," European Education Commissioner Jan Figel told the meeting.

The ministers discussed setting up Europe-wide criteria, so-called qualification frameworks, to encourage the mobility of students and better training for them, Austrian Education Minister Elisabeth Gehrer said.

Figel cited a study released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on behalf of the "Lisbon Council," a Brussels study group. Drawing on this, Figel said that European education suffers from "fragmentation, lack of size and critical mass of the research and education sector."

In the U.S., for instance, "most academic R&D is concentrated in relatively few of the 3,300 higher education institutions" while "in Europe . . . almost all our nearly 2,000 universities aspire to do research."

Figel said France and Germany had problems with their education systems and were losing the world race against China, India and the United States. Without improving, Europe is destined to be "lamenting further about such problems as brain-drain and unemployment."

"It is important that there is a sense of urgency among prime ministers, ministers of finance and populations," about education, Figel said. He noted that the executive European Commission had outlined "ideas for the creation of a European Institute of Technology."

"Europe needs to make the three components of the knowledge triangle, education, research and innovation, work better together. We are not good at transforming research outputs into commercial opportunity," Figel said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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