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Background

 

 

Governance of education systems and the quality of education have long been at the heart of education reforms in most Council of Europe member States. These issues are also at the top of the agenda of major international players. Objective 2 of the UN Millennium Development Goal refers to them as well.

 

Quality education is linked to good governance principles, and in particular to the part of good governance focusing on democratic participation. Over the past decade, the Council of Europe education sector has contributed to the definition of policy action in relation to the implementation of “democratic governance” at the level of school institutions through its programme on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights, as well as at the level of higher education governance.

 

Since 2008, the two steering committees on education and higher education have further elaborated the relationship between these two concepts and come up with clear definitions. In the Programme of Activities for 2012-2013 adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 24 November 2011, it is clearly stated that: “Democratic governance through education, culture and youth policies aims at the reform of the education system and education policies to further democratic competence and participation …”. In this context, participation is considered not only as a major dimension of governance but also as an element that will contribute to “quality” through shared concerns and responsibilities of all stakeholders. The emphasis on participation also underlines that while democratic institutions are important, they will not function in practice without the active participation of citizens – in this case by the members of the education community.

 

For the last two years, the Council of Europe’s work on “quality education” has been closely linked to “access to education” and opening up new dimensions for the implementation of this fundamental measure to improve social cohesion as well as individual opportunities in the European context. For the Council of Europe steering committees, it would be more appropriate nowadays to speak about the “access to quality education” rather than “access to education”; quality education being understood as education: “which not only gives access to learning to all pupils and students, develops each pupil’s and student’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential and encourages them to complete the education programmes in which they enrol” but also as education which: “promotes democracy and respect for human rights and social justice in a learning environment which recognises the learning and social needs of everyone and equips pupils and students with the competences and self-confidence appropriate both to be responsible citizens and for their employability”.
 

It is against this background that the Steering Committee for Educational Policy and Practice (CDPPE) is following up the proposal made by the Finnish authorities, during the 23rd Session of the Council of Europe Standing Conference of Ministers of Education, to host the next ministerial session.

 

Theme

 

It is proposed that the ministerial Conference be dedicated to governance and quality education and highlight contemporary challenges in the implementation of governance and quality standards based on the vision of the Council of Europe.