European Dimension of Education

The political context

Work on the conceptual framework of the new project on “Policies and practices for teaching socio-cultural diversity” went on throughout 2005 in the Secretariat and in the Bureau of the Steering Committee for Education (CDED), and it was adopted at the committee’s plenary session of October 2005.

Several events which occurred that year influenced the work as it went on, some of them at the highest political level within the Council of Europe, and others in the context of intergovernmental co-operation in the education sector.

The objectives pursued during this project have been tailored to meet the wish expressed by the Heads of State and Government, meeting at the 3rd Summit (Warsaw, May 2005), for recognition of the need to promote a democratic culture and to encourage intercultural dialogue, both amongst Europeans and between Europe and its neighbouring regions.

Previously, the European Ministers of Education, meeting at the 21st session of their Standing Conference, held in Athens in November 2003, had redefined the objectives of co-operation in the education field in Europe, and acknowledged the role of intercultural education in, and the major contribution made by the Council of Europe to, the maintenance and development of the unity and diversity of European societies.

Then came the Faro Declaration on the Council of Europe’s Strategy for Developing Intercultural Dialogue, adopted in October 2005, at the end of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention; this defined several lines of action pointing to future priorities for intergovernmental co-operation in the education sector, tallying with the concerns expressed by the Ministers of Education at their Athens conference, such as:

  • Respect for cultural rights and the right to education;

  • The introduction of inter-sectoral policies promoting cultural diversity and dialogue;

  • Development of knowledge of history, cultures, arts and religions;

  • Support for cultural activities and exchanges as a means of engaging in dialogue;

  • The strengthening of all the opportunities for teachers to obtain training in the fields of education for democratic citizenship, human rights, history and intercultural education.

It is in this context, and in order to take action on the political priorities set by the Ministers, that the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Education (CDED), as early as 2006, stepped up its activity on teacher training through the gradual introduction of training modules for teacher trainers in several fields of activity, such as education for democratic citizenship, the European dimension of education, the education of Roma children, and the teaching of history and languages.

While the emphasis was placed mainly on the production of teaching tools based on methodological concepts, principles and approaches and on examples of learning activities in these different fields, the development of new skills remains a constant concern, especially because the question of how teachers acquire skills has to be considered, and because, in most cases, the skills acquired remain closely linked, and limited, to the specific fields of each subject taught.

It is therefore a worthwhile step for the Council of Europe to consider the creation of a reference framework to serve as a common denominator, encompassing “core” fundamental skills. Were this common denominator to be “education for diversity”, the skills that appeared in the reference framework would, once they had been acquired and applied, provide teachers and education professionals in general with means of successfully coping with our societies’ growing diversity.