Understanding Contemporary Educational Changes in Europe
Sociology Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences Athens, Greece
The last two decades, a burgeoning interest in education is witnessed worldwide. International organisations and government education policy in several western countries place education in the middle of public attention in order to introduce more or less extensive reforms. Education policy gives off a feeling of emergency in terms of ?either we change or we perish? in the context of a globalised market economy, perceived as highly competitive.
The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 marks the beginning of collaboration between European countries in introducing changes in tertiary education. Evaluating higher education and teaching staff, as well as the designing of a common system of graduate and postgraduate studies are considered to be the major innovative education policy measures. Evaluating the work of universities is an attempt to apply the notion of ?accountability? in education, the same way as in business corporations. A common system of university studies aims at facilitating students? mobility across Europe as well as comparison between different education systems.
Aspired educational changes are based on a view about the profits to be gained by the institution of education for society as a whole, a thought that was formulated at least in philosophy very early in history. Classical, and more recent sociological theories showed that the functioning of an education system is complex and multifaceted: it is related to other societal institutions in various ways and levels and it contributes both to societal preservation and transformation. Currently, theorists ask themselves what educational aims shall prevail, teaching for citizenship and global solidarity or teaching for economic survival in a competitive world?
The questions that arise are: How do we understand and interpret recent educational changes? Do these changes alter the role education plays in society, and if so, in what ways?
The answer to the questions posed above is based on a theoretical framework, drawn on sociological approaches, and on a bibliographical study in the field of social functions of education, in sociology of education.