Experts Urge an Increase in European Education Research
- 0 comments
- 11340 Visits
e-Learning experts gathered recently at the EDEN conference and agreed that education research is not as high as it should be on the European agenda. Claudio Dondi and Nikitas Kastis gave their views on how to improve the situation.
“It is a fact that there are very limited resources invested in education research both at a national and European level”, stated Nikitas Kastis, President of the MENON Network and Deputy Director General of Lambrakis Research Foundation. “Education is a no-man’s land: it does not have the highest priority in the European research programmes, and there are no specific programmes for education research,” said Claudio Dondi, president of Scienter. These quotes illustrate some of the opinions that were heard in the sessions of the EDEN Conference held in Helsinki, from 20 to 23 June 2005. The meeting was an opportunity to take note of the claim made by education experts regarding the need to put more research effort into learning systems innovation.
The current situation appears to need urgent reforms. According to Nikitas Kastis: “We need to increase the resources for education research. This is urgent if we want to decrease the gap that is increasingly emerging between the learning that is taking place inside schools and other types of learning that are taking place outside the institutions”. And this process is very risky. “We have indications that we are moving towards widening the social gap. The digital divide is actually a learning and knowledge divide. We need to invest to understand in a short time how to tackle this problem,” warned Kastis, who is also the Chair of the Open Classroom Working Group of EDEN.
Claudio Dondi agreed with his colleague: “When you look for the right place to submit an educational research project, you don’t know where to go. You find some educational research space in the European Framework Programme, in the thematic areas of ‘Information Society Technologies’ and ’Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society’. But in none of those places is it a high priority”. When asked if research is too focused on technology in Europe, the response given by Nikitas Kastis was clear: “Research is not focused; it is driven by technology. I don’t reject this type of investigation. But we should admit that the money for research is technology driven. The starting point seems to be that there is a need to carry out research into technology, and education can be one area of application. But the other way is not considered: that we need to carry out research into education. I don’t blame anybody, but we should realise that this is the case”.
To resolve this situation, Claudio Dondi pointed out that, “As researchers, we need to pay attention to the present and potential impact of education research. If we keep education research in a segregated and self-referential area, in which we study what we want but we don’t refer back to policy makers as to the impact of education on employment, social inclusion or economic development, we cannot really complain too much if they do not see the benefit of putting education on their list of number one priorities.” Kastis also remarked on “the need to make education research much more policy related. We need to make our authorities understand that education policy is not easy thinking. We need some policy planning to support this activity.” Without innovating education”, argued Dondi, “we will probably not achieve the results that are required in the strategy to make Europe competitive and inclusive”.
What, then, could constitute the main fields of research into education that should be undertaken? Nikitas Kastis pointed out two areas: “We need to understand the new forms of communication that are brought by the media and the technologies and how this would work in learning set-ups, schools, universities, etc. And, secondly, we need to understand new ways for collaborative content development and collaborative knowledge building.” Claudio Dondi made a final suggestion: “I think that, here, there is a great opportunity to link the diverse programmes of the Commission through a bridge programme on learning systems innovation, including of course e-learning.” The debate will continue in the following months. The UK EU Presidency website provides information about the priorities of Education, Youth and Culture from the point of view of the European Presidency.
Some issues about the overall strategy in Europe to achieve the Lisbon goals can be followed through the initiative Education and Training 2010.