Relationships between schools, government, parents and students are changing within education systems across Europe.
Many governments are creating mechanisms for schools to become more accountable to parents and to government through the increased use of quality assurance guidelines. In some cases running alongside this increased accountability, is the delegation of greater responsibility to individual schools and school governors, often in the form of greater financial control.
This also involves the individual school and sometimes volunteer school governors having to take greater legal responsibility for the management of their school, the quality of teaching, and the safety and wellbeing of their students. Underpinning all these changes is the legal and legislative framework established in education and other laws, which vary considerably across Europe.
Although there is a general trend in many countries towards a greater emphasis on measuring the outputs of the process of education in schools, it has only reached a high level of intensity in the UK and a few member states, where features of a market system are in operation. One of the reasons for the development of targets and performance indicators is to enable judgements to be made about the relative performance of schools, as measured by the results of the pupils.
However, for this system of intense scrutiny and accountability to work effectively, it needs to be underpinned by a degree of regulation. As the quality loop is also dependent on the inputs, such as the teachers, the curriculum and the school buildings/facilities, these also need to be subject to standards prescribed by law.
Continental model relies very much on central inspection and control and operates principally by disciplinary and control measures and not by the establishment of school liability; whether it would be possible to prescribe or recommend on a Europe-wide level certain minimum institutional and regulatory requirements to ensure that all states take effective steps to improve, monitor and enforce standards of education in their schools is very difficult to assess. Although Article 126 of the EU Treaty makes provision for common European issues to be the subject of broad regulatory aims, it is very much dependent on political will.
There is a potential conflict with the principle of subsidiary and the risk that it might undermine national autonomy in terms of cultural and national identity. However, although there may be concern about loss of national identity related to a States curriculum, it is less clear that national identity would be undermined if there was European Union legislation on matters like school inspections or performance measures.
Europewide minimum qualifi cations for qualified teacher status and for entry to the teaching profession could be specified, building on EC legislation on mutual recognition of professional qualifications; but the legal status of teachers as either employees or civil servants should be subject to constant scrutiny.
States should be required to make provision for regular government independent school inspections and to ensure that appropriate action is taken with schools that are not meeting their requirements.
Modern parents are less willing to place their trust blindly in teachers and it should be the right of every parent to expect the very highest standards of education for their children. The huge number of foreign children now resident in Spain has meant that a large number of Spanish teachers have had to greatly improve their language skills. But, education is all about the quest for enlightenment and that quest does not, and should not, end at a given age. So maybe we can look forward in the future to a new breed of European super teacher?