Tuesday, 19 February 2013

CULT – Committee on culture and education
Towards a practically unified educational sector: How can the European Union ensure a more coherent grading and admissions system with a full compatibility of degrees throughout Europe, while bearing in mind the differences of primary and secondary education systems within Member States?

From 1 to A: An unfair and complicated system
Europe is split into 27 countries with different values and with 27 various school systems. Every Member State is responsible for its own education and training system, reflecting their values, culture and historical background. The upbringing of each student is different due to the country’s culture as well as its school system, and their final grades will look completely different compared to students’ from another country. Yet, all of them can, in theory, apply and compete for a seat at the same university. 

The problem with the current system is that it creates unnecessary confusion and inequality concerning the different grading systems. Earlier, the most common way was to study in your home country and thereafter continue your higher studies there as well. However now, with a more integrated Europe, students do not only move to other cities, but often to other countries to study or find work opportunities. The free movement of people is one of the basic rights in Europe and something that is highly encouraged since it creates a more united and open Europe. Nonetheless, it also creates a greater competition when millions of students around Europe can apply for the same school, university or job. With this in mind, it is important that the grades are translated and understood in the right way by the universities admission committees as well as by the future employers. The content of the grades can easily be lost in translation and be interpreted in an incorrect way by the people concerned.  

In order to solve the problem, inspiration can be found from the primary and secondary schools bigger brother- university. It was a long and tedious process to create a harmonized way for a unified European university system. As a result, in Italy in 1999 a common system was decided by ministers of higher education from 29 European countries. It is called the Bologna process in which the university studies are divided into two levels; three years to achieve a bachelor´s degree followed by a master´s degree. The number of countries that currently follow the Bologna process have increased to 47 thus including nearly all the members of the Council of Europe.

Since the development of a united university process was a success, the thought of a common educational system for the levels below university could be a possibility. Indeed, the European Union Member States are today in full responsibility for its own education and training systems. It would however be beneficial for the EU to create a more common and cohesive educational framework, including a harmonized grading system. An example can be seen in the International   Baccalaureate an internationally recognized high school diploma. This would simplify the application process for university studies and movement within the Union.  
Nathalie Thiel is a Guest Blogger for 21c

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