6th European Symposium (08-09 December 2011, Brussels)

"Measures to Combat Educational Disadvantage"

Image "Measures to Combat Educational Disadvantage"

Inequalities persist in all European education and training systems - with devastating consequences for individuals, for the economy and for social cohesion. They reflect - and compound - wider socio-economic inequalities and disadvantage. They can be found at every facet and level of our education systems: in access, in treatment and in outcomes. The aim of the symposium was therefore to point out concrete measures to improve the situation and present supporting evidence that the Commission could put forward to the Member States.


6th European Symposium

" Measures to Combat Educational Disadvantage"

Organized by the DG-EAC of the European Commission and supported by the European Expert Network on Economics of Education (EENEE) and the Network of Experts on Social aspects of Education and Training (NESET)

08-09 December 2011
Hotel Bloom
250, Rue Royale, 1210 Brussels


THURSDAY 08 December (12:00-17:30)

12:00-13:30 Registration and light lunch

13:30-13:45 Opening Mr. Jan Truszczyński , Director-General, European Commission DG EAC

13:45-14:30 Keynote Speech (plenary): What Makes for Fair Education and How Much is Possible?

Speaker: Prof. Alistair Ross , Jean Monnet ad personam Professor of Citizenship Education in Europe, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute for Policy Studies in Education at London Metropolitan University, Visiting Professor, University of Bedfordshire

14:30-15:00 Discussion (plenary)

15:00-15:15 Coffee break

15:15-17:30 Six parallel workshops

FRIDAY 09 December (09:00-16:45)

09:00-12:00 Six parallel workshops (continued, on the same topic as on day 1)

12:00-13:30 Lunch

13:30-16:30 Interactive Panel Discussion (plenary)

Prof. Sally Power (Panel-Chair), scientific coordinator of the NESET network of experts

Prof. Mary Darmanin, University of Malta

Mr. Bernard Hugonnier, Deputy-Director for Education (Directorate for Education) , OECD

Prof. Ludger Woessmann, University of Munich ifo institute, scientific coordinator of the EENEE network of experts

Prof. Sheila Riddell, University of Edinburgh and NESET

Ms. Katja Urbatsch, Ashoka

16:30-16:45 Conclusions and closing Remarks

Mr. Pierre Mairesse, European Commission, DG EAC

Description of Workshops

WORKSHOP 1. Hidden costs and other barriers in compulsory education and in initial VET.

Since 2006, a series of European initiatives have stressed that education and training policy should enable all citizens, irrespective of their personal, social or economic circumstances, to benefit from quality educational provision and to develop their full potential. Although national legislation generally acknowledges the right to free education until the end of the compulsory level, in many cases implementation remains a challenge. Research shows that despite official statements the costs of "free" compulsory education are in reality substantial. In several Member States these include a high family expenditure for private supplementary tutoring on core subjects. Hidden barriers and costs need to be removed to enable all learners especially the more vulnerable to participate in and benefit from quality provision.

  • What specific measures do EU Member States currently use to guarantee the constitutional entitlement of learners to a compulsory education free of charge? Do these measures work?
  • How to effectively abolish hidden costs and other barriers in compulsory education and in initial VET? How to guarantee quality schooling for disadvantaged learners?
  • How does the economic crisis affect efforts to achieve these goals?
  • What are some key obstacles and enablers for the inclusion and success of iVET learners from disadvantaged backgrounds?
  • How to motivate and support disadvantaged parents to help their children to learn?

Chair: Dr. Geneviève Defraigne-Tardieu, ATD Quart Monde
Speaker: Prof. Ides Nicaise, University of Leuven
Rapporteur: Prof. John Bynner, NESET network of experts

WORKSHOP 2. Hidden barriers in higher education in the EU.

Despite efforts in recent years to modernise higher education in the EU, evidence suggests that both participation and success in tertiary education remain socially divided. While the number of tertiary students from disadvantaged backgrounds has increased, lower socio-economic parts of the population and disadvantaged social groups continue to be seriously under-represented in both undergraduate and post-graduate levels (particularly in the more prestigious institutions and fields of study) and many more students from these groups drop-out before finishing their studies. Significant differences can be found across Member States. This workshop will engage with questions that include:

  • Which measures do tertiary education institutions in the EU currently apply to increase the participation and success of under-represented, disadvantaged and non-traditional learners? How do higher education institutions design their study programmes to cater for a diversified student body, i.e. when it comes to flexibility in programme design and delivery, counselling and tutoring, online assistance, etc.?
  • How does the diversification of funding sources affect students from poorer backgrounds?
  • How does the crisis affect the participation and success of under-represented, disadvantaged and non-traditional learners in tertiary education?
  • How to develop socially inclusive models of higher education while still ensuring excellence? How to raise participation in tertiary education (to meet the relevant EU2020 target) and at the same time promote equity?

Chair: Prof. Reinhilde Veugelers, University of Leuven and EENEE network of experts
Speaker: Dr Dominic Orr, HIS-Institute for Research on Higher Education, Hannover
Rapporteur: Dr. Claire Callender, University of London and NESET network of experts

WORKSHOP 3. Hidden barriers in adult learning and in continuing VET.

The Commission's 2010-2011 Progress Report and other evidence suggest that participation in adult learning and in continuing VET remains very low in several EU Member States and is even lower for the disadvantaged. Currently more than 80 million adults in the EU are hampered by severe deficiencies in basic skills. Many of them do not have sufficient literacy levels to cope with the basic daily requirements of personal, social and economic life. Despite having greater learning needs, the low-skilled and disadvantaged are several times less likely to participate in continuous formal or non-formal learning than the highly-skilled. They have higher unemployment risks and tend to end up in low-skilled, low-quality or temporary jobs. They are facing a future of state-funded training programmes interspersed with insecure low-paid employment and lengthy periods of unemployment. While the social effects of the economic crisis are still unfolding, it is clear that it has increased the vulnerability of the most disadvantaged groups and worsened their job prospects. The early school leavers, the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the unemployed, older workers, people re-entering the labour market (such as mothers or ex-prisoners), migrants, refugees, young people from a public care background and people from ethnic minorities such as the Roma are among the most vulnerable and severely affected. This workshop will engage with questions that include:

  • How to improve the availability, affordability and quality of learning opportunities for the low-skilled and disadvantaged? How to remove other barriers for low-skilled and disadvantaged adult learners?
  • What are some key obstacles and enablers for the inclusion and success of low-skilled and disadvantaged adult learners? What role for companies/employers? How to better motivate and guide the low-skilled and disadvantaged?
  • What are the supportive conditions (in terms of employment, welfare, health, housing, and other policies) to maximise the impact of education and training measures?
  • How to motivate and support disadvantaged parents and families to follow and monitor their children's progress and to help their children to learn?

Chair: Mr. Antonio Mocci, European Vocational Training Association
Speaker: Prof. James Wickham, Employment Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin
Rapporteur: Prof. Catherine Casey, University of Leicester

WORKSHOP 4. Working together for equity: how to develop and implement cross-policy synergies and multi-agency partnerships.

A series of recent European initiatives underline that education policies alone are not sufficient to address educational disadvantage. Decades of research suggest that linking up education and training measures with action in related public policy fields (such as employment, health, housing, etc.) can be more effective in preventing or mitigating the impact of multiple and cumulative disadvantage on people's educational experiences and outcomes than purely education related policy interventions. Difficult as they may be to manage for policy makers, cross-policy synergies and coordinated, multi-strand approaches that are consistently sustained offer the best approach to tackling educational disadvantage. Some countries have moved some way towards such an approach, often as part of their lifelong learning strategies, and have established multi-agency partnerships where professionals with different areas of responsibility work together to support disadvantaged children and adults. This workshop will engage with questions that include:

  • What cross-policy synergies do we currently see in the Member States? Do they work?
  • How does the economic crisis affect the development and implementation of cross-policy synergies and multi-agency partnerships?
  • Which way forward? What kind of cross-policy synergies and multi-professional partnerships work best in practice? How should these be reflected in national or regional lifelong learning strategies? What agencies and how to work together at the regional and local level to best support disadvantaged learners? Conditions for transferability of good policy and practice into other systems.

Chair: Prof. Klaus Hurrelmann, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
Speaker: Prof. Anne Edwards, University of Oxford and NESET network of experts
Rapporteur: Prof. Alan Dyson, University of Manchester

WORKSHOP 5. How to address national disparities related to equity in education and training

Member States currently work towards national 2020 targets agreed at EU-level for education and training. At the same time, however, Eurostat's Regional Yearbook 2010 and other evidence suggest that there are great disparities in the availability and quality of educational provision and in educational outcomes both between but also within Member States. There is a concentration of educational disadvantage in particular places across Europe's regions where cycles of disadvantage become increasingly entrenched. There is a need to identify these "grey zones", to shift financial resources towards disadvantaged learners and their communities and to implement coordinated, targeted and multi-dimensional interventions to complement nation-wide policies in order to reduce gaps in education and training. More clarity on this topic can lead to more meaningful Country-Specific Recommendations for Member States in the context of the EU2020 Strategy. Also to a better design and targeting of the European Structural Funds. This workshop will engage with questions that include:

  • How do the Member States compare in terms of their internal distribution of educational inequalities? What country-specific recommendations could help effectively address these disparities?
  • What (concrete) measures do Member States have currently in place to address regional disparities in educational opportunities, in the quality of learning provision and in educational outcomes?
  • How does the ongoing economic crisis affect disparities in educational opportunities, quality of provision and educational outcomes between and within Member States and the efforts to address them?
  • What concrete lessons can we draw from the experience of implementing Education Priority Policies/Zones in the various Member States so far?
  • How to better target and use the European Structural Funds to tackle regional inequities in education and training?
  • How to best address such disparities within a Member State? How to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of such policies and how to improve resourcing for equity? How can resources best be targeted to schools with disadvantaged populations to promote equity, inclusion and social mobility? Examples of successful interventions from the Member States.

Chair: Prof. Daniel Munich, CERGE-EI and EENEE network of experts
Speaker: Prof. Jaap Dronkers, University of Maastricht and NESET network of experts
Rapporteur: Dr. Ruth Lupton, University of London (LSE)

WORKSHOP 6. How to improve the educational situation of young learners with disability/special needs

The ET2020 Strategic Framework and the 2010 Council Conclusions on the social dimension of education and training underline that education systems need to respond to diversity and provide for the successful inclusion of all learners, including those with special needs. Inclusive education is about the removal of all forms of discrimination and exclusionary assumptions and practices. It is about the well being of all learners including those with special needs. It is based on a positive view of difference in which learner diversity is viewed as a resource. Whereas segregated provision is still common practice in a number of Member States, inclusive education becomes the rule in others as there is now more evidence that quality inclusive education is good education for all learners. In this context, equity requires sustainable inclusive education policies, with a resource-based approach to satisfy individuals' needs. Successful inclusive practices can be found in all EU Member States, at national, regional or local level. This workshop will engage with questions that include:

  • How do the various Member States operationalise the concept of inclusive education? What has been done so far to embrace diversity? How is quality mainstream inclusion balanced with individualised learning programmes where needed?
  • What are the effects of the ongoing economic crisis on established or planned inclusive education policies and practices?
  • What changes have Member States introduced in legislation at national and/or regional level to enable and implement an inclusive policy and practice? What monitoring and evaluation tools do they have in place to monitor progress and to ensure the implementation of legislation?
  • What changes have Member States introduced in the curriculum? To what extent are these changes reflected in the preparation of the professional workforce?
  • Which way forward? How to "translate" inclusive education into daily practice? What do education professionals need in order to develop an inclusive culture and practice? How to better prepare the professional workforce for diversity, inclusion and individual learning needs?

Chair: Ms. Simona D'Alessio, European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (EADSNE)
Speaker: Mr. Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion ltd