We encourage you to read the newly released European Commission expert group report on quality investment in education and training.
The report’s authors analysed the effectiveness of public spending on education and training in the EU and focused their research on four areas that significantly impact educational outcomes and equity:
- Teachers and trainers – teacher quality is a key factor influencing student outcomes, while adequate salaries and good working conditions are the cornerstone of an enthusiastic and dynamic teaching workforce. Financial incentives also should be differentiated in order to retain teachers in certain subject areas and particular regions, but these mechanisms need to be precisely designed and targeted. Mitigating demographic changes in the population of teachers mainly consists of balancing between the recruitment of new teachers and retaining those already employed.
- Digital education – new technologies are both an opportunity and a challenge for education systems. They increase effectiveness and allow more diverse groups of students to be included in the learning process. They can also increase inequalities, as access to the equipment and services of new technologies is not always equitably distributed. Digital education requires teachers that have been adequately trained, both pre- and in-service, which should take place in well-equipped training institutions. Raising teachers’ pedagogical digital competences is also an important aspect of teacher training. The potential of using new technologies outside the classroom is still not fully realised, especially in the area of connecting students with school and compensatory classes, which can be implemented at lower costs and at a larger scale.
- Educational infrastructure – educational facilities are an important element influencing the educational process, especially the interaction between students and teachers. More actions should concentrate on understanding the interaction between the physical environment and students’ outcomes. Additionally, using the schools’ facilities after classes end, although costly, can positively influence local communities – school buildings can serve as a meeting place for neighbours and facilitate their integration.
- Equity and inclusion – research shows that the education systems which reduce inequalities among students also have better results in terms of teaching and students’ wellbeing. In this context, early child care and education not only have a positive influence on equalising the opportunities of students, but are also very cost-effective. Therefore, investing in these forms of education is crucial. Financial resources should be diversified in accordance with needs – schools supporting a large share of disadvantaged students should receive more support. Additional support programmes for students with lower outcomes, such as peer tutoring or individual classes, are effective if the interventions are cohesive, adapted to needs and other forms of support, as well as sustained.
The report also points to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and training systems in EU countries. Due to the unprecedented number and duration of school closings, many member countries are observing lower student outcomes, and as previous research has shown, such learning deficits are difficult to overcome. Learning deficits accumulate over time and can result in lower higher education participation, decreased chances of completing higher education or lower income. Therefore, a policy goal of EU countries should be to not allow these deficiencies to accumulate and to strengthen education and training systems to prepare for future pandemics or crises. Improving the digital infrastructure of schools, supporting teachers’ professional education, and raising their digital competences should be among the policy priorities of Member States. Promoting different methods of compensating for educational deficits, such as tutoring, accelerated schools, summer schools or additional training, remain key, especially among early school leavers.
Recommendations on the integration of newly arrived migrants impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are also included in the report. The research, including PISA, shows the importance of the language of instruction for students’ educational success, therefore investing in systematic language support for migrant students is key. Experts show that a combination of integration in general education with support in separate classes seems to be the most effective approach. The time spent in separate classes should, however, be limited and connected with the possibility to transfer to general classes (optionally with support). In this context, it is important to provide support for teachers and their training in linguistics so they can help migrant students in learning the language in which instruction takes place. Supporting parents and including them in the educational process also benefits migrant students, their school attendance, social skills and behaviours, wellbeing and educational aspirations.
The Commission’s expert group also presented good practices on investing in education, which can serve as inspiration for the governments and institutions of EU countries.
According to the information provided by the European Commission’s Representation in Poland, a new project providing member countries with tools, methods and knowledge to support the evaluation of education policies will be initiated by the end of this year.
The report of the expert group on quality investment in education and training is available from the European Commission’s website.