Summer Study Tour to Europe – Day 3

Today’s afternoon session was very interesting, especially from an educator’s perspective.   Our presentation was delivered by the EURYDICE network of the EU.  This stands for the Information Systems and Policies in Europe.    This is the organization that has been given the responsibility to create ‘benchmarks’ for EU educational integration.  It would seem the target year, (as with most things on this continent) would be the year 2020.

Our first speaker was Stefan Polzer, who works for the Ministry of Education, Arts & Culture.  He provided some materials for our presentation, and explained the ‘nuts & bolts’ of the EU education system.   His company has been collecting data and compiling statistics devoted to a specific number of educational standards & topics.  A lot of this information about Mr. Polzer’s company and official mission statement can be found at the following link:

A few of the more interesting Education facts we discovered:

  • In total, across the EU, teachers make up 1.5% of the population. (8.8 million people)
  • More than 60% of the teachers in primary and secondary education are women.
  • In College level or higher, only 40% of instructors are women.
  • Teachers are hired and paid by the government, not the individual districts.
  • Like America, students are subjected to assessment exams in years 3,8 & 9
  • Unlike America, as of 2009, only 14.4% of kids drop out of school, while our rate  is much higher.
  • Foreign language study begins at age 6 or 7, English is compulsory, & most graduate knowing 3 languages.

The second speaker was Reinhard Nobauer, who is the Director for Vocational Education and training.   His lecture was more about alternative education, and students options should they wish not to pursue an academic pathway in life.    School is compulsory up to age 14, at which time a student is given a choice to select either an academic track, or a vocational track.   There are also a few hybrids of each, which might take a student 5 years to graduate high school if this option is taken.

Their Vo-Tech programs are much in the same sort of line as ours, where students take limited academic classes, but focus more on their various trade skills.  Also, we were informed that Businesses help underwrite the cost of such education, and also provide a host of apprenticeships for students in their respective fields.  This would seem to be a government/private sector co-op, as there is an investment on both sides to see students succeed.   There is also an option to attend a vocational college, which include programs on engineering, fashion, tourism, nursing, Secretarial/Administrative, commercial services, agriculture & forestry.

Perhaps the best part of the session however, came during the last half hour, when we were able to talk and ask questions about each other’s educational format.  Our Austrian hosts were interested to hear about our American educational differences, and had several questions for us.  We returned a volley of questions, touching on important topics such as; teacher tenure issues, education & minority services, special education services & adaptive type learning environments, and a whole host of other neat stuff.
I think the group enjoyed the conversation, and it was a valuable cultural exchange being able to compare Austria’s educational system to our own.

Cullen Farrell
Karns City High School