“Traditional university faculties are too conservative and are standing in the way of progress, as Europe’s education system struggles to become more innovative, according to the head of the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.”
Dirk Van Damme said the current system of dividing knowledge into faculties should be broken up if Europe is to move to a new education system capable of equipping students with critical skills.
“We should abolish faculties in universities. Faculties are the most conservative bulwarks against change. Europe must move to a radically different trans-disciplinary approach. Most of the interesting things happen on the boundaries of the discipline,” he said.
Speaking at a European Policy Centre debate ‘Beyond chalk and talk: Creativity in the classroom’, Van Damme said Europe’s economic and social progress is due to the quality of its educational system.
“Compared to Japan and even China, European schools are much more innovative. Japan teaches hierarchy and respect, whereas European schools teach us to challenge convention.”
“We have increased educational achievement in Europe and schools are still digesting the revolution in education. If we are to move to the next stage of development, this has to be reinvented,” he said.
However, he expressed concern that education ministries in the EU are attempting to “squeeze” ever-increasing amounts of information into curricula when a more balanced approach would be more beneficial.
He also stressed the importance of quality in education and teacher education, warning that the push towards greater innovation in education would result in mediocrity if greater emphasis is not placed on excellence.
In the same meeting, Odile Quintin, director-general for education and culture of the European Commission, announced that the EU is brokering an alternative to the Shanghai rankings of world universities. Europe has just two universities in the top ten, but Quintin said the Shanghai system focuses only on excellence in research. “We are trying to provide other criteria looking at teaching and the role of universities in local and regional development. Intercultural and social skills are very important in the modern world and would seem to me to be part of excellence.”
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