Back to school: what shape is education in Europe in?

The summer holidays are over and most pupils in Europe are back at school this week. For others, the school year already kicked off a few weeks ago. The press takes a critical look at the education systems and points to structural deficiencies.

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The Sunday Times (GB) /

Hot air and empty promises

More than 100 British schools were shut down shortly before school started due to danger of collapsing. Years of cuts and lacking investment are taking their toll, says The Sunday Times:

“Politicians tend to think in five-yearly electoral cycles, which are too short for investment in dull infrastructure to bear fruit. They tend to like shiny 'grands projects', such as HS2, or they make hot-air announcements for cheap headlines. The Tories must shoulder heavy blame, having been in power for 13 years. ... It is sheer luck that nobody has yet been hurt. The window in which to act is getting perilously narrower. Whoever inherits this mess must come up with a long-term solution. That will probably have to involve spending cuts elsewhere.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Don't overlook the less visible costs

Covid, teachers' strikes and now unsafe school buildings - once again it's the children who suffer, The Daily Telegraph laments:

“Many children will face further disruption to an educational career which has already been repeatedly interrupted. Those attending schools regarded as unsafe will have, at best, lessons in Portakabins or neighbouring schools or, at worst, a return to lockdown-style online learning. Hundreds of schools may not know the outcome of surveys until December. ... Naturally, the focus will be on the hours lost in the classroom, but we must not overlook the less visible costs. Children will miss physical education, socialisation and, in some sad cases, a place safe from the difficulties of their home lives.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Poland needs to rethink teachers' salaries

Justyna Drath, a teacher and activist for the ZNP teachers' union, sounds the alarm in Krytyka Polityczna:

“Teachers' salaries keep falling, even though the minister assures us that teaching is an extremely lucrative profession and describes the twenty thousand or so vacancies as 'normal staffing dynamics'. ... The manipulation on the part of the government has now become grotesque, but it's still a mystery to me why teachers' salaries are constantly compared to the minimum wage and not the average wage, even in the opposition media. ... Do we simply regard the situation of the 1990s - the deterioration of the profession's reputation - as a fixed, eternal and unchangeable situation?”

La Croix (FR) /

Develop long-term strategies

La Croix calls for more foresight in French education policy:

“To reform the education system, we need to put down the magnifying glass and reach for the binoculars. An action plan should be drawn up that is independent of personal ambitions and even - if possible - of the electoral cycle. Such a plan should focus on two or three objectives - for example teachers' pay and training, social diversity and the acquisition of basic skills. A bit like what we've done with the low-carbon strategy, which sets short- and medium-term targets and a pathway to 2050.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Less literature and more hatred in 'All-Russia'

War propaganda is taking on an ever greater role in Russia's schools, Gazeta Wyborcza observes:

“On 1 September, Putin held a special lesson in front of the cameras: 'Talking about what matters'. Teachers all over Russia now have to start every school week with such a speech. And the school year is traditionally opened by the head of state himself - in his capacity as 'Teacher of All Russia'. ... School - in unison with politics and propaganda - efficiently prepares children for life in the age of war. Less and less literature, history, more and more patriotism, lessons featuring automatic weapons and grenades, more and more hatred of everything foreign.”