Tuesday, November 27, 2012

European Commission launches its new Rethinking Education strategy

The European Commission announced the launching of its new ‘Rethinking Education strategy’ in a press release on 20 November 2012. ‘The youth unemployment rate is close to 23% across the European Union – yet at the same time there are more than 2 million vacancies that cannot be filled. Europe needs a radical rethink on how education and training systems can deliver the skills needed by the labour market’ - the press release said. 

The objective of the strategy, as per the release, is to encourage Member States to take immediate action to ensure that young people develop the skills and competences needed by the labour market and to achieve their targets for growth and jobs. Rethinking Education calls for a fundamental shift in education, with more focus on 'learning outcomes' - the knowledge, skills and competences that students acquire.

The new strategy also gives due importance to the use of ICT, Open Educational Resources (OERs) and modernisation of assessment methods to ensure the relevance of education – “To ensure that education is more relevant to the needs of students and the labour market, assessment methods need to be adapted and modernised. The use of ICT and open educational resources (OER) should be scaled-up in all learning contexts.”

It has been reported that ‘Currently, 73 million Europeans, around 25% of adults, have a low level of education. Nearly 20% of 15 year olds lack sufficient literacy skills, and in five countries more than 25% are low achievers in reading (Bulgaria, 41%, Romania, 40%, Malta, 36%, Austria, 27.5%, and Luxembourg, 26%). Early school leaving remains at unacceptably high levels in several Member States: in Spain it is 26.5% and in Portugal 23.2% (EU target is under 10%). Less than 9% of adults participate in lifelong learning (EU target is 15%).’

Rethinking Education in brief:

  • There needs to be a much stronger focus on developing transversal skills and basic skills at all levels. This applies especially to entrepreneurial and IT skills.
  • A new benchmark on foreign language learning: by 2020, at least 50% of 15 year olds should have knowledge of a first foreign language (up from 42% today) and at least 75% should study a second foreign language (61% today).
  • Investment is needed to build world-class vocational education and training systems and increase levels of work-based learning.
  • Member States need to improve the recognition of qualifications and skills, including those gained outside of the formal education and training system.
  • Technology, in particular the internet, must be fully exploited. Schools, universities and vocational and training institutions must increase access to education via open educational resources.
  • These reforms must be supported by well-trained, motivated and entrepreneurial teachers.
  • Funding needs to be targeted to maximise the return on investment. Debate at both national and EU level is needed on funding for education - especially in vocational education and higher education.
  • A partnership approach is critical. Both public and private funding is necessary to boost innovation and increase cross-fertilisation between academia and business.

I think these strategies are well suited for Asian Region as well.

Read the complete text at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1233_en.htm

Friday, November 9, 2012

Leadership and capacity for efficient public service management; an insider’s perspective

This is actually an abstract of a (scheduled) working paper prepared for submitting to 'International Conference on Governance and Public Service Transformation in South Asia' scheduled to be conducted from 7th to 9th Dec this year in Dhaka. But unfortunately missed the deadline for its submission. Now I post it here to make me committed to complete this paper later - perhaps a trick to overcome writer's block :) 

Leadership and capacity for efficient public service management; an insider’s perspective

Leadership and capacity are vital to the successful carryout of any business. Basically, leadership is supposed to have the capacity to successfully complete the mission entrusted upon it, that is, leadership capacity. When we talk about leadership and capacity separately, capacity would also indicate other factors such as legal framework, various kinds of resources etc that are essential to fulfill a task. 

Currently - owing to numerous factors such as cumbersome procedures, bureaucratic lethargy and inefficiency, resource constraint and sentimental approach of the customers (here public), public service as a product of a government or an institution or an organization is the most difficult product to make successfully and distribute satisfactorily. Further, the impact and influence of the public service as a product of the society for its well-being, is far reaching than any other service products. 

All the above factors indicate that the kind of leadership and capacity that are required for efficient public service management should be exemplary in quality. In this respect we have to answer the questions: what are the factors that make public service predominant over all other services? what are the peculiarities of managing public service? what are the resources (capacities) we require for efficient and effective management of public service? what are the sources of such resources? How do we ensure their sustainable availability? what kind of leadership do we require for the sustained improvement of public services? what measures shall we take to ensure sustained growth of such leadership?

In the proposed working paper each one of the above questions would be examined in detail. At the end of reading the working paper one will be able to clearly identify the importance of public service as a product of society for its well being, the complexities of its making and supply, importance of leadership capacity in the cost efficient production and supply of public services and the essential capacities required for successful management of such public services in a sustainable way.