2009 Hildesheim: congress report

Report on the International Congress at the University of Hildesheim (Germany)

 

30th March 2009 - 2nd August 2009 on the subject:

 

Universities und Schools in international Discussion: Opportunities and Risks in Present-Day Development

 

Of the International Academy for the Humanization of Education (IAHE)

 

 

1. Congress participants and languages

 

61 scientists from the countries: Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Belarus took part in the congress.

Congress languages were: German, Russian, English. 

The congress file contained translations of the main lectures and summaries of the workshop contributions in Russian, German and English. The main lectures were immediately translated into Russian and German respectively. The workshop reports were translated verbatim or in summary into German, Russian or English depending on demand.

2. Organisational Course and Execution of the Programme

When it was founded in 1995, the IAHE made exchanging and asking for points of consensus in the last decades’ reform ideas in East and West its aim. 

Since the recombination of East and West, politics and education policy have gone through transformations. The time of the Perestroika in Russia, that initially enabled various innovations in education, is over.Nine former eastern bloc countries have meanwhile become part of the European Union. In the course of globalisation, the education sector tends to leans towards unification (primarily the introduction of consecutive degree courses, modularisation and crediting). International comparative studies in the education sector lead to education systems in different countries being publicly discussed on a much greater scale than before because their quality was being compared and critically evaluated.

The exchange between East and West has overcome the time of one-sided western orientated counsel and is now of an equal standing in the dialogue. This dialogue however, is still in its beginnings and must be continued. The congress began at precisely this point by critically analysing comparable tendencies and trends which still exist in the education sector despite the nationally specific differences. 

The introduction of the congress was very well chosen. The first main lecture was held by the internationally renowned historian Prof. Dr. Gehler of the University of Hildesheim, who had taught in Austria for many years and holds the Jean-Monnet-Chair for European history. He summarized the convergence of East and West as well as the reasons for the development in overcoming the Cold War in Europe. MdB H. Haibach from the foreign office of the Federal Republic of Germany seamlessly added to this showing the new perspectives for Europe after the end of the Cold War.

After this historical and political introduction into the theme of the critical discussion of transformations in East and West, the subsequent speakers addressed changes in the education sector. Prof. Dr. Gawrikow, president of the State University Nowgorod in Russia and member of the municipal Duma, changed the subject from politics to education policy during the convergence of East and West. The University which he has presided over for many years had a prominent position regarding university-political innovations which orientated themselves on western models during the time of the Perestroika. Dr. Finken, head of the DAAD division in Bonn insisted on how important the continual exchange in the education sector is and how this is not possible without secure financing. The East has a significant backlog demand and it was important for the participants from Eastern Europe to see how an institution which guarantees this financing is comprised. In future, it cannot be that the financial support for students and academics in Eastern European countries comes exclusively from Germany. This became very clear.

The first day closed with two examples of excellence initiatives in schools and universities and with that led on to the next day which was dedicated to specific themes of school and university in international discussion. 

The workshops were grouped into three themed groups: education, upbringing and socialisation; teaching and learning processes; institution organisation and management. Four principle lectures introduced these themed groups, two relating to university and two relating to school. The lecturers were specifically chosen so trends and tendencies of different countries (Germany, Austria, Russia and Latvia) were represented.

These themed groups were well chosen and the participants divided themselves relatively evenly across the available workshops. The congress files contained summaries and full texts in the languages Russian and German. The reports were all additionally translated so that all participants could be involved in the discussions.

The theme of Chances and Risks of New Developments in the area Universities and Schools was looked at from different angles. The developments in different countries were compared in discussions. 

 

3. Scientific Results of the Congress 

Summary of the results of themed group 1: Upbringing, Education and Socialisation:

In an increasingly globalised world we must not only consider intellectual faculties but also spiritual, moral and social qualities. The dominance of spiritual values over consumer values is furthered.

The problem area of upbringing cannot be disregarded else the educational work in school and university cannot be implemented for the sake of humanising education.

Society has not yet realised the crisis created by the consequences of globalisation, specifically problems of migration politics. We must ask ourselves if the standards in education that countries implement really create an education system that life today calls for.

Summary of the results of themed group 2: Teaching and learning processes:

University didactic perspective: The concept of learning through research is becoming more significant; furthering competenceis especially important in teacher professionalization (e.g. as an answer to migration problems) because the personal components and practical aspects need to be looked at in teacher training.

School perspective: The use of proposals for teaching lessons must be intensified; the educational laboratory was introduced as an efficient method in teacher training.

University and school perspectives: Significance of learning foreign languages must be emphasised; cooperation of different educational facilities beyond country borders is a demand for the teaching and learning in university and school.

Summary of the results of themed group 3: Institution / Organisation / Management:

The ideas of Humboldt cannot be immediately imposed on today’s education system but never the less hold great significance for school and university. 

Problems with the transition to staged degree programmes exist in all countries. The aim of increasing mobility, internationalisation and more independence for the students etc. Will not be reached by the implementation of the Bologna-Process:

·       The implementation happened too quickly because of pressure of education policy.

·       There is a question on the chances of BA graduates in the job market.

  • It could also result in master degree courses no longer being attractive.
  • Politics determines whether more national or more international fields of work are furthered –This could restrict international ambitions.
  • Curricula are getting reduced and restricted, more independent organisation of degrees is encouraged.
  • Work experience must be didactically justified.
  • Orientating advice for students, particularly for orientation in the job market, are necessary.
  • Further education increases in significance – here too a staged proposal is aimed for.
  • Freedoms that the new system offers are not yet being used enough.

A plan was worked on for an approach to the international situation in Schools and universities ten years after the Bologna-Process: 

The Bologna Process of 1999 created immense momentum in the countries of the European Union changing universities. An education reform that changed schools and universities in such range, so rapidly, in such structural depth and so blatantly had never existed before.

The background is the mutual recognition of University degrees. Schools are changing particularly in response to discussions on education standards, authorities and demand for achievement. These become apparent in international school achievement league tables.

During the conference of university lecturers including educationists and sociologists at the founding University of Hildesheim of the International Academy for the Humanization of Education (IAHE), it became clear that in Eastern Europe and the CIS states, the Bologna-Process created enormous pressure to act in universities. Modernising tendencies had the same effect in schools. Comparable higher education qualifications gave Eastern European nations the opportunity to begin adapting their systems.

The Bologna-Process had a positive effect at schools and universities, for example:

  • Stronger decentralisation,
  • Greater autonomy of education systems,
  • Greater reflexivity of teaching and learning processes,
  • Mutual recognition of higher education qualifications,

However, the congress’ lectures and workshops showed that in Germany and Western Europe, considering the hefty criticism it had received, a revision of the Bologna Process is conceivable and has in part already been implemented.

The criticism in universities draws on:

·       Inflexible modularisation leading to ‘schoolification’ of teaching and learning processes,

·       Reduction of teaching and research contents in cursory teaching and learning in modules,

  • Non-transparency of the European crediting system (ECTS) because of incomparability in qualifications achieved at different universities.
  • Restriction of mobility of students in the most successful EU exchange student programme (Erasmus).

In the school sector criticism becomes especially clear:

·       In the cognitive alignment of the curricula (teaching plans) in testable performance surveys,

·       In the loss of educational dimensions of lessons,

  • In the reduction of artistic, aesthetic and mechanical parts of lessons,
  • In an overworking of the school, the school authorities, the teachers, the children and parents because of different reform demands in a short timeframe. 

Because the western countries have a timely head-start in this reform process and their criticisms, the IAHE attempts to clarify the critical points in the dialogue between east and west and in reform events involve the corresponding critical points in specific actions.

With that, the IAHE draws simultaneously on its founding thought of the humanisation of education even more so after the consequences of the Bologna-process.

 

4. Sustainability of the Congress:

The feedback from participants of the congress was thoroughly positive. In the Russian newspaper "Wisscheje obrasovanije w Rossii", University education in Russia publishes interesting thematic essays on a monthly basis. The first issue is already available.

Olga Graumann, Mikhail Pevzner, Margitta Rudolph, Irina Diel (2010):

Universities und Schools in international Discussion: Opportunities and Risks in Present-Day Development published by Schneider Verlag Hohengehren