Nations Share Education Concerns
Washington--Though some of the statements had to be translated, the messages were strikingly similar. New methods for rewarding teachers must be found, the relationship of schooling to work must be re-analyzed, and the question of what level of governance is best suited to set school policy should be re-examined.
Those were among the common areas of concern of education officials from some 15 nations who met here for three days last week to discuss the subject of "Quality in Education."
Sponsored by the Education Department and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a body representing 25 industrialized nations, the conference was scheduled in preparation for a meeting of the education ministers from oecd member countries to be held in Europe in November.
The major issue on the agenda for that meeting will be the transition from school to work, according to James R. Gass, director of social affairs, manpower, and education at oecd It was also a much-discussed topic at the meeting last week.
A. Guinta La Spada, general director for cultural exchange in the Italian ministry of education, said education officials in his country are struggling with the issue of whether to add more technical training to the curricula of Italian schools in the face of what they see as a rapidly changing, more highly technical job market.
Delegates from several other countries said they faced the same question.
The French delegate, Andre Lafond, inspector general of that country's ministry of education, suprised many at the meeting when he said that France is embarking on a plan to decentralize authority in French education. In contrast to the past practice of the central ministry, which has dictated policy to the schools, officials now plan to give local school authorities greater autonomy over policy decisions, Mr. Lafond said.
"Make no mistake," Mr. Gass said, "the French are talking about a radical change."
A number of conference participants noted that there is interest in their countries in improving elementary schools and giving more attention to the difficult task of advocating both excellence and equity within education.
Secretary Bell addressed the conference participants at a dinner paid for by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and held at the American Enterprise Institute, a public-policy organization.
He said, "We have just begun to touch the outer fringe of the potential of the computer. In the school of the future, writing will be done electronically, students will carry small computers around in their bookbags that they will have checked out of the school library."
He also said that "the condition of the teaching profession is at an all-time low" and added that "we're getting tomorrow's teachers from the bottom of the spectrum of human ability."