23 September 1993

Doc. 6933


on the activities of OECD in 1992

in the field of education

(Rapporteur: Mrs HAWLICEK,

Austria, Socialist Group)

1.       The purpose of this written contribution is to draw attention to the fact that the OECD is actively involved in intergovernmental co-operation in the field of education, alongside Unesco, the Council of Europe, the European Community and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

2.       OECD's current five-year mandate for education began in 1992. It has developed in three mainly traditional areas. OECD's standing interest in the relationship between education and the labour market has continued in conferences held in May and June 1992 and in a report by the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) on schools and business, all of which confirmed an increase in links and the need for closer co-operation. In the field of assessment, the CERI is improving in particular the comparability of its data (a point stressed by the Assembly in Recommendation 1137). Thirdly, in the context of developing collaboration with non-member countries, OECD has placed stress on the links between education and the economy in central and eastern Europe and has included higher education in the former Czech and Slovak Republic and the education system of Hungary in its series of country reviews.

3.       A rather more dynamic picture could emerge from OECD's thinking on unemployment. The notion of an "active society", involving all sections of the population, including the unproductive young and the elderly, with a special concern for equal opportunities for women, is well analysed by Mr Hellström in his report for the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development (Doc 6900). There is indeed a need to integrate labour, education and social policies. But this is only meaningful if the education and social policies are based on other than purely economic considerations.

4.       A similar point could be made with regard to Mr Hellström's comments on OECD's Technology Economy Programme. Recognition of the importance of knowledge, and of teaching and learning as a means of obtaining this, is indeed an important argument for investment in education. But it should not be allowed therefore to become the objective of the educational system - at whatever level. Social and political skills are just as important. They might even be quantifiable in economic terms: the costs to the community of the elderly or of the rise of intolerance as a result of an increasing emphasis on the economic status of the individual. But have we really come to the point of asking how much education or democracy are worth?

5.       In my recent report on European cultural co-operation (Doc 6850), I reviewed the debate within the Council of Europe of whether cultural co-operation should be related to the promotion of democracy. While allowing that it had a role to play in the development of democracy, I concluded that cultural co-operation should not be restricted to this objective. The Assembly followed in adopting Recommendation 1216. Exactly the same applies to OECD if its approach is exclusively geared to economic objectives or argued in economic terms.

6.       This difference in approach may explain why OECD has so rarely taken up the opportunity for parliamentary debate in our Assembly of educational issues. We continue to hope however that the OECD may in the future help to strengthen the impact of international work in education and collaborate more closely with other international agencies (as their 1992 Annual Report proclaims). The organisation has much to offer. We look forward in particular to its contribution to the CSCE Education Seminar that will be held in Strasbourg in December this year.


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Reporting committee: Committee on Economic Affairs and Development (Doc 6900).

Committee for opinion: Committee on Culture and Education (and competent committees).

Reference to committee: Doc. 6897 and Reference No. 1893 of 3 September 1993.

Opinion approuved by the committee on 21 September 1993.