School is the centre of educational life. The student is the fundamental target of everything in teaching. Quality in learning is a challenging goal we must not lose sight of. We must engage upon a culture of evaluation and responsibility, adopting it consistently and purposefully.
To this end we must prioritise the training of teachers and pre-school teachers. Not, however, by reproducing traditional methods or limiting ourselves to answering short-term or circumstantial demands.
As we move from an industrial to an information society, with increasing importance being given to knowledge and innovation, it is essential we understand that development hinges on the capacity to learn more and better. This we call the birth of the learning society. Moreover, it is important to understand that preparing school and education for uncertainty and complexity demands ever better initial, continuing and specialised training.
What is in question? Failure of responses to the educational needs of schools and of a society where permanent education and lifelong training are increasingly present. Equally, the need for coherent individual training plans for every teacher and pre-school teacher, for personal and social development, for each vocation and career path.
Ultimately it is not enough to speak of lifelong education and training. It is vital to study this perspective when planning career paths for teachers.
I ought, most particularly, to welcome the creation of the European Network for Teacher Education Policies, which originated from a Portuguese proposal. It’s objective is to promote co-operation between the Ministries of Education in various European Union Member States on the core issue of teacher education policies for teachers and pre-school teachers. It aims to guarantee a clear definition of teacher education policies, with allocated responsibilities, sustainable development and evaluation.
The teaching profession can only be valued if it is clearly linked to a positive drive for qualifications in initial, continuing and specialised training. This involves understanding the role of knowledge and of innovation, the recent importance of the knowledge economy and the learning society – closely linked to the new concept of lifelong education and learning.
It is therefore essential we all become better acquainted with the capacities of education and training, the potential with regard to promoting quality and conditions for institutionalising a culture of evaluation. Only in this way will we achieve the conditions needed for genuine mobility with equal opportunities – from mutual confidence in the professional teaching qualifications acquired within the different Member States.
Thus the Network will develop co-operation between educational systems, through reflection, exchange of experiences, technical co-operation and the free circulation of information. The teacher and pre-school teacher are called upon to play a central role, offering guidance towards lifelong learning, mutual enrichment through diversity, stimulating pedagogical and scientific curiosity and preparing for a complex and uncertain world.
If we speak of new basic skills, if we place increased importance on the information society, if we want to give the teacher and pre-school teacher a central role in the learning society and make the student the fundamental objective of all that is achieved in education, then we must further their qualifications based on unambiguous quality reference systems and overcome obstacles to the recognition of qualifications and mobility.
This is why the Network is such an essential step.
And although, as even yesterday Commissioner Vivianne Reding pointed out in Lisbon, the Portuguese Presidency has played a leading role, in an historic act in the life of the Union, by ranking education as the first of our priorities, the fact remains that teacher and pre-school teacher education is the key element. However, there is much long-term hard work to be done. It is no longer possible to use traditional methods to respond to the contemporary world’s new problems. We need the boldness of methods that favour the act of learning, allowing us to unite knowledge with understanding.