It has been a while since the last English Breakfast. And I have got to admit that the world has not become better in the meanwhile. Sure, Emmanuel Macron won the presidential election in France and took office a few days ago. But there is still an unreasonable president in the United States called Donald Trump. And in Austria, we are heading towards premature elections this fall. What are the consequences for the educational system in particular?
Structural difficulties in each country
In Austria, we are facing the same exact challenges for years. There is a severe misbalance in competences between the federal state authority and the federal ministry of education. This means that reforms are blocked in the daily process of policy and the pupils do not get the education they would deserve, despite knowing what works well from experiences made in other countries.
In the USA, Donald Trump cut after school programs for budget reasons. Knowing that the so-called danger zone is between 3 and 6 o’clock in the afternoon, after school programs are more important that you would think. Between 3 and 6 o’clock is when children get involved in gangs, teenage pregnancy and all kinds of social challenges. Refusing to make high quality education more affordable, the United States should at least focus on the time spent after school. Making educational policy is knowing about the social challenges you face as a country. If the integration is an issue, you need to focus on that. If the time after school is an issue, that is where the focus should be. If the language is a pressing issue, you need to provide more language classes.
France needs to balance issues caused by an unsuccessful integration and caused by a social imbalance. For years, I hear French teachers complaining about socio-economic challenges that they cannot overcome in class. This is where the new president of France is going to focus on.
This is a crossover between politics and education. In order to grasp the consequences of our choice during any election, we need to understand geopolitical basics - obviously a class that Mr. Trump missed. Understanding the motives of political leaders world wide is a requirement to act responsibly. For instance, we need to understand the motives of North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, different members of the European Union, Afrika, South America or the United States. Only when these motives are clear to us, any decision can be made wisely. But acting as if the world stops across the boarders of your own country is very 19th century. The modern world works differently.
Learn, vote and learn to vote
Nowadays, populism is often confused with democracy. The main difference between the two is the activity level of the citizens. If the citizens critically scrutinize what they are told by the politicians, they are less impressible by populists. If they do not scrutinize, they are accessible to populism. When pupils enter school for the first time, they are critical and scrutinize everything. It is that spirit that needs to be preserved into adulthood. Critical pupils are going to turn into critical adults and act as responsible citizens in the democratic process. And that is what we need more.