Council of Europe : Recommendation No. R (99) 2 on secondary education







(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 January 1999,
at the 656th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)



The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the statute of the Council of Europe,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members and that this aim may be pursued, in particular, through common action in the cultural field;

Bearing in mind the European Cultural Convention signed in Paris on 19 December 1954;

Recalling that at the Summits in Vienna (1993) and Strasbourg (1997) the Heads of State and Government of member States of the Council of Europe drew attention to the importance of the contribution education can make to establishing and strengthening democratic security and social cohesion;

Bearing in mind Recommendation No. 1111 (1989) of the Parliamentary Assembly on the European dimension of education;

Bearing in mind the resolutions adopted at the 17th session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education (Vienna, October 1991) "The European Dimension of Education: Teaching and Curriculum Content";

Having noted the conclusions of the 19th session of the Standing Conference (Norway, June 1997), the theme of which was "Education 2000: Trends, Common Issues and Priorities for Pan-European Co-operation", and in particular the resolutions "Trends and Common Issues in Education in Europe: conclusions of completed projects and Fundamental values, aims and the future role of educational co-operation in the Council of Europe";

Having read the consolidated reports of the project: "A secondary education for Europe", which ended in December 1996, and more particularly the reports: "Secondary education in Europe: trends and problems" and "The European dimension in schools" and the conclusions of the final conference "What secondary education for a Changing Europe? Trends, Challenges and Prospects" (Strasbourg, December 1996);

Aware that since the adoption of Recommendation No. R (83) 13 on the role of the secondary school in preparing young people for life, Europe has undergone profound social, economic, political and cultural changes which have greatly modified the context and importance of policies on secondary education;

Noting that education systems in the member States of the Council for Cultural Co-operation are today faced with a number of fundamental challenges:

– greater social demand and the economy’s need for people with a high standard of qualifications, in a context – that of education for all and insistence on quality – which requires diversification of provision, of educational pathways and of methods;

– the speeding-up and unpredictability of economic and technological developments, which result, in particular, in:

i. a labour market where job security can no longer be guaranteed and which requires, in addition to basic training, lifelong further training;

ii. the undermining of social cohesion and the marginalisation of certain social groups because of unemployment and the weakening of institutions, moral values and traditional ethics;

iii. a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment and of the principles of sustainable development;

iv. profound cultural changes brought about by the development of new information technologies;

– the increasingly multicultural and diversified nature of Europe and European societies and the dangers of isolationism, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism and ultra-nationalism;

– among young people in particular, the danger of growing scepticism about, or even apathy towards, politics and democratic processes;

– increasing opportunities for movement of persons, ideas and information in the new Europe;

Considering that in all countries secondary education is one of the crucial and most vulnerable links in the education chain, and that this sector has undergone radical and rapid reforms which require a new and much more comprehensive view of the problems and solutions as regards its organisation and functioning,

Reaffirming their conviction that secondary education plays a decisive role in taking up these challenges while respecting fundamental common values, in particular through:

– the affirmation of cultural diversity as a common asset;

– education in ethical values founded on respect for the rights of others, tolerance, mutual aid and combating racism and anti-Semitism;

– education for democratic citizenship, not only through the curriculum but also through encouragement to participate in democratic decision-making inside and outside school;

– the promotion of a European dimension which is respectful of national and minority identity nationally and regionally, and which is aware of its world context,

Recommends the governments of member States, having due regard to their specific constitutional structures, national and local circumstances and their education systems:

– to be guided by the principles set out in the appendix to this Recommendation in carrying out any current or future reforms in secondary education;

– to bring this Recommendation and the reference documents on which it is based to the attention of the relevant public or private bodies in their respective countries through the appropriate national channels;

– to continue, under arrangements to be agreed, exchanging information, pooling experience and reflecting together about trends in and development of policy for secondary education in Europe;

Requests the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to bring this Recommendation to the notice of States Parties to the European Cultural Convention which are not members of the Council of Europe.


Appendix to Recommendation No. R (99) 2


The general aims of secondary education:

i. Even more than in the past, secondary education should play a decisive role within the education system in:

– transmitting the common values of respect for human rights, democratic citizenship, mutual aid, tolerance, pluralism, combating racism and anti-Semitism, and mutual respect between individuals, the sexes, social groups and peoples;

– making young people aware of their responsibilities and duties as citizens respectful of the rights of others;

– equipping young people with the knowledge, abilities, applied skills and attitudes which they will need in order to face the major challenges of European and world society;

– preparing young people for higher education and training on a lifelong basis, mobility, work and daily living in a tolerant, democratic, multilingual and multicultural Europe;

– making young people aware of their shared cultural heritage and their shared responsibilities as European citizens;

ii. In this context, the right of everyone, in particular the most deprived, to access to diversified, quality secondary schooling as part of lifelong education should be translated into actuality.

A better balance between branches of study and objectives:

i. Although the priority objectives assigned to secondary education – acquisition of knowledge, personal development, and socialisation – remain valid, there should be more emphasis on their inseparability and on the need to develop genuine competences.

ii. The profound changes which the labour market is undergoing make it necessary for secondary education to diversify more, provide better preparation for a radically different world of work, and ensure better and much closer interconnection of its own general and technical or vocational branches.

iii. In view of the increasingly diverse needs that secondary education has to meet and the ever greater range of social groups it has to cater for, better links and a new balance are needed between general education and technical and vocational education and between acquiring knowledge and specific skills and developing more general key competences (independent thinking, powers of analysis and synthesis, exercise of judgement and so on).

iv. This entails clearer objectives, reforms and overall reorganisation as regards the pathways, courses and options on offer so as to decompartmentalise and achieve greater coherence, simplicity and flexibility.

v. In each case, for the sake of simplicity and flexibility, the opportunities for transfer from one path, course or option to another should be made clearer and information should always be given about the opportunities for continuing into higher education and working life.

The structure and management of secondary education

i. The need for a speedy response to new and often unpredictable demands requires not only that the structure and management machinery of secondary education be diversified and flexible, but also that they be planned in consultation with all the other parties involved.

ii. Responsibilities should therefore be clearly apportioned between the national, regional and local levels both to maintain a coherent system and take local or regional needs and realities into account.

iii. In this regard, considering national traditions and history in this area, a consensus should be sought, not only on the definition of roles and responsibilities and how they should be shared, but also to guarantee that the structures work harmoniously and democratically in the face of new emerging needs.

iv. It is increasingly clear that the basic educational unit is no longer the class, but the whole school and its environment. Thus teaching and learning and the life of the school community need to be organised around a multidisciplinary team (teachers, administrative staff, inspectors, librarians, the psychologist, the adviser, and so on).

v. This approach also calls for openness to the outside world and to the various members of the educational community (such as families, the education authorities, political authority, business, and public or private organisations or association, and so on) and requires that the school have at least some independence to develop an educational strategy of its own in an environment from which it draws help and support appropriate to its circumstances and results.

Curriculum content and teaching/learning methods

i. In a European and world context characterised by great complexity, rapid and unpredictable change, huge advances in knowledge, proliferation of information sources and the development of new technologies , the concept of general education should be redefined and widened to include, in addition to humanist, scientific and technological components, a critical and ethical dimension. This is made particularly necessary by the unparalleled development of science, technology and the economy and their direct impact on people’s daily lives and responsibilities as citizens (genetic engineering, data processing and globalisation are only some examples). Reform of curricula and methods should be guided by all these considerations.

ii. Special emphasis should be placed, in curriculum design, on five sets of key competences:

– political and social competence, including the ability and desire to shoulder responsibility, take part in group decision-making, settle disputes non-violently and participate in and help improve democratic institutions;

– abilities needed for life in a multicultural society; in order to curb the resurgence of racism and xenophobia and avert a climate of intolerance, education must provide young people with intercultural capacities such as acceptance of difference, respect for others and the ability to live with people of other cultures, languages and religions;

– proficient oral and written communication, which are essential to educational success and in social and working life, to such an extent that those who lack them are now at risk of social exclusion; similarly, proficiency in, or at least opportunities to learn, several languages are increasingly important;

– competence in the emergent information society: a thorough knowledge of the technologies, an understanding of their applications, advantages and dangers and the ability to make critical judgements about the information put out by the mass media and advertising;

– the ability to learn throughout life as a foundation for continuing education in both work settings and private and social life.

Human resources

i. Successful reform of secondary education depends to a large extent on the involvement and motivation of teachers and other educational staff, who need to become genuine education professionals.

ii. As full participants and key actors in the education system they should be associated with designing, deciding, implementing, assessing and following through the reforms. Special priority should therefore be given to providing basic and further training relevant to these responsibilities.

iii. From initial training onwards particular regard should be given to:

– an interdisciplinary approach and teamwork in the development of school strategies;

– interpersonal and social relations, communication, contacts and co-operation with partners outside school, particularly at local level;

– teachers’ new role as a result of the many more information sources and the development of new information technologies, which is to assist proper assimilation of information and knowledge acquired outside school;

– the mechanics of acquiring and developing key competences and the pedagogical and methodological implications;

– evaluation and self-evaluation.

iv. Continuing education, despite the progress that has been made, often remains to be set on an institutional footing and developed. Promising trends are emerging in a number of countries, such as in-service training within the school, which is better geared to the real needs of all concerned, draws on the expertise of colleagues and provides a genuine tool for running the school.

v. Special attention should also be paid to training for non-teaching staff, including school heads and administrators.

The reform process

i. The speed with which social demand changes and the complexity of the constraints necessitate permanent instruments for planning, analysing, monitoring and evaluating partial or general secondary education reforms.

ii. As much importance should therefore be attached to the process of reform as to its content. Establishing extensive partnerships, efficient information strategy, in-service training and allowing for the time factor and the systemic nature of all reform can be seen to be essential to success.

iii. Concern for quality, assessing the effectiveness of action and the mere fact of introducing change make it necessary to have a permanent system for evaluation and follow-up. Such a system, encompassing verification, supervision and advice, considerably widens the role traditionally assigned to inspection; it necessitates using a variety of procedures combining self-evaluation, internal evaluation and external evaluation.

The European dimension in secondary education

i. The introduction and development of the European dimension in secondary education should be encouraged in order to meet the following priorities:

– in the context of an open Europe, equipping young people with the knowledge they need to be mobile, particularly in relation to employment opportunities;

– encouraging the development of democratic citizenship based, in particular, on mutual knowledge and respect and combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism;

– awareness of a common heritage and the diversity of European cultures.

Experience shows that, far from being a danger to national, regional or local identities, introducing the European dimension develops and invigorates them.

ii. Similarly, awareness of the European dimension must be brought about in a spirit of openness to the rest of the world.

iii. Development of the European dimension should encompass:

In the curriculum

– the European dimension should not constitute a new subject, but should be taken into account in drawing up the syllabuses for existing subjects and in devising teaching methods;

– particularly in history, geography, literature, philosophy, economics, law and social sciences, attention should be paid to acquiring a basic knowledge of other European countries and to developing the skills needed for research and information-finding about them;

– the introduction of the European dimension into the teaching of these subjects certainly does not entail standardising curricula throughout Europe, but nevertheless requires a special effort on the part of curriculum designers and authors of schoolbooks and teaching material to bring out the European dimension in curriculum areas that demonstrate it best or to which it is most appropriate;

– teaching through projects and the ability to access and use sources of information (surveys, libraries, museums, CD-Roms, the Internet, and so on) should be encouraged and developed, as should partnerships and co-operation with schools in other countries.

In in-school and extra-curricular activities

– Extra-curricular activities should be strongly encouraged as offering ample scope for introducing the European dimension in a variety of practical ways.

Among such activities, the following should be started or developed:

– Links and exchanges between European schools (by means including the use of new technologies and the setting up of school networks);

– European clubs at school;

– European (particularly transfrontier) projects on subjects of common interest (for example, the environment, culture, the economy, history and geography and the cultural heritage);

– drawing up school strategies which involve the whole of the educational community in European themes and projects;

– language teaching, which plays a central role in this connection, not only by assisting mobility and mutual understanding, but also by highlighting Europe’s treasures and diversity, particularly as regards minority languages.

In basic and further teacher training

It should be borne in mind that:

– teachers’ awareness of the European dimension is crucial to all action in this field and should be developed in basic and further training;

– teachers' training in their respective subjects should consistently be informed by the spirit of the above recommendations.

In teachers’ theoretical and methodological training the following should also be borne in mind:

– teaching through school exchanges;

– the acquisition of the ability to work in groups, draw up projects and participate in international partnerships;

– the ability to deal with situations of cultural pluralism;

– the familiarisation with the different European educational systems, particularly how they deal with present-day challenges in education and training.

iv. The introduction of a European dimension into secondary education can obtain the hoped-for results only if it is part of a coherent overall strategy which combines appropriate basic and further training, incorporation of a European dimension into the curriculum, development of active, participative teaching methods, development of appropriate teaching material, and ongoing debate about the nature and evolution of the European dimension.



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