A new report by the Eurydice Network, Towards a Mobility Scoreboard: Conditions for Learning abroad in Europe, highlights unequal opportunities, uneven commitments and a complex range of obstacles to learner mobility across Member States. A combination of maps and color-coded scoreboards, which run from green (excellent) to red (poor), provides a detailed, digestible, quick-glance guide to the current state of play in all 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Turkey, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Despite the populist rhetoric against the free movement of EU citizens across the Member States of the Union, there seems to be a firm consensus that learning mobility is a good thing. This conviction is shared by REF, which supported a total of 36 students to study abroad in the 2013-14 academic year. The current group of Roma beneficiaries include seven students pursuing Doctorate studies, 14 Masters students and 15 undergraduates.
This latest Eurydice report is a direct response to the European Council’s 2011 “Youth on the Move” recommendation which stated:
“Learning mobility, meaning transnational mobility for the purpose of acquiring new knowledge, skills and competences, is one of the fundamental ways in which young people can strengthen their future employability, as well as their intercultural awareness, personal development, creativity and active citizenship.”
However, a combination of regulatory, administrative and pecuniary obstacles means that across the Union and beyond, opportunities are unequal, the resources committed by governments vary greatly, information flows and guidance remain uneven, and as a consequence, some students are clearly more mobile than others. In the Communication Member States committed to work with the Commission to promote learning mobility, to create a framework for monitoring progress and remove whatever obstacles impede students from studying abroad.
Eurydice’s mobility scoreboard defines indicators in five priority areas of the Council Recommendation: information and guidance; foreign language preparation; portability of public grants and loans; recognition of learning outcomes and mobility support to students from a low socio-economic background.
For each thematic area covered in this report two kinds of presentation are made. The first is a series of maps, which focus on individual issues separately, so that exact differences between countries are visible. In the second type of presentation, composite scoreboard indicators combine the different variables shown on the maps into pre-defined categories and list the countries accordingly.
For example, the Council Recommendation called on Member States to be creative and innovative in their endeavors to improve the quality, access and dissemination of information and guidance on opportunities and grant availability; and to encourage the use of “multipliers,” i.e., those who have already participated in transnational learning schemes to inspire and motivate more young people to become mobile. The report provides a series of maps comparing countries on four key elements drawn from this element of the Council recommendation: the state of information and strategic planning on information and guidance; the provision of personalized services; the involvement of multipliers; and the use of external evaluation as part of the monitoring process.
The scoreboard indicator (see link below) provides a complete view of where countries might be positioned with regards to these four elements. It spans six categories: the dark green category features all elements considered, while the red category applies when none of the elements is considered. The remaining four categories are intermediate. Only Germany reaches the green standard, but no countries are “in the red.” Only four countries have external evaluations, after that the most common missing element is the involvement of multipliers.
Source: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/thematic_reports/162EN.pdf, page 12-13.
The foreign language preparation component yields a very clear ranking across the countries with Belgium (de),Cyprus and Luxembourg topping the table in the “excellent” dark green category: compulsory foreign language teaching lasts for 10 years and second foreign language compulsory for all students for at least five years. Scotland and Ireland are at the bottom of the table in the red, with no compulsory foreign language teaching.
The Council Recommendation called on governments to “promote the portability of grants, loans and appropriate access to relevant benefits” to facilitate the learning mobility of young people. This section is “necessarily complex” with seven explanatory maps and clusters of country specific notes. But the fact that nine countries on the scoreboard are sitting in the red “no portability” category suggests that there is much room for improvement.
For anyone studying abroad, the quality of their learning experience matters most, but this is precisely where ‘conceptual problems’ preclude providing a composite cross-country scoreboard. The authors state that while it may be easy to agree on the importance of quality, “it is quite difficult to pin down precisely what good quality in learning mobility might actually mean.”
However from the maps in the quality section it can be gleaned that:
- roughly two-thirds of the countries have not adopted the European Quality Charter for Mobility;
- two-thirds of the countries have no monitoring of the use of Learning Agreements, with institutions left to determine their own practices without any external supervision;
- two-thirds of the countries lack external quality assurance systems to review integration schemes for mobile learners from other countries;
- there are no countries where quality assurance agencies typically examine institutional practice in recognizing credit obtained abroad.
The authors venture that this could be interpreted as a worrying situation, which “appears to signal a lack of priority to ensuring the well-being of students coming to the country from abroad.”
An even more worrying picture emerges with regard to recognition of learning outcomes.
The scoreboard, see link above, shows nearly one third of the countries are in the lowest category, and almost two-thirds in the second lowest category. It seems reasonable to suggest that much needs to be done, as the Council Recommendation puts it, to “promote the promote the implementation and use of Union instruments which facilitate the transfer and validation of the learning outcomes of mobility experiences between Member States.”
With regards to disadvantaged learners, governments are urged to provide those who may be deprived of opportunities for learning mobility, “with targeted information on available programmes and support tailored to their specific needs.” With all but four countries in the lower half of the table, when it comes to equalizing opportunities, to borrow a phrase from children’s school reports of old, Member States “must try harder.”
This article was written by the Roma Education Fund and was republished with their permission.