An independent study on the situation of the EU's education system argues that lack of openness of the education system to students from all social backgrounds is a major problem.
A report, written by a an OECD education expert Andreas Schleicher argues that a paradigm change in Europe's education system is necessary for the EU to achieve its Lisbon goal of becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010. He thinks that the change must be aimed towards a more flexible and effective system that is more easily accessible to a wider range of people.
The author praises Finland, together with Canada and Japan, as having the world's most successful education systems. Finland's success can, according to him, be attributed to country's shift from controlling the resources and content of education towards a focus on better outcomes, while establishing universal high standards. It has also abandoned uniformity in favour of embracing diversity and individualised learning and moved from a bureaucratic approach towards delegating responsibilities; from talking about equity to delivering equity.
The report highlights inequalities in access to learning as the biggest concern in the EU. "Europeans from difficult socio-economic backgrounds don't receive the same educational opportunities as children from rich and middle-class families," it states. The data suggests, in fact, that "in many countries, European schools reinforce existing socio-economic inequities." In Germany, for example, children in white-collar families are four times more likely to go on to higher education.
A separate OECD study, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), is an international assessment and comparison of students' performances in OECD countries. France refuses even to publish PISA's evidence on social inequality between schools, whereas Finland, the top performer in the PISA studies for the two last consecutive years, has less than 5% variation in student performance between schools.