Doc. 9218

21 September 2001

Parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities in children’s education

Recommendation 1501(2001)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 765th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19 September 2001)

The Committee of Ministers considered Recommendation 1501 (2001) on “Parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities in children’s education” of the Parliamentary Assembly and decided to bring it to the attention of the Governments of its member states.

The development of modern society creates new challenges both for families and schools, which might create confusion as to the “division of labour” between these two social institutions. Parents, evidently, have a fundamental role to play in the education of their children and need to be involved in the whole education process, particularly at school. It is also evident that in the current state of affairs, neither parents nor teachers can transmit all the knowledge, skills and values that young people need for their proper integration into society. Communication and co-operation between them is therefore essential. On these two points, the Committee of Ministers fully shares the opinion of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Further to the Committee of Ministers’ decision, Recommendation 1501 was brought to the attention of the Forum for Children and Families at its first meeting (Strasbourg, 9 - 10 April 2001) and will be one of the sources of inspiration for the forthcoming activities of this new multidisciplinary body. Activities in the area of policies for families and children take place in close contact with the International Federation for Parent Education (IFPE), which, through its presence at the Forum for Children and Families, ensures that the parenting aspect is not overlooked in the Council of Europe’s various activities relating to children.

The Committee of Ministers would like to draw the Assembly’s attention to the project “A secondary education for Europe”, which resulted in a number of policy conclusions set out in Recommendation No. R (99) 2 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on secondary education. This recommendation emphasises the need for secondary education, in terms of structure and management, to be based on a policy of openness towards the outside world and the various members of the educational community, in particular the family.

The Declaration, adopted by the European Ministers of Education at their 20th Standing Conference (Cracow, Poland, October 2000) on “Education policies for democratic citizenship and social cohesion: challenges and strategies for Europe”, states that, in order to implement policies designed to promote social cohesion in a democratic country, it is necessary to increase the involvement and responsibility of parents in the education process in schools.

In the context of the Education for Democratic Citizenship project, which came to an end in September 2000, emphasis was placed on the importance of setting up procedures in schools for consulting and involving all partners in the local and regional community, including not only pupils but also parents.

At the Forum organised by the Education Committee in March 2000 on the general theme of “Education and social cohesion”, the Committee had stressed the special attention that should be paid to the role of parents and families in the education process as a way of breaking a vicious circle of exclusion in deprived regions.

As part of its new programme “Learning and teaching in the communication society”, carried out in co-operation with the Higher Education and Research Committee, the Education Committee plans to address the question of the development of new information and communication technologies, mentioned in the recommendation, and in particular the links that need to be established between the development of new information technologies in schools and at home.

As far as paragraph 10.viii of the Recommendation is concerned, the Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly’s concern and considers that special attention should be given to the needs and specific problems of immigrated families.

The Committee of Ministers would like to make the following comment on paragraph 10.i of the recommendation, concerning the need to improve communication and interaction between parents and educational authorities at all educational levels. This is a concern underlying all the work carried out on reform and reform strategies in relation to secondary education in the member states. This question is likely to be addressed at the third Conference on Education in Prague in 2002, which will study the strategy for reforming secondary education, and more particularly the assessment and follow-up in connection with the reforms.

The opinion of the Education Committee, appended to this reply, will provide the Assembly with more detailed information on special measures to be adopted and implemented.

Appendix

Opinion of the Education Committee on Recommendation 1501 (2001) of the Parliamentary Assembly on parents’ and teachers’ responsibility in children’s education

1.       The Education Committee has read with interest the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendation on parents’ and teachers’ responsibility in children’s education.

2.       The Committee would like to emphasise that the general philosophy on which the Recommendation is based, namely that parents have a fundamental role to play in the education of their children and need to be involved in the whole education process, particularly at school, is in keeping with the Committee’s own approach, whether in relation to the general policy regarding education or, more specifically, its work on the themes of education for democratic citizenship, the prevention of violence in schools, or the contribution made by education policies towards social cohesion.

3.       The Committee would particularly like to point out that in the context of the project “A secondary education for Europe”, which resulted in a number of policy conclusions set out in Recommendation R (99) 2 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on secondary education, particular emphasis was placed on the need for secondary education, in terms of its structure and management, to be based on a policy of openness towards the outside world and the various members of the educational community, in particular families.

4.       In the Declaration adopted at their 20th standing conference (Cracow, Poland, October 2000) on “Education policies for democratic citizenship and social cohesion: challenges and strategies for Europe”, the European Ministers of Education agreed that in order to implement policies designed to promote social cohesion in a democratic country it was necessary to increase the involvement and responsibility of parents in the education process in schools. Furthermore, in the context of the Education for Democratic Citizenship project, which came to an end in September 2000, emphasis was placed on the importance of setting up procedures in schools for consulting and involving all partners in the local and regional community, including not only pupils but also parents.

5.       At the Forum organised by the Education Committee in March 2000 on the general theme of “Education and social cohesion”, the Committee had stressed the special emphasis that should be placed on the role of parents and families in the education process as a way of breaking the often quasi-hereditary chain of exclusion in deprived regions. Dialogue with families must be used to help them to overcome their apprehension about their children’s future by giving them an active role to play and by encouraging them to be more positive about their children’s future.

6.       In the context of the Education Committee’s work on education reform strategies, many experts expressed the view, shared by the Education Committee, that parents should be involved not only in the everyday life of the school or other education establishment but also in discussions about education reform and in planning and carrying out such reform. In the same context, in order to succeed, education reform must be based on recommendations and guidelines that have been agreed by all the different players.

7.       Lastly, concerning the Assembly’s remark that the advent of the information society is raising unprecedented challenges for the education system and is also affecting families, the Committee would like to inform the Assembly that as part of its new programme being carried out in conjunction with the Higher Education and Research Committee (“Learning and teaching in the communication society”), it plans to address the question of the development of new information and communication technologies, and in particular the links that need to be established between the development of new technologies in schools and at home. The fundamental importance of this question has often been stressed in terms of the need to protect young people from certain information conveyed, in particular, via the Internet.

8.       The Committee agrees in particular with the view expressed by the Assembly in paragraph 6 that there is growing confusion concerning the role which parents and schools should play in educating young people. The Committee thinks that the solution to this apparent confusion lies in encouraging partnership and dialogue between these two players in the education process.

9.       Concerning the Assembly’s recommendations:

i.       the Education Committee could consider drafting a report for the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly on the respective responsibilities of parents and teachers based on the results of the project on “Learning and teaching in the communication society”;

ii.       the Education Committee could propose holding a forum discussion at the 2002 plenary meeting on this theme. However, the present budgetary situation is such that it is not possible, at such short notice, to consider organising an international conference on this subject with the participation of the European Union and UNESCO, although this is an idea that could also be considered on completion of the aforementioned project;

10.       Concerning paragraph 10.i., the need to improve communication and interaction between parents and educational authorities at all educational levels and encourage the establishment of partnerships is a concern underlying all the work carried out on reform and reform strategies in relation to secondary education in the member States. As already stated, parents should be involved not only in the everyday life of the class and the school as a whole, but also in more general discussions, including those about the long-term future. This question will most certainly be addressed at the third Conference in Prague, in 2002, on the strategy for reforming secondary education, which will focus in particular on assessment and follow-up in connection with reforms. Parental involvement in these areas is obviously a sensitive issue.

11.       Concerning paragraph 10.iii and the need to promote and develop further training for parents, the Committee has no plans at the moment for specific activities in this field, insofar as this question is addressed in general recommendations such as the aforementioned recommendation adopted by the European Ministers of Education at their standing conference in Cracow.

12.       Concerning paragraph 10.iv. and the recommendation that teachers should be made more aware of teacher-parent relations, the Committee would like to point out that one of the aims of its project concerned with “Learning and teaching in the communication society” is to redefine the roles and functions of teachers and the content of their initial and continuing training. It goes without saying that the ability to establish and develop harmonious relations with parents will be one of the new roles and functions of teachers in the communication society.

13.       Concerning paragraph 10.viii, particular attention is of course paid to children from underprivileged social and family backgrounds in the context of the project on education for democratic citizenship, but also to a greater extent in the project concerned with the education of roma/gypsy children, in respect of which the involvement of parents, and families generally, is obviously a crucial factor.

14.       Concerning the Assembly’s recommendations about transparency, cooperation between schools and local authorities, and the need to increase the autonomy of schools, the Committee would like to point out that these issues have figured constantly in its work for many years now.

15.       Concerning paragraph 11, the Education Committee has already embarked on joint projects with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe with a view to developing local authority participation in discussions on school issues, particularly regarding the prevention of violence in schools.