Experts compared education policy in the European Union and the U.S. at a panel event Monday, highlighting the decision-making processes and power distributions that result in distinct approaches to education.
José Manuel Martínez Sierra, professor of European Union law and government, argued that the E.U.’s lack of political power and complicated executive structure contribute to its contemporary difficulties in implementing educational policies.
“The problem in European Union education has to do with the complexity of the decision-making process and the lack of competency of the European Union,” Martínez Sierra said.
Martínez Sierra noted that the lack of a centralized political system in the E.U. results in the relative autonomy of each member state, which makes it difficult to implement policies across member states. Since national interests often supersede international ones, it is challenging for the E.U. to implement widespread educational reform, he said.
S. Paul Reville, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and a professor at the Graduate School of Education, discussed the history of education reform in the U.S.
According to Reville, the U.S. constitution does not delegate education policy as a power of the federal government, which in turn gives states the ability to shape their educational systems.
“There is no mention whatsoever of education [in the Constitution],” Reville said. “Anything not written in the federal Constitution was automatically the responsibility of the individual states.”
Reville later added that since education policy can not be mandated at the national level, the federal government has to create incentives, particularly access to funds, to motivate states to adopt certain policies.
Through these federal incentives, Reville said that “federal policy gets implemented, without it being mandated.”
The business community has also prompted states to implement reforms because leaders believed education was critical to economic prosperity, he said.
Reville discussed how, due to federal incentives and encouragement from business leaders, states have voluntarily developed a set of standards known as the common core, which allow local governments to develop curricula to achieve a set of common standards about what students should know at the end of each grade.
He noted that although the reform process in the U.S. can be difficult and time-consuming like in the E.U., the American approach offers incentives for individual states to implement education policies.