Study-fees, cuts in budget, privatisation of schools and
universities... Education´s aims are rapidly changing, are more and
more going to serve private, economic interests. All around Europe
students are facing similar problems. The reasons can be found in EU-
policy. For this reason students from Dortmund (Germany) are calling
for an EU-wide pupil- and studentstrike from December 10th to
December 14th 2001. During the first days of this strike actions in
European cities, universities and schools are due to take place. A
huge common march at the end of the EU summit in Brussels(Belgium) is
scheduled for December 14th.
National education policy is a fiction
Since we suppose that around the EU students are facing the same
problems, we are calling for an EU-wide strike. In Germany study-fees
for so called long-term students have been allowed, general study-
fees are being discussed, universities are turned vom state-run
institutes into autonomous private foundations. In Austria study-fees
have been introduced this summer. In Holland the education minister
has announced that Netherlands` universities are due to be
increasingly commercialised...There must be numerous examples all
around Europe. By icident? No! Students in each country must think
their national educational politics are unique and customized to the
respective national situation. But a quick look around Europe
reveals: National politics are neither unique nor customized to the
local situation but are instigated by a systematic EU-wide policy. In
fact the way national educational policy within EU-states takes is
entirely predetermined by already negotiated treaties - especially
the GATS-treaty. So, who wonders about similar problems in different
European states. For educational policy is yet decided about on
international grounds, we think it is about time for European pupils
and students to protest and speak out internationally.
Just one example: German universities are prepared for privatisation
Germany´s "No" to study-fees, a long-time guarantee for Gemany´s
comparably high degree of equality of chances, is no longer
untouchable. As a result the indirect universitiy-educations´s rise
in price through increasing re-enrolment-fees and insufficient
student-grants is mirrored in a current study about students´social
situation published by "Deutsches Studentenwerk": Enrolment-figures
are falling especially with children from poorer families ie. working-
class families whose students are often forced to work for money
during their studies and therefore are entitled to become so-called
long-term-students. It is easy to recognize: Student-fees of what
kind ever will only aggravate this situation. As a consequence
Gemany´s in international comparison low number of university men and
women will never be increased. While a reform of student-grants has
failed, the German ministry of education is spending more and more
money on the research-sector.
Spending more money on research to empty Germany´s overcrowded
lecture halls or why universities are economised to be ready for
Because of the German minister´s, sudden change in her attitude
towards study-fees after long years of rejecting those one has to ask
why. The reason is quite simple: For some time now education and
university policy does no longer lie in the hands of German politics.
There is no other explanation of such inconsitencies. And watching
closely the national situation, one finds the key to ministerial
electorial lies in Brussels, in the hands of the European Union und
furthermore in the hands of the WTO (World Trade Organisation). By
means of the international trade agreement GATS (General Agreement of
Trade in Services) started in 1994 the WTO has begun to lay the
educational sector in the hands of civil economy.
By means of GATS state services like educational services and
healthcare are declared a tradable commodity. Under the auspicies of
the WTO, beyond democratic control of national parliaments, GATS is
designed to give companies the opportunity to take over the biggest
part of state services like public transportation, tourism,
healthcare, telecommunication, water supplies etc. not only on
national but international grounds.
European states have acceeded GATS under the umbrella of the European
Union, punishing member states in case of inadequate openening of
their markets - here the services sector - to foreign companies.
Sooner or later any sector - if not monopolistically state-
controlled - has to be opened like the German educational sector
where a number of private institutions is yet established. By means
of the GATS discipline of equal treatment foreign companies are
enabled to sue their way into the public sector of nations. At this
moment the liberalisation of educational and healthcare sectors are
discussed under the umbrella of GATS. Simultaneously Germany is yet
paving the way for foreign companies to enter the educatinal sector.
Not only by approaching study-fees German universties are prepared
for market competition. By turning state owned universities into
foundations German universities are enabled to collect more
sponsorships and act company-like themselves. It is not by chance
that since the middle of this year a private university, the
University of Witten/Herdecke, experienced in collecting sponsorships
and making profits, is represented in the German Conference of
University Rectors (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz) for the first time.
By means of a decree of the ministry of education state universities
are urged to sell patents more profitable now. A new law about
universities` autonomy giving universities greater freedom in
selecting students and creating curricula - probably according to
economic needs - is brought on the way. Of course study-fees for
everybody are highly likely in private foundations. The opening of
markets according to GATS is nothing less than privatisation yet
negotiated and only to be realised on national basis. A return of a
privatised educational sector into state hands is actually impossible
according to GATS.
In expectation of a strong competition for sponsorships and
profitable coalitions with private companies the ministerial strategy
of increased spendings on research while spending on education is
reduced for sponsorship becoming more acceptable makes sense in order
to increase the attractivity of German universities.
Human resources - how human beings are becoming natural resources
For quite a time now in international treaties as well as in the EU
pupil and students are referred to as human resources. A revealing
term: since today´s education´s main aim is to produce human
resources for companies. Private capital trying to impose its aims
and priorities on education according to market priciples is no
surprise. Education is turned into a market sector. Politicians are
deliberately accepting a market orchestrating educational aims and
organisation. Even the in its biggest parts still state-run German
educational sector is more and more turned into a supplier of made-to-
measure human resources. Unneccessary burdon like general education
and social skills are consequently removed from the curriculum.
Education is turned into a "place" where war-rules are applied.
Destinction between winners and loosers is made between owners of
more and more expensive education and widely uneducated human
resources. Despite of many educators` efforts selection of the best
is becoming more and more important. Development of the individual
and his skills is restrained. The establishing of elité-institutes
and the year long disapproved of special education of highly talented
pupils have become fashionable again. According to neo-liberalism´s
monotonously repeated justification, knowlegde has become the most
important resource of the so called "New Economy", where companies
and no loger schools are the place where development of the
individual takes place, where economy and no loger a collective
consensus about what is desirable skills is deciding about
organisation, production, upvalue and spreading of "knowledge that
counts". Education is more and more submitting under technology. More
and more education is being instrumentalised to enhance
enterpreneurship and economical use in research and education.
Stop EU´s education-policy!
If the Europeans want to avoid the aforementioned development "they
certainly must not follow the guidelines fixed by the 15 European
heads of states at the extraordinary conference of European ministers
in Lisbon in March 2000, later specified by means of an action-plan
created by the European ministers in Feira in June 2000", warns
Riccardo Petrella, advisor of the European commission and professor
at the Université Catholique in Leuven (Belgium). Further he
explains, that according to this guidelines Europe´s main effort was
to build up "e-Europe" in order to turn Europe into the worlds most
potent "e-economy" by 2015. The main aim of educational policy was to
give all Europeans at the age of pre- and primary school access to
digital education " in order to allow production of competitive human
resources - especially competitive in regard of Northamerica´s human
resources, who are supposed to be 10 years ahead", Petrella reports.
Neo-liberalism - a solution or the chosen few
These guidelines of neo-liberalism are postulated as the way to full
employment and social justice. What a mistake. Drastically the U.S.
example reveals, where this way will lead to: In spite of an ecomomic
boom in the 90´s, in spite of low unemployment rates, in spite of the
worlds most developed information and communication technologies, in
spite of first-class universities the average level of education is
miserable. In the following society is falling apart in productive
and unproductive "human resources". A neo-liberal caste system with
no escape for the uneducated new proletariat is developing. Since the
caste of the educated just needs restricted human resources access to
this class has to be elité. "Modern" foreigner-policy shows where
this way is leading to: Green-cards for the caste of the educated,
deportation for useless human resources.
International actions are more useful
Until now students only have operated on national grounds. Since
national influence on education policy is declining it is neccassary
to act internationally against the "dictatorship of international
trade-treaties". Action is neccessary right now, since the WTO has
just started another round of GATS-talks after the failure of the
Seattle negotiations. Healthcare and education are on the agenda this
time. Since the European Union officially advised by an international
lobbygroup of service providers is taking part in GATS-talks it is
absolutely neccessary for European students to fight in joint
operations against this liberalisation of uncontrollable outcome
while all around Europe the preparing mechanisms of the opening of
markets are already at work.
European students willing to strike?
While in austria this semester study fees are paid for the first time
and Germany is developing in the same direction, privatisation of
education in Great Britain is actually yet finished. Therefore the
idea of an EU-wide pupil and student strike is well accepted.
Presumably GRAS (Grüne und Alternative StudentInnen), inhabiting
presidency of the austrian students, and AKS (Aktion kritischer
SchülerInnen) will take part in the strike. In spite of holiday time
positive reactions from Germany have yet arrived. It makes less and
less sense to act exclusivly on national basis, since the most
important decisions are made in Brussels by the EU. At the moment we
are trying to get in contact with all European student organisations.