Commodifying education through assessment: LLLWeek21 workshop

On 2 December, SOLIDAR Foundation organised a workshop in the frame of the LLLWeek21, titled “Commodifying education through assessment”. The 11th edition of the LLLWeek has reaffirmed itself as one of the most important annual gatherings of education providers promoting lifelong learning in Europe, and has doubled down on the link between assessment used in education and wellbeing of learners and educators. The LLLWeek marked also the publication of the Lifelong Learning Platform’s (LLLP) annual position paper, which was aligned with the theme of the LLLWeek, “The changing nature of evaluation in education and its impact on learners’ wellbeing“ 

In this context, SOLIDAR Foundation presented its September 2021 Policy Paper on the Commodification of Education, bridging the way assessments are used to perpetuate the goals and set-up of an education system. As privatisation and marketisation in education have intensified in the past decades, the assessments are also taking the form of more quantitative exercises meant to rank learners and education institutions, for the purpose of identifying how the needs of the labour market can be met. The SOLIDAR Foundation Policy Paper aims to counteract this narrative and highlight the potential for a new model of governance and funding in education. 

This paradigm would see education stakeholders such as learners, teachers, parents, education support personnel, civil society organisations and other community stakeholders involved in the running of education institutions and in education policymaking, to ensure that a holistic education is promoted rather than one oriented towards the labour market. At the same time, SOLIDAR Foundation strives for an alternative model of funding in education that is needs-based, increased, public and linked with the well-being and holistic development of learners rather than their performance over quantitative indicators. This was a central topic for the whole week as it’s becoming increasingly urgent, and indeed it’s the key demand from the Lifelong Learning Interest Group Statement, released during this year’s LLLWeek. 

SOLIDAR Foundation was joined in this workshop by Tomasz Gryczan, Coordinator for Social Dialogue, Economic Policy and Governance at the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and by Matteo Vespa from the Executive Committee of the European Students’ Union. Tomasz Gryczan highlighted the negative impact that privatization in education and thelack of critical assessment of public-private partnerships in education have on teachers’ working conditions, the quality of education provided, job security for teachers, teachers’ autonomy, highlighting the erosion of social dialogue in education during the pandemic. Matteo Vespa elaborated on similar aspects linked to education professionals in higher education, explaining the need for a European-wide coalition of stakeholders that must challenge the current funding models in education and promote social rights in education, both at national and European level. 

Closing the workshop, Giuseppina Tucci, president of the LLLP, reiterated the idea that education cannot be based on commodification, launching a call for structural reforms in education to this end. She also underlined the need for education to develop citizens that thrive in a sustainable society rather than solely labour market-fit future workers. Participants in the event agreed on the need for building alliances in society to this end, and SOLIDAR Foundation welcomes the avenues for collaboration on this topic with ETUCE, ESU and LLLP and commits to intensify its efforts on these matters in the following year.