23 SES 06 D, European Policies on the School Curriculum (Part 2)
Paper Session: continued from 23 SES 05 D
The process of European integration poses a big challenge in education policy and research. As the lack of a ‘European identity’ is seen as one of the major problems in creating a common ‘demos’, the European Commission has attempted several times to introduce a stronger European perspective into the national curricula (Cederman 2001). However, despite the mobility-enhancing programs and harmonization attempts, education remains practically exclusively in the competence of the European member states, where leaders and the majority of citizens have a reluctant attitude towards harmonization (European Union 2010). Thus, the difficult questions education policy-makers are facing are: Should national policies be committed to a common project and how can this be done, without having a centralised state? The question for educational researchers on the other side is: What implications do such processes have on research in the field of school history?
The same questions were posed in Switzerland in the 19th century. The country, composed of several canton-states with different religions, different types of economy and speaking different languages, was seen as a federal project, where the cantons would maintain as much autonomy as possible (Linder 2010). As in the EU, this was true especially for education policy, where the concentration of powers to the federal centre was rejected several times by the people (Criblez 2011). Nonetheless curricula and textbooks were gradually oriented towards the construction of a common Swiss identity, with different rates of harmonization observed between different school subjects. In the field of history teaching, the cantons gradually harmonized the content, eventually leading to the development of a relatively homogeneous curricular canon (Criblez and Hofstetter 1998; Furrer 2004). Examples can be found in the various translations and adaptations of some history manuals, which we find prescribed in the different linguistic regions (e.g. Zschokke Heinrich Des Schweizerland Geschichte für das Schweizervolk; Histoire de la Suisse; Storia della Svizzera, pel popolo svizzero 1882). Another development can be seen in language education. Despite being part of a multilingual federation, the cantons did not homogenize language teaching and did not introduce the compulsory teaching of a second language until the 1970s.
Our intention is to show how the curricular contents changed from the beginning of the integration process (1848) up to today, focusing on the two, seemingly contradictory developments in the teaching of history and languages. We rest our analysis on the works in nationalism and democratic theory, where the centralisation of the education system is described as one of the main instruments for nation-building (Gellner 1983; Anderson 1983), used to construct a national history and tradition (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1992) and to create and homogenize the national language (Haugen 1973). History and language are seen as fundamental parts of a ‘national identity’ (Thiesse 1999) and therefore essential for the construction of a stable and legitimate democracy (Schnapper 1994). In this light, Switzerland takes in the role of a deviant case among the traditional monolingual and centralised nation-states, but is at the same time a predecessor of newer supranational governance models like the EU, characterized by decentralized federalism, multilingualism and a consociational style of policy making (Schimmelfennig 2014).
Drawing on the processes outlined above, we discuss our research methods in light of the implications of similar institutional settings. Basing our research on the Swiss case, we ask ourselves how comparative research in the field of history of education and schooling can be accomplished, without diminishing the complex and sometimes idiosyncratical aspects of these processes. And we discuss what methodological implications the research has in a multi-levelled policy context formed of sovereign and diverse, but at the same time politically bound entities.
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