23 SES 04 B, Globalization, Europeanization and Education (Part 2)
Paper Session: continued from 23 SES 03 B, to be continued in 23 SES 05 B
The current economic crisis has left many hurdles in the road. The economic situation in the European Union has caused, among other things, a reduction of social benefits and public services, producing a legitimacy crisis of the Welfare State (Johnson, 1987; Navarro, 2011). The education cuts are also affecting citizens, especially those with a higher risk of social exclusion. During the last decades, access to quality public education has served not only to improve social inclusion, reduce social differences, and form responsible citizens but also to achieve social development through the labour market. However, the emphasis on reducing the public deficit has ignored the need to promote active policies to improve educational systems in the euro zone. In other words, economic determinism relegates education to the background, and this is aggravating the situations of inequality and social injustice.
In this historical period, the concept of social justice is broad and indeterminate. O’Brien (2011) points out that equality and fairness are the two key elements in the definition of social justice. Young (1990) emphasised this idea, describing social justice as “the elimination of institutionalized domination and oppression. Social justice goes beyond the mere distribution of benefits (i.e. income and wealth) among the members of a society to an examination of institutional and social relations” (as cited in Speight & Vera, 2004, p.111). Assuming this approach, we posed the question of how social justice can be improved in a period of economic crisis like this. In this sense, we share the approach of Mertens (2007), who stated that “the implicit goal of inclusion of those who may not have sufficient power for accurate representation amongst the stakeholder groups is not only for accurate representation of their viewpoints, but also to empower the less advantaged in terms of being able to take an active agent role in social change” (p. 87).
Historically, political concern for social and educational inclusion dates back to the 1990s. Specifically, one of the most important references is the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Principles, Policy and Practice in Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994), where “the notion that schools should be inclusive has gained international momentum” (OECD 1995, 1999) “Policy-makers have become interested in wider issues of social inclusion and how education might play a role in promoting social cohesion in societies that are increasingly diverse, socially and culturally” (Armstrong, 2011, p. 29). However, policy proposals to promote inclusive education have been merely declarative in practice. “Over the years, policy documents have reflected shifting discourses in relation to ‘integration’, ‘inclusion’ and, most recently, ‘responses to diversity’, however, in the end, it appears that not much has changed in practice” (Graham & Jahnukainen, 2011, p. 268).
Taking this argument as a starting point, the interest of this paper is to expose the inconsistency between explicit purposes of educational policies and their impact on society. For this, we critically analyse one of the main documents which govern the current policy of the European Union: Europe 2020. This document’s primary goal is to overcome the economic crisis and, declaratively, it intends to do so through sustainable and inclusive growth
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