ERG SES D 06, Europe and Education
From the late 80’s onwards, in a movement that includes the institution of democracy and joining the European union, we have been witnessing a "strong emphasis on the role of schools in promoting citizenship (democratic and European)" (Menezes, Ferreira & Pais, 2012), lead by the introduction, via the State, of a European dimension in public education with the aim of creating and educating citizens (Arnot, 2009).
Thus, from the mid-90’s, it emerges, both at national and European levels, a special focus on Citizenship Education (CE) in terms of research - focusing on the study of its educational and curricular design guidelines and on its impact on the knowledge, values and skills of students (Torney-Purta et al., 2001). This emphasis was also present in political discourse (Van Steenbergen, 1994) and originated several educational reforms throughout Europe (Menezes, 2003). With this, CE became the object of international studies on knowledge, skills, attitudes and political involvement of young people (Amadeo et al., 2002) and a response to concerns about the growth of social exclusion, discrimination and decreasing levels of political involvement, promoting, on the other hand, social cohesion and feelings of belonging (Torney-Purta, Schwille & Amadeo, 1999) This was particularly visible in educational contexts since the central role in the construction of the "ideal citizen" is commonly assigned to the school (Habermas, 1995).
Consequently, we can observe a reconfiguration of the European project that reflects not only a geographical area of intervention but also an area of education centred on European educational policy (Dale, 2009) which has been understood as an “unprecedented process of geographic integration at the supranational level that looks much more like a stitching together of a patchwork of distinct citizenship regimes than a fusion into a homogeneous political space"(Bauböck & Guiraudon, 2009: 444).
According to Bourdieu (1992), Europe is seen as a wider space where several national interests and particularities fight for distinction, recognition, domination, equality, evidence and/or leadership. Consequently, it can be stated that the Europeanization process can assume different dimensions and meanings (e.g., symbolical, cultural, spatial, political, economical, institutional, informative and educational, between others) and that its policy and project consist of a dynamic process, in constant evolution, with the aim of disseminating values, ideas, symbols, laws and images that represent the identity(ies) of Europe with which the majority of citizens are expected to identify with. In this way, it can be assumed that “European integration is, at the same time, a reaction towards the globalisation process and towards its most advanced expression” (Castells (2000: 348).
Recognising this, it is essential to understand what kind of European Citizenship (EC) has been advocated not only at a policy level but also at a practical and implemented one. Considering that learning about the EU is essential for European integration with and not in spite of citizens, this paper aims to reach a wider understanding of the impact of EC policies at a national and local level, taking into consideration if and how these educational policies promote a political culture that values citizens’ active participation and what kind of rights, duties and the senses of European belonging they emphasize. What are we referring to when we approach the concept of EC? How is this dimension sustained at an educational level? What is the aim of its exercise in a European and democratic society? Are there different perceptions and conceptions towards it emerging through the several spheres of decision making and its implementation? To which kind of European Citizenship Education is the public school compromised to and how do these perceive their role in it as facilitators of European Citizenship Education?
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