28 SES 01, The Fluidity of Europeanization of Education
In the field of education, recent research findings show that knowledge is power, and that in order to embed in policies, it must materialize in metrics (Grek, 2009; Normand, 2016). At the same time, in political sciences, it has been proven that “ideas” find a material existence and become “instruments” for public action (Lascoumes and Le Galès, 2005). Some other actors exert a growing influence like think tanks, knowledge networks and advocacy networks, both in the production of knowledge and ‘agenda making’ (Ball, 2012; Stone ; 2013; Normand, 2016).
Capitalizing on such research, we will present some characteristics of new politics of education across Europe and at the global level. We will explain the emergence, dissemination and translation of the concept of “soft skills” within educational policies, which crosses education, lifelong learning and employment policies. Our goal is to disentangle complex roles of actors (public ones such as decision makers, educators and experts, and private ones such as philanthropy actors and entrepreneurs) and macro-actors (institutions such as national States, international organizations, think tanks, private companies…) to qualify theirs relationships in the production of knowledge and the shaping of European education. After mapping such dynamics at the global and European level, we study their impact on educational policies at a more local level, taking the case of France.
This contribution differs from previous studies as it questions the structuring of a new epistemic governance both through its cognitive and instrumental dimensions. First, cognitive approach is mobilized though the study of a new “cognitive motive” (Benamouzig, 2005) called “soft skills” and its transfer, borrowing and dissemination into educational public policies (Steiner-Khamsi and Waldow, 2013). Secondly, we study the role of various actors in the making of evidence-based technologies, instruments and measurement tools, and question the way they produce cognitive categories in shifting educational frameworks and policies. We wish here to add on existing literature on how knowledge comes to gain a materiality and get embodied in policies. Acknowledging the diversification of “standardizers” (Brunsson, 2012), networks and a wide range of private actors come here under close scrutiny, as well as international organizations. As do fruitful recent research (Landri, 2016), our work shall also develop some insights from the Sociology of Science and Technology (SST), more particularly from the Actor-Network Theory and its conceptual framework (Callon, 1986 ; Latour, 1988).
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