28 SES 04 A, New digital policy instrumentations in the governance of education
In the late 20th century traditional forms of educational government through centralised and rule-governed processes have been substituted by polycentric, (de)regulated and decentralised governance structures, although within the context of a strong central steering (Ozga, 2009). Studies have been pointing out that policy instruments and techniques of government are intertwined with digital infrastructures, software, algorithms, produced by programmers, technicians and experts, exerting an increasing influence on the policy process as well as on the educational and learning practices of everyday school life (Lynch, 2015; Williamson, 2014). The field of education and learning is increasingly organized and enacted through a variety of digital technologies that allow the circulation and standardization of practices and the engagement of social actors (states, headmasters, teachers, etc.) in processes of imitation, monitoring and competition within a material and conceptual framework which orient their practices in specific ways (Simons, 2015; Williamson, 2016).
Our contribution to the session aims to explore the role of digital devices into the governing of educational processes by looking at the field of lifelong guidance, a key policy area within the broader European Union Lifelong Learning strategy.
Guidance is referred in European documents (Council Resolution 2004, 2008; Memorandum of Lifelong learning 2000) as a key device of the “learning society”, that will have to enable each individual to keep up with knowledge and to develop their capacity for adaptation and autonomy in a context of a growing job flexibility (Pitzalis 2016; Watts, Sultana, & McCarthy, 2010). Lifelong guidance has been framed in this regard within the rise of neoliberal ideology aimed at fabricating, through different technologies and devices, entrepreneurial individuals engaged in maintaining their ‘use value’ within a highly competitive economy (Bengtsson, 2011; Brunila & Siivonen, 2016; Dardot & Laval, 2009; Watts, 1996).
Similarly to other policy fields, notably education, the governing of guidance programmes and practices is not hierarchical. It works through the active participation and co-optation of agents (states, municipalities, schools, teachers, private companies, etc.), within a framework which uses Europe-wide benchmarks and indicators to steer the policy processes in a way that is compatible with EU aspiration (Souto‐Otero, Fleckenstein, & Dacombe, 2008). In this regard, it has been stressed that the governementality perspective allows to point out how social actors (states, private companies, schools, higher education institutions, individual agents) become both objects and subjects of government through the uses of devices (increasingly digital) that provide them with peculiar resources for social advancement, self-monitoring and self-formation (Souto-Otero & Beneito-Montagut, 2016). This is particularly visible in recent years within the field of lifelong guidance where EU programmes are funding projects providing social actors with ICT, software and online platforms to engage, spread, monitor and ameliorate guidance services (Iacob, 2012).
From a theoretical point of view, the contribution will rely on three main conceptual resources. First, on the concepts of a European space of education where governing processes are enabled by ‘soft power’ mechanisms (Lawn, 2006). Second, on the concept of governmentality (Dean, 1999) for its capacity to stress how contemporary modes of governing are not only dispersed and de-centralized but also dependent on their capacity to produce active and free subjects who are willing to engage in (and to boost) the policy process (Souto-Otero & Beneito-Montagut, 2016). Third, and related to the previous points, on the policy enactment perspective allowing a micro-level sensitivity on how local actors make sense of, mobilize, align, negotiate or resists the introduction of specific devices or policy instruments within their everyday working practices (Ball, Magruire, & Braun, 2012).
In our contribution to the session we will discuss the case of SORPRENDO, a software developed by a private company (Centro study Pluriversum) as the main output of the project Career Guidelines (funded by the EU Longlife Learning Programme – Leonardo da Vinci – in 2009) with the aim of improving the quality of guidance services in Italy through the transfer of an English model of career guidance (I.C.A.S – International Career Assessment Software), created by CAS-CAiD Ltd (a company of the Loughborough University – UK) and through the adjustment and improvement of already existing Italian educational and occupational databases. The software targets secondary school students, early school leavers, workers and unemployed and it is currently employed in lower secondary schools as well as in public employment services. It provides users the access to a database of 400 occupational profiles, tools for exploring their own area of interests, aspirations and abilities, and instruments to match users’ profiles with existing occupational profiles. The software provides also online didactic support for teachers and an e-learning platform where students and teachers can acquire knowledge in the field of professional and educational opportunities. Through this case study, our contribution will focus on: 1) how this software has come to be produced and spread through various networks, involving various educational agencies and brokers across the European Educational Space, and within the Italian context; and 2) how this software is used within Italian schools. Our contribution is based on an ongoing research project where data are being mainly collected by: 1) semiotic analysis of Sorprendo software in use and of Sorprendo websites (Mattozzi 2009; Landri 2016); 2) an auto-ethnographic approach (Decuypere, Ceulemans, & Simons, 2014) based on the use of an (all featured) demo version of the software we have received from the Pluriversum Company; 3) interviews carried out with teachers and headmasters within two lower secondary schools (one in the city of Milan, and one in the city of Cagliari) that are currently using this software with their students; 4) Interview with the company that has produced the Italian software, adapting it from its original version developed in the UK context.
Our research project is exploring the following working questions: how does the software contribute to the production of knowledge and practices that are useful for governing aims? What type of changes has the introduction of the software involved in how schools and educational professionals conceive educational and career guidance? How is this software used within lower secondary school contexts? Research results will be presented by focusing on two dimensions. The first one pertains to the interlocking processes of Europeanization/Standardization/digitalization. We are going to show how Sorprendo constitutes a paradigmatic example of how the digitalization of a specific educational practice (i.e. career and educational guidance) has enormous potential for standardizing both this set of practices and the assumptions, theoretical approaches and aims they embody. Sorprendo constitutes indeed not only a career guidance software addressing individual students, but also a technology used to bring guidance professionals and teachers into European educational policy discourse. Secondly, our contribution aims to focus on the more micro-level process the software activates at the school level. In particular, we analyse the potential effects of the software on its users (the students), paying attention on its role in favouring or not equal opportunities and the contradictions the software embody when it aims to enhance autonomous, self-aware choices while processing an output consisting in a reification of users’ abilities, interests and social dispositions.
Ball, S., Magruire, M., & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy. Policy enactment in secondary schools. London: Routledge. Bengtsson, A. (2011). European Policy of Career Guidance: The Interrelationship between Career Self-Management and Production of Human Capital in the Knowledge Economy. Policy Futures in Education, 9(5), 616–627. Brunila, K., & Siivonen, P. (2016). Preoccupied with the self: towards self-responsible, enterprising, flexible and self-centred subjectivity in education. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 37(1), 56–69. Dean, M. (1999). Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society. London: Sage. Decuypere, M., Ceulemans, C., & Simons, M. (2014). Schools in the making: mapping digital spaces of evidence. Journal of Education Policy, 29(5), 617–639. Fenwick, T. J., Mangez, E., & Ozga, J. (2013). Governing knowledge : comparison, knowledge-based technologies and expertise in the regulation of education. Landri, P. (2016),“ Material Semiotics of the European Digital Governance of Education" paper presented at the Conference:ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers, University College Dublin from 22-26 August, 2016. Lawn, M. (2006). Soft Governance and the Learning Spaces of Europe. Comparative European Politics, 4(2/3), 272–288. Mattozzi, A. (2009). A model for the Semiotic Analysis of Objects. In S. Vihma & T. Karjalainen, eds. Design Semiotics in Use. Helsinki: Helsinki University of Art and Design Press. Ozga, J. (2009). Governing education through data in England: From regulation to self‐evaluation. Journal of Education Policy, 24(2), 149–162. Pitzalis M. (2016), The Technological Turn: Policies of Innovation, Politics and Mobilisation. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 8(2), 11-27 Pitzalis M, De Feo A, La logica delle cose. Per una socioanalisi dell'innovazione tecnologica in classe, Scuola democratica, Learning for Democracy, 1/2016, pp. 47-68 Romito, M. (2017), Governing through guidance: an analysis of educational guidance practices in an Italian lower secondary school, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2017.1314251 Simons, M. (2015). Governing education without reform: the power of the example. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(5), 712–731. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2014.892660 Souto-Otero, M., & Beneito-Montagut, R. (2016). From governing through data to governmentality through data: Artefacts, strategies and the digital turn. European Educational Research Journal, 15(1), 14–33. Williamson, B. (2014). Governing software: networks, databases and algorithmic power in the digital governance of public education. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2014.924527 Williamson, B. (2016). Digital education governance: An introduction. European Educational Research Journal, 15(1), 3–13.
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