23 SES 04 D, Adult Education and Life Long Learning
The study focuses on the European Union’s (EU) policy concerning LLL and disability from 2000 to the policy alignment of today. Within the last decades, disability policy alignments in the EU have systematically aimed at improving the societal inclusion of disabled persons (European commission [EC], 2000b; 2003; 2010b). EU disability policy has stressed the importance of employability and, as part of it, the possibilities to participate in education and lifelong learning (henceforth LLL) to reach policy objectives. However, both the education, employment rate and socioeconomic positions of disabled persons have remained far below the EU average (Eurostat, 2017). At the same time, LLL has been the defining concept of the EU’s education policy guidelines over recent decades (EC, 2000a; 2001; 2006; 2010b). In the EU, LLL has been a central policy tool for both economic growth and in the transformation to a knowledge society (Volles, 2016).
Starting point of the study derives from an assumption that despite the inclusive policy objectives of equality and employability, disability occupies a marginal position within the prevalent LLL discourse. The research questions are as follows:
1) How disability is constituted and governed within the EU’s lifelong learning and disability policy discourses?
2) How disabled persons are positioned within the discourses?
The analytical framework is based on theorizations concerning governmentality (Foucault, 1991). The idea of governmentality comprises the exercise of power through different rationalities and technologies which are shaped, for instance, by institutions, procedures and tactics (Rose, 1999; Bacchi & Goodwin, 2016). In the broadest sense, governmentality is produced in the network of rationalities and technologies where we also learn to govern the conduct of others and ourselves: the conduct of conduct (Foucault, 1991). Political rationalities refer to the ways of reasoning and responding to a particular societal problem (Dean, 2010). Within this framework, policies are approached as technologies of government in relation to different political rationalities which shape the definition and understanding of European citizenship as well as discursive practices, which means that policies are ‘produced and formed by taken-for-granted and implicit knowledges and assumptions about the world and ourselves’ (Ball 2016, p. 6). Political rationalities are embodied in various practices and technologies that regulate, for instance, economic life, medical care, welfare benefits and education (Rose, 1999; Lemke, 2012).For their part, technologies are the mechanisms through which governing takes place. They are assemblages of beliefs, knowledge, reasoning, practices of calculations and forms of judgement that serve as instruments for shaping subjectivities (Rose, 1999; Bacchi & Goodwin, 2016.) In this sense, LLL and disability policies are specific instruments of technologies that are produced to shape the conduct of individuals and groups.
The concept of LLL is approached as a technique for reorganizing both education and the norm of a lifelong learner (Schuetze, 2006) and a model of governing subjects in relation to their community (Olssen, 2008). The theorization of disability is, in turn, drawn from the field of critical disability studies (Campbell, 2009; Goodley, 2014). Therefore, the concept of disability is approached as a governmental apparatus which concentrates on a subject’s abilities and body functions by defining some of these as disabilities and impairments in relation to the norm, i.e. a definition of an able subject (Campbell 2009; 2011). Through these definitions, disability is standardized and applied to governing (c.f. Campbell 2011). In this presentation, attention is directed towards the ways in which subjects and the concepts of disability and LLL are constructed in discursive practices and produced as objects of knowledge through various techniques in the EU’s LLL and disability policies.
The main data included seven EU commission’s disability and LLL policy documents from 2000–2010. Those are the most central documents defining the EU policy in the areas concerned. The documents were analysed discursively by highlighting the nuances of the ways language is used (and not used) and bringing out how the policies may or may not work (Taylor et al., 2006, p. 43). The analysis included three phases from the perspective of governmentality. In the first phase, the ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be’ (WPR) approach, developed by Carol Bacchi (see e.g. Bacchi, 2000; Bacchi & Goodwin, 2016), was applied to organize and highlight the discursive manners used in the policy documents. The approach assumes that political problems are created in particular policy discourses (Bacchi, 2000). Hence, the purpose was to determine what policy problems were represented within disability and LLL policy documents and how ‘governing takes place through problematizations’ (Bacchi & Goodwin, 2016, p. 17; see also Foucault, 1991). In the second phase, the focus was to track down how the main objectives of the policy documents were exemplified in relation to the represented problems, and what means were given to reach the policy objectives. The analysis was both contextualized in a broader policy context and narrowed to the language used in particular documents, the latter meaning how certain objectives and means become part of a particular policy discourse by leaving other possibilities out. In this phase, the focus was on ‘why is this particular policy on the agenda at this particular time’ (Taylor et al., 2006, p. 40). In the last phase, we examined intersections and expressions of disability and disability-related concepts in the LLL documents as well as LLL-related concepts in the disability documents.
The analysis shows that disabled persons are a marginalized group governed within the discourse of LLL. The subject of the disabled person remains outside the norm of lifelong learning as conceived within the EU documents. In LLL policy documents, disabled persons are constituted as a group who do not fulfill the premises set for the lifelong learner as homo economicus. Instead, disabled persons are constituted as a marginalized group who need support, such as ICT, to mitigate their imperfections and be able to reach the margins of being a lifelong learner. In disability policy documents, disabled persons are constituted as a group who should have equal opportunities to participate in societal action but who need support to do so. The question of supporting disabled persons is focused on inventing cost-effective means. Obviously, the subjects constituted in these two policies are incompatible. The explicit objectives in LLL policy were social cohesion and competitiveness. According to the analysis, whether it is possible to attain social cohesion through LLL policies is questionable. The premises of the policies are based on assumptions which are exclusive to disabled persons who are characterized within the policy discourse as ‘disadvantaged’. If we consider all the documents as a whole, it seems that the requisites and necessities of the economy and labour market form the prevailing rationality. Consequently, economy-based governing moves into education and disability policy by defining, constructing and restricting the aims and subject in both policies. Therefore, it is questionable whether disability policy can ever reach its objectives of inclusion, as conceived within the policy discourses, in a cost-effective way.
Bacchi, C. & Goodwin, S. (2016). Poststructural Policy Analysis: A Guide to Practice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Bacchi, C. (2000). Policy as Discourse: what does it mean? where does it get us? Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 21(1), 45–57. Ball, S. J. (2015). What is policy? 21 years later: reflections on the possibilities of policy research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. DOI:10.1080/01596306.2015.1015279 Campbell, F. K. (2009). Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Campbell, F. K. (2011). Geodisability Knowledge Production and International Norms: a Sri Lankan case study. Third World Quarterly, 32(8), 1455–1474. Dean, M. (2010). Governmentality. Power and Rule in Modern Society. 2nd edition London: Sage Publications. European Commission (2000a). A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning. Commission staff working paper. Commission of the European Communities. Brussels, 31.10.2000. European Commission (2000b). Towards a Barrier Free Europe for People with Disabilities. Brussels, 12.05.2000. European Commission (2001). Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality. Brussels, 21.11.2001. European Commission (2003). Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: A European Action Plan. Brussels, 30.10.2003. European Commission (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament And of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning. Official Journal of European Union, L 394. European Commission (2010a). Education and Training 2010 work programme. Official Journal of the European Union, C 117. European Commission (2010b). European Disability Strategy 2010–2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe. Brussels, 15.11.2010. Eurostat (2017). Disability statistics. Retrieved 10 October, 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Disability_statistics Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. (pp. 87-105). London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Olssen, M. (2008). Understanding the Mechanisms of Neoliberal Control. Lifelong Learning, Flexibility and Knowledge Capitalism. In K. Nicoll, and A. Fejes (Eds.), Foucault and Lifelong Learning. Governing the Subject (pp. 34-47). London: Routledge. Rose, N. 1999. Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schuetze, H. G. (2006). International Concepts and Agendas of Lifelong Learning. Compare 36(3), 289–306. Taylor, S., Rizvi, F., Lindgard, B. & Henry, M. (2006). Education Policy and the Politics of Change. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. Volles, N. (2016) Lifelong learning in the EU: changing conceptualisations, actors, and policies. Studies in Higher Education, 41(2), 343–363
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