ERG SES D 14, Sociologies of Education
The question of the relation between society and time, and more precisely how society observes its future and reacts to this observation, has been studied by a number of sociologists (Andersen & Pors, 2017; Esposito, 2013; Koselleck, 2004; Luhmann, 1982, 1993; Opitz & Tellmann, 2015; Rosa, 2013). Whereas pre-modern society experienced its future as “the constant anticipation of the End of the World on the one hand and the continual deferment of the End on the other” (Koselleck, 2004:20), early Modernity rather saw its future as carrying a promise of equality, freedom, progress, and inclusion of everyone within the realization of the Nation State (Mangez, 2017; Vanden Broeck, 2017). Eventually, late modern society, characterized by an ever more developed functional differentiation, reinforcing subsystems’ autopoiesis and interdependency at the same time, began to observe its future as full of risks (Luhmann, 1993). What emerged then is a typically modern paradox: while we certainly have much more knowledge than ever before, we have at the same time much less certainty (Beck, 1992).
The observation of the future as uncertain and risky, coupled with the gradual erosion of normative expectations in favour of cognitive expectations (Luhmann, 1975; Vanden Broeck & Mangez, 2016), leads us to a problematic observation : One has more difficulty than ever to know what one has to do (Mangez et al. 2017). In such a context, knowledge has gained a fundamental role in late modern society, as a means to limit uncertainty. The consequences for the political system are significant: as dealing with information and knowledge does not require any legal status, the Nation State loses its role as society’s central point of observation and new, or already existing, often transnational, “knowledge-based” organizations (Fenwick, Mangez, & Ozga, 2014) gain centrality within the political system (Kjaer, 2010). Numerous authors have described this phenomenon as the shift from government to governance (Gornitzka, 2006; Kjaer, 2010; van Buuren, 2007). When it comes to the governance of education, this is the case with the OECD (Henry, Lingard, Rizvi, & Taylor, 2001), for example, and, increasingly, the EU (Grek, 2010), especially in the contexts of the countries of the “North,” and UNESCO (Verger, Lubienski, & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016) or the World Bank (Molla, 2014) for the countries of the “South”.
In this research, we focus on the EU and more precisely on the Open Method of Coordination (Kjaer, 2010; van Buuren, 2007) in the sector of education (Gornitzka, 2006) as a central point of interest to understand how contemporary society observes its future as risky and uncertain and reacts to this observation in the domains of education and education policy.
Firstly, we analyse the content of European educational policies: how is education described? What content should it provide? What type of individual should it conceive? Secondly, we observe the way the policy-making process is evolving in a context of uncertainty: how is the European policy-making process evolving? What type of power relations are taking place? How are decisions made? How does this sector observe itself?
*This proposal continues a line of research initiated at ECER 2016 (Vanden Broeck & Mangez, 2016) and pursued at ECER 2017 (Mangez, 2017; Vanden Broeck, 2017)
This project uses three types of methodological approaches to research the questions presented above: - Analysis of European institutions’ documents about the OMC in education Firstly, we exhaustively collected the documents produced by European institutions about both the education sector and the OMC. This corpus allows us to understand the place that the EU policy agenda gives to education and the types of political instruments linked to this sector over time. Thus, this leads us to analyse documents about the emergence and development of the Open Method of Coordination, first in general and then in the sector of education. - Analysis of the documents produced by the Working Groups in education Secondly, we compiled another corpus consisting in the documents produced by the Working Groups of the OMC in education. Given the size of the corpus, we conduct a lexicometric analysis based on (co-)occurrences and a factorial analysis on WordStat. The analysis of EU documents and of the WG corpus offers a deep insight within the European Union’s observation of education, and most importantly within its self-definition of the OMC policy-making processes. In other words, it enables us to observe how the EU itself observes the world, points out problems and develops solutions to tackle the problems defined. - Semi-structured interviews with WG stakeholders Thirdly, we also confront the self-definition of EU’s vision of education and policy-making processes with the observations of other stakeholders taking part in the WG, such as trade unions and social movements. The objective here is to grasp their own vision of education and of policy-making, and to put those observations with what is communicated by the EU. We will apply this through semi-structured interviews.
Our general expectation is that the centrality of learning has progressively emerged in the last decades as a response to a future that is ever more observed as risky and uncertain (Vanden Broeck & Mangez, 2016). We hypothesize that the semantic of learning emerges in the European sector of education firstly at the level of the content of education policies, secondly at the level of the policy-making process. From teaching to learning: We pose that education moves from teaching to the semantic of learning as a way to communicate about how it prepares individuals for yet unknown problems and situations (Mangez, 2017). The “teaching” form implies different elements: clear hierarchy between the pupil and the teacher; presence of curricula defining what ought to be taught; closed situations in which the education takes place. This shift leads to a redefinition of the form of education at various levels: the competences transmitted, the actors that play a role in the transmission process, the places and situations where learning takes place, and who is supposed to learn. From governing to governance: “Government” is a form of decision-making implying different elements: a clear hierarchy; a precise division of power; the use of law; a distinction between who decides and who is affected by the decision; a definition of how collectively binding decisions are taken and enforced. In reaction to the Community Method, symbolizing the European government form, the OMC emerges as an attempt to tackle a legitimacy crisis of European institutions and to respond to the urgency to make political decisions regarding an unknown future (Kjaer, 2010). Thus, the semantic of learning transforms the way decisions are made with the use of new tools, such as statistics, benchmarks, participation of stakeholders, national comparisons of best practices, peer learning processes, etc. (Fenwick et al., 2014).
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