28 SES 02 A, Europeanization of education: Different Perspectives
In 2014 the European Commission introduced a reform of its previous funding efforts in the realm of education, which regrouped them together under a single banner, baptized as ‘Erasmus+’. With this new instrument, it funds a wide array of educational activities that range far beyond the institutional limits of what Guy Vincent (1994) once coined the forme scolaire. Actively relying on the infinite character of semantic formulas centred around learning (cf. Luhmann & Schorr, 2000, p. 101), the programme offers financial support for projects of transnational networks that are capable of gathering, even if only temporally, a plurality of institutions, educational and non-educational alike, around a once-only objective, that is not expected to be repeated. The program so gives articulate expression to Europe’s (1995, p. 20) credo that “no single institution, school or company, can claim to be able to develop the skills needed” for life in the advent learning society.
This paper starts from the curious coincidence of the establishment of a European educational space (Nóvoa & Lawn, 2002) with the active corrosion of the institutional contours of school (Young, 2010) in order to examine how such transnational education thus mirrors, therefore both mimics and deviates from the morphogenesis of the national school system. Drawing on the theoretical framework of Niklas Luhmann, it argues for understanding the Europeanisation of education as a case of (and means for) “growth by internal disjunction” (Luhmann, 1982, p. 231). That is: as an internal differentiation of the education system in a global world society (Luhmann, 1997), which surpasses the limits the latter developed in reference to the nation-state, thus resettling and dramatically expanding the limits of what is meaningful as education. Reviewing Luhmann’s sociology of education, the paper demonstrates how transnational projects formalise education into new a specification, that profoundly differs from the national conception of education as classroom interaction (cf. Luhmann, 2002, pp. 119-121). This difference between the form of school and transnational education projects is then discussed against the background of the Luhmannian distinction between medium and form. The paper so underlines how transnational education projects, now as a (dissemination) medium, establish a ‘demographic effect’ (Luhmann, 1990, pp. 93-96) that differs from mass schooling. Their ensemble does not generate a single point of reference for a Durkheimian collective consciousness (Luhmann, 2013). Instead, the singularity of each project is valued and thus transnational education joins a wider, historical transition that favours variation over redundancy -novelty over repetition- in order to both forget and remember more (cf. Esposito, 2008).
The data used in this paper were collected in the wider context of a doctoral research project on the Europeanisation of education (policy). This paper in particular draws on the analysis of European policy documents, the observation of funded exchange projects and in-depth interviews with key actors (both participants, officials and expert-evaluators).
The paper proposes a different approach towards European exchange programs. For the past decades, sociologists and anthropologists have dealt with the issue mainly through the lens of mobility and identity. While such conceptual prism allows for important questions on the construction of meaning and social status, it falls short when it comes to grasping theoretically how the changing line between who is included and excluded from such educational mobility reshapes the institutional traits of education into new forms, different from school education. The findings of this paper show how, rather than establish regional convergence, transnational education projects constitute a parallel, but differentiated subsystem of global education. This internal differentiation is made possible by the creation of a negative form, shaped by a 'playful' disruption (cf. Åkerstrøm Andersen, 2009) of the differences that structure the school system. By acting indifferent to the differentiation of the school system to its societal environment, its internal segmentation and role differentiation, such transnational education attempts the institutionalisation of a myriad of 'boundaryless organisations' (Ashkenas, 1999). Somehow as a mirror image of that school education, similar and oppositely different at once, this negative form thus transgresses the distinctions that typically organize the school form. Instead, it brings about and formalises other distinctions and installs mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion that no longer draw on age, the role distribution between teacher and student or conformity to a given curriculum. Rather, it relies on distinctions that stress innovation over repetition, activity over passivity and pursues uncertainty as a resource for institutionalising new modes for the pedagogical conveyance of knowledge.
Ashkenas, R. (1999). Creating the boundaryless organization. Business Horizons, 42(5), 5-10. Åkerstrøm Andersen, N. (2009). Power at Play. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Commission of the European Communities. (1995). Teaching and Learning. Towards the Learning Society (No. COM(95) 590). Brussels: Commission of the European Communities. Esposito, E. (2008). Social Forgetting: A Systems-Theory Approach. In A. Erll & A. Nünning (Eds.), Media and Cultural Memory (pp. 181-189). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Luhmann, N. (1982). The Differentiation of Society. (S. Holmes & C. Larmore, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Luhmann, N. (1990). The Improbability of Communication. In Essays on Self-Reference (pp. 86-98). New York: Columbia University Press. Luhmann, N. (1997). Globalization or World society: How to conceive of modern society? International Review of Sociology, 7(1), 67-79. Luhmann, N. (2002). Das Erziehungssystem der Gesellschaft. (D. Lenzen, Ed.). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Luhmann, N. (2013). Theory of society. Volume 2. (R. Barrett, Trans.). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Luhmann, N., & Schorr, K.-E. (2000). Problems of Reflection in the System of Education. (R. A. Neuwirth, Trans.). Münster; New York: Waxmann. Nóvoa, A., & Lawn, M. (Eds.). (2002). Fabricating Europe. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Vincent, G. (Ed.). (1994). L'éducation prisonnière de la forme scolaire ? Scolarisation et socialisation dans les sociétés industrielles. Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon. Young, M. (2010). Alternative Educational Futures for a Knowledge Society. European Educational Research Journal, 9(1), 1-12.
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