23 SES 08 A, Navigating Shifting Geographies of Lifelong Learning Policies Part 2
Symposium continued from 23 SES 07 A
Most of our social reality – for instance, education, labour market or welfare – has traditionally been organised as ‘national’ phenomena. Since the nineteenth century, nation states have been traditionally considered the ‘natural’ units of analysis throughout social research. However, with changing realities, amongst others, brought about by internationalisation, Europeanisation and globalisation processes, static and absolute concepts such as the nation-state were challenged in their usefulness in explaining our social world, pointing both to ‘spatial fetishism’ and to ‘methodological nationalism’ as major shortcomings of this type of (comparative) research (Robertson & Dale 2017). Arguably, the implementation of Lifelong learning (LLL) policies is best studied at the regional/local level and this invites us to take a more differentiated look than the national level allows for. With the aim to understand whether and how policy-makers, professionals and young people navigate the shifting geographies of LLL and coordinate their activities we adopted the concept of ‘functional region’ (FR). FR refers to a sub-division of territories that result from the spatial differentiation and organisation of social and economic relations rather than to geographical boundaries, administrative particularities or to historical developments (Klapka et al. 2013; OECD 2002). A FR may be seen as organised by functional relations and can be described as a unit defined by labour/economic activities (e.g., labour mobility, size of the population, level of employment). FRs are regarded as more or less autonomous units that can take different shapes or types and have different inner patterns of interaction, since any kind of spatial flow or interaction can organize this region. For example, in the case of a functional urban area, the flows or interactions could be oriented towards a single city or a town (e.g. with daily travel-to-work flows). This paper argues that FRs provide a useful concept to understand differences in the planning and implementation of education, labour market, and economic policies at regional/local level. It first introduces the concept FR as adopted in our research; second, it presents the units selected for research in an ongoing project, focusing on functional and thus on dynamic rather than administrative units of the research sites. In a third section, drawing on first empirical results the chapter discusses the value-added and the challenges related to this conceptualisation in order to draw first conclusions as to the utility of the concept in supporting the formulation of coordinated policy-making in the field of LLL.
Klapka, P., Halás, M. & Tonev, P. (2013). Functional Regions: Concept and Types. Available online: https://is.muni.cz/do/econ/soubory/katedry/kres/4884317/41725568/12_2013.pdf [retrieved Jan 25, 2018]. OECD (2002). Redefining Territories. The Functional Regions. Paris: OECD. Robertson, S. & Dale, R. (2017). Comparing Policies in a Globalizing World: methodological reflections. Educação & Realidade, Vol. 42(3), 859-875.
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