23 SES 04 D, Education Outcomes
In 2011, the European Council issued a policy framework that recommended member states to prevent early school leaving with wide-ranging measures. At the same time, the Council recommended to intervene on at-risk students in secondary schools and to address the problems of early leavers by means of lifelong learning. However, member states do not seem to have actively adopted all these measures, particularly as far as prevention is concerned (Timmerman and Willems, 2015).
This is not a surprising observation if we take into account two previous conclusions of research on European public policies. First, expert knowledge plays a great role in policy adoption to the extent that the very Commission often engages in constructing causal narratives on a given set of policies (Adler-Nissen, 2015). Second, national governments are not eager to directly implement EU educational policies (Alexiadou et al, 2010). Not only this competence had been a power of national authorities for decades before the Treaties, but it maintains a remarkable symbolic power in all the member states.Thus, while recommendations may impinge in official rhetorics, decision-makers may also maintain their own traditions of expert knowlege that convey differing theories on the causes and the solutions of early school leaving (Rambla, 2018).
The paper suggests that sub-national educational authorities sometimes draw on the EU recommendations on early school leaving despite the reluctance of national governments. Complex patterns of interaction between these scales of governance seem to make a difference. Thus, in Italy a nationally funded programme induced the region of Liguria and the city of Genoa to deliver wider schemes of career guidance and second chance schools in the vein of the EC recommendations (Bartolini, 2018). Although the Catalan and other regional governments have mostly adhered to the same understanding as the national one, in Spain the educational authority of Barcelona has also found inspiration in the EC recommendations. In this member state, the national government and most regions have assumed that single-ability grouping and the introduction of vocational education within compulsory secondary education can tackle the problem. In this vein, prevention is not so important as intervention on at-risk students in the very high school. In contrast, for some years the educational authority of Barcelona has looked at the EU for inspiration on how to widen guidance and improve prevention (Rambla, 2018; Tarabini et al, 2018) .
Albeit in quite different ways, sub-national authorities seem to have retrieved the European discourse in order to challenge its own traditions of expert knowledge. Thus, the paper will analyse the influence of epistemic communities and multi-level governance on the decision of regions and municipalities to prevent early school leaving. Interestingly, regional and municipal decision-makers have looked at the European Council recommendation in order to design and implement measures that aim at preventing early school leaving.
This paper aims at starting comparative analysis of early school leaving policies in two regions located in Italy and Spain. A number of criteria underpin this comparison. First, both Italy and Spain score high rates of early school leaving. That is to say, the Council directly targeted these national governments with an official recommendation on the issue. Second, both Liguria and Catalonia have a regional government, although the competences of this authority vary. In both cases municipal policies of the capital (either Genoa or Barcelona) greatly affect regional public debates and decision-making. The analysis will draw on interviews with policy-makers, secondary education teachers and students that were conducted between 2014 and 2017. The interviews were conducted in the midst of larger fieldwork projects in each place. One author was the member the research team in charge of these activities in Catalonia. The other author wrote her PhD dissertation on the grounds of the evidence she collected in Liguria. The analysis will select a comparable set of official documents and interview transcripts in order to compare the views of the main actors in each case.
The paper analyses how national and sub-national governments have adopted EU policies on early school leaving in Italy and Spain. Tentatively, we can advance that regional and municipal educational authorities draw on EU policies in very different ways. In fact, the arrangement of national, regional and local policy-making seems to have operated quite differently in the area of early school leaving. However, in both cases some sub-national authorities eventually drew on EU recommendations in order to expand the previous view of the problem. In Italy, policy-makers operating at all the levels of governance understood the shared objectives in an analogous way. In Spain, the bulk of educational authorities deferred the recommendations of the Council, while a particular local authority drew on those recommendations to defer the mainstream view in the country. The analysis will explore the discourse of the main actors who are involved in this policy. It will look at the official discourse through public documents and interviews with key informants. It will also inquire to what extent teachers and other practitioners share the official tenets. Finally, it will also explore the views of students themselves.
Adler-Nissen, R., and K. Kropp. 2015. “A Sociology of Knowledge Approach to European lntegration: Four Analytical Principles.” Journal of European Integration 37 (2): 155–173. Alexiadou, N., D. Fink-Hafner, and B. Lange. 2010. “Education Policy Convergence through the Open Method of Coordination: Theoretical Reflections and Implementation in ‘old’ and ‘new’ National Contexts.” European Educational Research Journal 9 (3): 345–358. Bartolini, M. (2018) La dispersione scolastica visibile e invisibile. Rappresentazioni, significati e teorie del cambiamento di un fenomeno multiforme. PhD Dissertation. Genoa: Univ. Genoa. 364-381. Rambla, X. (2018) The politics of early school leaving: how do the European Union and the Spanish educational authorities ‘frame’the policy and formulate a ‘theory of change’. Journal of European Integration 40 (1), 83-97. Tarabini, A.; Curran, A.; Montes, A. & Parcerisa, L. (2018) The politics of educational success: a realist evaluation of early school leaving policies in Catalonia (Spain). Critical Studies in Education, 59(3): 364-381. Timmerman, C., and R. Willems. 2015. Policies on Early School Leaving in Nine European Countries: A Comparative Analysis. Antwerpen: Reducing ESL Network (FP7 Project n o 320223).
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