ERG SES C 11, Sociologies of Education
Fragmentation of education : in what way can new educational forms and actors be considered as reactions to the logics of second modernity?
This paper comes within the scope of a collective project called “Living in an uncertain world : What role for the school?” (Mangez et al., 2017) An analytical dimension of the project concerns what we will call the fragmentation of education. In order to establish the sociological background for this paper we start with a short review of how sociology understands modernity and its evolution.
Indeed, it seems useful to note that the first modernity was organized around the realization of the nation, coupling the different systems at the national level (national economy, national culture, national legal system) (Mangez et al., 2017; Kjaer, 2010). Education appeared as a key means for building the nation (Gellner & Breuilly, 2008). In the first modernity, the education system is manifested through the school form. The “forme scolaire”, theorized by Guy Vincent (among others), is a teaching process in a transmissive way, which privileges the recourse of writing and the separation of doing and knowing (Vincent, 1994). It sets a clear distinction between the role of the teacher and the role of the pupil/student. The nation state provided to the education system the normative references for its work of socialization (Mangez et al., 2017).
Ulrich Beck highlights the trends of globalization that come with second modernity and the ensuing declining control of the nation state over the different function systems (Beck, 1986/2015). Function systems tend to become global, autonomous of the national borders (Luhmann, 1997/2012). Normative references on which the institutions of the first modernity rested become destabilized. One can observe a proliferation of uncertainties and normative indeterminations in all fields of social life, including education system (Mangez et al., 2017). Beck also points out the important trend towards individualization(Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002). The individual seems to have become the basic unit of social reproduction. According to Beck, individualization “is becoming the social structure of second modern society itself”. He adds that this phenomenon means the disintegration of previously existing social forms (p.2). Previously immuable institutions appear more and more fragile : class and social status, gender roles, representative democracy, etc. Education is not spared by this movement. It can no longer appeal to a shared vision of society as a normative basis for the process of social integration (Derouet, 2000). School institution is torn between different competing logics and justification models. The specific organization mode of the social relations structuring the socialization and transmission processes in recent centuries is challenged (Maulini & Montandon, 2005 ; Lahire, 2008 ; Verhoeven, 2015, 2016 ; Dubet, 2002 ; etc.) A multiplication of alternatives to the “forme scolaire” emerge (Vanden Broeck & Mangez, forthcoming), tending to offer an evolution from the paradigm of instruction to the paradigm of learning (Tardif, 1998). Moreover, multiplication diversity of non-academic educational actors appear around the school and offer to support or complete the educational action of the school. The educational process is now becoming fragmented into different organizations taking specific orientations.
This paper aims to analyses the phenomenon of diversification of educational forms. It borrows conceptual tracks of systems theory to point out how educational intentions take new shape starting from the observation of existent educational forms’ limits. It offers some interpretations of the evolving trends in the education system.
To study the diversification of education, we started by exploring the diversity of educational actors in French-speaking Belgium. We tried to draw up an inventory of the different organizations providing educational services in Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Facing the great variety of such associations, we decided to orient ourselves to an approach by subject. We selected specific subjects in order to allow a greater precision in the exploration of education system, despite the complexity of the field. It seemed interesting to choose subjects traditionally taught in schools as well as new topics. The choice of these new objects was oriented by European selections. Indeed, UE adopted in 2006 a reference framework defining key competences for lifelong learning. These competences are presented as knowledge, skills and attitudes useful to « adapt flexibly to a rapidly changing and highly interconnected world » . Digital competences, entrepreneurship and citizenship (‘social and civic competences’) are three of the eight key competences deemed necessary to live in a learning society. In the ‘classical’ subjects, foreign languages and sciences caught our attention because these disciplines are more and more taken up by out-of-school organizations. The material we use to explore these different objects was organizations’ self-presentation websites. We thoroughly examined every website to discern as many information and semantic indications as possible. The analysis was undertaken through progressive emergence of categories from online texts, with an objective of conceptual saturation. We completed this data collection with a dozen of semi-directive interviews. We conducted these interviews with members of organizations engaged in an educational process relating to one of the above-mentioned objects. These interviews made it possible to perceive the sense given to their action by the interviewees, while testing the limits of semantic analysis.
The exploration of educational organizations revealed the growing diversity of educational forms and actors in the french-speaking part of Belgium. Thus these first observations seem to confirm the phenomena of expansion and diversification of education (Vanden Broeck & Mangez, 2016). The expansion of education is reflected in the proliferation of actors involved in an educational approach, intervening or not in the schools. It is also observable in the modularization of learning pathways: students are more and more likely to build their learning project a la carte, selecting among different training subjects. A multiplication of elements tend to become education topics. More and more knowledge and know-how are formalized in structured learning modules and programmed in educational supply. For example, citizenship, entrepreneurship, sentimental and sexual life, and so on, have all been turned into education subjects. Part of these subjects are turned into educational activities by out-of-school actors. Our data show that the universe of the school often appears as a point of reference against which the non-school actors attempt to establish the legitimacy of their own position. They tend to highlight the limits of the school system and school form to justify their own educational offer. New trends emerge, contrasting with the foundations of the school form: interactive learning modalities, interdisciplinarity, cooperation, highlighted meaning and pleasure in learning, co-construction of knowledge, and so on. Using systems theory, we question the reasons behind these evolutions. Everything happens as if the education system was observing itself, but ended up considering its own form as an obstacle to its own realization (Mangez & Vanden Broeck, forthcoming). It would be relevant to study in more detail the impacts that non-school organizations may have on the evolution of curricula and pedagogies within the school itself.
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