NW 23: Education policy and the politics of education in an age of uncertainty

NW 23 Policy Studies and the Politics of Education

Education policy and the politics of education in an age of uncertainty

What are the consequences of social turbulence for education? In particular, how are people from different groups living in diverse settings affected, how are policy actors positioned and educational responses negotiated, how do educationalists meet the challenges presented and what are the unintended consequences? We welcome proposals for symposia or individual papers based on scholarly analyses and/or empirical inquiries, considering broad social trends and/or specific cases, and identifying implications for education policy, practice and future research. We will invite selected authors to contribute to a journal special issue on this topic for publication in 2025.

The Call
Giddens (1991) and Bauman (2000) both identify how increased global interconnectedness and mobility led to greater diversity, fluidity and uncertainty and the marginalisation of traditional relations in the second half of the twentieth century. This fostered a succession of unanticipated disruptions beginning with the banking collapse of 2007-08. The ongoing environmental crisis combined with financial, migration, and later political, health, and security crises have presented education policymakers and practitioners with significant challenges (Kushnir, 2021). Following the coronavirus pandemic, for example, concerns remain about educational access and inclusion, widening inequalities linked to the uneven distribution of opportunities and resources, and the health and wellbeing of all. This has led some to re-evaluate the purpose and nature of education and raised awareness of how complex the relationship is between policymaking, practice and research.

Alongside global events, the nature of professionalism in education has also been transformed by a shift from governing to governance, from education to learning, and from relatively stable and long-term employment relations to a flexibilisation paradigm (Dumay & Burn, 2023). A consequence of these shifts, some suggest, is that the teaching profession is in crisis, with a teacher shortage in many countries little improved since the European Commission (2018) reported an ageing teacher population in almost half of member states and substantial numbers of qualified teachers leaving the profession within five years, often citing excessive workload linked to notions of performativity and accountability.

For Bourdieu (1989-92/2014), crises exacerbate existing antipathies and tensions and provide an opportunity to mobilise for social change. For subaltern groups, resentment stems from the contrast between their own lack of recognition or status, and the ‘relational continuity [of the] structural efficacy of elites in regulating their own reproduction’ (Fowler, 2020: 444). At such times, the political classes remain focussed on maintaining control of decision-making and the consent of all, whilst still privileging dominant interests. Meanwhile, public intellectuals, scientists, experts and their brokers and interpreters, and social commentators fall into two camps; those seeking to conserve and those who challenge the existing social order.

It is in this framework that we seek contributions. We are interested in accounts of how such transformations have affected people from different social and cultural groups living in diverse settings. We are interested in how educational debates at different levels are framed and constructed, how various policy actors (including, for example, global policy actors, national public authorities and non-state actors) have responded, how educationalists have sought to meet the challenges presented and the unintended consequences of policy enactment. But we are also open to other novel ways of framing and presenting debates in this area.

Contact Person(s)
Peter Kelly peter.kelly(at)plymouth.ac.uk
Xavier Rambla xavier.rambla(at)uab.cat

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1989-92/2014) On the State: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1989-1992, edited by P. Champagne et al., translated by D. Fernbach, London, Polity.

Dumay, X. and Burn, K. (2023) The Status of the teaching profession: Interactions between historical and new forms of segmentation, London, Routledge.

ETUCE (2012) School leadership in Europe: Issues, challenges, opportunities, Retrieved from: www.csee-etuce.org/images/attachments/SchoolLeadershipsurveyEN.pdf (accessed 25.11.22).

European Commission (2018) Teaching careers in Europe: access, progression and support, Eurydice Report, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union.

Fowler, B. (2020) Pierre Bourdieu on social transformation, with particular reference to political and symbolic revolutions, Theory and Society, 49, 439–463.

Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and self-identity, Cambridge, Polity Press.

Kushnir, I. (2021) The role of the European Education Area in European Union integration in times of crises, European Review, 30(3), 301–321.

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Interview with Link Convenor 2019