Seminar on “educational projects in a universe of multiple references” in Amiens (30 November to 01 December 2017)

Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne)

The educational field is heavily affected by the societal transformations that have marked the  past decades. Educational and training projects face complex and contested social constellations, marked by increasing diversity as well as intense political debates. The tension between an egalitarian perspective of democratic equality and a meritocratic focus on performance which dominated educational discourses after WWII is today accompanied by and linked to newly emerging definitions of the common good. New and old divisions and inequalities co-exist and seem to be permanently rearranged: migration and citizenship, religion and the divide between science and faith, the relations between humans and nature, the definition of sexual identities …

Jean-Emile Charlier (Catholic University of Louvain), Sarah Croché (Université de Picardie), and Jean-Louis Derouet (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon) are currently running an international seminar that aims to  further our understanding of these developments. This seminar aims to bring specialists from different subjects and different disciplines into dialogue in order to identify important challenges and analyze current dynamics. The first meeting of this seminar took place from 30 November to 01 December 2017 at the University de Picardie in Amiens, with established and younger scholars from different backgrounds as well as around a dozen students taking part.

The focus of this first meeting was on inclusive education and systems of classification, i.e. on how differences are construed, acknowledged and dealt with in educational contexts. There were two thematic sessions. The first session on Thursday afternoon discussed the inclusion of students with “special needs”. Serge Ebersold (Centre National des Arts et Métiers) discussed the interrelations between normative orders, ideas of normality, processes of institutionalisation, and the construal of “handicapped students”. Accessibility and handicap need to be seen as complex local outcomes that defy any simple definition. Analyzing and handling them hence requires that we understand the interplay of symbolic universes, inclusive politics of education, and practical conditions that structure educational situations in given local contexts.

The second thematic session on Friday morning moved to the issue of migration. Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne) discussed the implications of recent transformations of Western European migration regimes for educational practices. The common emphasis on cultural difference and identity neglects important other issues that directly affect educational situations as well as the forms in which teachers define and handle them. The massive politicization and the stratification of migration are two of the issues that have important consequences for everyday educational practices. New forms of critical dialogue between educational professionals and social sciences are needed in order to deal with the complex challenges that arise and that render teachers permanently on the brink of “illegitimacy”.

The seminar will be continued over the coming months. The main objective is to create a space of encounter and confrontation that not only spans different social science disciplines but also thematic areas and geographic regions, from the global North to the global South. Concepts and heuristics developed in the context of the Economie des conventions (EC) provide a promising ground for discussing the questions that arise and relating them to each other. EC concepts have been applied to educational systems from the late 1980s onwards. They have, inter alia, proven fruitful to capture interplay of local pedagogical coordination and societal conventions that inform everyday practices of educational classification and evaluation. In turn, educational contexts provide a dynamic and multi-faceted field of research that may allow to develop and refine EC’s theoretical frameworks.