The “Économie des Conventions” in Education Research
Lea Zehnder & Philipp Gonon (University of Zurich)
From 27 to 29 June 2018, the annual congress of the Swiss Society for Educational Research and the Swiss Society for Teacher Training took place at the University of Zurich, hosted by the Institute of Education. Two paper presentations, which depicted the rise and development of different types of baccalaureate schemes with weaker and stronger links to vocational education and training in Switzerland referred to conventions as unfolded in the “Justification”- Book of Boltanski and Thévenot (translated in German 2007). Furthermore, the key-note speech, held by Elisabeth Chatel, highlighted the struggle over the aims of economic and social topics as a subject in French high schools (lycées).
Regula Julia Leemann and Sandra Hafner from the School of Teacher Education Department of the University of Applied Sciences Basel (Switzerland) presented their work, which focused on positioning and profiling the upper-secondary specialized school (Fachmittelschule). The upper-secondary specialized school is a very young type of school in the Swiss educational system that imparts general education and provides its graduates access to Colleges of Professional Education and Training (Höhere Fachschulen), Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) or Universities of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen). Analyzing the genesis of this new type of school they presented three historical situations in detail. Back in the beginning of the 1970ies and during ten years, the main intention was to sum up the Helvetic Mosaic of 30 school types into one standard-model that focuses general interest (civic convention). They identified a tension between regional variation and national convergence. The standardization refers to the industrial convention and also to the civic convention. Back in the 1990ies a claim for more cantonal autonomy raised, in particular regarding admission to schools of education. Respecting regional tradition refers particularly more to domestic convention and in the logic of supply-demand to the market convention. Thus, the main arguments fit quite well to these different worlds of worth. The present structure is characterized by a plasticity that integrates plural rationalities, logics of action, and orders of worth.
Research on the linking of general education and vocational education was the focus of Lea Zehnder, University of Zurich (Switzerland). She presented her work on the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (eidgenössische Berufsmaturität) that was introduced in the Swiss educational system in the early 1990ies. The certificate enables graduates to enter the world of work directly or to transfer to specific academic programs at Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen). Statistical data show disparate amounts of issuing this certificate in the cantons of Switzerland. Considering only vocational education tracks, French speaking cantons issue more certificates than German speaking cantons. Three case studies, focusing the process of attributing worth and quality to this certificate in the cantons of Zurich, Geneva, and Neuchâtel, gave a detailed insight into different understandings of the public educational mandate. Actors in the canton of Zurich emphasize an industry-related and performance-based interpretation of the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate and mobilize industrial and market conventions. While Actors in the French speaking cantons Geneva and Neuchâtel attach more importance to a collective claim that this Vocational Baccalaureate should simplify access to tertiary education (mobilizing civic convention).
Within her keynote speech, Elisabeth Chatel from IDHES, Ecole Normale Supérieure Saclay, Paris (France) focused on curriculum development: “the economic and social sciences in French high schools (lycées) from 1966 to the present day”. Her historical reconstruction of the introduction of SES (Science of Economy and Social Sciences) in the 1960s in France depicted a remarkable change from the central aim of schooling to develop a critical personality, who is learning and reflecting social and economic knowledge towards a propaedeutic teaching for the study of economics at university. Whereas originally researchers in the spirit of the “Annales”-School designed a curriculum which stressed the topical and historically grown phenomena of our days the reform of 2011 driven by economic experts and prominent economic leaders replaced this approach by a methodological and instrumental oriented syllabus. Interestingly the teachers refuse this “official” new approach and still stick to a more pedagogical and critical access to this subject. Elisabeth Chatel referred to the new spirit of capitalism, and the hereby included conventions like industry, network and market, which were and are the orders of worth the different actors refer to.
All in all, the EC-approach was present and delivered a powerful framework in explaining developments in the education system which drifts towards a more neo-liberal model.
Upcoming publication (2018)
Imdorf, Christian, Leemann, Regula Julia & Gonon, Philipp (Eds.). Bildung und Konventionen. Die « Économie des Conventions » in der Bildungsforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.