The Education and Global Futures (E&GF) research group has launched its local, national, and international activities by hosting two invited seminars in recent months.
Education Policy in Uncertain Futures: Reassessing Neoliberalism, 14 May 2019.
This seminar was strongly attended by the research community in ESRI and the Faculty of Education. Dr Karen Pashby, co-leader of the group, introduced the aims and focus of E&GF: to explore the important role education must play in preparing people for uncertain futures shaped by technological, economic, political and environmental changes. Reiterating the importance of reconsidering neoliberalism within the context of policy and praxis in education research, she invited speakers to consider whether and how neoliberalism as a concept applies to policy contexts for global futures, and to what extent we need a new vocabulary?
We took advantage of hosting Katariina Mertanen, an early career researcher from the University of Helsinki, as a visiting scholar. Katariina joined two very established scholars, Dr. Christine Winter from Sheffield University and Professor Matthew Clarke from York St John University, to respond to our provocation. The speakers brought a range of perspectives to the topic from their empirical research and theoretical work.
Katariina opened the discussion with her presentation, entitled “‘Not a single one left behind’? Researching youth policies and youth support systems in the era of neoliberal political rationality”. Drawing on examples from her PhD research, her ‘genealogy of problematisations’ highlighted the multiple discourses that go into policy framing, including those connected to neoliberalism.
- Troubling how ‘young people’ and ‘civil society’ are constructed and presented as categories.
- Tracing discourses of employability and therapization aimed at increasing human capital.
- Showing how education and training are presented as convenient solutions to social problems.
Next, Chris Winter’s presentation, “The Geography GCSE curriculum in England, global development and neoliberalism: an inquiry”, drew on research related closely to practice in schools. Her presentation examined four questions: what is the relationship between global development discourses in curriculum and neoliberalism? Are these discourses racialised? What are the implications for a culturally diverse society? What hope for the future?
- Arguing that curriculum as policy (and the allocation of values) encourages attention to subjectivity (Butler).
- Illustrating the colonization of minds through racist categories and language embedded in everyday texts (Fanon).
- Mapping paths beyond neoliberalism: voice, imagination and hope.
Finally, Matthew Clarke presented his paper, “Neoliberalism as political theology: Deicide and dismemberment”. He utilised a ‘political theology’ framework to explore neoliberalism in education.
- Illustrating how neoliberal subjectivity exists as a combination of attitudes, imaginaries, beliefs and practices.
- Arguing that going beyond neoliberalism requires letting go of our need for redemption.
- Exploring alternative modes of anarchic political subjectivity.
Dr. Sam Sellar, the other co-leader of the group, responded as discussant, synthesising key themes from the three presentations and inviting wider reflection on the seminar topic. He asked presenters and participants to think about neoliberal subjectivity as a trap and provoked reflection on the complicity of critical educational theories and practices.
Attendees continued the conversation over drinks to conclude an engaging afternoon on a topic that deserves continued and sustained conversation.
Global Education Policy in Evolving Network Societies, 9 September 2019
This seminar brought together national and international participants for three panel sessions that involved short inputs from invited speakers followed by sustained small and larger group discussions. It provided an opportunity to: (a) take stock of different perspectives on a range of network theories and methodologies that have been taken up in education; and (b) consider promising lines of theoretical and methodological development.
The panels were organised around three key questions to be explored interactively amongst participants:
- How do network governance regimes compare across national contexts and transnationally?
- What are the limitations and possibilities for improvement of current methodological approaches for capturing the structures, processes, and impact of network governance?
- What are the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for innovation within current theoretical approaches to studying networks and governance?
The first session compared different national and international modes of network governance:
- Governance assemblages: Mapping productive alignments and strange entanglements, Andrew Wilkins, University of East London
- Networked governance in action: Aid infrastructures and the politics of harmonization and alignment, Radhika Gorur, Deakin University
- Public education reform and network governance: The case of Chinese state-owned enterprise schools, Philip K. Chan, Monash University
The second session examined methodological approaches to network governance:
- Capturing evolution: Examining network generation and change through time, Emilee Rauschenberger, Manchester Metropolitan University
- Higher education industry and its future: The role of market devices in making markets, Janja Komljenovic, Lancaster University
- Commercial (networks hiding) in confidence, Anna Hogan, The University of Queensland
And the third session explored theoretical approaches to studying networks and governance:
- The governance of SDG4 and the strange non-death of the nation, Sotiria Grek, University of Edinburgh
- 1996: The OECD education policy assemblage, Greg Thompson, Queensland University of Technology
- Enacting alternative networks from the ground up: Education/policy collaboratories, Stephen Heimans, University of the Sunshine Coast on behalf of Parlo Singh, Griffith University
The event provided many opportunities to meet new colleagues and to encounter diverse perspectives on new modes of education governance around the world. The group continued the conversation at a drinks reception hosted by The Anthony Burgess Foundation.
These seminars showcased the focus of the Education and Global Futures research group on big global trends in education and our commitment to bringing together diverse groups of national and international scholars to debate the most pressing education policy issues today. The 2019/20 ESRI seminar series will continue this debate with a thematic focus on Education in uncertain times.
 With acknowledgement to Colin Crouch