TOWARDS A POST-SCHOOL EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
University of Rome - Tor Vergata, Italy
Since March 2020, when the Covid-19 epidemic was recognized by WHO as a "pandemic", school systems around the world have been subjected to unprecedented stress.
In the history of the school, the pandemic is an event that, to use the expression coined by the economist Joseph Schumpeter, could be defined as "creative destruction": destruction of the school as it took shape in the last two and a half centuries, starting in Europe with Frederick II of Prussia and Napoleon, made up of dedicated buildings, classrooms, rigid schedules and separate disciplines. And the birth in its place of a "post-school" educational model, in which the educational process takes place at school, at home and everywhere ("onlife", as Floridi says), classrooms are open, hours and styles of learning are flexible and personalized, learning objects interdisciplinary.
The massive and generalized use of distance learning (DL) in schools around the world is an anticipation of this new phase: the progressive online passage of parts of teaching and learning will increasingly assume a mixed, hybrid, multidimensional configuration even after the conclusion of the pandemic will have made it possible to reopen the school buildings.
It would be a very serious mistake to consider the DL as an emergency remedy, to be set aside when the pandemic is over. In fact, only the digital school, with its flexibility, lends itself to the personalization of individual itineraries and to solve problems such as those of individualized support (for everyone, not only for pupils with disabilities), of teaching for groups and skills, in order to enhance the potentials and attitudes of each pupil.
If political decision-makers all over the world do not understand that a new phase of "creative destruction" of the old school has opened, and will somehow try to mend the old one, perhaps with the excuse of unpreparedness or opposition of teachers and trade unions, the most catastrophic scenario among the four envisaged by OECD in a study recently implemented will come true: the outsourcing of upper secondary and tertiary education, to be entrusted to large online agencies, faster and more ready to meet the demand, which will increasingly ask for skills considered essential in the future smart job market: skills to learn, to collaborate and to manage the unexpected, empathy, critical thinking, resilience.
However, it is not inevitable that this will happen. It will depend on the wisdom and foresight of political decision makers whether to relaunch the role of schools, opening them up to a hybrid, flexible and personalized teaching method: a decisive condition for the full inclusion and enhancement of all individual potential. In this perspective, which is the least “unschooling” of the four identified by the OECD, schools would continue to have a central role at the local level as the main learning hubs, even if they would limit themselves to certifying the acquisition of basic knowledge and skills. The main features of this scenario will be presented, taking into account the comparative approach, essential to understand their complexity.
THE UNHAPPY SOCIETY: IN SEARCH OF A NEW PARADIGM TO FACE THE UNEXPECTED
1Università di Salerno, Italy; 2Università della Tuscia, Italy; 3Università di Bologna, Italy
Talking about an "unhappy" society is provocative, as happiness is a complex concept made up of psychological, socio-economic and environmental factors, but it is necessary to grasp the multiple aspects of social unease, and the growing use of its medicalization, for a correct analysis of the condition of modern man. In a closed biological system, such as planet earth is, economic growth shows more than a few critical issues, but the ideology of mass medicalized health systems also shows its limits, as Ivan Illich points out. In a social system based on bureaucratic rationality, the uncertainty principle and the sense of limit are systematically rejected. The acceleration processes generate alienation, without ever being the object of criticism, as they are considered useful, and deceleration appears to be an erroneous principle. However, it is difficult to think of analyzing the increasingly complex processes of postmodern societies without the right amount of time. Similarly, the foundation of a sustainable lifestyle appears impossible without a reappropriation of the sense of limit.
In light of these inadequacies, made even more evident by the pandemic, what educational paradigm can we hope to build to satisfy the search for meaning of the modern citizen, called to know and understand what is happening around him? The construction of a new paradigm could be knotted from the rediscovery of the body, both in its physiological and biological needs, and in its occupying a space that becomes territory "hic et nunc". Indeed, a new educational paradigm represents a social urgency that can be solved by inserting the current model of transmissive teaching on a cognitive-rational basis, within a broader paradigm, of a socio-relational type, based on reflection. around the concept of "happiness" and the relationship between happiness and the unexpected.
If we wanted to concretely define the characteristics of a sociological pedagogy, we would have to take into account three aspects: the contents, the methodologies and the contexts. As for the contents, the sociological contribution is useful for:
1) Propose new ecocentric cognitive structures on which people can reorganize their representations of the world and act coherently with them.
2) To convey typical concepts of sociology (empathy, sustainability, community, relationship, etc.) using suitable methodologies. In terms of methodologies, a pivotal role can be played by the body, not only as a biological element, but, above all, as a symbolic element. The body, in fact, becomes the "place" where they concentrate:
1) perceptive skills capable of experimenting with complex sociological concepts through a multisensory approach that brings the lived experience back to concreteness.
2) dimensions of space-time that are humanly sustainable because they conform to rhythms and cycles that are marked by the body itself Finally, as regards the contexts, the pedagogical intervention is undoubtedly aimed at the worlds of everyday life both in the field of primary education (schools) and in lifelong learning since every moment of life can offer an opportunity to consciously review the own role in the community.
UNIVERSITY DELAYS. ITALIAN ACADEMIC GAP AS A MEDIA TOPIC
This proposal deals with the journalistic impact of international university rankings, in which Italy is rarely found in the top positions. The reports annually published by the most important academic rankings in the world (Academic Ranking of World Universities, Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings) comply with several indicators of didactic or research performance, including highly cited researchers and papers indexed in major citation indices. These ratings shed light on Italian university delays, as the media emphasize ‒ in a so-called comparison ‒ whenever ratings are presented to the press. Hence follows the opportunity to focus on the Italian academic gap seen as a media topic, with emphasis on the delays of our universities in terms of functional efficiency and public financing.
The sociological analysis of the media rhetoric inspiring some journalistic reports emphasizes the narrative paradigms focused on the drawbacks featured by our universities, with particular regard to students’ right to education. Several articles point out that taxes are higher than in other European countries, loans and scholarships are rarely provided, male students graduate more than female, investments in higher education are low. In addition, the degrees obtained are few and dropout is high. This is what journalists, scholars and academics often denounce in newspapers and on television, referring not only to the international university ratings, but also to Eurydice, OECD and Eurostat reports. The latter confirm that the Italian academic gap is more than a mere journalistic issue and has to be considered the intolerable effect of structural (and political) delay.
The media analysis of Italian university delays fuels public discourse on investments and innovations. The journalistic relevance of the academic gap concerns both the national context and the international scenario, as “la Repubblica” and “Sole 24 Ore” rankings highlight in reference to the gap between Southern and Northern universities. Nonetheless, the pandemic seems to have inverted this negative trend. In other words, excellence may have a journalistic impact, inasmuch as merit and research quality may be gauged just through the media impact: Italy has been placed fifth in the world in a ranking of Covid research by QS World University Rankings. This means that Italian research excellence can journalistically black out the chronic delays afflicting the higher education system at large, as national and international rankings, reports and newspapers periodically point out.
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Giancola, O. & Colarusso, S. (2020), Università e nuove forme di valutazione. Strategie individuali, produzione scientifica, effetti istituzionali, Sapienza Università editrice, Roma.
Losh E. (2014), The War of Learning. Gaining Ground in the Digital University, The MIT Press, Cambridge (MA).
Morcellini M., Rossi P.,Valentini E. (a cura di) (2017), Unibook. Per un database sull’Università, FrancoAngeli, Milano.
Moscati R. (2020), Academics Facing Unpredictable Changes, in «Scuola democratica», n. 3, 405-415.
Regini, M. (2011), European Universities and the Challenge of the Market, Elgar, Cheltenham.
PERFORMATIVITY AND SPECIALISATION IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
University of Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy
Looking at the current scenario of European higher education, we can make out some lasting ideas, which have contributed to define the aims and the institutional identities of university, reflecting its changes and the tensions linked to the diverse historical junctures. Among them, the concepts of performance and specialization stand out, because, with different nuances, they have accompanied the development of modern University, from its birth in XIX century to nowadays, calling into question the ideas of knowledge, education and culture.
This paper aims to propose a critical analysis of these ideas, showing their relevant issues as well as fruitful developments in order to think higher education and the requests addressed to higher education systems nowadays, in the frame of the interrelation among local, national and supranational level.
To carry out this path, Max Weber’s lecture about Science as a vocation and Jean-François Lyotard’s argument, developed in The Postmodern condition, will be assumed as main references; in these works, the concepts of specialisation and performance are employed by the Authors to sketch out the meaning of higher education in their respective historical periods. From an historical-comparative perspective, we will propose a conceptual analysis of such ideas, highlighting their changes, in order to critically thinking how these ones are used and articulated in the current debate about higher education, taking in account that some concepts can be particularly multifaced and ambiguous.
Carney Stephen, Global education policy and the postmodern challenge, in Karen Mundy Andy Green, Bob Lingard, Antoni Verger (Eds.), The handbook of global educational policy, UK, John Wiley & Sons, 2016, pp. 504-518.
Collini Stefan, Speaking of Universities, London-New York, Verso, 2017.
Cowen Robert, Comparative education: stones, silence, and siren songs, in «Comparative education», vol. 50, n. 1, 2014, pp. 3-14.
Lyotard Jean-François, The postmodern condition. A report on knowledge, Manchester University Press, 1984.
Weber Max, The vocation lectures. Science as a vocation. Politics as a vocation, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing 2014.
FROM THE INTERNATIONAL EDUCATIONAL SURVEYS TO THE OLYMPIC GAMES OF EDUCATION
Università Roma Tre, Italia
According to Aldo Visalberghi (one of the main advocates of the Italian participation in the IEA Six Subject), since the international surveys were intended to collect data useful for appraising the equity and effectiveness of educational policies implemented in democratic countries, they should have been based on shared visions of the democratization of education. On the basis of his cooperative and non-competitive outlook on educational research, Visalberghi (1977) feared that such surveys would be seen as something akin to "Olympic Games of Education". This prophecy has come true: Morris (2016) shows that not only are international surveys increasingly perceived as authentic Olympic games, but they also provide rankings which are constantly promoted by the media, because tests are considered a valid and reliable measure of human capital, a variable employed to explain success in global economic competition.
Starting with Visalberghi's view of the relationship between educational testing and large-scale surveys, the paper moves on examining the main elements of discontinuity between early analyses of international surveys and current ones.
Being aware of the limitations of testing, Visalberghi never reduced literacy or competencies (1992) to a test’s score. By proper placing international surveys in the field of correlational and non-experimental studies, he never considered the school system as the sole responsible of the literacy levels measured by the tests. Visalberghi rather read the IEA results as multifactorial effects of the interaction between school and society, avoiding recommending naïve and merely educative solutions to complex and multifaced problems.
Today the most widespread interpretations of surveys express incautious, hasty and reductionist judgements, reducing to test scores complex, multidimensional and situated constructs such as literacy and competencies. In addition, most of today's international survey analyses tend to decontextualize educational problems and processes, and such oversimplification leads them to disseminate stocks of best practices. Finally, the current analyses of international studies, eluding the non-experimental design of the researches, emphasizing significant but weak correlations between processes and outputs, and by taking test scores as policy and educational targets, unduly blame only school systems for the performance in OECD and IEA surveys (Komatsu & Rappleye, 2017).
Cowen, R. (2014), “Ways of Knowing, Outcomes and ‘Comparative Education’: be Careful what you pray for”, Comparative Education, 50, 3, pp. 282-301.
Corsini, C. (2019), Dalle comparazioni alle classifice, "CADMO" 2/2019, pp. 40-47
Komatsu, H., Rappleye J. (2017), “A New Global Policy Regime Founded on Invalid Statistics? Hanushek, Woessmann, PISA, and Economic Growth”, Comparative Education, 53, 2, pp. 166-191.
Morris, P. (2016), Education Policy, Cross-national Tests of Pupil Achievement, and the Pursuit of World-class Schooling: A Critical Analysis. London: UCL.
Visalberghi, A. (1977), “Rapporto generale sulle ricerche IEA e sui risultati connessi. Valutazione complessiva dei risultati”, Misurazione del rendimento scolastico, Indagini IEA e situazione italiana, Quaderni degli annali della Pubblica istruzione, 5, pp. 125-150.
Visalberghi, A. (1992), “Research on Literacy in Italy”, in P. Bélanger, C. Winter, A. Sutton (eds), Literacy and Basic Education in Europe on the Eve of the 21st Century. Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger, pp. 147-151.