Networking for Global and Sustainability Education – UNESCO ASPnet in Estonia

Networking for Global and Sustainability Education – UNESCO ASPnet in Estonia

UNESCO is tasked to ensure that education serves the values of peace, human rights, freedom, justice and democracy, respect for diversity, and international solidarity as defined in the UN Charter and the Constitution of UNESCO. Since 1953, the organisation has offered schools in its member states the opportunity to apply to be part of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet), which supports the promotion of the UNESCO ideals. Today, the ASPnet connects more than 11,500 schools in 182 countries, and the current strategy aim for the network is to support Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED). These are seen as the key instruments for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Target 4.7 with the aim of giving all learners the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development (UNESCO, 2014).

The ASPnet has, throughout its existence, aimed to strengthen the horizontal links between schools through twinning and flagship projects which support the diffusion of participatory and critical enquiry pedagogies (Schweisfurth, 2005). The Baltic Sea Project (BSP) is one of the oldest flagship projects. Since 1989, it has united schools in the countries bordering the Baltic Sea to tackle regional environmental problems through education. Currently, in the nine participating countries, over 165 schools (mainly upper-secondary level) are involved in the BSP activities (BSP, 2022).

My research deals with the history and current state of these school networks in the context of Estonia and analyses how the process of tighter integration of the BSP network into the UNESCO ASPnet contributes to achieving a more holistic understanding of a sustainable future through enhanced cooperation between different subject teachers and civil society organisations (CSOs).

Revitalising the school network

The process of revitalising the school networks started in 2014, when the Estonian UNESCO National Commission gave the task of coordinating the networks to two separate CSOs that both work as resource centres for schools and teachers: the Tartu Environment Education Centre (TEEC) started coordinating the BSP network while NGO Mondo’s Global Education Centre restarted the UNESCO ASPnet. Both centres are highly valued actors in their respective fields in Estonia.

The integration process of the networks started in 2018 with first the CSOs coming together – the coordinator from TEEC took part in Mondo’s Global Education training with some key teachers from the BSP network and the integration proceeded with joint planning, events and new guidelines for schools. According to the renewed guidelines, all ASPnet schools are encouraged to include global and sustainability education into school development plans, school regulations, management style, and community participation. They are required to do a minimum of one international UNESCO project/campaign/program and two UN thematic days yearly.

ASPnet schools are also expected to mainstream ESD and GCED to curriculum, working plans and lessons and support cooperation between teachers. As a follow-up activity to strategy renewal, all BSP schools were awarded ASPnet membership.

Analysis of the ASP Network in Estonia

The main aim of my study was to analyse the institutional and ideational context of ESD, GCED and ASPnet in Estonia, questioning whether networking can support a more holistic, critical, and transformative GCED and ESD – dimensions which are seen as crucial in the academic literature (Bamber, 2019). I used mixed methods to gather data from the ASPnet teachers and Estonian education policymakers and experts.

A survey questionnaire was completed by 24 teachers in the network, and 20 teachers took part in a participatory workshop during the ASPnet Annual Conference. In addition, ten teachers, five policymakers and five experts and coordinators were interviewed online. A review of annual reports from schools, previous studies, and policy documents was also conducted.

Identifying silos 

The survey data, interviews and workshop conducted with the ASPnet teachers showed some silos between different subject teachers. While teachers of natural sciences (chemistry, physics, biology) linked global competence to environmental awareness, teachers of social sciences (civics, history, geography) and languages linked it to intercultural competence. While all teachers saw the need to encourage students’ critical thinking, social science teachers saw more value in introducing controversial topics to discussions as well as critical examination of topics such as capitalism, colonialism, and nationalism.

Silos also exist in an institutional context where different ministries support various aspects of Target 4.7: the Ministry of Environment supports environmental education and ESD while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives funding for GCED activities. At the same time, the joining of the networks and increased collaboration between different subject teachers has been useful in breaking down the silos and increasing cooperation. However, there is room for improvement in ASPnet at all levels, from the school to national and international levels. Activities often end up being one-off events without a profound impact on the school as a whole. Communication problems and lack of resources also hinder UNESCO ASPnet from reaching full capacity.

Opportunities and challenges

Since the restart of the network, several new educational institutions have applied to join the Estonian ASPnet (including pre-schools, primary schools, and secondary schools), which could be seen as a positive result of the new, more inclusive approach. At the beginning of 2022, the Estonian ASPnet included 60 educational institutions (7-8% of all schools in Estonia). Many schools have joined after their teachers participated in Mondo’s in-service training in GCED.

Being a member of ASPnet is seen to give prestige and legitimacy to the schools (especially in situations where schools need to compete for students), as well as more resources to work on global and sustainability education. The network coordinators motivate teachers to be active by offering recognition, awards and opportunities for student participation and their resources are appreciated by the participating teachers.

Looking at the overall context of GCED and ESD in Estonia, we can see both opportunities and challenges for the promotion of UNESCO values. The main challenges are related to the overall policy discourse, which emphasises neoliberal, nationalistic and security discourses with limited reference to global solidarity. Emphasis is on subjects tested in high-stakes exams and PISA. At the same time, the autonomy of schools and teachers gives opportunities to place more emphasis on ESD and GCED in schools where teachers are trained, resourced, and motivated. The curriculum encourages including these themes in a transversal manner, which supports the activities of ASPnet. Openness and expertise in digital learning are also assets (GENE, 2019).

The study concludes that the ideas around holistic, critical, and transformative dimensions of GCED present in academic literature need contextualising. The decolonisation discourse is becoming more prevalent in academic GCED literature, where it refers predominantly to Global North vs Global South relations, while ignoring the post-Soviet experience.

When asked about criticality, one of the Estonian teachers noted that:

“in school, we should talk more about colonialism as we were ourselves colonized only recently, but we should not be too critical of nationalism as we need to protect our minority language and culture”.

This shows how concepts like ‘colonialism’ and ‘nationalism’ can have different meanings and connotations in different contexts. The ‘west’ in this context is not a symbol of past and current injustices, but a symbol of democracy and human rights as opposed to Soviet and Russian authoritarianism and chauvinism.

 One of the biggest current challenges for the Estonian education sector is the war in Ukraine, the integration of Ukrainian refugees into Estonian schools*, continuing integration of the Russian-speaking minority into Estonian society, as well as fighting propaganda and hate speech. In this situation, GCED can have a key role to play in supporting peace, global solidarity, and human rights, but special emphasis needs to be put on critical media literacy.


* By the end of May 2022, Estonia received more than 40 000 refugees from Estonia (3% of the Estonian population), and thousands of refugee children need access to education in Estonia.

Key Messages

UNESCO school network in Estonia motivates a growing number of schools to work on global and sustainability issues

There are silos between natural and social science teachers as well as different ministries in their understanding and promotion of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Networking between different subject teachers can lead to more holistic approach to teaching global challenges

Critical theory needs to be contextualised in the local history and experience

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Johanna Helin

Johanna Helin

EdD candidate at OISE (University of Toronto)

Johanna Helin is an EdD candidate at OISE (University of Toronto) and carries out studies and evaluations through UbuntuEDU in Finland. She has many years of experience in Global Citizenship Education from Finland, Estonia and Canada. Her dissertation research is on global citizenship education and critical media literacy in selected ASPnet schools in different country contexts.

References and Further Reading

Baltic Sea Project website (accessed June 10, 2022): 

Bamber, P. (Ed.). (2019). Teacher Education for Sustainable Development and Global 

Citizenship: Critical Perspectives on Values, Curriculum and Assessment (1st ed.). Routledge.

 GENE – Global Education Network Europe (2019). The European Global Education Peer Review Process – National Report on Global Education in Estonia. Available at:

Schweisfurth, M. (2005). Learning to Live Together: A Review of UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project Network. International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, Vol. 51 Issue 2/3, p. 219-234. DOI: 10.1007/s11159-005-3579-9 

UNESCO (2003). UNESCO Associated School Project Network (ASPnet): historical review 1953-2003. 

 UNESCO (2014b). ASPnet strategy for 2014-2021, Global network of schools addressing global challenges: building global citizenship and promoting sustainable development.Available at: 

 UNESCO (2018b). UNESCO Associated Schools Network: guide for national coordinators. UNESCO:

 UNESCO (2019a) UNESCO Associated Schools Network: guide for members. Available at:    


Equity in Education during COVID-19 and the Danger of “Microwave Equity”

Equity in Education during COVID-19 and the Danger of “Microwave Equity”

The last two years have been quite challenging for the world and for educators. First, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world for a while, and many learning institutions were closed as a result of the pandemic.[1] At the same time, the increasing strength of the anti-racism movement from the United States and across the world has highlighted the importance of equity, inclusion, and equality in education in such a time as this. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closure globally led to 1.6 billion children[2]missing out on education, which has further amplified the inequalities inherent in many education systems. In many regions around the world, for example, in Europe, groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on education may include students of minority migrant background, new language learners, disabled students, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others (LGBTQ+) students. My PhD research study on developing culturally inclusive teaching and learning environments in Ireland, funded by the Irish Research Council postgraduate scholarship and Galway Doctoral Research scholarship programmes, has caused me to reflect deeply on the concepts of equity, inclusion, and equality in education. Furthermore, my research and work with student-teachers, teachers, parents of minority migrant backgrounds, in Ireland and beyond, has further revealed the importance of an understanding that is all the more urgent in the context of the inequalities that will exasperate equitable and quality education for all learners in the era of COVID-19.

What is the difference between equality and equity?

The image to the left is a graphical representation of equality, while the image to the right represents equity 
Image credit: Maryam Abdul-Kareem


It is quite challenging to unpack the concepts of equality and equity in education, particularly the differences between these two concepts. It is critical for teachers to know the differences between these two concepts to ensure equitable learning for all students, especially in a time of crisis.

In the left image, everyone is provided with equal support to watch the football game. In the right image, everyone is equipped with differential supports that allow equitable access to the game.

It should be noted that understanding the differences between equity and equality is not straightforward. It is layered with many complexities. Therefore, the above image provides a basic representation of the differences between equity and equality.

In summary, equity is based on needs, that is, responding to students’ individual or specific needs in our classrooms to ensure quality teaching and learning. In contrast, equality is based on fairness, which means being fair to all, without acknowledging the additional challenges faced by some.

UN Sustainability Goals and

the importance of equity and inclusion in education

Many education systems around the world are concerned with the issues of equity and inclusion in policy and practice. However, more work needs to be done in developing and implementing equity and inclusion policies and practices in education, particularly in the current COVID-19 crisis. Equity can be explained as providing students with personalised support that overcomes potential hurdles such as poverty and minoritised cultural backgrounds.[3]While inclusion in education implies that all students, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds or disabilities, are accepted and fully catered to in mainstream school environments. In other words, ‘inclusion is about all students belonging’ in a classroom.[4] The concepts of equity and inclusion in education are not new. Global educational goals have long sought to advance the principles of equity and inclusion in education systems internationally. For example, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 requires countries worldwide to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. The SDGs were passed in 2015 by United Nations member states as a holistic approach to ensure that countries around the world achieve equitable and sustainable development in different sectors of society by 2030. [5] However, recent reports by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tasked with tracking the world’s progress in achieving SDG 4 presented that it is unlikely for the world to meet the targets of SDG 4 by 2030.[6]Unfortunately, the current humanitarian emergency of COVID-19 has further validated the reality of the findings of this new report on the impact of the pandemic in achieving the SDGs[7]

The role of teachers in addressing equity and inclusion in their classrooms

Moving forward, teachers can begin to address equity and inclusion in education with support from other educational stakeholders to ensure equitable learning for all students and developing peer accountability systems. Secondly, teachers can build better working relationships with students and their guardians/parents. Third, they can commit to continuous professional development programmes. Finally, teachers can promote equity and inclusion in their classrooms during this COVID-19 pandemic and beyond by constantly checking ‘whether what they are doing enables or empowers the students to help improve them.’[8]

Avoiding the quick fix of ‘Microwave Equity’

Cornelius Minor, a US-based educator, coined the term ‘Microwave Equity,’ which means teachers and educators attempting to achieve equity quickly or overnight. Instead, he warns, the work on equity in education takes time and patience. In his book, We Got This, Minor argued that to be equitable and inclusive, teachers need to intentionally listen to kids in achieving equity in the classroom, decentralise power by empowering students’ voices, and do the self-work without blaming students.

The push to introduce more equity in education is badly needed, but it comes at a time when teachers are already facing significant challenges and additional responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Equity and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

Teachers are crucial to achieving equity and inclusion in education, and the current crisis has further affected teaching and learning. The pandemic has denied millions of learners access to equitable and quality education.[9] Teachers, to a large extent, are critical stakeholders in helping to manage the crisis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has further changed the nature of teachers’ work, e.g., many teachers were expected to switch to online teaching quickly. The burden of additional responsibilities placed on teachers in a crisis is not new. Research has shown that all humanitarian emergencies have affected teachers’ work. For example, in post-conflict Liberia, teachers’ responsibilities included serving as second parents, humanitarians, role models, parents, counsellors, guardians, unifiers, and psychologists to help students affected with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). [10] From the case of Liberia and in similar contexts, teachers can be adequately supported and performance improved when education stakeholders possess a deep understanding of the factors that limit their capacity to function effectively.[11] Therefore, placing the responsibility for achieving equity and inclusion solely on teachers is problematic. Educational stakeholders and the entire education system must be involved to make equitable and quality learning for all students a reality, even in the current era of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, school leaders in the United Kingdom took proactive steps and initiatives to provide support for teachers and promote sustainable good practices during the global pandemic. The research study finds that school leaders developed effective and pragmatic approaches to engage other stakeholders such as parents, pupils and policymakers, allowing learning to continue during the pandemic.[12] It is hoped that more attention will be given to having discussions on what equity and inclusion in education really mean in different contexts and levels of education. For example, regional educational research associations such as European Educational Research Association (EERA)  can engage existing platforms such as the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) conferences, within their network for educational researchers to continue to engage in discussion and research on issues of equity and inclusion in European education systems and globally. This knowledge and understanding will undoubtedly help concerned educational stakeholders working on equity and inclusion in education to address the challenges of ensuring an even playing field for all learners.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Seun B. Adebayo

Seun B. Adebayo

PhD Researcher, Research Supervisor, Teaching Assistant, NUI Galway

Seun B. Adebayo is currently a PhD Researcher, Research Supervisor and Teaching Assistant at the School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland (NUI Galway). His PhD study explores developing culturally inclusive teaching and learning environments in Irish schools.

Aside from his research study, Seun organises workshops on culturally responsive pedagogies for student-teachers at NUI Galway.

His research interests include education policy, teacher education and professional development, culturally responsive pedagogy, equity and inclusion in education, progressive education reforms, practitioner/action research, education in conflict/post-conflict contexts, and quality education.

Seun has extensive work and research experiences with Aflatoun International, UNESCO HQ., UNESCO Office in Monrovia (Liberia), the European Research Council Executive Agency of the European Commission, the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, VSO International, Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Education Development Trust and UNDP in New York.



Google Scholar:

References and Further Reading

[1] UNESCO (2021). Education: From disruption to recovery. 

[2] Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (2022). Prioritizing learning during COVID-19. 

[3] Waterford (2020). Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom. 

[4] Giardina (2019). What does an inclusive classroom look like? 


[6] UNESCO (2020). Inclusion and education: ALL MEANS ALL. Global Education Monitoring Report. 

[7] Shulla, K. (2021). The COVID-19 pandemic and the achievement of the SDGs. 

[8] Adebayo and Chinhanu (2020).  Ubuntu in Education: Towards equitable teaching and learning for all in the era of SDG 4. NORRAG. 

[9] Moss and Bradley (2021). Education in a Post-COVID World: Creating more Resilient Education Systems. 

[10] Adebayo S.B. (2019). Emerging perspectives of teacher agency in a post-conflict setting: The case of Liberia. Teaching and Teacher Education. 

[11]Tao, S. (2013). Why are teachers absent? Utilising the Capability Approach and Critical Realism to explain teacher performance in Tanzania. International Journal of Educational Development, 33 (1): 2-14 

[12]Beauchamp, G., Hulme, M., Clarke, L., Hamilton, L., & Harvey, J. A. (2021). ‘People miss people’: A study of school leadership and management in the four nations of the United Kingdom in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational Management Administration & Leadership49(3), 375-392. 

Developing a Classroom Tool to Promote Critical Perspectives on ‘Single Stories’

Developing a Classroom Tool to Promote Critical Perspectives on ‘Single Stories’

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research the area of global education. We asked the recipients of the Global Education Award 2020/21 to share their research with the broader EERA community.  

In 2009, the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, delivered a Ted Talk about what she called The Danger of a Single Story. Adichie’s central theme is that how stories are told, who tells them, when and how, is ‘really dependent on power’. She illustrates this by drawing on her own experiences of being subjected to single stories about Africa as a place of ‘catastrophe’ and juxtaposing this with examples of the single stories she has held about others.

So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.

Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, 2009

Adichie’s talk was translated into 45 languages and clearly resonated deeply with many people. In common with other educators with an interest in facilitating Global Citizenship Education (GCE), we (the two researchers) found it useful to use The Danger of a Single Story as a stimulus for conversations about challenging prejudice and stereotypes.

We became interested in how this could be supported by developing a tool for exploring global issues critically from different perspectives on how the world is. Building on previous research on teachers’ experiences with GCE (Franch, 2020), we were influenced by Vanessa Andreotti’s (2010) ideas on developing critical literacy to pluralize ways of knowing, and possibilities for thinking and practice. Andreotti’s ideas have also been significant in developing GCE as a form of critical pedagogy; influencing our use of the term ‘critical GCE’ here (Blackmore, 2014).

Whilst ideas about critical GCE are generally familiar to those working in the field, we were aware of concerns about the lack of opportunities for teachers to engage with these in practice (Blackmore, 2014; Pashby and Sund, in Bourn, ed. 2020). For instance, we knew The Danger of a Single Story might be popular with teachers, but we were less clear about whether and how far they might use it to promote critical GCE. We aimed to develop a tool to support the use of Adichie’s talk, which could be explored with teachers. As educators based in Italy and the UK, we were also interested in comparing responses between two different European contexts.

Developing the ‘Single Story’ tool

To begin developing the tool, we drew on existing ideas and frameworks developed with similar aims in mind. These ranged from tools like the Development Compass Rose and Andreotti’s (2006) framework for distinguishing between ‘soft’ and ‘critical’ GCE, to more recent work on applying her HEADS UP tool in classrooms, developed into a resource for teachers. Whilst acknowledging these developments, and not wanting to ‘reinvent the wheel’, we felt there was space for a tool which could support responses to Adichie’s Single Story specifically.

We devised a series of six themes or ‘lenses’ through which different questions could be applied to any issue identified as a Single Story. This might be represented by an image, text, film clip, or even an object.

For instance, Adichie’s example of the single story of Africa might be represented by an image typically used by organisations seeking donations for development projects (see image below from Radi-Aid).

“The frequent portrayal of Africa as a continent in need prompted sadness among the respondents in the study, which was carried out in collaboration with the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.

Such campaigns often depict black children in need, and several of the respondents wished that these stories could be complemented by showing children of other colors or backgrounds, or black doctors, professors or aid workers. They would like to see portrayals of people with agency in their own situations and results of their accomplishments.”  — RADI-AID

Photo: Edward Echwalu
Design: Click Design. For RADI-AID
Having drafted the tool, the next step was to pilot it with teachers in Italy and the UK via online webinars. To prepare teachers, we encouraged them to complete an Identity Starburst from a template provided. During the webinars, stimuli such as images and ‘values cards’ were used in conjunction with activities and reflective questions to facilitate a participatory process.  Activities encouraged individual reflection on themes of identity and perceptions of self and others, before inviting teachers to respond to Adichie’s talk, identify their own ‘single stories’ and use the tool to analyse them. This process attempted to strike a balance between the need to produce research outcomes and empowering teachers to co-construct the tool with us as researchers (Bullivant, Ayre and Smith, 2022).

Reflections on Teachers’ Responses, the Tool, and Issues of Power

Our comparative analysis found some differences, influenced partly by the way in which GCE has evolved in each country, as well as differing cultural, social, and political factors and histories.  UK teachers were more likely to have encountered Adichie’s talk and were more familiar with the enquiry-based and participatory activities used in webinars. This reflects the influence of critical and postcolonial discourses towards a more critical form of GCE in the UK (Bullivant, 2020). In contrast, Italian teachers’ experience has been grounded primarily in intercultural education (Franch, 2020). Whilst topical events and issues unique to each country shaped the kinds of single stories shared by teachers to some extent, these were often part of over-arching themes common to both contexts.  For example, discussions of single stories in the Brexit debate in the UK overlapped with themes of identity, migration, and populism in Italy. Beyond this, a number of other common themes emerged: 

  • Teachers in both contexts welcomed the space to share and reflect on complex issues, and experiment with the tool. They shared ideas about how they might use the tool in practice, including adaptations for different age groups.
  • The concept of single stories resonated with teachers’ experiences personally and in their teaching with young people. They reflected on the responsibility of schools and available resources in perpetuating the ‘single story of progress’ about “developed” and “underdeveloped” countries (Andreotti, 2015).
  • When reflecting on their own identities and the way in which single stories originate and persist, many teachers tended to remain at the level of superficial analysis of factors shaping identity and perceptions of self and others, rather than more critical analysis of the roots and power dynamics influencing these.


These themes support our rationale for developing the tool in the first place, especially the resonance found between the concept of single stories and teachers’ experiences and reflections on the inadequacy of existing resources to challenge these. They also informed ideas for developing it going forward. These include straightforward adaptations to terminology to create versions for different age groups and the more complex need to draw teachers’ attention to their own positions and perspectives, and questions of power underpinning these.


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Dr Andrea Bullivant

Dr Andrea Bullivant

Dr Andrea Bullivant is employed by Liverpool World Centre and has facilitated Global Citizenship Education for twelve years. Her work has focused increasingly on bringing research and practice together to develop new understanding across the sector, to engage community partners and develop evaluation and research that can support practice outcomes and influence policy. She is the Director of TEESNet, a UK wide network promoting GCE and Education for Sustainable Development in Teacher Education. She currently co-chairs Our Shared World and is the lead evaluator for a number of UK based GCE projects.

Dr Sarah Franch

Dr Sarah Franch

Dr Sara Franch is an expert in international development cooperation and global citizenship education. She holds a PhD in pedagogy from the Free University of Bolzano and is involved in research and training on global citizenship. She currently works for a publisher and is responsible for developing products on pedagogical innovation.

GENE Awards

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research in the area of global education.

These research awards are funded by Global Education Network Europe (GENE), the European network of Ministries and Agencies with national responsibility for policymaking, funding, and support in the field of Global Education. For this reason, the subject area for research projects undertaken is that of Global Education.

The purpose of the award is to support quality research around the themes outlined here  – which have been identified as of interest to policymakers. Gathering of existing research, application of existing research from other areas of education to Global Education, follow-up studies, all are perfectly acceptable. It is not expected that the research has to draw policy conclusions – but to make available up-to-date, policy-relevant research from which policymaker can draw their own conclusions.

References and Further Reading

Andreotti, V. 2006 Soft versus Critical Global Citizenship Education. Policy and Practice – A Development Education Review. Centre for Global Education

Andreotti, V. 2010 Postcolonial and post-critical ‘global citizenship education’. In G. Elliott, C. Fourali & S. Issler (Eds.), Education and Social Change: Connecting Local and Global Perspectives (pp. 238-250). London: Continuum.

Andreotti, V. 2015 Global citizenship education otherwise: Pedagogical and theoretical insights. In A. Abdi, L. Schultz & T. Pillay (Eds.), Decolonizing Global Citizenship Education (pp. 221- 230). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. 

Blackmore, C. (2014) The Opportunities and Challenges for a Critical Global Citizenship Education in One English Secondary School. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy University of Bath, Department of Education. April 2014

Bullivant, A., Ayre, J., and Smith, A. Facilitating the ‘Tipping Point’: Co-creating a manifesto for education for environmental sustainability. British Educational Research Association. Research Intelligence, Issue 150, Spring 2022

Bullivant, A. 2020. From Development Education to Global Learning: Exploring conceptualisations of theory and practice amongst practitioners in England. PhD Thesis. Lancaster University

Franch, S. 2020 Global citizenship education discourses in a province in northern Italy. International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning. Vol. 12(1):21-36.

Pashby, K and Sund, L. Critical GCE in the Era of SDG 4.7: Discussing HEADS UP with Secondary Teachers in England, Finland and Sweden. In Bourn, D (ed). (2020) The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning. Bloomsbury

Translating across words, paradigms, and traditions of education 

Translating across words, paradigms, and traditions of education 

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research the area of global education. We asked the recipients of the Global Education Award 2020/21 to share their research with the broader EERA community.  

 At the beginning of 2021, the two authors of this blog, along with Finnish colleagues Inkeri Rissanen and Katri Jokikokko, received a Global Education Award from the GENE network. With this award, they promised to do something they were all passionate about: Explore teacher students’ implicit knowledge in issues related to global education and consider how teachers’ beliefs might play out in their future work as teachers.

As we write this blog a year after receiving the award, we are deeply immersed in data analysis in Bamberg, Germany, where Mervi is visiting Susanne. While delving into the data, we try to see if we can find harmony within the diversity of Finnish and German teacher students’ thoughts. Yet we find that we must also create harmony in our research practices, translating not only data in three languages but also our own implicit understandings of the educational traditions and research paradigms we may take for granted.

In our research, 32 Finnish and 35 German preservice teachers discussed issues related to diversity, culture, and change. All of the students had participated in a course focusing on these issues, and we hoped this shared experience would re-activate their common orientations. The groups conversed in three languages, Finnish, English, German, depending on the language of instruction of their course.

 Our method, documentary analysis (Bohnsack, 2010), requires us not only to understand the literal meaning of words but go beyond it and understand the values behind words. This proved rather difficult to do in a group in which none of us spoke all three of the required languages. For less critical sections of the transcripts, we used transcription software. For crucial parts of our research, we hired professional translators. The software, trying to be helpful, created words that looked Finnish but made no sense. We were able to remove this nonsense with a lot of manual revision and discussions, but the trickier task was to translate the context-specific understanding behind the words.

Translation beyond words

Our analysis focused on concepts such as culture, diversity, or change, all loaded with meaning. For example, instead of translating the term diversity, Germans use the English word, but as a strictly normative concept, meaning plurality is a good thing. In Finnish, diversity can be translated as moninaisuus, but it has not yet found its way into natural everyday conversation. So, it is not surprising that it could rarely be found in the preservice teachers’ discussions. The fact that some terms are missing could be a methodological challenge: how can the students talk without these particular words? However, with the documentary method, it was not: after rounds and rounds of analysis and abduction, the discussions revealed the students’ orientations towards diversity without the word even being mentioned.

Translation beyond paradigms

The need to translate went beyond needing to agree on the literal meaning of words. We also had to translate our practices as researchers, making them compatible. Susanne works within a reconstructive paradigm, focusing on language. Mervi is most at home within participatory paradigms, with the analytical focus on practice. We soon found out that our attention points in the same direction, trying to find educational practices that can respond to the needs of the changing world; we just use slightly different lenses.

Translation beyond traditions of education

Finally, perhaps most interestingly, we translated our understandings across slightly different educational traditions. We share an interest in global education, but explicating what we mean by education, Bildung or kasvatus, was a fascinating task. The Finnish kasvatus and German Bildung are both complex terms describing educational processes and practices which are impossible to simply translate into English. We came to an agreement that Bildung is in line with our understanding of global education: it refers to the processes in which an individual acquires the needed skills and knowledge for individual growth and character formation (on an individual level), while also learning to be an active and critical member of their community (on a social level) to open up new possibilities for individual and shared lives (Kaukko, et al. 2020).

Experimenting with new research methods required us to problematise some of the ways of working we might take for granted. Multilinguality pushed us to scrutinise our understanding of some of the words we work with. Only working in and through English would have left some of the nuances in the shadows. All the steps pointed out very clearly that we need humans for all this as software cannot do this. Moreover, all these steps pushed us to consider the dimensions of global education in our own work. It is not enough to say that our research is framed within global education. We need to shape our research practices accordingly, so that we genuinely try to see the issues from another point of view.

A global education lens also requires us to reconsider our own responsibilities as researchers: What can we as educational researchers do to “open people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awaken them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all”? (Maastricht Global Education Declaration, 2002, see also 2018; Scheunpflug, 2021) A deeper understanding of the beliefs and orientations of preservice teachers, which could help us develop better, fairer, and more sustainable teacher education, is one way to pursue this.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Blog Authors

Dr Mervi Kaukko

Dr Mervi Kaukko

Associate Professor in Multicultural Education, Tampere University, Finland

Dr Mervi Kaukko works as associate professor in multicultural education in Tampere University, Finland. She was previously a lecturer at Monash University, Australia and Oulu University, Finland. Her interests include global education, refugee/migration studies, participatory methodogies and practice theories.

Dr Susanne Timm

Dr Susanne Timm

Research Assistant, Otto-Friedrich-University, Bamberg

Dr Susanne Timm worked as a research assistant at the University in Göttingen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and is currently at Otto-Friedrich-Universität in Bamberg. Her special interests are comparative and intercultural education. During the last years, Dr Timm has carried out a qualitative study on culture in teacher education while focusing more and more on global education.

GENE Awards

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research in the area of global education.

These research awards are funded by Global Education Network Europe (GENE), the European network of Ministries and Agencies with national responsibility for policymaking, funding, and support in the field of Global Education. For this reason, the subject area for research projects undertaken is that of Global Education.

The purpose of the award is to support quality research around the themes outlined here  – which have been identified as of interest to policymakers. Gathering of existing research, application of existing research from other areas of education to Global Education, follow-up studies, all are perfectly acceptable. It is not expected that the research has to draw policy conclusions – but to make available up-to-date, policy-relevant research from which policymaker can draw their own conclusions.

References and Further Reading

Bohnsack, R. (2010). Documentary method and group discussions. In R. Bohnsack, N. Pfaff, & W. Weller (eds.),Qualitative analysis and documentary method in international educational research (p. 99-124). Barbara Budrich.

Kaukko, M., Francisco, S., Mahon, K. (2020) Education in a world worth living in. In Mahon, K., Francisco, S., Edwards-Groves, C., Kaukko, M., Kemmis, S., and Kirsten P. (eds). Pedagogy, Education and Praxis in Critical Times. Springer, 1-13. 

Maastricht Global Education Declaration (2002) A European Strategy Framework for Improving and Increasing Global Education in Europe to the Year 2015. Dublin: GENE.

Scheunpflug, A. (2021). Global learning: Educational research in an emerging field. European Education Research Journal, 20(1), 3-13.

Decolonizing Knowledge: Undoing and Reconstructing how we Learn

Decolonizing Knowledge: Undoing and Reconstructing how we Learn

When British-Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah was asked during a lecture about cultural belonging, he suggested avoiding falling victim to the questionable idea that culture belongs to specific groups. Further, if the dubious concept of ‘Westerner’ were to disappear, it needed not be replaced with something else but that we should rather learn to relate to people in different ways, respectful of each other’s differences without an excess of identification. The lecture host (an English woman), cautiously navigating from question to assertion, said in relation to Western civilization, “But what holds us all together are these things you’ve sort of praised: liberalism, human rights, rule of law, all those things. That gives us the right to choose, it gives us control over who we are. There are people around the world, particularly in Islamic countries, who don’t have that kind of choice. And these things ARE Western” (Appiah, 2016, m.30-36).

This view that Western knowledge and culture are somehow the core of a ‘universal knowledge’ and yet very much ‘remaining the history of the West,’ according to Tuhiwai-Smith (2012, p.66), has existed for centuries. In fact, she explains, the colonized cultures and their forms of knowledge were historically repositioned in a way that would allow for the validation of colonial domination and authority by being labeled as ‘oriental’ or ‘outsider’ by colonial powers. In line with this, Mitova (2020) defines the decolonization of knowledge as the necessity to undo our way of thinking about knowledge and to reconstruct it by learning anew and in new ways rather than those imposed on people, institutions, or nations through the process of colonization (Mitova, 2020; Wiredu, 2002).

Because Eurocentrism has succeeded in creating the idea of universal knowledge, Mignolo (2009) encourages us to ask ourselves: who and when, how, and where is knowledge generated?  Grosfoguel (2013) argues (in a description that matches my own experience as a doctoral student in the UK) that the social theory canon in Western universities has become dominated by a few men from five countries: Italy, France, England, Germany, and the USA; to this, I will further add that on a personal level, 80% of my Social Theory classes not only involved men from only two of those five countries (Germany and France) and but also that they were all white, adding an additional element to the self-arrogated intellectual (and sexist) domination: what Grosfoguel (2012) called epistemic racism. I am not arguing that every one of those social theorists was either of those things, but the recognition of their work should not come at the cost of the institutional eradication of other forms of knowledge that, especially since the 1980s, have begun to reshape and re-inform other intellectual traditions: feminist social epistemology, Eastern, African, Africana, Latin American and ‘Continental’(Mitova, 2020). 

Lessons from the Global South

Latin America presents us with a couple of valuable examples from which the academy can perhaps learn; one of them is in Chile, where, as Nuñez (2017) details, beginning in 2008, the Universidad Catolica de Temuco began to tackle the issue of curricular Eurocentrism within their teacher training programs. They started by offering a degree called “Elementary Intercultural Pedagogy in the Mapuche[1] context”. They also experimented by offering a program titled “Pedagogical Experience in Intercultural Approaches”, geared towards increasing sociocultural indigenous knowledge amongst graduate students in Education.

Burman (2016) offers a somewhat similar example from his experience in Bolivia. While researching within an Aymara community there, he was able to talk to a number of indigenous activists who remained deeply skeptical of Evo Morales’[2] policies regarding decolonization and interculturality. The activists viewed these policies as a disguised perpetuation of the colonial mode of knowledge production in Bolivia. While the Bolivian government did create indigenous universities (something that has not happened in Chile) and introduced reforms into the national educational system, many activists distrusted these policies and engaged in ‘epistemic and ontological disobedience’ (ibid, p.20). The activists opened their own spaces for knowledge creation, such as indigenous universities that function outside the national framework, as well as community sessions and seminars where indigenous people, including intellectuals, are invited to guide debates and deliberations regarding ways to preserve their knowledge and therefore, their social experience. These acts of disobedience are guided, according to Burman, by defiance to three elements that in his view have become an intrinsic part of Bolivia’s intellectual colonization:


“…the subjugation of subjectivities (“Be who we want you to be!”); epistemic domination (“Know what we want you to know and in the way we want you to know; create the kind of knowledge we want you to and in the way we want you to!”); and ontological domination (“Live in the one and only world we recognize as real!”). (Burman, 2016, p. 21)


Of course, the issue here is not the number, quality, or contributions of Eurocentric philosophers; as Dabashi (2015) elaborates, the question is not how Eurocentric Europeans are, but rather how European thinking has continued to reach a level of universality that has come to the detriment of non-European visions. Perhaps these examples from Latin American nations can offer us lessons to draw from that would allow us to embrace the fact that, as has been argued and widely demonstrated (de Sousa Santos, 2001, 2014, 2018; Smith, 2012; Apple, 2011, 2012, 2013; Semali and Kincheloe, 1999), there is no one single source of knowledge, not one single knowledge pursuit and not one single, linear development of knowledge.

The challenge for Western higher education institutions is to start thinking about ways to give these non-Eurocentric perspectives and knowledge not only wider recognition but also a broader space within their curriculum. As new feminist, Eastern, African, Latin American, and indigenous voices emerge within the academy, we must ask, how much are we paying attention and how much are we listening to them?

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Gaston Bacquet

Gaston Bacquet

Associate Tutor, University of Glasgow

Gaston Bacquet works as an Associate Tutor at the University of Glasgow, where he supervises master’s dissertations within the TESOL program and where he is also a first-year PhD student in Education. His research seeks to develop inclusive teaching practices in Latin American classrooms using an intersection of Critical Pedagogy and non-Western knowledge systems.

Research Gate:

References and Further Reading

[1] Mapuches are the largest indigenous community in Chile, and Temuco, the city where the university in question is based, is located near a large Mapuche enclave in the south of Chile

[2] Evo Morales, a former farmer and an Aymara person himself, was the president of Bolivia from 2006 to 2019.


Appiah, K.A. (2018). The lies that bind: Rethinking Identity. New York: Liveright (Based on his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures).

Apple, M.(2011). Democratic education in neoliberal and neoconservative times. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 21(1), 21–31.

Apple, M. (2012b). Knowledge, power, and education: The selected works of Michael W. Apple. New York: Routledge.

Apple, M. (2013). Can Education Change Society? New York; Routledge.

Burman, A. (2016). Indigeneity and Decolonization in the Bolivian Andes: Ritual Practice and Activism. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Dabashi, H. (2015). Can Non-Europeans Think? London: Zed Books.

de Sousa Santos, B. (2001). Nuestra America. Theory, Culture & Society, 18(2–3), 185–217.

de Sousa Santos, B. (2014). Epistemologies of the South. New York: Routledge.

De Sousa Santos, B. (2018). The end of the cognitive empire: the coming of age of epistemologies of the South. Durham: Duke University Press.

Grosfoguel, R. (2012). The Dilemmas of Ethnic Studies in the United States: Be­tween Liberal Multiculturalism, Identity Politics, Disciplinary Colonization, and Decolonial Epistemologies. Human Archi­tecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowl­edge, X (I), 81-90.

Grosfoguel, R. (2013). Epistemic Racism/Sexism, Westernized Universities and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long Sixteenth Century, in Araujo, M. & Rodriguez Maeso, S. (Eds.), Eurocentrism, Racism and Knowledge, Debates on History and Power in Europe and the Americas. London: Palgrave

Mignolo, W. (2009). Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and Decolonial Freedom. Theory, Culture & Society. 26(7-8), 159-181. 

Mitova, V. (2020). Decolonising Knowledge Here and Now, Philosophical Papers, 49(2), 191-212.

Nuñez, D. (2017). Reflecxiones en torno a la interculturalidad y la Educacion Superior en Chile. Polyphōnia, 1, 72-94.

Semali, L.M. and Kincheloe, J.L. (1999) What is indigenous knowledge? Voices from the academy (Eds.) New York/London: Falmer

Tuhiwai-Smith, L. (2012). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People. London: Zed (2nd Edition).

Wiredu, K. (2002). Conceptual decolonization as an imperative in contemporary African philosophy: some personal reflections. Rue Descartes, 36(2), 53-64.

ECER 2021Geneva – Theme: Milestones and Challenges

ECER 2021Geneva – Theme: Milestones and Challenges

ECER 2021 Geneva will focus on ‘Education and Society: expectations, prescriptions, reconciliations’. How relevant is this theme today in this specific context? Why is the city of Geneva a fertile ground in the field of education and of the development of the individual for hosting debates on reconciling societal expectations (sometimes disparate, diffracted or even contradictory) with the realities on the ground, and the needs of those involved in education, teaching and training?

This contribution from Dr Stefan Bodea aims to provide some socio-historical and cultural milestones which should support decanting the essence of the Geneva call for contributions covering this theme: an ‘urgent’ call, of fairly obvious topicality, stemming above all from the need to understand the tensions, resistances, pressures and cleavages with which the educator/teacher/trainer is confronted on a daily basis.


Education for All and its endeavours

Thanks to the decree of the Reformation, the birth of the Republic of Geneva (21 May 1536) coincided with the creation of the first compulsory and free public school in the world. Elementary education in Calvin’s City thus became accessible to and free of charge for all, regardless of the pupils’ status, and “the invalid, the orphan, the widow, the old man, and any need for assistance is taken into consideration in the same spirit”[1].

In the collective memory, this historical vocation of the Geneva educational institution even outweighs its other assets, such as the international reputation of its teachers[2]. Indeed, as Joy Kündig notes, “the most important aspect of Calvin’s Academy is not the great names of its teachers or students, but the fact that it really contributed to the democratisation of studies […] In Geneva, education was really for everyone” (Kündig, J., op.cit., p. 59).

However, although Geneva is generally considered to have successfully met this challenge, this success has always required, for the education actors engaged in this democratisation process, the handling of numerous tensions between expectations and feasibility, between injunctions and realities on the ground, between official prescriptions and the real needs of the students and educators. From this point of view, it can be argued that teachers should be considered as divided actors, ‘plural individuals’ as the sociologist Bernard Lahire would say; not insofar as self-unity would be an illusion, but because of the heterogeneity and the often-contradictory nature of the expectations that guide their social actions. Whether they are experienced as professional ‘sufferings’ or as structuring challenges of the educational praxis, these expectations seem to render more complex, or even make more difficult, the necessary construction of what Jacques Ardoino[3]calls the “authorisation capacity” as a process of “progressive and continuous creation of the self, both of social as of personal origin”, which is to be distinguished from “complacency in conformity, and therefore from the tendency to reproduce, characteristic of social practices which are artificial by dint of wishing to be only professional, strategic and technical”.

For the societal call for the creative accomplishment of educational action seems itself contradictory in that it is a matter of both “learning to enter the order of the law” and “developing the capacity for transgression”, which characterise the “impossible and yet necessary” professions[4].

From this point of view, ECER 2021’s invitation to reflect on and work towards the reconciliation of ‘divided’ socio-political/socio-cultural/socio-economic demands implies, among other things, working on the concrete modalities that today allow for socially meaningful, legitimate and acceptable articulations and adjustments of the different positions, roles, attitudes, experiences, convictions, options… of the actors concerned.

But what are the forces likely to generate such adjustments? They will undoubtedly be listed, discussed in detail, questioned and dealt with within the 33 EERA networks. We will limit ourselves here to pointing out essentially two of them, which fall within the scope of two types of problems widely shared by the actors in the field of education.

– The first concerns the need to work towards inclusive education that is permeable to difference and diversity, while ensuring a balance for all, through shared values and practices. In concrete terms, this means, among other things, that the school system can no longer “presuppose of all the pupils it welcomes what only some of them have built up before and outside their school experience and not to build it up explicitly in those who do not have it”[5]. We are indeed dealing with the issue of the equitable educational provision and the construction of common bases and habitus, concerned with considering the differential particularities of educational support and, in general, the heterogeneity of the social, political and cultural environment.

– The second has to do with the relationship between the requirements formulated by educational policies and the real needs of learners/students, taking into account the expectations of civil society. This is seriously considered in Geneva, where teaching, from the outset, has been thought to be directly linked to practice. In this respect, we should not forget the importance given in Geneva to the empirical and experimental paradigms that developed in Europe at the end of the 19th century in educational sciences.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that nowadays, in the field of teacher education, this articulation is the subject of numerous debates, particularly with regard to the relationship of trainees to the academicisation of training, following the importance given to research in recent times. Beyond the variations of the relationship between training and academic research (which can be broadly grouped into two categories: training by and respectively to or for research), this phenomenon seems to produce painful effects on the trainees’ side; when certain aspects of the theoretical content prove to be of little use in the exercise of their profession or do not immediately show the empirical interest of their exploitation. Consequently, looking into the empirical potential of the conceptual systems used in training, in line with the specificities and needs of the field, emerges as an important subject for further reflection and study.

While there are many demands on teachers and trainers, pupils/students are also affected, albeit at different levels. They have to deal with, among other things, the thickness of the different institutional expectations, which are sometimes not fully harmonised or are already divided at the inter-institutional level; the pressure of certificate-based assessment (the frequency of certificate-based assessment practices specific to certain teaching systems could even suggest that in the educational economy there is more assessment than teaching); the impact of the health crisis on the current situation of young people, which undermines the mission of social workers notably, etc., is the icing on the cake[6]

The Geneva student, like an athlete in competition, is above all a student who must accept a double contract: training and academic endurance. Seen from this angle, his or her work is unquestionably part of the Geneva history of academic requirements, which reminds us of a memorable reply addressed by Theodore de Bèze to the father of one of his boarders[7]: “I fear that nothing good will ever come of your son, for in spite of my prayers, he does not want to work more than fourteen hours a day” (p. 78).


Education Nouvelle and the interest of the main questions it raises

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Geneva advocated an educational renewal that placed at the centre of its investments the study of the child, the laws that ‘govern’ his or her development, his or her needs and potentialities… Despite the difficulties in reconciling its assumptions with those of education sciences, this trend, fuelled perhaps more by reformist hopes than scientific challenges, has generated and continues to generate numerous reflections on the centrality of the pupil, on his or her development but also on the pupil as an object of study. Some of these ideas might be more fruitful; others seem to be more risky.

This ‘Copernican revolution’, as Edouard Claparède described the Education Nouvelle programme, essentially oriented by experimental projects, has not only had moments of fervour; it has also been questioned, debated and even accused. No doubt because of the emphasis given to the talents, interests and psychological predispositions of the pupil.

Today, the promises, opportunities and interest of this international movement[8] are being studied, researched and assessed. The aim is to understand its actual and/or potential contributions to the development of educational sciences, teacher training and research, apart from the numerous school reforms to which this movement has given rise.

In 2018, the LIFE laboratory of the University of Geneva organised a study day[9] of immense scientific interest, which deserves particular attention for the quality of the issues and debates raised, beyond the polemics that they may cause. The main argument of this event, by virtue of the questions it raises, invites a careful analysis of the real and potential contributions of New Education to the evolution of ordinary teaching practices. As the text of the argument suggests, this analysis cannot avoid the [three] major criticisms made of it (the weakening of school authority, the concealment of knowledge and the naturalisation of pupils’ difficulties and inequalities):

 One hundred years later, what remains of this hope? Is it outdated, even old-fashioned? On the contrary, is it necessary, because it was never realised? Or neither, because practices never evolve as ideals would like, but never without reference to them either? / […] what assessment can be made of the promises kept or aborted? Slogans such as “the pupil at the centre”, “the tailor-made school” or “teaching is learned” have been (and still are) alternately accused of undermining the authority of the school and of teachers, of hiding knowledge or erudition under activities, of naturalising difficulties and inequalities. 

Education Nouvelle raises questions, doubts, debates and critical analysis concerning teaching practices. It, however, also allows for extremely useful reflections in terms of research and of the construction of training systems based on scientific and experimental contributions relating to the study of the pupil (more precisely, to the study of what Christian Orange calls the ‘intellectual activity of the pupil’[10]).

The flagship programme envisaged by Edouard Claparède in his landmark work ‘Child Psychology and Experimental Pedagogy’ (1905) is in many respects echoed in research focused on the analysis of the cognitive activity of the pupil and the organisation of his or her actions within the framework of the specific school tasks. In this context, probing the student’s interests in order to better respond to his or her needs, means above all converting these interests into levers for the diagnosis and treatment of learning/educational/developmental needs, as anchored in the formalised expectations of the educational system. This aspect is of great importance in the training of teachers, centred on the study of the pupil, insofar as it makes it possible to distinguish between needs belonging to the private/intimate sphere and objectively identifiable educational needs, in order to better articulate them, when their articulation is possible and, above all, necessary.

In this respect, the invitation of the ECER 2021 scientific committee to focus on the issue of the tensions between, on the one hand, “the stated aims of formal education” (insofar as they are the result of a “collective, mandated endeavour”) and, on the other hand, “the realities or social contexts within which the education process takes place”, seems to us to be of great interest and of great international relevance, as it can be witnessed by the reality in Geneva.

Indeed, educating, teaching, training, in a multicultural context such as that of the City of Calvin, are missions that are difficult to think about without a certain mastery of the social conditions that allow the construction of living together as the main entry point in the formation and development of the citizen, but also in the resolution of social problems.

In summary, this is what allows us to say that a theme such as that of ECER 2021 could not be better received than in Geneva, the home of reconciliation, probably “the most conducive to happiness”, to quote Jorge Luis Borges’ memorable phrase.


ECER 2021 - Online Conference

ECER 2021 (online) will take place over four and a half days, starting Monday morning 6th September and ending Friday 10 September at lunchtime. In addition to interactive paper sessions, research workshops, panel discussions, ignite talk sessions, poster sessions, and symposia, there will be a poster exhibition a publisher exhibition, both exhibitions offering opportunities to chat and/or get together for a one to one video meeting.

We plan to have the keynote videos available prior to ECER and the ECER week will culminate with the Keynote Panel on Friday. There will be plenty of opportunities to socialise and network throughout the conference and there will be special activities organised by networks as well as Geneva-themed events hosted by the local organising committee in Geneva.

ECER Programme

Find out about the ECER theme, the general timetable as well as keynote speakers, and other ECER events here.

Emerging Researchers' Conference

The Emerging Researchers' Conference (ERC) precedes ECER and is organised by EERA's Emerging Researchers' Group.

Keynote Speakers 

At ECER 2021 six keynotes will be held by: Jo-Anne Dillabough (University of Cambridge), Phillipp Gonon and Lorenzo Bonoli (University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET), Kirsti Klette (University of Oslo), Laura Lundy (Queen’s University, Belfast), Anne Rohstock (University of Tübingen), Ninni Wahlström (Linnaeus University).

Registration and Fees 

Information on how to register, the fee structure, terms of registration etc. Registration deadline for presenters is 1 July 2020.

Dr Stefan Bodea

Dr Stefan Bodea

Lecturer in art didactics at the University of Geneva

Stefan Ioan Bodea is a lecturer in art didactics at the University of Geneva. In April 2015, he defended a thesis in educational sciences on the didactic dimension of the teaching action in the discipline of plastic and visual arts (“Teaching praxeologies and professional postures in the teaching of plastic and visual arts. A didactic analysis of experienced and novice practices in Geneva secondary schools”). His research focuses on: the didactisation of works and cultural practices of reference in artistic education; the intelligibility of the joint teacher-student action, as well as the specificity of their semiotic organisation; the didactic approach to the learning-creativity relationship in the context of artistic education; the professional training of teachers of artistic disciplines.

References and Further Reading

[1] ‘Geneva 1536. Independence and Reformation’ [Genève 1536. L’indépendance et la Réforme]. Brochure published in 1986 by the Department of Public Education of Geneva, for students in lower secondary school (p. 79).

[2] At the end of the 16th Century, “the best teachers in the world were in Geneva” (Kündig, J. (2009). Ils ont découvert Genève. Éditions du Tricorne, p. 54).

[3] Ardoino, J. (1994). Praxeology and poietics. In Recherche scientifique et praxéologie dans le champ des pratiques éducatives. Actes du congrès de l’AFIRSE : Aix en Provence, Tome 2, 1994, p. 107- 117. (p. 8).

[4] Idem, p. 2.

[5] Rochex, J.-Y. (2003). Some reflections on the relationship between school and cultural institutions. In Alberton, S. (coord.) (2003). Ecole et culture. Proceedings of the symposium initiated by the Cellule pédagogique, Département de l’Instruction Publique, Bâtiment d’art contemporain. Geneva, 26 and 27 February 2002, pp. 19-26 (p. 20), with reference to Bourdieu P. & Passeron J.-C. (1964). Les Héritiers. Les étudiants et la culture. Paris: Minuit.

[6] A Geneva administrative councillor recently said: « We are only interested in the health aspect, but the social impact of what we are doing to young people is immeasurable ».

[7] Reply quoted by Gabriel Mutzenberg, in his contribution (cf. chapter “Calvin”, p. 78) to the collective work « Genève 1536. L’indépendance et la Réforme », mentioned above.

[8] The International League for New Education brings together, thanks to its emblematic figures, Swiss, Italian, Belgian, French, English-American and Japanese specialists, among others.

[9]  « The New Education: trapdoor or course for better teaching? A pedagogical utopia put to the test of ordinary work » [L’Éducation nouvelle : trappe ou cap pour mieux enseigner ? Une utopie pédagogique à l’épreuve du travail ordinaire]. LIFE Interviews © AIJJR. University of Geneva, 1 November 2018.

[10] cf. Orange, C. (2006). Analyse de pratiques et formation des enseignants. In Recherche et formation [en ligne], 51 | 2006.

Refugees and Education – Voices, Discourses and Policies

Refugees and Education – Voices, Discourses and Policies

The issue of refugees and asylum worldwide is a topical debate, where statistics and states play a major role with regard to research. Research focuses almost exclusively on the now, on themes like borders, trafficking, and human rights. In Europe in particular, the years 2015 and 2016 marked a turning point, because the numbers of refugees who arrived and applied for asylum reached the highest level in the Post-World-War II era. The so-called ‘refugee crisis’ underlines the necessity to integrate the incomers into established communities. This is, however, not a new phenomenon. 

In political discourses and other actual debates around the entry, asylum process, and integration of refugees, historical comparisons to argue against refuge or to raise empathy are commonly used.

Why historical research of refugees matters for present policy decisions

From an educationalist view, there is an urgent need to historicize the topic of forced migration to improve our understanding of the present age of movement. Europe has a long history of refugees and providing asylum and nation-states were the main actors in making refugees in the 20th century. The reason why we inquire about the relation between present and past in discourses about refugees and providing asylum is that our frames of reference are coined by this history. We would like to give voice to the experiences of violence. Throughout history nations received refugees, schools have a long history in receiving traumatised children and still are often left helpless with regard to personnel, materials, etc. And each time the public discourse only seems to focus on the now, the new, the particular.  

Reconnecting EERA Online Conference – Refugees and Education throughout Time in Europe

During ‘Reconnecting EERA’ NW 07 Social Justice and Intercultural Education and NW 17 Histories of Education hosted a number of sessions in conjunction with the special call “Refugees in/and Education throughout Time in Europe: Re- and Deconstructions of Discourses, Policies and Practices in Educational Contexts”.

Anke Wischmann of Europa-University Flensburg, Germany, and Susanne Spieker of University Koblenz-Landau, Germany initiated the call. The aims of our joint call were: to bring the history of refugee-immigration into focus; to highlight continuities as well as changes; and to understand refuge not only as a single event, but also in a historical context, with particular discourses and practices around education, and as an inter-generational social process, which sees migrants as actors transforming education in states. This call was quite successful, as 25 abstracts were submitted. 

On 26th August 2020, Network 17 organised a series of three informal sessions. In the 2nd session, Susanne Spieker (presenting) and Anke Wischmann introduced the special call and historical research on refugees. We discussed ideas, sources, and approaches for historical research on refugees and forced migration. For example, we looked at the problem of complexity concerning the history of refugee movements. These histories need to be transnational and global. They have to take into account the voices of refugees themselves as well as the practitioners working with them. For historical research, the accessibility to experiences is related to historical sources such as letters.

Time perception is another aspect, which seems to make historical research on forced migration challenging. For instance, if one asks or reads documents from different age groups about the same event, grandparents or parents, small children or adolescents have their own perceptions of the same situation. Each age group will offer a different view.

Family migration is common, as visualised in the above copper engraving from 1698, which depicts Huegenots leaving France. Women and children are a marginalised group with regard to migration in general because former research presumed that mainly men migrate. The opposite is the case. As these families travelled, skills and handicrafts, religious ideas, and educational approaches spread across Europe. These individuals were also actors in the education of their children.

On August 27th, 2020, both networks cooperated in holding a virtual forum. Fourteen individual papers were presented in four parallel sessions. The regional focus of presentations ranged from Denmark to Namibia and from France to Australia. The presentations in the first two break-out sessions covered a range of topics, such as the practical experiences of adolescent refugees and participants of higher education and vocational education in Poland, Bangladesh, and New Zealand, to the empowerment of women from ethnic minority backgrounds in various European countries.

Another break-out session presented and discussed different approaches and experiences with Unaccompanied Minors (UAM) arriving in France and Italy in recent years. Researchers shared their experiences with various educational approaches, and the challenges children and adolescents face.

The second set of parallel sessions introduced school practices and captured the voices of practitioners. In another session, presenters shed light on hidden curricula by analysing exclusionary practices experienced by Ju|’huan students in Namibia, representations of refugees in Polish children’s literature, and a Latvian Gymnasium and its history in the context of the cold-war in Western Germany.

There were many parallels noticed with regard to the seemingly unique experiences that refugees and minorities face in different regional settings. We realised that the complexity of the topic united quite a broad spectrum of methodological approaches, which we found inspiring. However, linking history and present-day research is not evident at first sight.

The responses to the presentations were engaged and positive. In the closing session, researchers valued the opportunity to reconnect, which for most of us was badly needed, due to the restrictions related to the COVID-19-pandemic. We decided to organise a new special call for the Geneva (online) ECER, with a slightly broader scope. We will keep you posted!

In addition to the initiators, the following members assisted with the organisation, planning, and implementation:  Lisa Rosen (Link-convenor of NW 07) and Iveta Kestere (Link-convenor of NW 17). Throughout the two days sessions were chaired by Klaus Dittrich (Hong Kong), Geert Thyssen (Norway), Iveta Kestere (Latvia), and Lisa Rosen (Köln). Fenna tom Dieck (Köln) supported us with Zoom.


Dr. Susanne Spieker

Dr. Susanne Spieker

Substitute Professor at the department for educational theory, intercultural and comparative education at Hamburg University

Susanne Spieker is currently a substitute professor at the department for educational theory, intercultural and comparative education at Hamburg University (Germany). She is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau in the research unit on Heterogeneity in education. Her research expertise lies in the history of education. She has published on colonialism and its impact on educational thought. Her research interests include migration and inequality in education (race/ethnicity, gender, class). She was a member of the Editorial Assistant Board (2017 – 2018) of Paedagogica Historica, International Journal of the History of Education, and serves as an external reviewer for History of Education Researcher (UK) and Paedagogica Historica. Since 2016 she is editor of the Journal Jahrbuch für Pädagogik.

Prof. Dr. Anke Wischmann

Prof. Dr. Anke Wischmann

Professor for Education at the Europe-University Flensburg

Anke Wischmann is a professor for education at the Europe-University Flensburg (Germany). Her research focuses on social justice in education, in particular concerning race and ethnicity, analysed from a critical and qualitative perspective. She got her Ph.D. in 2010 at the University of Hamburg and her habilitation in 2017 at Leuphana-University in Lüneburg. In 2018 her article “The absence of race in German discourses on Bildung won the emerging researcher award of the German Educational Research Association (GERA). Since 2016, she has been the editor of the Journal Jahrbuch für Pädagogik.