International Review of Education

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 123–144 | Cite as

Changing societies and four tasks of schooling: Challenges for strongly differentiated educational systems

Article

Abstract

Changing labour markets, increased calls for selection and excellence, and increased diversity and individualisation have repercussions on how educational systems can prepare youth for work, optimise knowledge production, achieve equality of opportunity, and socialise students into active civic engagement. This paper discusses four central tasks of schooling and examines to what extent societal developments challenge education policy to deliver on the tasks at hand. Particular attention is given to the challenges Europe’s strongly diversified educational systems are currently facing. Both the Netherlands and Germany, for example, have been offering vocationally-oriented pathways alongside traditional academic higher education for some time. But today’s ongoing changes in job descriptions, mainly due to ever-accelerating technological developments, are causing a risk of skills obsolescence which can only be avoided by continuous upskilling and/or reskilling of a sufficiently flexible workforce. Overcoming differences of intelligence as well as differences of diverse socioeconomic, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds by way of education is another challenge, as is fostering “soft” skills and political awareness. This paper investigates the effectiveness of current education systems in preparing citizens for a functioning modern society.

Keywords

Inequality Vocational education Civic engagement Comparative education Skills obsolescence Upskilling European educational systems The Netherlands Early tracking 

Résumé

Quatre tâches fondamentales pour l’instruction dans des sociétés en mutation : défis aux systèmes éducatifs fortement différenciés – La transformation des marchés du travail, les appels croissants à la sélection et à l’excellence, la diversité et l’individualisation accrues ont des répercussions sur la manière dont les systèmes éducatifs peuvent préparer les jeunes au monde du travail, optimiser la production des connaissances, réaliser l’égalité des chances et socialiser les élèves à un engagement civique actif. L’auteur présente quatre tâches fondamentales pour l’instruction et examine dans quelle mesure l’évolution des sociétés empêche les politiques éducatives d’être à la hauteur de ces tâches. Il porte une attention particulière aux défis que rencontrent actuellement les systèmes éducatifs fortement différenciés en Europe. Les Pays-Bas et l’Allemagne par exemple proposent tous deux depuis un certain temps des filières à vocation professionnelle, parallèlement à l’enseignement universitaire traditionnel. Mais l’évolution actuelle des définitions de postes, due en grande partie à l’accélération constante des innovations technologiques, comporte le risque de l’obsolescence des compétences, qui ne peut être évitée que par l’actualisation permanente des compétences et/ou la requalification d’une main-d’œuvre suffisamment flexible. Surmonter les différences intellectuelles ainsi que celles entre les divers contextes socioéconomiques, ethniques et linguistiques par le biais de l’éducation constitue un autre défi, de même que la stimulation des qualités humaines et de la conscience politique. Cet article explore l’efficacité des systèmes éducatifs actuels à préparer les citoyens à une société moderne et opérationnelle.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study has been supported by a research programme “Educational Systems and Four Central Functions of Education”, subsidised by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, grant number 411-10-920.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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