Philosophical Perspectives on Compulsory Education

  • Marianna Papastephanou


From antiquity to the present, schools of some form have, in one way or other, been involved in the material and symbolic reproduction of societies. As David Reidy puts it, ‘all or nearly all enduring liberal democracies have some form of compulsory education that directly or indirectly but almost always purposefully serves assimilationist ends’. The diachronic resilience of schooling along with its synchronic omnipresence often makes schools appear as natural, self-evident and unavoidable. The naturalization of schooling is then extended to its modern specification as compulsory in a universalist fashion. Thus, schools appear not only naturally and self-evidently compulsory but also universally compulsory in multiple senses. Schooling has become compulsory in a numerical-universal sense (all children must attend school and all liberal states rely on compulsory schooling); in a temporal-universal sense (school attendance lasts for a fixed period of time for all children); in a comprehensive-universal sense (all children must acquire a common threshold of knowledge); and, more recently, in a synchronizing-universal sense (this occurs through supra-state synchronization of global educational time and globalized curricular isomorphism. Such synchronizing universalized practices establish, for instance, common tests for measuring achievement of all children and common standards for assessing school performance around the globe).


Compulsory Education Compulsory Schooling Educational Authority Multiple Sens Educational Transformation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus

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