Transformation of the Nation-State

Researchers who focus on the transformation of the nation-state take nations’ societal differentiation in terms of their political or economic functions as the reference point. The criteria used in analyzing this differentiation concentrate on two focal points: sources of legitimacy and power dynamics in terms of politics, and the role and function of the state and market in terms of economics (World Bank, 1997).

From a political point of view, liberal, socialist, and fascist forms of state refer to three types of nation-states, or from a different point of view, three stages of a state. How the relationship between people and state as well as boundaries are defined inform the basis of liberal, fascist, and socialist forms of state in terms of their sources of legitimacy, power dynamics, and forms of governance. The fascist state, which favors the interests of a particular community or group over the others, and the socialist state, in which society takes precedence before all, have emerged in response to the liberal understanding of state based on the freedom of the individual (Axtmann, 2004, p. 273). In today's world, all three mentioned forms of nation-state are manifested somewhere around the world, whether or not a given nation-state formally identifies itself by any of these names or not. On the other hand, the strong shift that has taken place in terms of the semantics of the concepts of liberalism, fascism, and socialism must be taken into account (Hobsbawm & Cumming, 1995).

Another periodization describes nation-states by associating them with the stages of capitalism within the framework of the argument that the transformation in social and political life depends on economic transformations. This context has five recognized stages. According to Şimşek (2014), the first of these stages corresponds to the period of the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the capitalist system (1789–1848). This period saw massive movement from the countryside to the metropolis and to highly industrialized regions, with the migrating populations settling near these industrial zones. This transformation in the mode of production also morphed the state. The second stage is the maturation and expansion of the capitalist system. This stage saw the culmination of the free capitalist system, which later would become a monopolistic system controlled by monopolies, trustees, and oligopolies. The third stage saw progressive and socialist movements emerge out of the collapse of wild capitalism. Developing in the second phase during this period, wild capitalism managed to survive until the 1930s, having survived the big collapse of the 1890s as the technologies and paradigms of options had not yet the power to oppose it. The fourth stage is the social welfare state stage. According to Şimşek, after the collapse of the entire structure and institutions of the wild, bourgeois, and liberal capitalist order in 1929, which fueled impoverishment, social injustice, and inequality to high degrees, the new economic model emerging with the Russian Revolution of 1917 based on the system of the planned state reanimated the collapsing liberal capitalist order. The main principle of the socialist economy that formed in 1917 would be the rehabilitation method of wild capitalism after transforming into a social welfare state (Hobsbawm & Cumming, 1995). The fifth and final stage (1980–circa 2025/30) is the stage of new liberal market capitalism. Neoliberalism argues a limited central power (state) and a liberated market to be the best economic model. For the neoliberal market economy to function, the embargo on customs houses; the standards that block free competition and flow-through laws, regulations, and directives; and restrictions on the capital flows and investments have to be removed (Şimşek, 2014, p. 157).

Much research has been conducted on the developments that had led to the transformations of nation-states, and these developments have been explained through multifaceted perspectives (World Bank, 1997). Bobbitt (2002) summarize the basis for the transformation of the nation-state in five articles: First—the recognition of human rights as norms which all states must follow notwithstanding their specific laws; second—the development of weapons of mass destruction for the defense of the state border and neutralization; third—the increase of global and transnational threats that no nation alone can control, cope with, or flee from (e.g., threats of environmental problems, immigration, contagious diseases, and famine); the fourth—the growing power of global capitalism that restricts nations’ economic administration capacities; and the fifth—the global communications network that threatens the languages, traditions, and cultures of nations by going beyond borders.

The ideal kind of regionally consolidated sovereign nation-state is defined by the terms of homogeneity, unity, and sovereignty. The post-nation-state period refers to the transformation and definition of these terms employed within the conceptualization of the nation-state. These three basic concepts have been replaced by the concepts of multi-centrality, heterogeneity, and plurality. The conflicts between nationalism and multiculturalism, the internationalization of the state, and geopolitical transformations have all been instrumental in putting these new concepts into wide use (Axtmann, 2004) (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1
figure 1

Transformation of The Nation-State (Note Extracted from “The state of the state: The model of the modern state and its contemporary transformation,” by R. Axtmann, 2004, International Political Science Review, 25(3), 259–279)


From Modernism to Postmodernism

In the post-nation-state period, modes of living come first among the particular areas that have been transformed. The modern mode of living has transformed the everyday practices and values of agrarian society through new kinds of relations formed by urbanization and industrialization. In the post-nation-state period, the new ways of living have been glorified through modernism while negating the old ways and rejecting the pressure that had standardized life. To put in simpler terms, a search has emerged for alternatives to the artificial, standard, and monotonous ways of urban life (Kaypak, 2013; Yıldırım, 2009). With the widespread use of the Internet, different lifestyles have become more visible. The post-nation-state way of life, virtual relations, and the opportunity to socialize through social media have spread all over the globe. Through these opportunities, lifestyles that are imperial, global, or dominant have been replaced by local, confined, and remanufactured lifestyles (Brubaker, 2017, 2020b). The fact that alternative lifestyles can freely describe themselves and easily find fans has also encouraged authentic lifestyles to increase their visibility. In this new order, the demands of different cultural groups in terms of freely existing and becoming visible and active all point to the fact that the policies used to suppress the masses under a dominant group are no longer an option (Bobbitt, 2002).

From Nationalism to Multiculturalism

The concept of nation, one of the main elements of the modern nation-state, has also undergone a significant transformation. Yet, modern theorizations over the definition of the nation have been debated for a long time. The ethnic, cultural, political, and militaristic elements decisive in the formation of a given nation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been replaced by more complex, multi-layered, and multi-dimensional relations (Say, 2013). Human mobility, whether forced or voluntary, is the main determinant of the heterogeneity of societies. Moreover, conservative and isolated communities have a chance to become more open with student mobility, commercial activity, the circulation of products and services, culture, art, and sports, as well as regional and local business units and formations (Rex & Singh, 2003). However, as people from different countries started sharing common ground in terms of their problems, pleasures, and preferences, as well as approaches to life and its philosophies, nation-states have been unable to keep peoples within their borders from forming multiple interactions and associations with people all around the world. These interactions have led nations to question the fundamental themes over which they had built their national identities throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this period, known as “denationalization” (Jessop, 2002, p. 195, as cited in Axtmann, 2004, p. 270), the voice of the groups that fall within the minority in nation-states or which is assimilated later into the nation-state in some way has gotten bolder and higher in terms of demanding the nations to address the deep-rooted problems to first ensure them the fundamental rights granted to the citizens and given them the right to keep their language, culture, belief, history, and traditions alive.

From Unity to Multi-Centrality

The central structure of the nation-state has also had its share of this transformation. The definition of the state, the one which drives its source of legitimacy from its citizens and holds ultimate and unquestionable power through this sort of legitimacy, had to be abandoned through the influence of international and supranational structures, institutions, regulations, and tendencies. Although nation-states still are nation-states, they have adopted implementations that tie their sovereignty to external formations, regulations, and interactions. The formations connecting nation-states are not merely international or supranational organizations and regulations, for formations also exist with different statuses and types, from NGOs to the private sector and from professional associations to charities, which have forced nation-states to share their sovereignty of legitimacy and power with them. This has introduced nation-states to the concept of governance within themselves and of international governance (Goldmann, 2001; Parekh, 2002).

As Jessop put it, this is a period in which “fate has cut its ties from the political system” (2002, p. 195, as cited in Axtmann, 2004, p. 276). The pressure of internal governance nation-states face has increased so much as we witness different communities starting to demand autonomy. Demands for autonomy have started to include a wider range of topics beyond the demands in terms of education, health, and religion alongside the demands regarding regional and administrational autonomy that have also been made (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2
figure 2

Characteristics of The Post-Nation-State Period (Note Extracted from “Transforming the European Nation-State: Dynamics of Internationalization,” by K. Goldmann, 2001, Sage, pp. 24–49)


The concept of international governance that has taken place can be examined in three dimensions that can be evaluated as both causes and effects. The first of these dimensions is the internationalization of problems. This refers to most of the political problems a nation faces that come or are imported from abroad. Environmental problems or international crimes are some examples. Secondly, the intensification of all kinds of human relations along the borders of the nation-state has led to social internationalization. The internationalization of societies involves the increasing exchange of goods, services, people, information, and ideas. Moreover, social internationalization can be encouraged by increased political cooperation. Transnational cooperation for special interests, as in the case of the EU, can be further encouraged through internationalized decision-making policies (Goldmann, 2001, pp. 24–49). The third is the internationalization of political decision-making. This internationalization manifests itself in decisions taken by inter-governmental organizations that consult with other states before making national decisions on negotiated international agreements and also in the intensity of decision-making that extends to supranational decision-making. The scope of internationalized decision-making has expanded to the extent as seen in international decision-making opening up to new and ever-expanding policy domains (pp. 8–17).

According to Robertson and Chirico (1985, p. 237), the state of international mutual connection led nation-states to consider themselves part of the global order. As a result of this global self-reflection, social transformation and behavioral criteria have become topics of inter-societal, inter-continental, inter-civilizational, and inter-doctrinal debate and interpretation.

Ultimately, with the transformation of all three concepts, the conceptualization of the modern nation-state that had emerged in the eighteenth century has evolved into an international lateral hierarchical postmodern structure (Habermas, 1998; Şener, 2014). One can argue that a summary of these concepts will facilitate the understanding of this conceptualization regarding the post-nation-state period. In this context, the results of the transformation of the state in the post-nation-state period can be listed as follows:

  1. 1.

    The functions of the state have changed.

  2. 2.

    The definition of citizenship and identity has changed.

  3. 3.

    The power of international influences has changed.

  4. 4.

    National power has decreased.

  5. 5.

    Interdependence has increased.

  6. 6.

    Administration has been replaced by governance.

  7. 7.

    The state has reduced and become activated.

  8. 8.

    The dynamics of politics and governance have been reestablished.

  9. 9.

    The understanding of transparent and honest administration has strengthened.

  10. 10.

    The tendency to decentralize has increased.

The transformation of the nation-state has been an inevitable process resulting from social, economic, military, technological, and political developments. However, since the formation, types, and experiences of nation-states are not homogeneous, the effect of this transformation on nation-states and their reactions while transforming also differ from one another.

The Nation-State and Its Aftermath

The post-nation-state period has had positive and negative repercussions. The strengthening of international interdependence and governance processes of the post-nation-state period has also contributed to the nation-state in terms of strengthening democratization, sensitivity to human rights, transparency, and accountability. Opportunities have emerged not only for the minority groups within a nation-state but also for the disadvantaged groups to become more visible. International regulatory organizations, courts, aid organizations, and observers have pushed and supported the nation-states that do not fully function in terms of providing justice, social welfare, or developmental opportunities. This was a positive development for communities that had previously been deprived of one of the most fundamental rights, equality of opportunities (Nimni, 2018).

The conditions of the post-nation-state period were not easy to accept for groups who strongly believed in the theory of the nation-state and had put it into practice. In societies that have difficulty accepting the terms and conditions of the post-nation-state, similar effects have emerged (Bieber, 2018; Glick Schiller, 2007; Jotia, 2011; Özdemir, 2012; Saval, 2017). First, even in the most advanced democracies, the weakening of nation-state values has led to the resurrection of right-wing policy approaches. Moreover, far-right parties have come to power in some countries. Secondly, strong nation-states have adopted protectionist and right-wing policies and practices to protect themselves within international and supranational organizations. Thirdly, the ideas that fuel the opposition to the “other” have become more visible in works of art, media, and publications. Fourthly, the opposition to the “other” often encountered in far-right groups has become more widespread and manifested in the form of verbal and physical violence. Fifthly, some of the dark paths and methods (e.g., political assassinations, political lynches, and instigation of internal disturbance in a target country), thought to have become a thing of the past during the Cold War, have become visible again.

Nation-states recognize education as a social phenomenon of vital importance. Education being this important to nation-states is related to its social, economic, and, more importantly, political contributions. To understand the developments in the field of education in the post-nation-state period, the function and importance of the phenomenon of education to the nation-state should be dwelled upon.

As stated in the basic laws or constitutions governing the national educational systems of many countries today, nation-states consider education to be a means for fulfilling three basic functions: ensuring national solidarity, urbanization/modernization, and ensuring economic development. When the importance and necessity of these functions are examined from the point of view of nation-states, the reason why education is an indispensable domain for the nation-state also becomes clear (Green, 1997).

Education is the Substance of Society

After the disintegration of empires and the replacement of kingdoms with republican regimes, the most fundamental issue the communities faced in exercising their right to self-rule was the formation of an authority to ensure social order, unity, and harmony. However, because the traditional elements of legitimacy enjoyed by kings such as religious power and authority also disappeared, the main problem of the nation-state was the groundwork of legitimacy on which the new state would establish its authority. Albeit theoretically, the new source of legitimacy was the free approval of the individuals who made up a given society; finding what would transform the society from a mere community or crowd into a nation and unite them on some common ground was not as easy. Almost none of the communities trying to establish an independent nation-state had a purely biological or organic common ground, nor did they have geographical, cultural, or religious commonalities (Aydın, 2018; Say, 2013). Moreover, people using different languages and as such not being able to understand each other have rendered solidarity and unity almost impossible. Founding a new nation under these conditions and making each member aware that they each are honorable individuals of that nation was the first test that nation-states had to pass. Thus, the citizens in the country had to learn a common language through which they could understand and communicate with each other, and they had to form common historical, cultural, social values and establish a unity of purpose through these values (Kap, 2008, pp. 4–5; Lazic & Pesic, 2016; Say, 2013).

Education Teaches One How to Live in a City

Nation-states have faced a rapidly changing atmosphere threatening social and everyday life. The new mode of life as informed by the concept of modernism was radically different from the traditional values, behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge. The new mode of living has necessitated the transformation of elements such as family, work, relationships, entertainment, art, and culture. Throughout the nineteenth century and ever since, the population which had migrated from the countryside to the big city has had great difficulty adapting to the new mode of life. This in turn led to economic, social, individual, and political calamities (Kaypak, 2013). Nation-states have considered education to be an effective and widely accessible tool for accelerating the adaptation of the masses to new modes of life (Kap, 2008, pp. 4–5). The nation-state would achieve urbanization and harmony in cities from the high culture it produced through elites and intellectuals, integrating it to the masses who had migrated from the countryside to the big city and thus building a modern society (Köymen, 2017).

Employment Through Education

Another threat the nation-state faced was the issue of economic growth and development. The securitization of the social order, and the tightly-knit relationship between political sovereignty and economic power, all these depend on the level of social welfare in a given society. Yet, with the transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial society and the new forms of production, the nation-state has had to teach the population the competencies and skill-sets suitable to these new forms of production for the prospect of a given nation-state. While being established, nation-states were expected to ensure the security of trade routes as a requirement of a mercantile economic approach and to foster appropriate environments for their citizens where they could conduct their commercial activities without any disruption (Günkör, 2017; Gylfason, 2001).

The nation-state considered education to be one of the most functional tools to achieve these goals.Footnote 1 Nation-states quickly began to make education more accessible so as to include all citizens. To this end, education has become standardized. Standardization encompasses educational environments, professionals’ training, training tools, and methods, as well as goals and content. Education has come to be a more widespread, collective, accessible, and sustainable public service (Meyer et al., 1992).

The Transition Stages to the Post-Nation-State Period

Both in terms of political principles and economic approach and functionality, nation-states have experienced a multi-dimensional quest of transformation from when their first emergence to the present day. Although relatively short-spanned in terms of the history of civilization, nation-states are quite strong in terms of the upheavals and effects they have produced. These stages of transformation consist of four levels when analyzed in terms of political and economic context, as well as through the lens of other social implications and educational approaches. These stages are namely those of nationalization, nation-state, open society, and connectivity.

Stage of Nationalization

The stage of nationalization refers to the stage in which a society undergoes the processes of self-recognition, identification, and self-management as influenced by modernism and nationalism (Akıncı, 2012; Aydın, 2018). During this period, the primary objective has been to build a national identity and urbanize countrymen. Another goal is to strengthen and spread national trade. In this stage, first and foremost has been the adoption of an understanding of the social life that urbanites, elites, and artists have built and exemplified by a wider audience through a process of integration. This must be achieved by creating a modern, urban, and national identity for the people making up a nation (Say, 2013). Another characteristic of the nationalization period is the strengthening of the concepts of “us and them” because identifying as a nation also requires the identification of others as distinct beings.

Mass education is one of the most effective tools for nationalizing crowds. The education of this period is presented to all children through primary education with a curriculum prepared that takes into account the political and ideological interests of a nation (Meyer et al., 1992). A teacher is a civil servant who delivers the ideology of the state to a wide audience, while schools function as centers of modernization and nationalization. The educational approach of the nationalization period is behavioral and topic-centered. Education is common, public, and compulsory as much as opportunity allows (Erss, 2017; Meyer et al., 1992; Şentürk, 2010).

Stage of the Nation-State

Societies that have completed the process of nationalization move onto the second stage, that of strengthening the nation-state. At this stage, the primary objective is to strengthen the political and economic foundations of the nation-state. For this purpose, the democratization of the administration and encouragement of development is mandatory. The masses adopt the concepts of democratization, national will, and development through the concept of national economy. The quests begin for forming international relations to maintain national welfare and to increase the opportunities for cooperation start. During this period, international alliances, cooperation and development organizations, and supranational structures become prevalent. Regional and local interactions increase (Wimmer & Feinstein, 2010). National identity is further reinforced by citizenship awareness. Although international cooperation and alliances are found in this stage, the period is characterized by the perception of “us” and “our enemies.”

In the period of nationalization, education supports its extreme ideological and political scope with social and developmental goals. Education policies prioritize the spreading of secondary and higher education to train the qualified manpower needed to strengthen industry and trade after primary education (Meyer et al., 1992). The teacher of the state becomes the teacher of society at this stage when national identity and consciousness of being a citizen begin to mature. During this period, learning and teaching processes offer a structure focused on teacher and workforce training. One of the main goals of education is to ensure national welfare and social justice as elements that will also ensure lateral and vertical mobility.

The Stage of the Open Society

In the third phase dominated by liberalism and marketability, nation-states inevitably evolved into systems dominated by the approach of the open society. Increasing international relations have entered into a new era controlled by the concept of cooperation. Meanwhile, the process of mutual support between the nation-state and market actors has ensured that domestic production and national brands would be included in the global market. The impact of globalization has increased the demands to become an open society. National culture and local lifestyles began to transform, echoing the demands and direction of the market. This transformation has gained a force evolving toward global standardization (Hill, 2003). This situation brought about the idea of rational nationalism, which the citizens of the nation-state found inconvenient. Instead of traditional nationalism with its emotional bonds, the consciousness and culture of a new bond to one’s nation that is practical, useful, and rational have become prevalent. National identities and citizenship consciousness were replaced by individual identities. The relations with other countries, nations, and societies began to be defined by the concepts of “us” and “our opponents” (Bieber, 2018).

Education became commodified. Education has been shaped following the expectations of the market, and the curriculum has been transformed in a way to train entrepreneurial and innovative individuals. Particular segments of society that had traditional expectations from education argued education to have been emptied of its national and spiritual values. Education policies began to focus on higher education and lifelong learning to provide advanced expertise in a given field. Teachers were transformed into specialist staff who would meet the expectations of the market. The processes of teaching and learning took a new turn centered on learning. After the concepts of the social state and national development, the concept that education policies placed foremost on the agenda was the equality of opportunity (Hill, 2003; Şentürk, 2010).

Stage of Connectivity

Communication technologies became mainstream in the late twentieth century, have radically transformed the social, political, and economical life of the twenty-first century, and have also brought the nation-state to a new level. At this new stage, known as the information and network society (Castells, 2005; Kap, 2008), the determinant political concept is a governance (Axtmann, 2004). Following representative and pluralistic democracy, the concept of governance transformed the nation-state in terms of the idea of governance as well as the organization and use of power. Communication technology forced nation-states and all organizational structures to be transparent and accountable, while globalized national culture was replaced by a local micro-culture (Yıldırım, 2009). The means and practices of freedom, expression of thought, and exercise of democratic rights were also transformed. In the previous stage, the common cultures and standardized lifestyles imposed by global powers and multinational companies started to form on their own, independent of the market and authorities. Collective identity (Nimni, 2018) reinforced the concepts of “us and them.”

Curricula prioritizing differences, the “other,” and cultural sensitivity were introduced to education. Learning has expanded its limits from formal and mandatory structures to lifelong learning. Teachers have freed themselves from the influence of the state, society, and markets; they no longer remained as the teacher of a particular group or society but were repositioned within a lateral and social framework. Breaking away from the teacher–learner duality, the experience of learning has become lifelong and shared by everyone. Schools have freed themselves from their institutional, political, bureaucratic, and ideological ties in open-access environments (Brubaker, 2020a; Castells, 2005) (Table 1)

Table 1 Transformation of nation-states and education


Effects of the Post-Nation-State Period on Education

Traditional functions of the mass and mandatory education systems of the nation-state would be listed under three basic headings: social, political, and economic. As mentioned above, the functions of national unity, development, and urbanization that nation-states expect from education have also deeply transformed. Nation-states that realized national unity through homogeneity and uniformization through education have now returned to the practice of adopting pluralism, diversity, difference, and re-establishing society through multiplicity and uniqueness (Jotia, 2011; Standish, 2019).

Another objective that the nation-state wanted to achieve through education was to bring all individuals closer to the standard values and the standard way of urban life and to create a common world of urban culture and values. However, the post-nation-state period expresses a diversity of values, beliefs, approaches, and trends, and thus uncertainty as well. As a result, instead of being informed by the high culture imposed by the elite, intellectual, or select few, the education of the post-nation-state period has acquired a new meaning so as to allow a web of interaction through differentiated values, beliefs, and modes of living among the individuals (Axtmann, 2004; Karataş, 2020; Nevola, 2011; Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002).

Consequently, the educational system that strived to train the human capital demanded by the economy and market with the developmental economic approach has evolved into a body of systems to teach how to learn, centering around basic competencies and entrepreneurship skills as a result of the post-nation-state period in which sustainability and qualifications have changed (Şentürk, 2010).

The duties entailed by moral regulation, which educates, disciplines, and thus creates a society ensuring social order and harmony of the nation-state, have also weakened and begun to disappear. In the post-nation-state period, the state has had to leave this moral regulatory functional performance to society itself (Erss, 2017; Green, 1997).

In modern nation-states where modernism could be defined as professional differentiation, social relations, roles, statuses, and interactions were also defined through this differentiation. However, nation-states interacted with their citizens through a spiritual bond when found necessary. This spiritual connection could be historical, geographical, religious, cultural, or ethnic. The post-nation-state period reinforced professional segregation in nation-states. The understanding of the separation of religion and science, which is considered to be theoretical in modern society, as well as the separation of religion from state affairs and politics from economics have been implemented precisely in the post-nation-state period (Axtmann, 2004, p. 267).

Now, nation-states can no longer arrive at situational choices in these or similar dilemmas with a decentralized approach. The intertwining of societies, cultures, and beliefs also rendered the transition between these concepts quite difficult. As each structure separated itself and created a new social group, the only way for the individuals who were members of more than one social group to exist in more than one social group was to separate their identities into pieces. These subsystems thus could ensure their effectiveness with strong customization, specification, professionalization, and original organizational structures. The contributions and functions the subsystems expect from one another have become apparent. The further empowered autonomy of specialties and professions has forced subsystems to establish a more rational relationship with one another (Axtmann, 2004, p. 268).

Although education as a social phenomenon maintained its natural course, educational systems had to transform with their institutionalized state as schools. As mass educational institutions and localities of the nation-state, industrial society, and modern cities, schools have been forced to transform themselves, starting with their institutional structures and spaces (Alpaydın, 2018; Barr & Stephenson, 2011). The domains in terms of which schools have been affected in this transformation can be listed as follows:

  1. 1.

    Schools have now ceased to be an institution established and overseen only by the state; they have transformed into institutions founded and administered by the will of society itself.

  2. 2.

    Schools’ modern functions of cultivating individuals and citizens and raising manpower have also evolved.

  3. 3.

    The hierarchical, bureaucratic, and dominant institutional structure and construct of schools have changed.

  4. 4.

    The standardized learning content of schools has gained autonomy in accordance with the demands and needs of individuals and social groups.

  5. 5.

    Schools’ teacher/topic-centered learning-teaching processes, formed at the will of the state, have taken a new form that places society at the forefront.

  6. 6.

    The national identity of schools has transformed internationalization. Teacher and student mobility has turned all schools into multicultural environments.

  7. 7.

    For almost a century, educational services have been financed by the public budget due to schools being public institutions and education a public service. However, new structures have emerged through which education would be financed with collective approaches and alternative finances.

  8. 8.

    The belief that education is a constitutional right and duty and that it should be performed under the supervision and surveillance of the state has been reinforced. Although concepts such as school supervision, surveillance, accountability, and transparency have gained prevalence, standardization has also increased. Although civil and autonomous structures had been established by the methods of society itself, the predominance of market expectations has reinforced the standardization of education.

  9. 9.

    Reestablishing the teacher identity has been attempted with a community-based understanding by separating it from the curriculum-oriented teacher approach of the market school and the didactic approach of the Frankfurt school as the founder of the educational understanding of nation-states (Erss, 2017). A new community-based teacher identity could be achieved only by developing self-identification, solidarity, and participation in decision-making. But these efforts also remained singular and unsustainable.

  10. 10.

    Education ceased to be an institutional social phenomenon and began to assume new forms that opened up toward non-standardized learning quests of individual or smaller groups.

Initiatives Taken to Transform Education in the Post-Nation-State Period

In the post-nation-state period, education has become an issue requiring particular attention in many countries. In every region of the world, starting with the regions and countries at the height of globalization, an agenda of reform in the educational field has been established (Lingard, 1996). The USA, Canada, UK, Russia, and EU member countries, as well as the countries of Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caucasus have sought to melt global influences with their own in a melting pot. In these endeavors, the characteristics of countries in terms of their regime, society, economy, circumstances, and educational system have led to differences in their reformational educational efforts and practices (Graney, 1999; Maassen & Cloete, 2006; Rizvi, 2017).

In the search for reforming educational systems, the cross-border effects of interdependence, population mobility, and problems accompanying globalization have been determinant. The repercussions of these effects on nation-states have materialized through the common policies of global and regional associations in which nation-states are involved. Global and regional associations such as UNESCO, the World Bank (WB), European Union (EU), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), World Trade Organization (WTO), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Southern Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur-MERCOSUR), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have been instrumental for their respective member states in terms of transforming their educational systems into a structure that will meet the requirements of one that is beyond the nation-state. Other international organizations’ preparing joint tests in which various countries participate and publishing the results of participant countries in the field of education (PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS, etc.) as well as international and regional associations and structures publishing reports analyzing countries in terms of their educational systems have forced nation-states to review their education systems in the backdrop of global standards (Zajda & Geo-JaJa, 2010).

These transnational effects have led nation-states to question themselves in many areas, especially in terms of the contribution educational systems make to economic development. They began to analyze innovational needs on issues such as whether educational outcomes meet the demands and expectations of the global labor market, with increased sensitivity to global and regional problems, innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability. The USA, China, Japan, Germany, Russia, and the Nordic countries have transformed their education from student-centered systems to economy-centered ones. However, education systems in developing and underdeveloped countries have more fundamental problems such as insufficient classrooms and schools for meeting educational demands; insufficient qualified teachers, finances, and educational materials; and insufficient resources for meeting the educational needs of groups requiring special attention and disadvantaged groups, to name a few. However, global forces, dominant ideologies, and the ubiquitous competitive market have forced underdeveloped countries to remain dependent and passive (Zajda & Geo-JaJa, 2010). Although calls for reform in Pakistan expressed a wider range of reform motivations around the world such as global pressure and economic development, the main problem was to increase investment in access to education, especially primary education (Aziz et al., 2014).

The search for innovation and quality has made the attempts to overcome the problems of the post-nation-state period an important focus of the reform quests: The main ones can be counted as the need for culture-based education caused by immigration and human mobility, the pursuit of democratization in education emerging with the educational demands of various social segments, and the necessity of keeping up with digitalization in education based on developments. Finally, developments that increase diversity and interaction have rendered nation-states accountable, pressuring them to use public resources effectively and efficiently (Hursh, 2000).

Environmental challenges have compelled nation-states to accelerate innovations in educational systems. This process of inquiry and adaptation has culminated in greater control and standardization in national educational systems (Hursh, 2000). In the search for reform from the last quarter of the twentieth century, some common qualities can be observed despite country-based differences. The attempts to transform the educational system holistically come first among these. Although this approach was not observed in every country in the first reform movements, over time this holistic approach began to gain momentum. For instance, reform initiatives in Turkey that began with the curriculum transformation back in 2004 were developed into a reform initiative covering the entire system in 2018. Taking into account the research on the new conditions arising from the impact of globalization, the reform initiatives that had gained much more importance in the last 25 years seem to focus on seven main areas (Fullan, 2011b; Hursh, 2000; Zajda & Geo-JaJa, 2010) (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3
figure 3

Transformation fields in education in The Post-Nation-State period


Reform of the Whole System

The popular belief that an educational system to meet the needs of the post-nation-state period could not be maintained with educational systems developed back in the nation-state period has led countries to search for reforms aimed at the total transformation of educational systems (Fullan, 2009, 2011a, 2011b). In a quest for holistic reform, states have tried to transform the educational system with an approach considering all levels including lifelong learning from early childhood and preschool education as well as primary education, secondary education, higher education, and vocational training at all levels of education; states have started to pursue a simultaneous transformation of all stages of education. The integrity of the transformation quest has also been observed in terms of the elements of the educational system. States have tried to completely transform the system in terms of administration and organization, curricula, teachers, school administration, educational environments, and financial resources. As examples of the holistic approach, national core curriculum studies, the No Child Left Behind Act (USA, 2001), regulations on effect since the 1990s in the UK, and reform initiatives for higher education in South Africa are worth examining. Holistic reform approaches include market-based approaches such as promoting private schooling, as well as domains such as school levels, administration and organization of education, supervision, and accountability (Maassen & Cloete, 2006).


One of the central issues in the transformation of national education reforms over the last 25 years has been the revision of curriculum (Fullan, 2011a). The main issue in curriculum reforms is the widely accepted belief that twenty-first-century skills have changed. The twenty-first-century skills put forth by the USA have led all to the revision of all educational systems according to these skills, particularly in UN member countries. Curriculum revisions also had the hint of a national standardization, as in the case of the USA. New curricular arrangements parallel to the constructivist approach have become widespread. Sustainability and multiculturalism emerged as two key elements in curriculum revisions under UNESCO’s leadership. Among the priorities in curriculum are regulations that raise the accessibility of the methods, content, and approaches that would increase success on international tests (Rizvi, 2017).

Teacher Qualifications

In the post-nation-state period, the emphasis on teacher qualifications increased considerably to ensure the desired change in education. Teachers who communicated the ideology of the nation-state need to acquire a new teaching mission to respond to the expectations of twenty-first-century skills, as well as those of the market and society in the post-nation-state period. During this period as phenomena and processes such as learner-centered, topic-centered, and project-based learning, interdisciplinary studies, and digitalization became widespread, teacher competencies have also been transformed (Furlong, 2013; Leana, 2011).

The recent increase in the amount of research conducted on the professional development of teachers in the field of educational sciences is proof of this. States have also increased their policies and investments in teachers’ professional development to successfully implement these reforms. The networks established within the EU-based efforts (eTwinning and Erasmus mobility programs) to improve the professional development of teachers have spread to all neighboring countries. In countries such as the USA, Turkey, Australia, Germany, and Singapore, opportunities for the professional development of teachers have increased through cooperation protocols with universities, international technology companies, and publishers.

School Autonomy

One of the key areas of change for the post-nation-state period was the defining of schools as institutions. Based on decentralization, nation-states-built schools as public spaces and instruments of state organization. Privatizing or autonomizing schools to increase their functionality in terms of funding and administration of education has become a popular topic of discussion (Hursh, 2000). In terms of knowledge, skills, and attitudes or learning processes and structures, the diversity of schools has required rethinking what schools are to ensure accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. Discussions around the concept of civil society were also issues raised in the restructuring of schools as institutions. However, the privatization and neoliberal economic approaches to the market that were on the agenda in the educational field have raised more concepts such as strategic planning in schools, overall quality control, leadership, profitability, effectiveness, and efficiency (Karataş, 2008). These initiatives have been effective in promoting teacher unions and student movements in many countries such as Romania, TRNC, the USA, and Chile (Zajda & Geo-JaJa, 2010).

Educational Environments

The repercussions of nation-states’ change of educational format have also been observed in traditional educational settings. However, with the transformation of teaching–learning approaches, more democratic, participatory, and interactive learning environments were chosen while the sustainability of school structures and equipment and the harmony between school and nature gained emphasis. The transformation of communication technologies necessitated the transformation of educational environments into a kind of access center. Internet connection as well as the infrastructure and equipment necessary for computer technologies, Internet-based equipment provisions, and therefore the development of internet-based learning tools have become necessary. The expectation of skills-oriented education output has necessitated the transformation of educational environments into skills-oriented centers. Reconfiguring educational environments to be sensitive to cultural differences and human-centered in terms of meeting the needs of society have become a popular topic of discussion (Radmard et al., 2019). Providing wideband Internet to schools and converting each school into access centers were among the primary objectives. Within the scope of the FATIH Project (Karataş & Sözcü, 2013), schools were transformed into wellness centers, and design and skills workshops were established.

Educational Outputs

The post-nation-state period also required a reconfiguration of educational outputs. The most tangible initiative that falls within this topic is the formation of the European e-Competence Framework (2016) for standardizing education levels to increase the validity of learning outcomes among countries. Countries have begun to issue diplomas listing the competencies and skills acquired alongside the regular diploma to ensure quality in terms of equivalence. Diploma supplements have become valid in terms of lifelong learning and professional competencies in eight levels from preschool to post-graduate studies for standardizing educational outputs. The application of the European Credit and Transfer System (ECTS) at higher education levels has been adopted by universities both in and outside of Europe. The establishment of the Professional Competency Board in Turkey was a step taken in this direction to bring professional standards closer to European standards.

Many universities in non-European countries such as Kazakhstan that wish to take part in the European Higher Education Area and bring their higher education standards to EU standards have also adopted ECTS. Even though not being members of the OECD, many countries have agreed to remain open to international supervision and surveillance by submitting data to the prepared annual training report or by participating in the PISA, which is held every three years. Reports published by university ranking organizations at the higher education level have also pushed national educational systems to reorganize higher education. Knowledge-based economic priorities have forced universities to re-position themselves as institutions carrying out innovations on a global scale. This has been the reference point for higher education reforms in countries such as Finland, Ireland, South Africa, and four Asian economies (i.e., the Asian Tigers; Maassen & Cloete, 2006).

Another motivation requiring learning outputs to become universalized is the formation of educational content and the demand for a more global, flexible, and sustainable development for learning, one which focuses on competence-oriented output by increasing international interactions and which prioritizes peaceful approaches (Zajda & Geo-JaJa, 2010).

Lifelong Learning

Global interaction has led nation-states to form initiatives to adapt to the global life, economy, and production processes. Lifelong learning is one of the most important components of educational systems. In the post-nation-state period, lifelong learning has required adults and the working population to acquire the knowledge, skills, and competencies that would in turn allow them to adapt to changing circumstances. Multiculturalism and second language learning, along with others such as legislative competencies in addition to coping with new situations accompanying the Internet and digitalization have ranked among the topics the adult population has had to acquire to keep up with the standards of lifelong learning (Zajda & Geo-JaJa, 2010).

Another dimension of lifelong learning is obtaining new diplomas from universities in other countries through distance learning using globalization and communication technologies. This has provided important opportunities for multinational companies to empower their human resources. Within this context, constant education or lifelong learning centers as part of universities have rapidly become widespread in many countries.

Lifelong learning has also become one of the important areas of activity of national and international NGOs. Supported by funds provided under international programs, NGOs have been offering training services to citizens from many countries on common subjects. These training sets include common issues of different states regarding the development of professional formations, sustainability, human rights, civil rights, disadvantaged groups, women, youth, children with special needs, refugees, and more (Karataş, 2008).


With a history encompassing a period of almost two centuries, nation-states have become the most fundamental component and actor in the massification and institutionalization of education. Over this period, nation-states have undergone a continuous transformation in terms of their form of government, authority, and limitations, as well as impacts and power. The area in which we observe the effects of the repercussion of this transformation most clearly is education. Especially after the 1970s, transformations in the political system, globalization, internationalization, and transnational structures have led to questioning the concepts of homeland, nation, common language, common culture, national history, and spiritual values, which are the pillars of the nation-state. The objectives of economic independence and national development were affected and directed by global forces and international companies. International and supranational structures, institutions, laws, and interactions expanded their areas of responsibility while limiting the power of nation-states. The upheaval and the new world order instigated by liberalism by taking over the polarized world order have increased population movements. The increasing number of international migrations due to poverty, famine, terror, war, and internal conflict have reactivated the reflex nation-states have to protect their borders. The information communication technologies revolution of the 2000s brought about the need to redefine where nation-states stand through the flow of information and culture, as well as physical flow and mobility.

The stages of the nation-state (i.e., nationalization, nation-state, open society, and connectivity) have also manifested in the transformation of educational approaches and practices of nation-states. The recently globalized problems, globalized societies, and globalized governance mechanisms of the post-nation-state period have also necessitated the reorganization of educational systems. Independent states around the globe have embarked on various reforms to bring their education systems up to the educational standards of post-nation-states. Educational reforms have surged as comprehensive initiatives addressing the whole system. The concepts of teacher, curriculum, organization of the school, physical design, learning outputs, and lifelong learning have emerged as the main topics of the discussions on educational reforms. Educational reforms have reinforced standardization and control mechanisms in developed countries while increasing dependence on developed countries in underdeveloped countries. Despite the unwanted consequences, powerful winds of transformation continue to push nation-states and national education systems to become integrated into the new conditions. While remaining the sole underpinning to realize national independence and development goals for the nation-states, education has now assumed a different characteristic for training humans who are capable of maintaining global interaction while passing down cultural capital, promoting scientific advancement, and increasing organizational capacity according to what the ever-changing conditions entail.