In many societies, (higher) education has been equated with a form of professional formation whose focus lies on the requirements of enterprises. At the same time, a reduced individual dividend for education (that is, a decreasing value of titles and degrees because of an increasing level of education throughout the whole society) has become observable. To what extent are opportunities in the labor market dependent on education and (to what extent) has this connection loosened during the last decades? Besides university studies, which alternative routes are likely to lead to a successful career? How are the factors of inter-generational inequality, on the one hand, and education and the labor market, on the other, intertwined?
Regions outside Europe are often attested a higher level of social heterogeneity and inequality on various axes. But even in Western Europe, social change and processes of migration have generated a greater degree of social diversity during the last decades. Which interdependencies, if any, can be traced between social heterogeneity and ideas/systems of education? In which contexts has education facilitated the empowerment of marginalized subjects and groups? How do students from different social backgrounds make use of educational opportunities? What role do habitus and practices of assessment within the educational institutions play? What influence do gender and class inequalities or other factors of social discrimination have on the accessibility of (higher) education? What experience do we have with affirmative action and quotas? When does education become a cause of social mobilization? Do the poor receive a different form of education?
The question of which forms of knowledge are recognized as education – or in German “Bildung” – can be fundamentally contested. Therefore, the process that renders certain forms of knowledge education while excluding others needs to be problematized as an arena of (implicit) political struggle and as a way of wielding social power. Moreover, many regions outside Europe have been affected by colonial pasts. This panel seeks to address the complex topic of global knowledge asymmetries, by asking questions such as: What is the relationship between indigenous knowledge/education and external influences? To what extent have colonial legislation, the associated institutional structures and ideas of education, elite, etc. been impacting on (post-) colonial systems of education? What influence does the formation of the (nation-) state and subsequent politico-economic developments have on ideas and practices of inequality and education?
Conference Paper to be presented by Augustin Emane
Augustin Emane is Associated Professor at the University of Nantes. He teaches Labor Law and Social Security Law. His research focuses on occupational risks in France, labor law in France and in French-speaking countries in Africa, and health systems in Europe and Africa. He also works on the transfer of Western legal categories in Africa and labor law in Brazil.
This paper examines Gabon, a country with a high level of schooling (more than 80%) compared with the average in other African countries (less than 50%), but where social inequalities and the level of unemployment are rather high. It is this paradox that we will try to explain. Education for us means school, which is traditionally used in Gabon to change social class or to reach a more prestigious situation. It allows us to fight social inequalities. Thanks to school, we acquire knowledge and competencies that lead on to get a job. For several years, this model was very effective, and the elite that we find governing us today has benefited from this promotion via education. Up to the 1980s, the labor market had integrated all the people who were schooled. The new job seeker had lots of choices concerning his job.
After the second oil crisis in 1979, things started to change. The state’s financial difficulties led to a reconsideration of the number of people it employed. Private companies faced an incredible number of job seekers, who did not always correspond to their needs. The principal reason for this situation is in fact the colonial period. Since the introduction of modern work in Gabon, office jobs have carried prestige, and school has often been considered a way of getting such ideal jobs. Anthropology and sociology could explain better this phenomenon. The logical consequence of this trend was that the literary field was privileged over the scientific field (seen for a long time as a course for prospective technicians and manual workers).
For the last 30 years, education has remained an indispensable way of integrating the labor market. But this is not enough. Inequalities are going to appear between the different academic routes. Different choices of courses lead to different job opportunities. It is now the opposite: scientific courses guarantee more job opportunities. A second type of inequality results from differences among the schools, or among countries. A third inequality is in the nationality of the company of employment.
Conference Paper to be presented by Peter Kallaway
Peter Kallaway is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Western Cape and a Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. He is interested in the history of education in South Africa and British colonial Africa, particularly in the interaction between missionary educators, philanthropists, and colonial governments.
South African Pre-School (Photo: private)
The forms of knowledge that came to dominate the African colonial mission school curriculum, and later government schools, have often been criticised for their lack of sensitivity to African or indigenous culture and languages. This state was famously termed “cultural imperialism” in the 1970s and was said to have been one of the causes of the weakness of the educational systems that were inherited by the new national states in the independence era. For example, there was a move to promote an authentic heritage of knowledge (Indigenous Knowledge Systems, IKS) in South Africa after 1994 in keeping with this perceived need to transform public knowledge in line with the liberation politics of the contemporary order.
Six members of the Steering Committee have faced the difficult task of selecting 20 participants out of almost 100 applications for the International Winter Academy “Inequality, Education and Social Power: Transregional Perspectives”.
The selection process is now completed and you will soon find a list of selected candidates on this blog. The participants come from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America. They have a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, coming from such different fields as educational studies, sociology, cultural studies, social sciences, economics, development studies, anthropology, history as well as different area studies. The Steering Committee is very much looking forward to meeting this interesting group in Berlin in November 2014!