By Jane-Frances Lobnibe (University for Development Studies, Tamale) and Jana Tschurenev (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)1
Report of the Winter Academy “Inequality, Education and Social Power: Transnational Perspectives”. The Winter Academy took place in Berlin, November 16-25, 2014 and was convened by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland.
An condensed version of the text is published via the online communication platform H-Soz-Kult.
Participants Winter Academy (Photo: Photo: Forum Transregionale Studien under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
As the global economy slowly recovers from the 2008/9 recession, rising social inequality exacerbated by stagnating wages and unequal income distribution is emerging as a major concern of policy makers and national leaders in both the “developed” and “developing” worlds. This development has come about amid a fast changing knowledge economy, requiring specialized labor skills and high quality education to meet the challenges of this complex technological and interconnected world. To be sure, there is a widespread assumption that a panacea to the current predicament is an expanded equal access to quality education. However, as a public good and ideologically charged concept, education is often viewed as a means of and for social mobility and is set with high expectations. But education can also produce inequality and disenchantment in case some groups are denied or excluded from its benefits. The interdisciplinary Winter Academy and conference “Inequality, Education, and Social Power,” in Berlin explored this ambiguity from multiple perspectives. The seven-day event was convened by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland in Berlin in cooperation with the Max Weber Foundation’s Transnational Research Group (TRG) on “Poverty and Education”, the research network desiguALdades.net and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.
Since both authors participated in the same working group and to some extent also in the thematic discussion groups, this summary is necessarily a very selective one and cannot do justice to all the rich and inspiring presentations given within the winter academy and conference. [↩]
During the Winter Academy we invited Anja Schillhaneck, Vice President of the Berlin Parliament and Spokeswoman for Science, Sport, European and Federal Affairs for the parliamentary group of the green party “Bündnis 90/Die Grünen”, to share her expertise in the field of education policy with the participants.
In her presentation “Right to Education and Equal Education Opportunities. A View from Berlin” Anja Schillhaneck introduced the German education system and explained the particular challenges that arise from the three-tiered school system in terms of inequality and social mobility.
Discussion with Anja Schillhaneck; photo: Anaïs Bordes under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Drawing on her practical experience as a politician, she also discussed how recent reforms of the school system in Berlin try to increase the equality of education opportunities. During the lively discussion with the participants which covered various topics ranging from the “PISA shock” to university enrollment fees, Anja Schillhaneck provided interesting insights into current debates within German education policy.
The Winter Academy’s format is distinguished primarily by the participants’ active involvement in the conceptualization and realization of the academic program. The program centers on a deepened scholarly exchange that is embedded in a transregional perspective. The presentations of individual research projects in small groups and working group sessions are open only for the participants but the lectures and panel discussions are open to a wider public.
The list of participants and project titles of the international winter academy “Inequality, Education and Social Power: Transregional Perspectives” can now be found in the participants section. More information on the academic backgrounds of the participants as well as their research projects will soon be posted on this blog.
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!
The research focus of the TRG is India: the group’s research theme is “Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor between the State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century” and the TRG fellows’ studies range from caste discrimination and education policy to the impact of schooling on life histories. At the same time, the group is sensitive to the global entanglements of the subject, and has a keen interest in encouraging comparative research, for instance by organizing and participating in conferences and workshops on comparative research on the theme. The TRG also offers visiting fellowships to scholars working on different regions.
Find out more about the Transnational Research Group India on their website or “like” them on Facebook!