The 1st Annual Nordic Educational Conversation

We are happy to announce that The 1st Annual Nordic Educational Conversation will be held online in Zoom October 23rd at 14.00 – 16.00 central Scandinavian time. You are hereby invited to participate in an exciting educational conversation (free of charge). Please, click here to register.

We are happy to announce that The 1st Annual Nordic Educational Conversation will be held online in Zoom October 23rd at 14.00 to 16.00 central Scandinavian time. You are hereby invited to participate in an exciting educational conversation (free of charge). Please, click here to register. 

The Annual Conversation will be held in English and is connected to NERA’s journal Nordic Studies in Education (NSE). Note that this is not a traditional conference or seminar. Conversations and dialogues are in the heart of this forum, which sustain conversations taking place in full courtesy and kindness, where the participants manage to have fruitful discussions on the chosen theme and, if possible, engage in projects that reach to a wider audience (perhaps as an article in NSE).  

To strengthen the conversations, we will limit the number of participants (maximum 25) and divide the participants into smaller discussion groups, followed by a joint conversation at the end.

Jens Erik Kristensen

Each Conversation adheres to a unique theme which is relevant to the Nordic countries. The theme, with its problems and challenges, is introduced by one or more experts. The introduction lasts for about 10-20 minutes, while the whole Conversation lasts for approximately two hours. 

We have the pleasure of having Associate Professor Jens Erik Kristensen (Aarhus University, Danish School of Education) as initiator of the conversations at the 1st Annual Nordic Educational Conversation. Kristensen will have an introduction on the theme Pedagogy – lost in translation? The Nordic tensions between Educational Sciences and Pedagogy. See abstract below.    

We hope to see you and discuss with you in October!

Best regards,

Eva Hultin, Michael Dal and Herner Saeverot

Abstract to the 1st Annual Nordic Educational Conversation

Pedagogy lost in translation?

The Nordic tensions between Educational Sciences and Pedagogy

With the spread of global comparisons of national schooling and training achievements under transnational organizations like the OECD, UNESCO, the IEA and the EU, a kind of pedagogical and educational-policy universalism has arisen during the last three decades centred around a series of new global ideas and universal key concepts like ‘learning’, ‘competence’, ‘upskilling’, ‘creativity’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘citizenship’. This universalisation has primarily been borne by economics rather than religion, nation or democracy. Global economic concepts like ‘human capital’, ‘human resource’, ‘employability’, ‘competitiveness’, ‘innovation’, ‘productivity’ etc. have become part of the educational-policy and even of pedagogical vocabulary.

The transnational economic focus on education has been accompanied by a change in the understanding of what ‘education’ is all about and of the relationship between education, pedagogy and educational sciences. Within a very short time, learning and competence has become part of the general vocabulary in educational policies and the key concepts in a new and generalized notion of ‘education’. Recent decades have seen a striking semantic shift in the Nordic (and continental) terms of ‘education’ (uddannelse, utbildning, utdanning) that originally were narrowly reserved for the specialized qualification of an individual’s labour after completion of schooling: One ‘took an education’ with an eye to a specific trade, job or a specific profession. However, from the end of the 1960s onwards, to take just one example, the Danish term ‘uddannelse’ became the official Danish translation of the semantically and institutionally far broader English concept of ‘education’. From then on ‘uddannelse’ was increasingly being used as an umbrella term for everything related to rearing, upbringing, learning, instruction, teaching, qualification, competence and skills development for both children and adults, even though ‘uddannelse’ in Danish still retained its narrower meaning than the English word education. Today practically all pedagogical initiatives and institutions from crèches, kindergartens and primary schools onwards are now referred to as ‘uddannelses-institutioner’ (educational institutions).

In the wake of the semantic generalization of the education concept there followed a new kind of educational thinking called educational sciences, which unlike traditional pedagogical thinking and research primarily is geared towards a socio-scientific (sociological, economic and political) understanding of education in accordance with empirical and quantitative ideals of knowledge and evidence based practice. On the basis of these shifts, ‘uddannelse’ has taken conceptual hegemony and has become the cover term for educational matters while at the same time educational research and science has increasingly liberated itself from the traditionally more normative and ‘humanist’ horizons of pedagogical research and thinking. To quote Herner Sæverot educational sciences has contributed to a “delegitimization of ‘pedagogikk”. Instead, we have acquired a transnational and primarily Anglo-American semantics of education, which take the labour market as their homing point and accentuate the new global-economic significance of educational programmes. Therefore, you might say that the Anglo-American and OECD concept of education has been a cuckoo in the continental pedagogical nest.

Given these global and national developments, I would like you to consider and discuss three questions in the coming NERA-conversation:

  1. Is it possible to defend a classical concept of pedagogy and of pedagogical science under the described epochal circumstances? Is it, in the words of Gert Biesta, still possible “speaking ‘pedagogy’ to ‘education’”?
  2. What is it precisely that we want to defend? Pedagogy as an independent scientific discipline in relation to educational sciences or the idea of a general pedagogical science in the wake of the classical German idea of ‘Allgemeine Pädagogik’; the idea of ‘pedagogical judgement’ in the tension between theoretical and empirical research on the one hand and pedagogical action on the other?
  3. How are we going to initiate a ‘pedagogical (re)turn’ and defend pedagogy scientifically as well as politically?
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