Chair: Carlo Cappa and Maria Elena Favilla

In our plural tradition, community has always been a key concept for thinking education and for shaping its purposes. The different ideals of community that have followed over time have marked European history and have embodied essential notions for understanding our culture. The complexity of this concept is rooted in its changing borders. Each time that “community” is used for determining one or more fields of study, it adapts and modifies its nature, bringing to light a lively tension, because this process implies the creation of bonds between elements with some specifics characteristics, but, simultaneously, it establishes types and degrees of separation inside reality. Today, at a time of rapid change, we can easily see the many-sided use of “community” for imagining education: global, local, virtual, communities proliferate, giving multifaceted identities to each individual. Next to this vertiginous richness of possibilities, and, in some ways, because of this richness, a wide diffusion of control tools affects education at the national and international levels. These new pressures produce unprecedented thrusts and counterthrusts between communities and ask for new patterns of thinking for trying to penetrate our era and criticising it. The centrality of community in the international philosophical debate, from Habermas to Derrida and Nancy, from American communitarianism to Agamben and Esposito, is a direct consequence of this moving landscape; one in which comparative education can play a major role.

Working Group 1 invites analyses in which history and theory, in a comparative perspective, are closely linked with each other, for understanding the contribution of the field of study to this problématique, exploring diverse theoretical and methodological approaches.

Whilst encouraging a broad array of papers, the WG is particularly interested in papers that address the following issues:

  • Highlighting moments in which we can find a consolidation or a contestation – through education – of a specific notion of community
  • Understanding the building of community through education, in relation to previous traditions, and the tensions between community and communities
  • Analysing the consequences for educational theories and practices when an approach rooted in a specific notion of community is adopted
  • Focussing the attention on the links between community/communities with other fields related to education, such as economy, politics or society
  • Exploring transformation/s and continuity/ies in educational concepts for thinking about community/communities in comparative education

Chairs: Nelli Piattoeva and Paul Morris

This working group addresses a wide range of questions under the broad theme of who governs education, how and for what purposes. We welcome empirical, theoretical and methodological papers that focus on these themes from different analytical perspectives. The distinct policy communities of education governance have traditionally been situated in multilateral agencies, national governments, expert groups and non-governmental organizations. A significant body of scholarship has adopted a binary division between the nation state and global policy communities, such as the OECD, World Bank and the Global Education industry, to analyse the interaction between the national and global and its consequences for both education policy and its delivery. Within nations dependent on international aid, where policy-making capacity is weak and/or where civil society is curtailed, such considerations remain significant. However, there is also a general agreement among many scholars that in the past decades, the mode of governance and policy-making in education has changed towards a plethora of networks, partnerships and policy communities. Heterogeneous and multiscalar actor assemblages move and implement education policies across contexts. This means that the governance of education is increasingly hard to disentangle into neat and bounded policy communities. Indeed, actors and communities may be situated in multiple sites that are not necessarily geographically fixed, questioning the relevance of the binary division between the nation-state as an ‘inside’ and the global realm as an ‘outside’. Many policy communities can already be found between multilateral agencies, national governments, NGOs, think tanks, and advocacy groups, consultants, social entrepreneurs and international business, in or beyond the traditional sites of policy-making (Ball 2012).

In addition to the foci described above, we welcome papers which address burning contemporary developments, for instance: how have educational policy communities influenced the Sustainable Development Goals and how will they influence their delivery? Which communities promote data and algorithm-driven governance of education and how do these policies and governance ideals spread and get adapted across contexts? We also encourage papers that critically examine possibilities and limitations of existing research on governance communities, such as: has research privileged the loudest and most formed, visibly active or most accessible communities at the expense of the ones hidden from view; which contexts and communities have been perceived as epitomizing the “global”, and has this limited our understanding of what “global” is; what can be learnt from examining communities of education policy and governance with a comparative lens, and how would a comparative research agenda on new and old communities of education governance look like.


Chair: Eleni Prokou

Higher education in Europe has been under transformation during the last three decades due to influences from international and transnational organisations. These organisations, the EU in particular, exerted pressures on national governments for the creation of the “market-driven” or “entrepreneurial” university across Europe. To this purpose, procedures for university productivity, accountability, quality assurance and evaluation/ accreditation have become widespread, as has a focus on new managerialism and academic capitalism. University institutions were given greater “autonomy” provided that they would meet certain objectives, agreed among higher education institutions and governments. The rise of the so called “state supervision” model or the “evaluative state” related to even stronger governmental control, meant that intermediate bodies started evaluating higher education institutions and accrediting study programmes on the basis of predetermined objectives and outcomes. Accreditation policies emphasised the employability of graduates and were often linked to state funding. Such policies marked a withdrawal from the Humboldtian model of the university, with implications on the unity of research and teaching. Stressing graduates’ employability was also related to the promotion of lifelong learning within higher education. In addition, the interconnection of the European Higher Education Area with the European Research Area was intensely associated with privatisation trends. Privatisation policies in higher education institutions, an outcome of the retreat of welfare states across Europe, were intensified during the last decade due to the global economic crisis. Cuts in government funding have also had implications for the academic profession, as contingent faculty positions are increasing in many countries while the number of permanent positions decline. The aforementioned developments have had further implications for “equity” goals in higher education policies and the participation of under-represented social strata in higher education.

This Working Group (WG) deals with some of the most profound and complex challenges or even contestations facing higher education in Europe and elsewhere. Whilst encouraging a broad array of papers, the WG is particularly interested in papers addressing the following issues:

  • Analysis of the policy agendas of the EU and international organisations (e.g. the Bologna Process, the Lisbon Strategy). How and to what extent do these policies influence European nation states / regions in formulating their policies in higher education?
  • Analysis and interpretation of higher education policies across the European nation states / regions. What are the consequences of the growing emphasis on “market” responsiveness and “entrepreneurial” behaviour of higher education institutions? What forms of “evaluation”/ “accreditation” and “quality assurance” are taking place? To what extent has the aim of employability become central and at what cost? What types of “privatisation” of higher education are taking place and to what effect? What are the implications of such policies for the unity of research and teaching within the university and for the formation of the academic profession? What are those policies that challenge “equity” goals in higher education? What do the data on participation in higher education tell us about the future of university education as a “public good”?

The WG welcomes contributions from a wide range of social science backgrounds and conceptual orientations aimed at understanding the interests driving the transformation of higher education at national, regional, European and international level.

Chairs: Marcella Milana and Alexandra Ioannidou

Popularised by policy communities, lifelong learning has moved the attention of global players like the OECD or the European Union (although not UNESCO) away from the circumstances under which learning occurs to stress the outcomes of learning. Within this framework, a special emphasis has been placed on vocational education and training. A body of scholarship has analysed how and why this occurred, and to what effect for policy developments, and the delivery of adult education and learning opportunities world around. Under the gaze of practice and research communities, adult education is being differently perceived as at risk of extinction (as it attracts less public spending), outdone (as people learn everyday in interaction with others and by use of information and communication technologies), or profoundly transformed in its very nature (as the purpose and values of this educational delivery has changed). Nonetheless, many scholars concur that how, what and why people engage in learning activities is inherently entangled with the form of learning and its outcomes that is valued by their closest communities, and supported by national and global discourses and agendas that infringe upon policy sectors (e.g. education, labour, welfare, development, health, environment, immigration, economy and finance).

This Working Group welcomes empirical, theoretical and methodological papers that address the wide-ranging theme of how adult education and lifelong learning is signified, by whom and to what scopes from different disciplinary backgrounds, conceptual orientations and analytical perspectives. Complementing these concerns, we encourage papers that interrogate crucial contemporary evolutions in adult education and lifelong learning, such as:

  • How do different communities (e.g. local, national, international) and actors interpret the possibilities for adult education and lifelong learning to support the Sustainable Development Goals?
  • How do different communities (e.g. policy, research, practice) appreciate the links between adult education, lifelong learning and global citizenship?
  • Which epistemic communities promote accountability regimes in adult education and lifelong learning, how and what for?

Moreover, we encourage papers that problematize strengths and limitations of available research on adult education and lifelong learning communities, for instance:

  • Has research honoured the plurality of adult education and lifelong learning opportunities within and across local, national, regional and global contexts and communities?
  • What kind of research on adult education and lifelong learning has the highest circulation in, and impact on, policy and/or practice communities, why and to what effects?
  • How can a comparative lens help untangle how adult education and lifelong learning is signified, by whom and to what scopes?
  • How would a comparative research agenda on adult education and lifelong learning communities in an era of accountability and control look like?

Chairs: Hans-Georg Kotthoff and Lefteris Klerides

Teachers, like schooling, are a modern social technology. They were invented to be pioneers and exemplars of social order, hygiene, moral values, religiosity, heterosexuality, patriotism and national identity. As a component of the intelligentsia in some settings, they were respected members of local communities and enjoyed relatively high levels of autonomy and trust and appreciation of their work. In some other settings, however, teachers were regulated by rigid curricula and strict inspectors who prescribed and monitored the implementation of content-based and procedures-centred pedagogies.

In recent years the professional communities of teachers, especially the social status and autonomy of its members, have come under attack. In an era of performativity and accountability, teachers are increasingly held responsible for learner attainment and learning outcomes measured in and by national and international tests and inspection systems. As newly emerged or emerging social technologies, standardised tests and inspection do not only generate large sets of data: they set new norms and indicators by which teachers and their work are judged. They also signal the emergence of new modalities of understanding teacher identities captured in the dichotomy of ‘incompetent’ vs. ‘effective’ teachers, as well as new national and international, public and private actors in defining what constitutes ‘good’ teaching and learning.

In order to help teachers improve their effectiveness, ‘best practice’ pedagogies are also constituted and spread through various mechanisms, such as the European ‘Soft Method of Coordination’ and the meta-study of ‘Visible Learning’, which provide ‘solutions’ for allegedly global challenges in teaching and learning. Paradoxically our era of increased control has also led to a renewed emphasis on the importance of the role of teachers in learning – ‘teachers matter!’ – and to detailed catalogues of clearly defined ‘skills’ and ‘competences’ that teachers need to acquire during their initial teacher training and during their continued professional development. In many teacher education systems in Europe and across the world teachers are required to document these skills and competences in professional portfolios which accompany them throughout their career.

Against these significant changes, teachers and other members of the professional community try to keep up their personal ideas and convictions about ‘good’ teaching and learning and pedagogies. ‘Communities of practice’, for example, are seen as a novel way of regulating teachers, but simultaneously, offer opportunities to resist or even reconcile the conflicting demands of the beliefs and professional identities of individual teachers and the demands of education policies. In ‘communities of practice’, but also in ‘teacher-researcher alliances’, the voice and reality of the professional community and educational practitioners are not only heard and seen, but systematically tapped in order to find individual and context-specific solutions rather than ready-made imported ‘solutions’. What patterns of accountability and struggle against control are emerging in ‘knowledge-based societies’ and what forms of action are needed to maintain or increase the autonomy and esteem of professional communities?

This Working Group opens up historical and contemporary themes related to teachers, pedagogies and professional communities. Papers might include any of the following:

  • The changing regimes of accountability and control in education: here papers might analyse what new modes and modalities of accountability and control are emerging today and who is inventing them and for what ends in the context of geopolitical change and economic restructuring and technological innovation.
  • The consequences of new regimes of accountability and control on the ideals of freedom, democracy, and solidarity, as well as the notion of community which are held by teachers and practitioners: here, papers might consider how teachers’ imaginings of themselves and their role in society is changing as a result of policy shifts.
  • The contestation of emerging or emergent regimes of accountability and control through social action: here, papers might explore new techniques and strategies of individual and collective non-compliance and for survival in conditions of policy change, especially with the help of social media and digital technologies.

The Working Group invites theoretical and empirical contributions which address or question any of the themes above, or related themes, and which explore the tensions and competing imperatives that teachers and educational practitioners face in the contemporary context. We especially welcome comparative studies but strongly encourage all submissions to set their work rigorously in national and international contexts.

Chairs: Peter Moss and Claudia Giudici

The schools for young children in Reggio Emilia first emerged in the 1960s as part of a ‘municipal school revolution’, a movement by local communities in Northern and Central Italy whose comune (local councils) took responsibility for the education of their young citizens. Reggio Emilia was one of these communities, constructing a ‘local cultural project of education’ with a distinct identity, which evolved into a system of schools for children from birth to 6 years. Since the 1980s, the education in these schools has attracted world-wide interest, and Reggio Emilia is today part of a global network.

Loris Malaguzzi, the great Italian educator who played a key role in the evolution of early childhood education in Reggio, started from a clear recognition that education is ‘always a political discourse whether we know it or not…[which] means working with political choices’. One of these choices concerns the image of the child, ‘the necessary premise for any pedagogical theory, and any pedagogical project’, and the choice made was bold: ‘We [in Reggio Emilia] say all children are rich... better equipped, more talented, stronger and more intelligent than we can suppose’. But he also made choices about the image of the teacher, the parent and the school. On such choices, Reggio Emilia created its distinctive pedagogy, a pedagogy of listening and relationships, a pedagogy fit for rich children. Last but not least, Malaguzzi was always insistent that Reggio’s schools and pedagogy should be dynamic, ‘remade, recon­structed and updated based on the new conditions of the time’. Their core purpose was learning, but they had other purposes as well, including fostering democracy and solidarity and producing a culture of childhood.

At a time when early childhood education has achieved a high policy profile globally, with a dominant Anglophone discourse seeking to impose a universal narrative – technical, economistic, instrumental, with standardised measures of performance, the singular, community-based education project of Reggio is a provocation. So too are the converging global crises, which undermine the credibility of the dominant discourse, with its rationale for early childhood education of growth, human capital and return on investment. Over the years, Reggio Emilia has offered a very different rationale for its education.

Whilst encouraging a broad array of papers about early childhood education, the WG is particularly interested in papers that engage with theory and method from comparative education and/or address the following issues:

  • Community-based, local cultural projects of early childhood education
  • Working with political choices in early childhood education, including images, purposes and pedagogies
  • Early childhood education evolving to respond to local conditions and/or global crises (e.g. environmental, social, political, economic)
  • Regional or global networks linking local groups and projects
  • Relationships between Reggio Emilia and early childhood education in other countries
  • Accountability for local projects that respects and values their singularity
  • Tensions between universal and standardised approaches to performance and assessment and distinctive local projects
  • Constructive relations between macro- and micro-political levels (e.g. state or region and local community)
  • Early childhood services as places promoting children’s rights, including children’s right to citizenship

Chairs: Bob Cowen, Donatella Palomba, Steve Carney

This section is a good opportunity for new scholars to present their papers and receive feedback from skilled scholars.

Thematically-Focused Panels (TFPs) provide space for papers that are relevant to the theme of the conference but outside the frame of one of the Working Groups.

If you wish to submit a paper at a TFP, you are expected to indicate this during the submission process.

Choose 'Thematically-Focused Panels' and let the organizers allocate your paper to an appropriate session. 

If you already have a group of three or four papers and wish these papers to be grouped together in a TFP session, please tell the organizers. 

Cross-Thematic Sessions (CTSs) provide space for papers that are relevant to the broader field of comparative education but do not necessarily relate closely to the focus of any of the working groups and the main conference theme.

If you wish to submit a paper at a CTS, you are expected to indicate this during the submission process.

Choose 'Cross-Thematic Sessions' and let the organizers allocate your paper to an appropriate session. 

If you already have a group of three or four papers and wish these papers to be grouped together in a CTS session, please tell the organizers.