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Rethinking equal opportunities in education and training

by admin last modified 2013-02-07 15:40

Lyons, 15, 16, 17 May 2006


Rethinking justice in education and training

Lyons, 15, 16, 17 May 2006

The sociology of education was reconsidered in the 1960s in French and English-speaking countries around the question of justice. After the Second World War, school policies attempted to give shape to a legitimate ideal of equality which was dating back to the Enlightenment. This plan led to the lengthening of compulsory schooling in comprehensive schools until 15 or 16 then to mass access to secondary and higher education. Some countries laid the stress more on the objective of social cohesion, others emphasised redistribution but all agreed on the same plan. Sociology has developed as a secondary science which assesses the effects of these policies. We now know that its conclusions have disillusioned the model. It is now in a crisis and society is seeking new forms of the ideal of equal opportunities. Several causes account for this crisis. Some are linked to the difficulties faced by schools in the implementation of the comprehensive curriculum and, to a larger extent, to the sense of the lengthening of studies, etc. Others are linked to the evolution of each society: the rise in great poverty and exclusion, the increase in urban segregations, etc. However, it is globalisation which explains this phenomenon. In a competitive world, it matters more to keep each country's competitiveness than think out the dynamics of exchange between the groups within a given community. Therefore funds should be first assigned to the pursuit of excellence. It is within this context that new proposals are put forward. Some are only adjustments within the inherited framework. The principle of positive discrimination proved essential from the 1970s and has inspired the policies of educational priority areas ever since. At the same time, the focus on gender equality influenced and enriched the issue. The disabled are now also included in this global approach. More recently, the shift from the ideal of equal opportunities to the objective of equal achievement led to the idea of basic common knowledge. All these evolutions are also found in the transfer from the notion of equality to that of equity which underlies the development of international indicators. Others advocate a new approach which is aimed to pursue the same objective with different means. Indeed, lifelong learning runs counter to the preceding organisation. This model, with a time for learning hardly different from that of production, is intended to better meet the needs of the job market and to challenge inequalities thanks to new methods of certification.

Besides, education is not the only field where this debate is raised. It also concerns health systems, employment laws, pension schemes, etc. Since the report A Nation At Risk was published, a new form of liberalism has become firmly established worldwide which challenges the social-democrat project of the Welfare state.

Sociology should find its new place relative to these new definitions. For that purpose, it should build a larger framework to know where each position in debate stands and explain their references. On one side those which, in developed countries, try to keep the social model gained by the labour movement in the early times of capitalism and to further the social dimension of civil rights; the renewal of liberal thinking and the several dimensions it suggests of the market logic; on the other side those which seek compromises such as the “Third Way” under Britain's New Labour. Sociology should also take into account the advent of new references such as a definition of justice based on the recognition of differences in multiethnic and multicultural societies, the emergence of children's rights…

This enterprise first implies a questioning of a past outlook. This vision has long been based on a republican vulgate whose meaning is now questioned by conservative readings. Above all it entails both theoretical and methodological changes. Constructivism was very valuable in shifting the level of observation from statistical regularities to the reality of classes and schools. However this approach has now reached its limits as domination, except in extreme cases, is not exerted at the level of real-life situations. Now this is what is at stake with the reorganisation of the fields of education and training according to the model which enabled capitalism to overcome the open crisis in 1973. It was based on a project-oriented approach, flexibility in skill development with geographical mobility and a networked organisation of schools. A return to a macro-political approach thus proves necessary. The difficulty lies in associating it with local action and the experience of agents. Obviously the question of justice arises daily in classes and schools. There is indeed a strong feeling of injustice among the young both in and out of school. This resentment, whether it remains muted or is expressed in outbursts, is part and parcel of our societies. It is also present among parents and teachers who often feel like scapegoats. There is nothing new in the tensions between the micro and macro-social approaches but it now is exacerbated. Globalisation shifts the stakes and the decision-making processes to a world scale. Great poverty and humiliation shift the questioning to the founding principle of the political link: the feeling of belonging to a common humanity.

Thinking about the different approaches goes hand in hand with thinking about indicators. Any policy of equal opportunities is based on assessments: assessing the students' achievements and performances, school efficiency, the gaps between students from different backgrounds, mobility between generations or over the whole course of life, etc. Experience shows that it is not always the concepts which influence the creation of indicators. How society understands and uses the results of these assessments is yet another matter. Therefore several points still need to be clarified.

Scientific board

Pierre Caspard (Service d'Histoire de l'Éducation, Institut national de recherche pédagogique, France)

Jean-Émile Charlier (Facultés Universitaires Catholiques À Mons, Belgique)

Roger Dale (université de Bristol, Royaume Uni ; université d'Auckland, Australie)

Jean-Louis Derouet (UMR Éducation & Politiques, France)

Marie-Claude Derouet-Besson (UMR Éducation & Politiques, France)

François Dubet (Centre d'Analyse et d'Intervention Sociologiques, université Bordeaux II, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France)

Marie Duru-Bellat (Institut de Recherche en Économie de l'Éducation, université de Bourgogne)

Mariano Fernández Enguita (université de Salamanque, Espagne)

Jacqueline Gautherin (UMR Éducation & Politiques, France)

Monique Hirshhorn (université René Descartes, Paris V, Présidente de l'Association Internationale des Sociologues de Langue Française, France)

Walo Hutmacher (ancien directeur du Service de Recherche en Éducation, Genève, Confédération helvétique)

Bernard Lahire (École Normale Supérieure - Lettres & Sciences Humaines ; Groupe de Recherche sur la Socialisation, université Lumière Lyon 2, France)

Claude Lessard (université de Montréal, Québec, Canada)

Robert Moon ( Open University , Londres, Royaume Uni)

Fritz Moscher ( Consortium for Policy Research in Education , Philadelphie, États-Unis)

Romuald Normand (UMR Éducation & Politiques, France)

André Nyamba (université de Ouagadougou, Burkina-Fasso)

André Robert (UMR Éducation & Politiques, France)

Jean-Yves Rochex (université de Paris VIII, France)

James Spillane ( North Western University , Chicago, États-Unis)

Stanislas Stech (université Charles, Prague, République Tchèque)

Anne Van Haecht (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgique)

Agnès van Zanten (Observatoire Sociologique du Changement, Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris, France)

Organising board

Jean-Louis Derouet, Marie-Claude Derouet-Besson, Nicolas Favelier, Sabine Mornard, Romuald Normand, Guillaume Roussel, Stéphane Sanloup

Dates : 15, 16 and 17 May 2006


The conference will be held in Lyon on the Gerland campus (underground Debourg).

The plenary sessions will take place in the main amphitheatre at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines (ENS-LSH), 15 parvis René Descartes, 69007 Lyon.

The ENS-LSH and the Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique 19 allée de Fontenay 69007 Lyon will be the venue for the workshops on Tuesday afternoon.

For further details, please contact:

Jean-Louis Derouet,

Nicolas Favelier, , +33 (0)4 72 76 62 63

Tentative schedule

Monday May 15

8.30 AM

Welcoming participants

9 AM

Opening of the conference by Emmanuel Fraisse, head of the INRP

President of the University Lumière Lyon 2

9.15 AM

Presentation of the conference

Building a framework to think out the contemporary debate on justice in education and training

Jean-Louis Derouet (UMR Education & Politiques)

9.45 AM – 12.30 PM

Justice in education for every single student and type of society in developed countries

How legitimate equality between all citizens and work-related inequalities can be addressed together in a time of international competition? The Welfare state model provided answers: benefit-sharing, comprehensive curricula, etc. They were criticised by some left-wingers and their principles are now completely challenged by neoliberal supporters.

This first session offers an overview. First of all, putting things in a historical perspective proves necessary: has the social elevator ever worked? If so, how? We will then examine how the situation evolves in Anglo-Saxon countries, in France and in transitional countries of central and eastern Europe.

President: Yves Grafmeyer (université Lumière Lyon 2, France)

Speaker: Antoine Prost (université de Paris I, France)

Pierre Caspard (Service d'Histoire de l'Education, Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, France) : « Ascenseur Social » (social elevator) and local democraties in modern times : uses, representations, policies

François Dubet (Centre d'Analyse et d'Interventions Sociologiques, Université de Bordeaux II, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France) : What can be done with the meritocratic ideal?

Sally Tomlinson ( Department of Educational Studies, université d'Oxford , Royaume-Uni): Education in post welfare societies

Stanislas Stech (université Charles, Prague, République Tchèque): From statistical justice to liberal justice in a transitional society of central Europe

2 PM

Disillusionment in the wake of the equal opportunities project

In the wake of the Second World War, making school compulsory for all students up to 15 or 16 apparently met the objectives of equality and social cohesion. This session will examine how this hope was dashed. What are the links between massification and the democratisation of studies? How can the effects of positive discrimination policies be assessed? What are the sense and the stakes of the reformulation of the ideal of equality into equity?

The works which over the past fifteen years have tried to provide answers through a shift in issues will shed light on the debates: research on the relations to knowledge of working-class students, the emergence of dispositionalism, surveys on the feeling of justice among the different actors and more particularly students, etc.

President: Dominique Glasman (Université de Savoie, France)

Speaker: Roger François Gauthier (Inspection Générale de l'Administration de l'Education Nationale et de la Recherche, France)

Marie Duru Bellat (Institut de Recherche en Économie de l'Éducation, université de Bourgogne, France) : The opposite effects of school inflation

Bernard Lahire (École Normale Supérieure - Lettres et Sciences Humaines; Groupe de recherche sur la socialisation, université Lumière Lyon 2, France) : school plans and social arrangements

Denis Meuret (université de Bourgogne, France) : Unequal opportunities to be and feel treated fairly among secondary students

Jean-Yves Rochex (université de Paris VIII, France) : rethinking the need for cultural justice through the need for social justice and vice versa: toward a sociology of cognitive development?

6.30 PM

Welcoming participants at Lyon's town hall

Tuesday May 16

8 – 9.30 AM

Working breakfast for the committee “Education, Formation, Socialisation” of “l'Association Internationale des sociologues de langue anglaise” (AISLF)

9.30 AM

Taking diversities into account and its ambiguities

In the face of this challenge to the comprehensive model, societies promote educational projects which take diversity into account such as the various local situations and gender, ethnic, religious or community differences. The point is to separate what is progress toward the democratic ideal from what corresponds to a return to early election procedures.

The purpose of the session is to examine measures whose meaning is ambiguous: school autonomy and the freedom of choice given to families but also lifelong training. The latter is designed to renew the project of justice – boosting the qualifications and skills acquired during the time for studies and taking work experience into account. These proposals should be given due consideration. Meanwhile, this project and the new organisation of capitalism go hand in hand as the former is a project-based social philosophy when the latter entails increased flexibility and mobility. We can only give an overview of the several possible interpretations as it is too early to draw conclusions.

Président : Bernard Dizambourg (Directeur de l'École Supérieure de l'Éducation Nationale; Président des Conseils de l'Institut national de recherche pédagogique, France)

Discutant : Gilles Ferréol (université de Poitiers)

Jean-Claude Barbier (université Paris I) : Lessons from abroad: the Danish example

Luciano Benadusi (université La Sapienza, Rome III) : Educational justice and the crisis or the renewal of the Welfare State

Sharon Gewirtz (Kings College, School of Education, Londres) : La justice en éducation au risque du management

Éric Verdier (Laboratoire de Sociologie du Travail, université d'Aix-Marseille, France), Lifelong education and training: from European rhetoric to the trials and errors of national models

Agnès van Zanten (Observatoire Sociologique du Changement, Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris, France) : Is it the end of meritocracy? The educational strategies of the middle and upper classes

2 PM

Crossing sociological with economic considerations: a survey of the French case

Obviously the debate on justice includes an economic dimension. In France the role played by Darras' book on benefit-sharing in the refoundation of educational sociology is well-known. This project lay on a national conception of the Plan. This institution was supposed to cover social equality, economic efficiency and personal self-fulfillment. The session will focus on this example and analyse the evolution of the project from the 1960s to its disintegration, the current diversification of proposals and the new framework of the LOLF (a French Organic Act on finances). How can we develop new social dynamics which take both the failure of dogmatic solutions, the evolution of work, qualifications and international competition into account? How can we think out a social philosophy of redistribution together with a social philosophy of recognition?

Président : André Robert (UMR Éducation & Politiques)

Discutant : Philippe Casella (UMR Travail et Mobilités, université Paris X Nanterre)

Jean-Richard Cytermann (Inspection Générale de l'Éducation Nationale) : How is justice conceived through the objectives and the indicators of LOLF (a French Organic Act about finances)

Michel Lallement (Centre National des Arts et Métiers) : Work relationships and economic changes: principles and recognition stakes

Bernard Perret (Chargé de mission "méthodes d'évaluation" au Conseil Général des Ponts et Chaussées - Ministère de l'équipement, des transports et du logement, Paris, France)   : Theory of the ‘social capital' (according to Putnam's definition) and reformulation of educational objecives

Claude Seibel (INSEE, ancien Directeur de la DARES) : (heading to be given)

5 - 7.30 PM


Calls for contribution can be found on the web site of the UMR Education & Politiques ( ). The schedule will be in its final form on April 1 st .

- Putting things in historical perspective: does the study of how the model of equal opportunities developed help to explain how it disintegrates?

Philippe Savoie (Service d'Histoire de l'Éducation, Institut national de recherche Pédagogique)

- School guidance policies to the test of inequalities

Romuald Normand (UMR Éducation & Politiques)

Jean-Yves Rochex (université de Paris VIII)

- Segregation, the ethnicity of new models and the systems of justice and equality in education

Jean-Paul Payet (université de Genève)

- Equality and the teaching profession

Bertrand Geay (université de Poitiers)

- Diversification, social management of inequalities and fight against exclusion

Daniel Frandji (Centre Alain Savary, Institut national de recherche pédagogique)

- The new training patterns of elites

Yves Dutercq (université de Nantes)

- When the South is falling behind: what local equality, what global justice?

Frédéric Moens (Facultés Universitaires Catholiques À Mons)

- Justice and gender inequalities in education

Catherine Marry (CNRS, Centre Maurice Halbwachs)

- What are the links between a child-oriented sociology and a sociology of inequalities? Régine Sirota (Université René Descartes, Paris V)

Christian Forestier

Wednesday May 17


Managing evidence in the face of the different conceptions of justice

The development of research in education has much contributed to raise the consciousness of society about its school and training systems. It has also helped to situate them within an international comparative framework. The conference will review this contribution and even question it. Each research work is based on a pattern of evidence management which highlights some aspects of reality and masks others. What are the different patterns and what notions of equal opportunities are they based on? What are the remaining blind points? What do we know of their instruments and epistemological presuppositions? How are their results used by society? What would new patterns which would allow to focus on quantity without neglecting quality bring? Such issues cannot be tackled without raising at the same time the question of research funding and above all the respective role of private and public funding.

Christian Forestier

President :Claude Javeau (université libre de Bruxelles)

Speaker : Norberto Bottani (international expert)

Christian Forestier (Inspection Générale, Haut Conseil de l'Éducation) : (heading to be given)

Ivor Goodson (université de Brighton) Questioning educational reforms: the contribution of biographical surveys

Romuald Normand (UMR Éducation & Politiques) An evidence policy: the new patterns of managing evidence in Anglo-Saxon research

Marilyn Osborn (université de Bristol) Promoting quality: international comparisons and methodological questions

2 PM


Rethinking benefit-sharing: what plan for social dynamics?

The conference follows three objectives:

•  building a larger framework to situate the references of opposing positions.

•  Acknowledging the extension of the field for this debate. How is it possible to reconcile the results of the works on the feeling of injustice among actors with those on the competition between states within a globalized economy?

•  Questioning the instruments (indicators, systems of reference, tests, etc.) which go with the implementation of the new organisation within the educational and training fields.

In conclusion, we will try to answer these questions and extract concrete stakes from them. The social-democrat project of benefit-sharing is questioned: Aren't there benefits still to be shared despite the current crisis? All the analyses on democratisation policies separate massification from democratisation. However, this movement has had a number of consequences on the circulation of knowledge in society. When will the work organisation and hierarchical relationships start paying attention to this new distribution of knowledge? The training of labour is an asset in international competition but its costs increase tax pressure and may result in job relocations. How can we manage this double constraint? Alternative proposals suggest the recognition of differences, lifelong training, etc. What do we know about their effects? What is the role played by the European Union? What is its position within the globalisation process? Is there an opportunity or the will to develop relations between the North and the South?

President : Christiane Demontès, Sénatrice du Rhône

Jean-Emile Charlier (Facultés Universitaires Catholiques à Mons),

Jean-Louis Derouet (UMR Education & Politiques),

Walo Hutmacher (expert international, ancien directeur du Service de Recherche en Education du canton de Genève),

Anne Van Haetch (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Thanks to Thierry Bessy for the translation.

Education et sociétés
Numéro 21
Former des élites dans un monde incertain
Coordonné par Yves Dutercq
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Association internationale des sociologues de langue françaiseComité de recherche n °7 Éducation, Formation, Socialisation
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