Education

Social Innovation in Education and Lifelong Learning (WP4)

Background
The continuous improvement of education is the key challenge for European societies and the global world.  Education and training, from a European perspective better summarised under the more comprehensive Lifelong Learning (LLL) strategy, “have a fundamental role to play in achieving the Europe 2020 objectives” (European
Council 2011) as well as to deliver competences to manage social change.

Analysing the relation between social innovation and social change, the main focus of the policy field education will be on research on social innovation processes for the implementation of new educational structures within the European concept of improving Lifelong Learning (from early childhood to retirement as well as from the support of vulnerable groups to promotion of talents). From a perspective of global comparison different priorities might be set in other global areas, but all in all improving education has to be seen as the ground to overcome economic and social changes, and to assure social cohesion and economic growth.

The focus, in close connection to the overarching research questions of SI-DRIVE, will be to analyse the educational policy environment in order to find out what and who drives social innovation in the field of education, which stakeholders are doing what and how far educational policies can be barriers or facilitators to innovation. On
the basis of theoretical progress, empirical case studies and European and global comparison as well as policy analyses, SI-DRIVE will identify how “management of change” can work in the field of education.

Main problems
The main European social problems in this policy field are raised by the related objectives of the Europe2020 strategy pointing out to increase early childhood education, to reduce the number of drop outs from education and training, to reduce the number of young people with insufficient abilities in reading, mathematics and science, to increase the population with completed tertiary education and to improve the participation in Lifelong Learning of adults.

Existing models
Existing innovation models are mostly top-down policy driven and often lack a link to people directly concerned (teachers, parents, learners, pupils, etc.). In many cases they do not fail to address the challenges in the policy field, but they fail in an effective implementation. Innovation in education as of today takes place mainly within institutions or separated education systems, from a more institutional and not a learner’s perspective, which directly connects to a core challenge within this thematic field of SI-DRIVE.

Social innovation
While the situation in Europe is still characterized by different education systems, great efforts are being made by the European Commission to cooperate on education and lifelong learning within the EU Member States. There are a number of common objectives with a clear relation to multifaceted social innovation based concepts, including:

  • high quality pre-primary, primary, secondary, higher and vocational education and training is seen as fundamental in a rapidly changing world;
  • lifelong learning is seen as a priority to employment, economic success and participating in society;
  • aiming at multilingualism, mobility, quality and efficiency, equity, social cohesion and active citizenship, creativity and innovation, entrepreneurship;
  • enhancing partnerships between different education and training institutions as well as between them and other regional stakeholders (citizens, companies, social partners, labour institutions etc.)

The European education and lifelong learning strategy is not only focusing on a knowledge society to overcome social changes and foster European competitiveness. Inherent issues like education as a mean to reduce poverty and to improve integration and social inclusion (Horizon 2020) are relevant and mentioned. This might be the case also from a global perspective, especially education in developing countries, focusing on social innovation on access to education, inequality, education and women, alphabetisation and others. “Redefining Education in the Developing World” (Epstein and Yuthas 2012) seems not overly dissimilar to necessary structural changes in Europe. Europe can learn from non-European countries as well in regard to social innovations of pioneer models of learning, such as increase access to formal and informal education globally (e.g. Udacity, edX and Coursea).

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