What’s the connection between education and climate change? My guest today, Arjen Wals, takes a critical take on sustainability yet offers a hopeful outlook.

In our conversation, Arjen details a few examples of school-level practices that could be seen as working towards a sustainable future while also critiques educational competition and the hidden curriculum of commodification.

He ultimately calls for more dissonance in education systems as a way to learn new forms of sustainability to combat climate change.

Arjen Wals  is the UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development and Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University in The Netherlands.

I spoke with Prof. Wals at the 2018 Global Education Meeting, which was a high-level forum held in Brussels in early December that reviewed the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Citation: Wals, Arjen, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 144, podcast audio, January 14, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/arjenwals/

Transcript, translation, and resources:

Read more

OverviewTranscriptFrançais TranscriptionResources

Today we look at the role of education in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. My guest is Parfait Eloundou, professor and department chair of development sociology at Cornell University and member of the independent group of scientists writing the Global Sustainable Development report. I spoke with Parfait during a break at the UNESCO Global Education Meeting held in Brussels in early December.

In our conversation, Parfait calls wealth inequality, demographic changes, and parental choices the perfect storm of inequality. Education plays an important role in overcoming this social trifecta of disparity.

We also discuss the assumption of meritocracy in education and the lack of a class analysis in the SDGs.

Citation: Eloundou-Enyeque, Parfait, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 143, podcast audio, January 7, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/parfait-eloundou-enyegue/

Will Brehm  1:28
Parfait Elondou, welcome to Fresh Ed.

Parfait Eloundou  1:46
Thank You.

Will Brehm  1:48
So, here we are sitting in Brussels at the global education meeting and I just want to start by a very general question: How would you define sustainability? What does sustainability mean to you?

Parfait Eloundou  2:00
Oh, that’s a very interesting question. I mean, sustainability, I’d say is taking the long-term view on development and paying attention to a different kind of standard, not just immediate goals, but the extent to which different nations and the world as a whole can sustain whatever we are trying to accomplish. And you can think of sustainability along two dimensions. One is the environmental side, which is preserving the natural life systems. And the other is the social sustainability that you can keep keep societies in sync, in harmony, you can maintain the social contract, keep everyone engaged, keep institutions viable, and so forth.

Will Brehm  2:51
So what role does education play in the understanding of sustainability in terms of the environment, but also the social side, where does education fit into that picture?

Parfait Eloundou  3:02
Broadly speaking, you can think of education as an institution that is designed to transmit knowledge, values, and therefore to reproduce and to innovate. And so, education is therefore a mechanism for societies to project themselves into the future. By passing on the skills to the current generation, you give yourself as a society the means to survive, and to thrive as you move on. And so, there are different things that you want to pass on, and allow for change in innovation at the same time, and so these things include, again, as I said, the skills, the technology, the values, the knowledge, values of citizenship, values of stewardship, etc. And so, education is really vital as a mechanism for reproduction and for projecting yourself into the future.

Will Brehm  4:01
Is, in your opinion, education a panacea to some of these problems that face the world of climate change, or, you know, the decline of the social contract or of the rise of nationalism, or all the different social ills that we see, environmental ills that we see in the world is, in your opinion, is education, sort of this panacea?

Parfait Eloundou  4:19
Well, panacea is a strong word, but education is very much a powerful instrument. It cannot be a panacea, because the relative importance of it is going to vary from one place to the other, or the different forms of education, they’re going to vary, and so there will be times when education is the most potent forces for transmitting skills. But you can also have societies that are organized in ways that would pass on skills and technology and know-how, outside of a formal education system. But if you consider the today’s world, out of all of the possible institutions that you can rely on to advance the SDGs as we think of them now, I think education is really a very strong candidate and that’s why I was excited to be here and to see how not only we can revamp, revive rural education, but also to see how it links with other institutions and societies.

Will Brehm  5:25
You know, one of the things that I sometimes get confused about with the Sustainable Development Goals is, on the one hand, there is this effort to achieve economic growth as a way of taking more people out of poverty, increasing material benefits to people around the world. But a lot of that growth requires the burning of fossil fuels, and all sorts of extraction of materials from the natural Earth, which seems to counter the push towards environmental sustainability, which is another goal the SDGs, so to me, it’s very hard to keep those two ideas simultaneously in my mind.

Parfait Eloundou  6:09
And that’s to some extent, the creative tension that the world as a whole must negotiate. And scientists in particular play a role in helping everyone think about how these two competing or these seemingly competing objectives can come together and there is not actually two there are three. On the one hand, you want to foster growth, but you want to foster growth that is inclusive, and growth that is, let’s say, “green” in the sense that it preserves the environment and that’s not an easy thing to do. And so, I think the challenge is to find solutions that sort of thread the needle between these three competing objectives.

Will Brehm  6:50
Yeah, and I look at like, the protests in France right now, the yellow jacket protests and I just wonder, you know, growth doesn’t seem to be inclusive, there seems to be a lot of people, a huge amount of people around the world that are being sort of excluded from the growth in the economy that we do see. We are seeing economic growth around the world but only for a few people, it seems like that inequality is just really preventing the ability to have inclusive growth.

Parfait Eloundou  7:21
Yes, I think you’re right on two fronts. The first front is just what you said about the rise in inequality, which is a trend that is almost worldwide, especially when we talk about equality within countries. I think, historically, at least over the last 30 years, what has seemed to happen is that at the same time, as the inequality between countries has kind of shrunk a little, there are massive rise in inequality within the countries. And so that is really a challenge. The second point that you actually rightly point to is the fact that growth, or at least inequality can become an impediment to growth. You know, let’s say 50 years ago, the tendency was to assume that if we just grow the pie, if we just grow the economy, if we take care of GDP growth, everything else is going to fall in place. Then you moved into a regime in which well, people kind of acknowledge grudgingly that at the same time as you take care of growth, you also have to worry about inequality, but now we are reaching a stage where the relationship is actually sort of maybe running in the reverse direction. That is actually inequality may be a first-order question that needs to be addressed before you can even think about growth. Otherwise, you may not have the circumstances and conditions, the safety the social contract, the trust, the peace that you need to make any plans for sustainable growth.

Will Brehm  8:58
In your talk today, you mentioned issues of demography. How does demography fit into this issue of inequality?

Parfait Eloundou  9:06
Well, I think if you take demography in a very simple understanding of let’s say, the number of people and if you take the Bentham notion of the ultimate goal being achieving the greatest good for the many, it follows that demography is a great piece of the SDGs equation. Most of the indicators that you see are rates or ratios in which you have population as a denominator, so we want to increase literacy rate, you know, the fraction of people who can read and write vis-a-vis, the number of the total population, the malnutrition rates, mortality rates, all these are basically questions of access relative to the number of people. And so, you have to watch the two pieces of the equation that is the services that you provide, the goods that you produce, versus the people who are entering this system.

Will Brehm  10:09
So we just we’ve I mean, on the one hand, yes, we want to provide the services and better services like education and health and everything else the SDGs proposed, but at the same time, we need to think about that denominator about the total number of people in this world, and that this world, it would be unsustainable to have, say, 50 billion people living on this planet, for instance…

Parfait Eloundou  10:28
For instance, yes, and so but it’s not always, that is starting point. That is to maintain some kind of balance between the resources and people. But the denominator itself is also a little bit complicated, I think, out of the total population, you still need to consider questions about the composition and starting very simply with age composition. So, in a population where you have a majority of people who are extremely young, so as not to be able to work, it’s a different proposition, than if you have a larger share of the population in your adult working ages. And so, you have to consider composition, not just in terms of age, but also in terms of education. So, raising the levels of education and so forth. So, population is both the numbers but also the competition.

Will Brehm  11:23
Yeah, and different countries and regions would have different sort of composition. So, in Japan, for instance, where I live, the composition is heavily skewed towards older people, and they’re having problems of paying for social security systems, and the like. But of course, other regions sort of have a youth bulge and the question is, well, what do these children when they become adults do in this world? So, can you talk a little bit about maybe that sort of phenomenon and the youth bulge in some some regions of the world?

Parfait Eloundou  11:55
Yeah, you’re right, the notion of a youth bulge is basically the situation where you have a large proportion population that is in the young adult ages. And so just to, to stress that population in itself doesn’t give you the full picture. So, these young people have a potential strength in terms of the economy, if they are put to work. On the other hand, if they are not put to work, if they have very limited prospects or employment, they become a source of instability and insecurity. And so, population is always in that sort of contingent situation where its impact in a given society is going to depend on what you make of it.

Will Brehm  12:40
And so, what is the role of education in helping these countries with the youth bulge, allow the children move from school to work?

Parfait Eloundou  12:52
Very, very, very good question. I think the first role is to train them and train them well. And by this, you mean quality of education in the classic skills, but also increasingly embracing soft skills and new skills that are in demand in the labor market. Then education systems maybe called to actually take one step further and get involved in facilitating the transition from school to work. And this is a topic on which I’ve worked a little bit. And it’s, it’s quite a concern in many countries, in Latin American as well, in Sub Saharan Africa, because you have large cohorts of young people who have really completed the course of education but having a very difficult time finding employment. And so, there are many things that happened during that phase, to begin, you have a loss of skills, if you stay out of the labor force for a long time, you may not have the opportunity to acquire new skills, it’s a period of stress, if you’re looking for employment, and not really knowing when the next job is going to be available. It’s also a loss of identity in many ways because having lost identity or the label of a student, now you don’t really have any fallback identity to carry and so that can be a problem, not to mention all the risks that are involved associated with being idle. So, if you leave, you take young adults who leave school at 20-21, this is an age of risk and decision-making choices regarding your health, regarding your consumption, diet, and so forth. And so, making the right choices at this juncture of the life cycle is pretty important. And unless they’re well accompanied, I think it’s a very delicate period.

Will Brehm  14:53
Yeah, and it makes me think about sort of what we call today, the gig economy and how, you know, service sector is so massive in many parts of the world. And part of those services are basically taking “one-off” jobs to deliver food or to do an Uber or what do you know, whatever it is. And so, I just wonder how is the gig economy sort of impacting that work or that school to work transition?

Parfait Eloundou  15:23
Well, I think the flow of information, I mean, to be able to take advantage of that sort of fluid work environment, you have to have a very strong flow of information so that at least the young would-be workers know where the opportunities are and can actually try to compete. And that’s not always the case in the countries that are having the largest youth bulge. And so that’s one first issue. The other issue that I’d like to mention briefly, is, I think when you think about life trajectories and career trajectories, they’ve really been a great elevation of aspirations. I think today’s young adults are very creative, the world is their oyster. And so, they no longer peg their dreams to the local environment, I think they dream big and they dream wide and they dream far and so the restrictions to their local environment become even more restrictive, and or at least felt as being extremely restrictive,

Will Brehm  16:34
That must partly be a result of the very education system.

Parfait Eloundou  16:38
Yes.

Will Brehm  16:39
I mean, it must, it creates sort of this aspirational, this sort of competitive sort of environment among youth thinking, how do I get ahead? And so, sometimes that might mean crossing borders or getting into that sort of global upper-class.

Parfait Eloundou  16:56
Yeah, in that global upper class. Which, again, is partly a fiction, and so the education system plays a part in terms of dealing these aspirations, but you also have the mass media, the Internet, and so you get exposed to sort of a virtual dimension of that global middle class, which, again, is partly fiction.

Will Brehm  17:21
Yeah, it seems like the issue of class is so important in thinking about sustainability. And I wonder, do you know, is UNESCO and the UN and all of the work that’s being done on SDGs, in your opinion, are they bringing in the issue of class well enough, like or is that something that needs a little bit more thought?

Parfait Eloundou  17:44
Yeah, definitely needs a lot more thought. To begin, class has both purely economic and then a cultural dimension. And so, if we just consider the economic dimension, that is just consider the different economic clusters or the difference in salary ranges, I think the discussions of class or the discussions of inequality have for long time shied away from relative disparities and relative deprivation, and just focus on absolute deprivation. In other words, don’t worry about the top 1%, don’t worry about the top 5%, just worry about the bottom 10%, and make sure that you have as few people as you can, that live under $1 a day or $2 a day, right. And so that has been part of the, I wouldn’t say obfuscation but at least part of the orientation. But for whatever it’s worth, there’s just a tremendous yearning for a better future for everybody. In all my years working in development, I have yet to see somebody who would be happy to live with $2 a day, you know, you get them to $2 or $5 a day, and they and they say, you know, that’s, it’s, I’m fine, I’m good, you can rest easy I’ll stay here for the rest of my life that I’ve never personally seen that. And so that, to me, brings the need to sort of confront head on the relative deprivation and the extent to which people can achieve mobility and the terms under which that mobility is achieved. The extent to which this so-called American dream, which is basically a universal dream, which is if you work hard enough, if you apply your talent, if you play by the rules, if you’re dedicated enough, you can aspire to a better future or your children can aspire to a better future. And so that dream is not deferred -I mean, different people have used different terms, you know- as the poet has said is a dream deferred some have seen it as hijacked, but it’s becoming less and less to attain. But what remains, however, and what is sometimes problematic, I don’t know, I mean, it can be seen as problematic is the illusion of a dream. I think, once you, if there was just a clear acknowledgement and a clear understanding, a shared understanding then I think the realistic expectation that you ought to have if you, you know, meet circumstances, A, B and C and D will be to reach let’s say, you know, this income level, and that’s the bar and we set a realistic bar, I think it might be a slightly better situation than to dangle this exceptional success stories that are interesting, or can be inspiring, but a very, very, very, very, very rare.

Will Brehm  21:04
Yeah, I mean, it sounds like what you’re saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that there is a sort of myth of meritocracy,

Parfait Eloundou  21:13
A myth of meritocracy and a myth of extreme mobility. It’s both, you know. There’s this misconception or over-estimation of how far you can go. And at the same time, as there’s a need to debate the terms and the ways in which people may experience that mobility.

Will Brehm  21:33
And I guess what sometimes frustrating about discourses on education is that there’s an assumed belief in meritocracy in the idea of education, that, you know, if you just try hard and you do well, and you increase your test scores, you will get better jobs, you will have better lives, you will, you will be rewarded with what you can receive or what you deserve, because of the hard work you that you put in. And sometimes I feel that that sort of assumption goes uncritiqued.

Parfait Eloundou  22:05
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, education tries, the education system by large tries its best, otherwise it wouldn’t really retain any credibility whatsoever. But it’s true, we have to recognize that this system is not sort of a perfect meritocracy. I mean, I remember even before I could consciously formulate these ideas as a seven-year-old growing up in Cameroon having very good grades, I had excellent grades throughout my entire curriculum but at the same time, knowing full well that I had many friends that I knew were smarter than me, but for some reason, didn’t get good grades. And so, to me, it was always a problem I said, I just could not understand reconcile the two: the belief in meritocracy, but also the awareness of my close friend’s intelligence. And so, I think the way you make sense of it is that the school system recognizes some forms of intelligence at the expense of others, sometimes those forms of intelligence that are recognized, maybe functional, i. e, for society, that is the skills or the talents that are most useful in society at a given point but sometimes it may not really be the case. I think, and so the real debate is, number one, to what extent what we learn in school is really what you need to learn to be a good worker, to be a good citizen, to be a good parent, to be a good neighbor, and B: to what extent the school system sort of set a level playing field in which everybody gets treated the same. I said before, that teachers and school systems really try hard I can say, because I’ve been a teacher for a long time, but at the same time, you have all these unconscious biases that creep in. I mean, if you see a student, you know, always toy these ideas, and you have to fight against that constantly. If you see a student wearing glasses and looking sort of poised and attentive during your classes, there’s a tendency to assume that they are a good student or smart student. On the other hand, if you see a student slumped in their chair, you may make different kind of inference. And it may well be that this is a super smart student who happened to just be bored by your class. And this is just one example. And you have all the other circumstances and baggage and disadvantages that students bring into the class. You know, the family environment where they come from, the backgrounds the neighborhoods they come from, the resources or lack of that they bring to the classroom make it difficult for schools to be a perfect meritocracy. And so how to fix that is quite a challenge.

Will Brehm  25:05
Well, Parfait Eloundou, we’ll have to answer that question another time. So, thank you very much for joining FreshEd. It really was a pleasure to talk.

Parfait Eloundou  25:12
Oh, it was a pleasure, the pleasure was all mine.

Will Brehm 1:28
Parfait Elondou, bienvenue à Fresh Ed.

Parfait Eloundou 1:46
Merci.

Will Brehm 1:48
Donc, nous sommes ici à Bruxelles, à la réunion sur l’éducation mondiale et je voudrais juste démarrer par une question très générale : Comment définiriez-vous la durabilité ? Que signifie la durabilité pour vous ?

Parfait Eloundou 2:00
Oh, c’est une question très pertinente. Je veux dire, la durabilité, je dirais que c’est le fait de prendre le développement dans une perspective à long terme et de prêter attention à un type différent de norme, pas seulement aux objectifs immédiats, mais à la mesure dans laquelle les différentes nations et le monde dans son ensemble peuvent soutenir ce que nous essayons d’accomplir. Et vous pouvez envisager la durabilité selon deux dimensions. La première est l’aspect environnemental, qui consiste à conserver les systèmes de vie naturels. Et l’autre est la durabilité sociale, qui permet de maintenir les sociétés en phase et en harmonie, de maintenir le contrat social, de maintenir l’engagement de chacun, de maintenir la viabilité des institutions, etc.

Will Brehm 2:51
Quel rôle joue donc l’éducation dans la compréhension de la durabilité en termes d’environnement, mais aussi de l’aspect social, où l’éducation s’inscrit-elle dans ce tableau ?

Parfait Eloundou 3:02
De manière générale, on peut concevoir l’éducation comme une institution destinée à véhiculer des connaissances, des valeurs, et donc à se reproduire et à innover. Et donc, l’éducation est un mécanisme permettant aux sociétés de se projeter dans l’avenir. En transmettant les compétences à la génération actuelle, vous vous donnez, en tant que société, les moyens de survivre et de vous épanouir tout en avançant. Il y a donc différentes choses que vous voulez transmettre et qui permettent en même temps de modifier l’innovation, et ces choses comprennent donc, encore une fois, comme je l’ai dit, les compétences, la technologie, les valeurs, les connaissances, les valeurs de la citoyenneté, les valeurs de l’intendance, etc. Ainsi, l’éducation est vraiment vitale en tant que mécanisme de reproduction et de projection dans l’avenir.

Will Brehm 4:01
L’éducation est-elle, à votre avis, la solution à certains des problèmes auxquels est confronté le monde du changement climatique, ou, vous savez, le déclin du contrat social ou la montée du nationalisme, ou tous les différents maux sociaux que nous voyons, les maux environnementaux que nous voyons dans le monde, est, à votre avis, l’éducation, une sorte de panacée?

Parfait Eloundou 4:19
Eh bien, la solution est un mot fort, mais l’éducation est un instrument très efficace. Elle ne peut pas être une solution miracle, car son efficacité relative varie d’un endroit à l’autre, et les différentes formes d’éducation varient, et il y aura donc des moments où l’éducation sera la force la plus efficace pour transmettre des compétences. Mais vous pouvez aussi avoir des sociétés qui sont structurées de manière à transmettre des compétences, de la technologie et du savoir-faire, en dehors d’un système d’éducation formel. Mais si vous considérez le monde d’aujourd’hui, parmi toutes les institutions possibles sur lesquelles vous pouvez compter pour faire progresser les SDG comme nous le pensons maintenant, je pense que l’éducation est vraiment un candidat très fort et c’est pourquoi j’étais enthousiaste d’être ici et de voir comment non seulement nous pouvons rénover, relancer l’éducation rurale, mais aussi de voir comment elle s’articule avec d’autres institutions et sociétés.

Will Brehm 5:25
Vous savez, l’une des choses que je confonds parfois avec les buts du développement durable, c’est que, d’une part, il y a cet effort pour atteindre la croissance économique comme moyen de sortir plus de gens de la pauvreté, d’augmenter les avantages matériels pour les gens du monde entier. Mais une grande partie de cette croissance nécessite la combustion de combustibles fossiles et toutes sortes d’extraction de matériaux de la terre naturelle, ce qui semble aller à l’encontre de la poussée vers la durabilité environnementale, qui est un autre but des SDG, donc pour moi, il est très difficile de conserver ces deux idées simultanément dans mon esprit.

Parfait Eloundou 6:09
Et c’est dans une certaine mesure, la tension créative que le monde dans son ensemble doit gérer. Et les scientifiques en particulier jouent un rôle en aidant tout le monde à penser à la façon dont ces deux objectifs concurrentiels ou apparemment concurrents peuvent se rejoindre et qu’il n’y en a pas deux en fait, mais trois. D’une part, vous voulez encourager la croissance, mais vous voulez encourager une croissance qui est inclusive, et une croissance qui est, disons, “verte” dans le sens où elle préserve l’environnement et ce n’est pas une chose facile à faire. Je crois donc que le défi consiste à trouver des solutions qui permettent de faire le lien entre ces trois objectifs concurrents.

Will Brehm 6:50
Oui, et je regarde les manifestations en France en ce moment, les manifestations de la veste jaune et je me demande, vous savez, la croissance ne paraît pas être inclusive, il semble y avoir beaucoup de gens, un grand nombre de gens dans le monde qui sont en quelque sorte exclus de la croissance de l’économie que nous voyons. Nous constatons une croissance économique dans le monde entier, mais pour quelques personnes seulement, il semblerait que l’inégalité empêche vraiment la capacité d’avoir une croissance inclusive.

Parfait Eloundou 7:21
Oui, je crois que vous avez raison sur deux fronts. Le premier front, c’est justement ce que vous avez dit sur l’augmentation des inégalités, qui est une tendance presque mondiale, surtout quand on parle d’égalité à l’intérieur des pays. Je pense qu’historiquement, du moins au cours des 30 dernières années, ce qui paraît se produire, c’est que dans le même temps, alors que l’inégalité entre les pays a en quelque sorte diminué, il y a une augmentation massive de l’inégalité à l’intérieur des pays. C’est donc un véritable défi. Le deuxième point que vous mentionnez à juste titre est le fait que la croissance, ou du moins l’inégalité, peut devenir un obstacle à la croissance. Vous savez, disons qu’il y a 50 ans, la tendance était de penser que si nous nous contentons de faire croître la tarte, si nous nous contentons de faire croître l’économie, si nous nous occupons de la croissance du PIB, tout le reste va se mettre en place. Puis on est passé à un régime dans lequel les gens reconnaissent à contrecœur qu’en même temps qu’on s’occupe de la croissance, il faut aussi s’inquiéter des inégalités, mais nous arrivons maintenant à un stade où la relation va peut-être dans le sens inverse. En fait, l’inégalité est peut-être une question de premier ordre qu’il faut régler avant même de penser à la croissance. Sinon, vous risquez de ne pas avoir les circonstances et les conditions, la sécurité, le contrat social, la confiance, la paix dont vous avez besoin pour planifier une croissance durable.

Will Brehm  8:58
Dans votre discours d’aujourd’hui, vous avez évoqué les questions de démographie. Comment la démographie s’inscrit-elle dans cette question de l’inégalité?

Parfait Eloundou 9:06
Eh bien, je crois que si vous prenez la démographie dans une compréhension très simple de disons, le nombre de personnes et si vous prenez la notion Bentham du but ultime étant d’atteindre le plus grand bien pour le plus grand nombre, il s’ensuit que la démographie est un grand morceau de l’équation des SDG. La plupart des indicateurs que vous voyez sont des taux ou des ratios dont le dénominateur est la population, donc nous voulons accroître le taux d’alphabétisation, vous savez, la fraction de personnes qui savent lire et écrire par rapport au nombre de la population totale, les taux de malnutrition, les taux de mortalité, tous ces éléments sont essentiellement des questions d’accès par rapport au nombre de personnes. Et donc, vous devez surveiller les deux éléments de l’équation qui sont les services que vous proposez, les biens que vous produisez, par rapport aux personnes qui entrent dans ce système.

Will Brehm 10:09
Donc nous avons juste, je veux dire, d’une part, oui, nous voulons offrir les services et de meilleurs services comme l’éducation et la santé et tout le reste que les SDG ont suggéré, mais en même temps, nous devons repenser à ce dénominateur concernant le nombre total de personnes dans ce monde, et que ce monde, il serait insupportable d’avoir, disons, 50 milliards de personnes vivant sur cette planète, par exemple…

Parfait Eloundou 10:28
Par exemple, oui, et donc mais ce n’est pas toujours, c’est le point de départ. C’est pour conserver une sorte d’équilibre entre les ressources et les personnes. Mais le dénominateur lui-même est aussi un peu difficile, je pense, sur la population totale, il faut encore envisager des questions de composition et débuter très simplement avec la composition par âge. Ainsi, dans une population où la majorité des personnes sont extrêmement jeunes, afin de ne pas pouvoir travailler, c’est une proposition différente que si vous avez une plus grande part de la population en âge de travailler. Et donc, vous devez considérer la composition, non seulement en termes d’âge, mais aussi en termes d’éducation. Il faut donc élever les niveaux d’éducation, etc. Ainsi, la population est à la fois un chiffre et une concurrence.

Will Brehm 11:23
Oui, et différents pays et régions auraient une composition différente. Au Japon, par exemple, où je vis, la composition de la population est largement orientée vers les personnes âgées, et elles ont des problèmes pour payer les systèmes de sécurité sociale, etc. Mais bien sûr, d’autres régions ont une sorte d’explosion de la jeunesse et la question est de savoir ce que font ces enfants quand ils deviennent adultes dans ce monde. Pouvez-vous nous parler un peu de ce genre de phénomène et de l’explosion de la jeunesse dans certaines régions du monde?

Parfait Eloundou  11:55
Oui, vous avez raison, la notion d’explosion de la jeunesse est essentiellement la situation dans laquelle vous avez une grande proportion de la population qui est en âge de devenir un jeune adulte. Et donc, juste pour souligner que la population en elle-même ne vous donne pas une image complète. Ces jeunes ont donc une force potentielle en termes d’économie, s’ils sont mis au travail. D’un autre côté, s’ils ne sont pas mis au travail, s’ils ont des perspectives ou un emploi très limités, ils deviennent une source d’instabilité et d’insécurité. Ainsi, la population est toujours dans ce genre de situation incertaine où son impact dans une société donnée va dépendre de ce que vous en faites.

Will Brehm 12:40
Et donc, quel est le rôle de l’éducation pour aider ces pays à faire face à l’explosion de la jeunesse, à permettre aux enfants de passer de l’école au travail ?

Parfait Eloundou 12:52
Très, très, très bonne question. Je pense que le premier rôle est de les former et de bien les former. Et par là, vous voulez dire la qualité de l’éducation dans les compétences classiques, mais aussi de plus en plus dans les compétences non techniques et les nouvelles compétences qui sont demandées sur le marché du travail. Les systèmes d’éducation sont alors peut-être appelés à faire un pas de plus et à s’impliquer pour favoriser la transition entre l’école et le travail. Et c’est un sujet sur lequel j’ai un peu travaillé. Et c’est une préoccupation dans de nombreux pays, en Amérique latine aussi, en Afrique subsaharienne, parce qu’il y a de grandes cohortes de jeunes qui ont vraiment terminé leurs études mais qui ont beaucoup de mal à trouver un emploi. Et donc, il y a beaucoup de choses qui se passent pendant cette phase, pour débuter, vous avez une perte de compétences, si vous restez hors de la population active pendant une longue période, vous n’avez peut-être pas la possibilité d’acquérir de nouvelles compétences, c’est une période de stress, si vous cherchez un emploi, et vous ne savez pas vraiment quand le prochain emploi sera disponible. C’est aussi une perte d’identité à bien des égards, car après avoir perdu votre identité ou l’étiquette d’étudiant, vous n’avez plus vraiment d’identité de repli à porter et cela peut donc être un problème, sans parler de tous les risques liés à l’oisiveté. Donc, si vous partez, vous prenez les jeunes adultes qui quittent l’école à 20-21 ans, c’est un âge de risque et de choix de décision concernant votre santé, concernant votre consommation, votre alimentation, etc. Il est donc très important de faire les bons choix à ce stade du cycle de vie. Et s’ils ne sont pas bien accompagnés, je pense que c’est une période très délicate.

Will Brehm  14:53
Oui, et cela me fait penser à ce que nous appelons aujourd’hui l’économie du spectacle et à la façon dont, vous savez, le secteur des services est si important dans de nombreuses régions du monde. Et une partie de ces services consiste essentiellement à prendre des emplois “ponctuels” pour distribuer de la nourriture ou pour faire un Uber ou quoi que ce soit d’autre. Et donc, je me demande comment l’économie du spectacle a un impact sur ce travail ou sur la transition de l’école au travail ?

Parfait Eloundou 15:23
Eh bien, je crois que le flux d’informations, je veux dire, pour pouvoir profiter de ce genre d’environnement de travail fluide, il faut avoir un flux d’informations très fort afin qu’au moins les jeunes travailleurs potentiels sachent où sont les opportunités et puissent réellement tenter d’être compétitifs. Et ce n’est pas toujours le cas dans les pays qui connaissent la plus forte explosion de la jeunesse. C’est donc une première question. L’autre question que j’aimerais aborder brièvement, c’est que je pense que lorsque vous pensez aux trajectoires de vie et de carrière, elles ont vraiment été une grande élévation des aspirations. Je pense que les jeunes adultes d’aujourd’hui sont très créatifs, le monde est leur huître. Et donc, ils ne rattachent plus leurs rêves à l’environnement local, je pense qu’ils rêvent grand et ils rêvent large et ils rêvent loin et donc les restrictions à leur environnement local deviennent encore plus restrictives, et ou du moins ressenties comme étant extrêmement restrictives,

Will Brehm 16:34
Cela doit être en partie le résultat du système éducatif lui-même.

Parfait Eloundou 16:38
Oui.

Will Brehm 16:39
Je veux dire, ça doit, ça crée une sorte d’aspiration, une sorte d’environnement compétitif chez les jeunes qui pensent, comment puis-je progresser ? Et donc, parfois, cela peut impliquer de traverser des frontières ou d’entrer dans cette sorte de classe supérieure mondiale.

Parfait Eloundou 16:56
Oui, dans cette classe supérieure mondiale. Le système éducatif joue un rôle dans la concrétisation de ces aspirations, mais il y a aussi les médias, l’Internet, et on est exposé à une dimension virtuelle de cette classe moyenne mondiale, qui est en partie une fiction.

Will Brehm 17:21
Oui, il paraît que la question de la classe est très significative dans la réflexion sur la durabilité. Et je me demande, savez-vous si l’UNESCO et l’ONU et tout le travail qui est fait sur les SDG, à votre avis, fournissent suffisamment la question de la classe, comme ou est-ce quelque chose qui a besoin d’être un peu plus réfléchi ?

Parfait Eloundou 17:44
Oui, il faut vraiment penser un peu plus. Pour commencer, la classe a une dimension à la fois purement économique et ensuite culturelle. Et donc, si l’on considère seulement la dimension économique, c’est-à-dire si l’on considère seulement les différents pôles économiques ou la différence des échelles de salaires, je crois que les discussions de classe ou les discussions sur l’inégalité ont longtemps évité les disparités relatives et les privations relatives, et se sont juste concentrées sur les privations absolues. En d’autres termes, ne vous préoccupez pas du 1% supérieur, ne vous préoccupez pas des 5% supérieurs, préoccupez-vous seulement des 10% inférieurs, et assurez-vous que vous avez le moins de personnes possible, qui vivent avec moins d’un dollar par jour ou deux dollars par jour, c’est vrai. Cela a donc fait partie, je ne dirais pas de l’obscurcissement, mais au moins d’une partie de l’orientation. Mais quoi qu’il en soit, il y a un énorme désir d’un meilleur avenir pour tout le monde. Pendant toutes mes années de travail dans le développement, je n’ai jamais vu quelqu’un qui serait heureux de vivre avec 2 $ par jour, vous savez, vous leur donnez 2 ou 5 $ par jour, et ils disent, vous savez, c’est, c’est, je vais bien, je vais bien, vous pouvez vous reposer, je vais rester ici pour le reste de ma vie que je n’ai jamais vu personnellement. Et donc, pour moi, cela amène le besoin de faire face à la privation relative et à la mesure dans laquelle les gens peuvent atteindre la mobilité et les conditions dans lesquelles cette mobilité est atteinte. La mesure dans laquelle ce soi-disant rêve américain, qui est fondamentalement un rêve universel, c’est-à-dire si vous travaillez suffisamment, si vous appliquez votre talent, si vous respectez les règles, si vous êtes suffisamment dévoué, vous pouvez aspirer à un avenir meilleur ou vos enfants peuvent aspirer à un avenir meilleur. Et donc ce rêve n’est pas différé- je veux dire, différentes personnes ont utilisé différents termes, vous savez – comme l’a dit le poète est un rêve différé ; certains l’ont vu comme détourné, mais il devient de moins en moins à atteindre. Mais ce qui reste, cependant, et ce qui est parfois problématique, je ne sais pas, je veux dire, on peut le considérer comme problématique, c’est l’illusion d’un rêve. Je pense qu’une fois que vous, s’il y avait juste une reconnaissance claire et une compréhension claire, une compréhension partagée, alors je pense que l’attente réaliste que vous devriez avoir si vous, vous savez, rencontrez les circonstances, A, B et C et D sera d’atteindre disons, vous savez, ce niveau de revenu, et c’est la barre et nous fixons une barre réaliste, je crois que ce serait peut-être une situation légèrement meilleure que de brandir ces réussites exceptionnelles qui sont intéressantes, ou peuvent être inspirantes, mais une très, très, très, très, très, très rare.

Will Brehm  21:04
Oui, je veux dire, on dirait que ce que vous dites, et rectifiez-moi si je me trompe, c’est qu’il existe une sorte de mythe de la méritocratie,

Parfait Eloundou 21:13
Un mythe de la méritocratie et un mythe de l’extrême mobilité. C’est les deux. Il y a cette idée fausse ou cette surestimation de la distance que l’on peut parcourir. Et en même temps, il est indispensable de débattre des conditions et des modalités de cette mobilité.

Will Brehm 21:33
Et je présume que ce qui est parfois frustrant dans les discours sur l’éducation, c’est qu’il y a une croyance supposée en la méritocratie dans l’idée de l’éducation, que, vous savez, si vous faites des efforts et que vous réussissez, et que vous améliorez vos résultats aux tests, vous aurez de meilleurs emplois, vous aurez de meilleures vies, vous serez, vous serez récompensé avec ce que vous pouvez recevoir ou ce que vous méritez, grâce au dur labeur que vous avez fourni. Et parfois, j’ai l’impression que ce genre d’hypothèse n’est pas critiqué.

Parfait Eloundou 22:05
Oui, vous avez tout à fait raison. Je veux dire que l’éducation essaie, le système éducatif fait de son mieux, sinon il ne serait pas vraiment crédible. Mais c’est vrai, il faut reconnaître que ce système n’est pas une sorte de méritocratie parfaite. Je veux dire, je me rappelle qu’avant même que je puisse consciemment exprimer ces idées, alors que j’avais sept ans et que je grandissais au Cameroun avec de très bonnes notes, j’avais d’excellentes notes tout au long de mon cursus, mais en même temps, sachant très bien que j’avais beaucoup d’amis que je savais plus malins que moi, mais qui, pour une raison quelconque, n’avaient pas de bonnes notes. Et donc, pour moi, c’était toujours un problème que je disais, je ne pouvais pas comprendre de concilier les deux : la croyance en la méritocratie, mais aussi la conscience de l’intelligence de mon ami proche. Et donc, je pense que la façon dont vous donnez un sens à tout cela, c’est que le système scolaire reconnaît certaines formes d’intelligence au dépens d’autres, parfois ces formes d’intelligence qui sont reconnues, peut-être fonctionnelles, c’est-à-dire, pour la société, ce sont les compétences ou les talents qui sont les plus utiles dans la société à un moment donné mais parfois ce n’est pas vraiment le cas. Je pense, et donc le vrai débat est, premièrement, dans quelle mesure ce que nous apprenons à l’école est vraiment ce que vous devez apprendre pour être un bon travailleur, un bon citoyen, un bon parent, un bon voisin, et B : dans quelle mesure le système scolaire établit en quelque sorte un terrain d’égalité dans lequel tout le monde est traité de la même manière. J’ai déjà dit que les enseignants et les systèmes scolaires font de gros efforts, je peux le dire, parce que je suis enseignant depuis longtemps, mais en même temps, vous avez tous ces préjugés inconscients qui s’insinuent. Je veux dire que si vous voyez un élève, vous savez, vous jouez toujours avec ces idées, et vous devez constamment vous battre contre cela. Si vous voyez un élève qui porte des lunettes et qui a l’air plutôt posé et attentif pendant vos cours, vous avez tendance à croire qu’il est un bon élève ou un élève intelligent. D’un autre côté, si vous voyez un élève affalé sur sa chaise, vous pouvez en tirer des conclusions différentes. Et il se peut très bien que ce soit un élève super intelligent qui se contente de s’ennuyer dans votre classe. Et ce n’est qu’un exemple parmi d’autres. Et vous avez toutes les autres circonstances et tous les autres bagages et désavantages que les élèves apportent dans la classe. Vous savez, l’environnement familial d’où ils viennent, les origines des quartiers dont ils sont issus, les ressources ou le manque de ressources qu’ils apportent dans la classe font qu’il est difficile pour les écoles d’être une méritocratie parfaite. Et donc, comment remédier à cela est tout un défi.

Will Brehm 25:05
Eh bien, Parfait Eloundou, nous devrons répondre à cette question une autre fois. Donc, merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd. C’était vraiment un plaisir de parler.

Parfait Eloundou  25:12
Oh, c’était un plaisir, le plaisir était tout à moi.

Translation sponsored by NORRAG.

Want to help translate this show? Please contact info@freshedpodcast.com

Have any useful resources related to this show? Please send them to info@freshedpodcast.com

Sustainable Development Goal 4 is all about education. Under the goal, there are seven targets, ranging from providing equitable access to education worldwide to making sure students have relevant skills for the future. The most revolutionary yet incredibly complex indicator is 4.7.

My guest today, Aaron Benavot, takes us through the history of target 4.7. How did the international community agree on such a revolutionary target?

Aaron warns us about the future of the target given there is no consensus on how to measure it across countries.

Aaron Benavot is a Professor in the department of educational policy and leadership at the school of education, University at Albany, State University of New York. He was previously the Director of the Global Education Monitoring report.

Citation: Benavot, Aaron, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 141, podcast audio, December 24, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/benavot/

Transcript, translation, and resources: Read more

Today we take stock of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by the United Nations three years ago. With me is Silvia Montoya who is the director of the UNESCO Institute of Statistics. UIS is charged with monitoring a few of the SDGs.

In our conversation, which we had on the sidelines of the Global Education Meeting in Brussels, we dive into the problems and challenges of trying to measure concepts such as literacy, global citizenship, and sustainability.

Today’s episode of FreshEd was made possible through the support of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Tokyo and Education International.

Citation: Montoya, Silvia, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 140, podcast audio, December 17, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/montoya/

Transcript, translation, and resources: Read more

(un.org)

Is there a worldwide learning crisis today? My guest, Keith Lewin, argues that the real issue in much of international education development has to do with financing.

In our conversation, we discuss aid to education and the ways in which the Sustainable Development Goals don’t take the idea of sustainability seriously.

Keith Lewin is an Emeritus Professor of International Education and Development at the University of Sussex

 

Citation: Lewin, Keith, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 138, podcast audio, December 3, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/keithlewin/

Transcript, Translation, & Resources:

Read more

Today we bring you a special episode of FreshEd. With me is Manos Antoninis, the Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report, which was just released.

Each year, UNESCO publishes an editorially-independent Global Education Monitoring Report to monitor the progress towards the education targets in the Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s topic is migration, displacement, and education.

Based on evidence from around the world, the report argues that investing in the education of mobile people can actually create cohesion and peace. Of course, there are many challenges facing children, teachers, policymakers, and society from the displacement and migration of large numbers of people.

The 2019 report is entitled Migration, Displacement, and Education: Building Bridges, not Walls and is available online now.

Citation: Antoninis, Manos, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 136, podcast audio, November 20, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/antoninis/

Transcript, Translation, and Resources: Read more

The images and stories of migrant families being separated by the United States government set off a global conversation about immigration, borders, and justice. If the political philosophy of liberalism is based on liberty and equality, then the events of the past few months have challenged the very core of liberal democratic states.

My guest today is Bruce Collet. He researches migration and public schooling, with a special interest in migration, religion, and schooling in democratic states. He’s thinking through what we might call liberal multiculturalism as well as issues around security.

Bruce Collet is a Professor in Educational Foundations and Inquiry at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He is the author of Migration, Religion, and Schooling in Liberal Democratic States (Routledge, 2018), and Editor of the journal Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education.

Citation: Collet, Bruce, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 121, Podcast audio, July 2, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/brucecollet/

Transcript, translation, and resources:

Read more

Today we look at conditional cash transfers as a global phenomenon of educational development. My guest is Michelle Morais de Sa e Silva.

Michelle has written a new book called Poverty Reduction, Education, and the Global Diffusion of Conditional Cash Transfers, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan. She finds that different political ideologies have been used to justify conditional cash transfers, helping them spread worldwide.

Michelle Morais de Sa e Silva is a Lecturer in International and Area Studies in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

OverviewTranscriptTranslationResources

Photo credit: teacherslifeforme.blogspot.com

Today we continue our exploration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what it means for education. Last week, we looked at comparative education as a field. Today we look at teachers. What are the prospects and perils of the fourth industrial revolution for teachers?

My guest today is Jelmer Evers. Jelmer is a teacher, blogger, writer, and innovator. He teaches history at UniC in the Netherlands and works with Education International, the global federation of teacher unions. He was nominated for the global teacher prize in 2012 and is known for his book called Flip the System.

Today Jelmer and I discuss his new co-edited volume Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Standing at the Precipice, which was published by Routledge earlier this year.

Citation: Evers, Jelmer, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 117, podcast audio, January 4, 2018. www.freshedpodcast.com/jelmerevers

Will Brehm:  1:49
Today, Jelmer and I discussed his new co-edited volume “Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Standing at the Precipice” which was published by Routledge earlier this year. Jelmer Evers, welcome to FreshEd.

Jelmer Evers:  2:04
Thank you. Glad to be here.

Will Brehm:  2:06
Why does it seem like every other news article that I read lately mentions something about the fourth industrial revolution?

Jelmer Evers:  2:15
Yeah, I think you are right. That is also I wrote the book. I think there are several reasons for that. I think there is a general fear of disruption, I think people can see that technology is having a major influence on how we live and work and also in education.

But I don’t think that is just it, not just a fear, which is can be right. I think it’s also to do with sort of, the techno-optimism that is sort of like pervasive in the last 10, 15 years are like a dominance of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship start-up culture.

So technology is cool and happening. If you compare to education, education is sort of still an old school. Sort of this is techno utopianism to it.

I also think, at least from an educational point of view, the idea that technology will make these old progressive dream come true, personalize education, I mean, we have we ever been having these discourses for at least 200 years. If you look back at all these, like, older thinking, and books and articles on education, you can still see the similar languages pop up, and now it has the name Fourth Industrial Revolution, or personalized education to it. I think the idea is and there’s grain of truth in it, that it makes it more easier to allow this to happen, although, with lots of caveats.

Fourthly, and that’s something I only learned, like learn later on at least in my teaching career when you start look outside of the classroom, and schools and system etc. has all these policy networks that are out there that have been out there for a long time, and also have been latching on to sort of like this, this whole techno utopist (view) vision of society and also in education.

So this whole 21st Century Skills debate is predating the idea of the fourth industrial revolution. And that’s already been out there for quite some time, at least in the Netherlands, like early 2000s, we’ve been talking about this, and as a means also for politicians, but also for teachers to push for innovation in education. And now we have this sort of like more profound technological change, which I do think is there embedded into it. So that’s why I think it has become stronger, there’s the sense instead of that there is something going on, and it makes it more easy for these narratives to, from whatever viewpoint to take a look at education in that way. But for me, as well, it’s also part of these bigger, bigger, longer neoliberal discourse that has been going on as well and people have been latching on to it, like I would almost feels like GERM 2.0. like the Global Education Reform Movement, as Pasi Sahlberg points out, and now we’re having sort of like these big tech companies pushing into that space as well. And with this teacher ambassadors, and the Google ambassadors and the Apple ambassadors, and it’s a really powerful narratives are both from an optimistic point of view, but also from a fear point of view. So that’s it. That’s what I think, where I think that’s why it’s there.

Will Brehm:  6:03
So the fourth industrial revolution is about what? What is the revolution?

Jelmer Evers:  6:11
Well, I think you have to also look at who coined the term Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum in a yearly gathering in Davos, mostly by CEOs, and sort of like academics who buy into that stuff.

And his book has been quite influential. So he coined this term, what’s going on, and it’s his idea is that there was the first Industrial Revolution, of course, steam engine and the second one, early 20 century, late 19th century, with electricity, oil, like mass production, the whole birth of the Ford era and Taylorism, but in the 60s with these reflect the birth of the digital age that the more simple digital revolution, which of course, is a major impact on communications are productivity. And now he’s saying there’s a fourth industrial revolution. And it’s sort of like an exponential technology, where different kinds of strands of technological innovations are now being combined, and accelerated. And you have to think about like AI and robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and like quantum computing, those kind of things. And they’re all like interacting with one another. And there are new industrial sectors, like data scientists, those kind of things to do that, it’s ubiquitous all over the place because everybody needs to be a data scientists nowadays.

So and like gene therapy and DNA. And I mean if you look at it for the whole list that he goes through, it is quite remarkable, I think, what is going on. So you definitely cannot discount the technological change that is going on, I can, I think we can see that all around this. But I think he coins towards that there’s this whole political economy sphere and context to it, but he stays within a certain frame. And I think that’s sort of like the biggest issue that we it’s not a technology that we need to tackle per say, it’s more like, who profits from it? Who owns the technology? Who owns the data? That kind of stuff.

Will Brehm:  8:29
And how are people talking about the ways in which the fourth industrial revolution will impact education?

Jelmer Evers:  8:40
That’s a very interesting question. And that brings me back I think, to the progressive strands and philosophy that we have in education. So for example, if you’re looking for, from a really practical point of view, people are really pushing sort of actors, adaptive platforms, these tutoring platforms that can help students learn at their own pace, maybe you don’t need a teacher anymore, maybe the platform is good enough with all the learning materials, the videos, and the readings, the interactivity, that’s more easy to produce. So there’s already been there. But now sort of like with these algorithms and a promise of activity, I think that’s the main focus right now.

And also that’s where it has the biggest impact. And I think there are some, like, for example if you look at like math skills, basic math skills, I see with my own children, so they’re practicing on the internet for the whole, like drill part of education and teaching, it actually helps. It can ease the formative feedback cycle, that’s great with children work with them on that. So you can outsource a little bit of sort of formative aspect. I think that’s actually a good thing.

But if you look at what kind of articles are you reading, and if teachers will, we will be replaced with AI, and, you know, that kind of stuff. And that’s quite worrying. And it’s completely besides the truth and reality, I think, there are different things going on. But it’s sort of like the basic things. And if you look at the impact of technology in another level, which I think is more progressive is sort of maker education. And so all those technology associated with that as a service with 3D printing, but also like, it’s easy to program, little little computers, etc, those kind of things are having a major impact. And students can be producers, and they can interact with students all over the world, etc. So, I think there is the problem is, there’s this true promise of progressive education, but it’s also sort of like hijacked by more behind the scene by a more standardized form of education. Because if you look at sort of the oldest platforms, they’re trying to sort make these little data points everywhere like the learning goals and then you are run through this maze as a student without the help of any teacher and that sort of like the old standardized dream. So it has this two-face thing to it.

Will Brehm:  11:25
Have you experienced any of these two different faces of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 or whatever it’s called the fourth industrial revolution inside your own classroom?

Jelmer Evers:  11:38
Well, you know, for example, the whole networking, it connects with people all over the world, I can connect with class, with people and other students from all over the world, they are connecting themselves, I mean, I get it, they’re doing it anyway, and I get them anyway.

So that aspect is there, it makes it more easy for me, for example, to create a learning environment where they do have lots of choice, I’m not just fixed to a textbook, for example, while I do also use textbooks, because the students enjoy them, I think working from papers way more efficient than then digital technology that is good or not all these studies that have come out lately that have warned us about sort of like not to go too deep into the digital world, from a learning aspect, but also from an addictive aspect.

So it’s there. And what we’ve also seen is that these types of technologies are being pushed. So we have a major change, we’ve just changed Microsoft, for example, the Microsoft environments, and I don’t think our school which is quite autonomous, and we, as teachers were on board with that you get bombarded with all these actors, policy actors, networks, research people try to sell you stuff. It’s a huge market, also in the Netherlands and more worryingly, I think what we’ve seen, and it was even, I think people from my own school boards were like, part of this, they’re looking into sort of, like, we have a teacher shortage so we can’t pay for it. So we’re going to look at other scenarios. And that means sort of like, and then we’re actually talking about using AI and all these platforms to invest more in that. It will be more cheaper in the long run. So it is definitely affecting us and me still on the ground and lots of different ways, I think.

Will Brehm:  13:44
Do you literally have people coming into your classroom or your school trying to sell you the latest education technology?

Jelmer Evers:  13:52
Well, they’re trying to and trying to approach you, of course, and through different ways, it’s through school leadership, or the board, etc.

I’m usually approached quite often because I write these books and quite well known in the Netherlands, so that sort of like, also, they want to work with us, and we’ve got this product, etc. So that’s definitely a thing.

Will Brehm:  14:14
How does that work? Like, what’s the economy there? Do they want to give you some sort of monetary kickback? Or, like, how does it work?

Jelmer Evers:  14:23
No, no, that’s never the case. That’s the interesting part. And that’s why I always say, No, I said, I mean, I’m happy to consult in any way, as long as you pay me for it. And then usually the conversation stops.

So it’s also a very interesting now it’s just, we give you your, you can try our product for free, and then with your writing little piece on it, or we want to try it out and give us some feedback. So I sort of like free labor kind of thing. So I would say no to that, whilst I do think there are interesting things out there, that definitely help me in my teaching, but it’s definitely a big thing, you can see the major publishers moving from textbooks towards they’re all trying to create this platform, and sort of like trying to create a monopoly and like the major book distributor. And you can see that there are really changing their course, into a sort of, like, a platform kind of way. And they’re actually so big, that they might have a chance for that in the Netherlands.

Will Brehm:  15:26
What is the platform by the way?

Jelmer Evers:  15:28
It’s sort of like, where content’s almost free, but where you want to be where the interaction is ready, where you can gather data, and sort that data and so that’s, you know, that’s sort of, like, if you look at Uber and Airbnb, etc, so they don’t own anything anymore. They don’t own the books anymore. But he might not even own a company anymore. As long as you have enough people on a platform, and it gathers data so that’s a revenue stream, and huge revenue streams for Facebook and Twitter, etc. So, or also doing. And if you have all these learning interactions, then you’ve got all these data points, you can fill this correlations and then you can sell this as look, we know that this works, they don’t really know what works because just the correlation but that’s the days they’re sending a sort of like this model of learning also still don’t know a lot about learning. So that’s sort of like if you can occupy that space. And a lot of people are trying to do that.

Will Brehm:  16:28
So let me just try and get my head wrapped around this. The idea here is that there are these companies, these education businesses that are creating online platforms that they are trying to get students to use and teachers to use. And then while they’re using these platforms that offer all sorts of content, like you said, maybe that has been developed for free externally, they then are collecting data points on how the students interact, and use that material, and then somehow analyze it, and then sell the analysis back to the school. That is the revenue?

Jelmer Evers:  16:39
Yeah, so those kind of things, and also for other products. So you can build off products on that platform as well. And what I’ve been looking for, for example, so I’ve been using all these different kinds of tools, extra credit, and we’ve got a virtual learning environment and all these other things, but they’re not talking to one another. So for me, it would be really useful to have a single point of view that like people are talking about dashboards, for example, learning dashboards. If you can organize that, and then you become sort of like the Spotify of education because you’re already entry point to everything. So you can ask revenue from the people that are providing apps. So you can you can ask for like, small fee from the schools and the students, you can sell your data to other companies again, so this is sort of like how people learn. So that’s sort of like the whole that’s what a lot of companies are trying to do around the world at the moment even in the developing world.

Will Brehm:  17:01
And these sort of companies are I mean, they’re obviously working inside public schools as well. Is that correct?

Jelmer Evers:  18:08
Yeah. So (we have we haven’t) we have a little bit more of a different system in the Netherlands it’s completely privatized nonprofit but that’s more from a historical point of view so it was that religious education was funded just like public education and you know the whole Neoliberal reforms in the end of the 90s early 2000s every school was privatized but with a really strong accountability system Inspectorate etc. Profit is like a big no go, although we have a lot of scandals here in the Netherlands, increasingly, so.

So it is we still consider it public, but a lot of people don’t know how privatized it actually is. And it also makes it more easy to sell this kind of stuff. So if you look at how the government operates, when they’re talking about ICT and ethic and they’re creating these policies, the only people they’re talking to, are actually like the representatives on our boards, like way high up, and the publishers and the ethic people and technology people. So teachers don’t have any say, or schools themselves don’t have any say in those policy networks. They are huge, are well funded. And they know how to approach the ministry, etc. And so it’s been quite worrying. And I’ve been, as a teacher be quite disgusted by the whole direction that has taken the last like eight years or so.

Will Brehm:  19:24
And what direction has that taken in the last eight years?

Jelmer Evers:  19:28
I think we’ve managed to stop a lot of neoliberal discourse, like the standardized testing and the top down managerial sort of like culture that is sort of completely embedded in our schools. I think we’ve managed to stop that. But the whole privatization aspect of it and the whole more it’s more easy to start schools and then people want to do away with the central exams, it becomes more easy to penetrate sort of like our school system through these networks, where our teachers don’t have any say. So I took the whole public aspect of our system is broken without it being really clear to people. So for me, that’s sort of an example of what you see around going on around the world, not just in the Netherlands, it’s happening in a strong system like the Netherlands where you can imagine and you know what’s going on in the United States, but also in the developing world and in African countries, but also Asian countries. I mean, it’s huge and well organized like I see here in the Netherlands as well. So let’s that’s going against I think, I think we’ve another one a lot of sort of, like discourse battles against sort of like that’s how standardized narrative and now we’re up against a new sort of like narrative. And it’s not on a lot of people’s radars. It’s progressive side to it. And that makes it more difficult to counter I think and even be aware of it.

Will Brehm:  20:58
How would you define that progressive side?

Jelmer Evers:  21:01
What do you mean like?

Will Brehm:  21:04
Well, you were saying that education technology sort of furthers the privatization efforts inside schools, not only in the Netherlands, but around the world, and you’re trying to in a sense mobilize against that movement. But because perhaps education technology has this progressive side to it and makes it a little more difficult to mobilize that resistance, can you talk a little bit about that progressive side?

Jelmer Evers:  21:35
Everybody wants to personalize as you want to bring out the talent of the individual student, that’s a given. That’s sort of like one of the major goals, that’s what we do as teachers. If you want to try to build a good relationship, you want to see what’s in there, what comes out of it and improve on that you want to give him every attention or her every attention that he can. So if somebody says, well, here’s the solution that we can give you a real personalized education. Well, before it was just a standard industrial, Prussian solution which is complete nonsense, of course model well it’s based on a faulty premise, that it’s just sort of like jumping through hoops and running through a small like, standardized maze, that it’s sort of like standardized education in disguise, and in another ways. And it’s also like, at least in the Netherlands, and I think definitely in the West, a formative assessment has really taken off in classrooms, and teachers are really aware of it. And I think more research informed on these kinds of developments. And it also buys into that kind of narrative. And it actually helps I’m not against that, per se. But if people then take it to the next level, and start replacing, and like a narrative replacing teachers, and we don’t need teachers anymore, or they’re even better than teachers then it becomes really, really problematic, because those technologies can do that whatsoever at all. If you look at sort of, like what AI experts are saying, it can do and really specific thing really, really well.

But a job and especially in education is so much more than that. And it also has to do with empathy and ethics and morals and bringing up the child as a society, and I sort of like as a and the school is also a small community where it creates sort of like new communities and prepares him for a wider world, which isn’t just about economics and jobs.

So if you, I mean, artificial intelligence can never do that. At least definitely not for the coming 50 years. If you look at all these what AI experts are saying. But at the same time, if you don’t open up, like the times education supplement, for example, it says, well, we need to be really afraid of AI, because they’re going to replace us in that’s just not true. So where’s this narrative just coming from, and then it becomes more easy to sell this kind of things well. But we’re personalized, and how can you be against personalizing education.

So that’s sort of like the real difficult thing I think people are grappling with. And if you’re also then offered incentives to be part of a global network that you can visit conferences, and it’s being paid for, etc. So like, our teachers are now also sort of like in these corporate networks and big tech networks, and that those are the best-funded teacher networks around the world. And they’re having this corporate there, they’re now having a corporate identity instead of a professional identity. So that’s, you know, those are the dynamics that are going on under the heading of personalized education.

Will Brehm:  24:50
It seems slightly analogous to the way in which medical or pharmaceutical companies sort of engage with the medical profession.

Jelmer Evers:  25:01
Yeah, I think there’s definitely and I hadn’t really thought about that way yet. I will have to pursue that as well, I definitely think that’s, that’s the case, and I’ve got a few of my friends are general practitioners, and they definitely have an issue with it. And I know there’s a whole internal debate, like from a professional point of view, but there are lots of people who are buying into the system that goes, you know, it gives them opportunities, it gives them a platform, and it’s the same kind of dynamics. And the problem is, like, the people who are fighting for public education are always underfunded, less network, we’re not at the vows, so to speak. So yet, so that’s you know, and you want to get your voice out. And actually, a lot of people are doing good work. And some of you know, some of the lesson plans that are that they’re talking about, and, and pushing out and really valuable. But if they’re part of this bigger discourse, and I read a, there was a series of the New York Times about these networks, but this kind of networks how Google and Microsoft and Apple are opening up their schools to sell their products.

I don’t think we, as a profession, we have had a real genuine discussion about this. And it also becomes that we’re because we were quite a weak profession, I think, in another sense that we don’t have standard lots of standards, professional bodies, unions have been focusing on bread and butter issues, and it should be way, way wider than they do now. So there’s so many things that we still need to organize around and do and we need to do it globally, I think. It is a global discussion, because these operators, they all operate on a global level. So you can never do it in on a national level, or just on a national level.

So yeah, that’s sort of like the, there are so many things that you need to be involved in. And if you’re, then as a teacher, for example being educated as just focusing on pedagogy and just focusing on the classroom, and you’re not sort of like, brought into this wider discussion, it makes it really hard for people to resist. And that’s also what happened, I think, in the 90s and the 2000s people were, teachers were really being pushed back into the classroom and just sort of like it, then you’ll be, you have to do it you’re told, so this whole history that we’ve had, at least in the 80s and 70s and 60s and more critical pedagogy, but also, like, a really strong profession that’s also being has been undermined. So it sort of makes it really hard to fight back, I think, on these issues.

Will Brehm:  27:41
And so what can teachers do? I mean, if they had, say, a stronger profession, or more professionalized like you were saying, and these global networks, teachers still need to be very literate in all of this new technology, and have a voice at the table, in a sense on how it can be incorporated. So in a sense, how do teachers in your perspective, sort of resist or engage with this large network of education businesses that are in a sense spearheading this fourth industrial revolution?

Jelmer Evers:  28:22
Well, first thing is, I think there’s the idea of a network teacher is really powerful. So they’re actually tapping into something that is really worthwhile. I think, also, if you look at professional development, and why teachers stay in the classroom, that is networking aspect, and collaborative learning is extremely powerful. It’s probably one of the best ways to retain teachers as well, but also for us to become better as a profession. So I think what we need to do is sort of like, try to find ways to support those networks. But then also when we start talking about pedagogy, and good and what is good pedagogy, educational technology, formative assessment, we also start to sort of like pushing these narratives, what education is for, what are all the actors involved in education, what kind of role are you taking, so the networks are always there. And there’s this really powerful network here in the Netherlands, but globally, and I’m talking to teachers from United States, Australia, Africa, African countries, like Uganda, South Africa. So I mean, we’re already connected. It’s just that it doesn’t have a real organizing bit to it. And that’s what I think we’re old fashioned unions that unionism comes in. And I think they need to take a wider approach from just focusing on salaries, for example, or workloads, it’s about being a profession. And I think a lot of unions have already had that, but they also sort of like, let themselves be pushed into this, no more narrow narrative. But just focusing on grassroots networks is not good enough. If you look at sort of, like the field revolutions in the Middle East, the occupy movement, etc.
So if there’s no powerful, political, organized, well-funded movements, combined with this, sort of, like more grassroots network, social media kind of activism. If you can combine those things, I think you have a really, really good chance of sort of, like changing the narrative and our own sort of like what we’ve learned here, at least in the Netherlands, if you if you have a powerful narrative, and if you’re going to influence the general public, you can turn those things around. So we moved away from standardized testing. And I think there’s, there’s a distant, a new sort of, like, powerful grassroots movement and Facebook group that popped up, and they were sort of like a catalyst for a national strike. And you’ve seen those things pop up in the United States as well. So if they’re even comes from like, the, the core of the resistance, like in the, in the red states, Red for Ed. So I think everything is there already, I think, but we need to be more conscious of this. And I think it also starts with being in teacher education.

I don’t think I was sort of educated enough of being (in English or not being) that I was part of a profession and being proud of being part of the profession, what does it mean to go beyond your classroom, and that’s something that we need to take up as well, start with, you know, the people entering into our profession and taking this more holistic approach. And I think everything so I’m quite optimistic actually, that we can achieve change, like flipping the system, that’s what we call it and putting the teachers at this center of it. And because I’ve already seen so many positive changes within schools themselves in school district, but also even on a national level, like New Zealand started turning back on lots of like, toxic neoliberal reforms just recently, so that’s sort of like gives me a lot of optimism that we can turn this around, but it does need to be a conscious effort. And, and that’s we’re still not at that stage. And that’s what we need to push for.

Will Brehm:  32:21
It seems like you’re also advocating for flipping the narrative of the fourth industrial revolution from either techno pessimism or seeing technology as some utopia to actually saying, Wait a second, humans use technology, and it has to, therefore be a political process as to how we use it to sort of flip the narrative completely.

Jelmer Evers:  32:47
Yeah, exactly. And it’s, you know, I’m not a Luddite. I love work, I actually came into, like, education, innovation. I think, like most teachers, through educational technology, that’s a starting point for new apps and new things that you want to try out and actually see, that’s working. And so their technology in itself is not bad. But if you look at sort also how the fourth industrial revolution is portrayed, and what kind of people are pushing it, and then definitely, we’re on the wrong track, I think. And although they talk about changing institutions, I don’t think I don’t see a lot of that happening at the moment. And you can also see, and that’s where the teacher strikes in the United States are so instructive. If you start to go for like more 20 century 19th century activism, and like, go back to what unions and activists did in the emancipate themselves in the second half of the 19th century. If you combine that with new technology, you have a really, really powerful for us.
So I think most people are not against the web. So we were Skyping at the moment, you’re in Japan, and I am here in Brussels. So it would be foolish to discount it. But people really like that sort of like, if you either in this camp or in that camp. But if you that’ll makes it really easy to discount the criticisms are they just against technology, we’re not, but we want to use it. And so that everybody can profit from it, or maybe profit not the right word, but help us create a better world and help our students create a better world. And that’s what it should be about. And most of the systems that are being created and are being funded and lobbied for at the moment are going in the wrong direction including international organizations and big corporations etc.

So if we state that technology is neutral, we can use either for good or for bad, then we are on the right track. But it also needs to be embedded in sort of re-evaluation of the public goods. So if you’ve looked at sort of like, I think if you look at, for example, in economics, that narrative is gaining momentum in ways which I haven’t seen, like in the 70s or 60s, I think when change was dominant. So with Piketty and Dani Rodrik and all these people like really advocating for reassessing how we look at society and economics and politics, etc. So that’s already happening as well. And we need to tap into that, I think, in education, and what like what we flip the system here in the Netherlands and also international those kind of narratives and Pasi Sahlberg and Carol Campbell in Canada and there’s so many people doing the right thing. And systems are also start doing the right thing.

So it’s not that hard to find good examples. It’s just to make more people aware of it and actually start fighting for them. And that there is an alternative out there and it is already working. And that’s, I think, what we if we can, if we can put that into people’s minds, then you can create a really powerful counter movement and a new alternative.

Will Brehm:  35:58
Well, Jelmer Evers, thank you so much for joining FreshEd, and it really was a pleasure to talk today.

Jelmer Evers:  36:03
Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it. So I love to think about it again. Thank you!

Want to help translate this show? Please contact info@freshedpodcast.com 
Have any useful resources related to this show? Please send them to info@freshedpodcast.com