Bristol Conversations in Education - Global Education Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Complexity, systems thinking and social justice
Prof. Leon Tikly
Room 4.10, School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1JA
This event is part of the School of Education's 'Bristol Conversations in Education' seminar series.
Speaker: Prof. Leon Tikly
The aim of the seminar is to consider the relevance of complexity theory for understanding global education policy (GEP) using the recent global shift towards Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as an example. The introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represents a new era in international development. Achieving the education SDG (goal 4) is seen as important in its own and as a means for achieving the other 16 SDGs. Yet the emergence of ESD poses new challenges for the way that we conceptualise GEP that existing accounts seem unable to adequately address. Firstly, it raises questions about the way that ESD is defined in policy terms and the relationship between education and other areas of sustainable economic and socio-cultural development and environmental protection. Secondly, the emergence of ESD raises questions about the nature of the policy-making process itself at different scales from the global to the regional to the local and the relationship between each level. Thirdly, and in the context of Northern-led, market-driven globalisation, ESD raises questions about the nature of global inequality and the implications for global social justice including the unequal role of different actors in shaping GEP at different levels and the role of GEP in reproducing and/or overcoming inequalities in educational opportunity and outcome including those based on class, ‘race’, ethnicity and gender.
In the seminar Leon will argue that concepts arising from complexity theory including the idea of adaptive systems, positive and negative feedback, multi-causality, global waves, pathway dependency and tipping points provide useful ways of conceiving the inherently non-linear nature of the policy-making process and the dynamic, multi-causal relationship between education and other economic, social and environmental systems. It will also be suggested, however, that complex systems do not operate on a level playing field and that to understand the relationship between GEP and different kinds of inequality requires taking account of the operation of different kinds of power in processes of global governance and the nature of world order. The seminar will conclude by sketching out some of the broad implications of complexity theory for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers.