VIII Forum on Education (VII). New landscapes and new requirements for Education and their professionals

Notes from the Forum on Education. Innovation and networking, organized by the Institute of Education Sciences (ICE-UAB) and the Institute of Government and Public Policies (IGOP), and held in Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain, in January 10 and 11, 2014. More notes on this event: forumedu2014.

Round table: New landscapes and new requirements for Education and their professionals.
Chairs: Jordi Collet, professor of the Departament of Pedagogy, Universitat de Vic.

Ismael Peña-López, professor of Public Policies for Development, UOC; Director of Open Innovation, Fundació Jaume Bofill.

Joan Subirats, professor of the Departament of Political Science and Public Law, UAB, and researcher at IGOP.

Fordism put us into massification, by standadizing many processes and outputs. Digitization puts us into individual needs and emotions.

Our present is a public national educational system, to educate masses, and fostered by the State. But the idea of nation is questioned, the idea of system is opposed to network, the idea of masses goes against personalization. Heterogeneity is here to stay.

If what is “public” is in crisis because of the crisis of the state (or the nation-states), how can we vindicate public education, what is public, from the individual point of view? or from the collective but non-governmental point of view?

The concept of expertise, of the expert, is also challenged.

Bauman: how to build intelligent missiles that change their trajectory as targets move or change. How do we maintain an educational structure that is notwithstanding able to adapt to the always changing targets and environment. Can we create cooperating universities? Or universities that are cooperatives?

How can we make up new methodologies and structures and, more important, how can we generate agreements and consensus on how to sustain these new methodologies and structures.


Jordi Collet: is innovation ideologically neutral? Subirats: surely not. Peña-López: as innovation is the application of technology, and technology is the realization of science, it is very difficult to avoid adding ideology in each step of application.

Jordi Collet: how to go from theory to practice? Peña-López: 1) creating spaces of conversation, of sharing, enabling platforms, networks; 2) accelerate conversation; 3) foster skills to learn how to learn. Subirats: combining self-learning and processes of collaborative building.

Ramon Grau: how do we spread the gospel of innovation? how do we tear down the ancient regime? Peña-López: it may be just to soon for many people to acknowledge changes. It will take time and pedagogy. Subirats: raising awareness on new practices, new ways of doing things.

Q: How do we foster critical thinking and critical use of technology and networks? Peña-López: we should apply technology to improve training of trainers so that those can improve learning methodologies that can act upon pre-existing inequalities, as the knowledge gap hypothesis has evidenced again and again.

Joan Badia: How do we educate for uncertainty? what happens with values? Peñ-López: same answer as before: the Internet multiplies inequalities and values. We should act on the substrate at least to change the sign from negative to positive, so that when we multiply we are multiplying in positive. But changing or transferring values with technology and methodologies may not be the best way to change them. Subirats: fostering the idea that education is a common good (not a “public” good), and that it is in the interest of everyone to take care of it, to make it possible, to build it.

IX Fòrum Educació (2014)

PostDem (II). Joan Subirats: Governance. The Third Axis

Notes from the Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance conference, organized by the CUIMPB and the Communication and Civil Society program. Held in Barcelona, Spain, the 17th August 2013. More notes on this event: postdem.

Joan Subirats. Governance. The Third Axis.

(Subirats’s session begins at 47:00.)

The separation of powers is based on the idea that powers are not to be trusted, but that they can be controlled by the other powers. The role of the government, in this scenario, is to represent those who are absent when and where they are not present. The government had two main components:

  • Competence: finding the solution or person that most fits for a given issue.
  • Hierarchy: sorting, according to the values, the several issues to be solved, including the ones that will solve them. It is thus a hierarchy of problems and people/institutions.

Is that still so? There is a growing problem with the definition of competences. More than levels of governments we should be speaking of spheres of government. Things have become complex.

Complexity has grown:

  • The heterogeneity of the population has increased notably. There are no more two social classes but many more and more difficult to be defined or delimited. This has created a more fragmented society.
  • The action of government has much more externalities (e.g. NIMBY syndrome). And the problem is that speaking with the affected stakeholders may not solve the issue, as the fragmentation of the society means that these stakeholders may not be representing all their peers.
  • We have grown in knowledge, but only to have less certainties: we know have complex answers for complex problems, and not simple solutions for simple problems. Tame problems have become wicked problems. More knowledge often implies that decisions are harder to make… and can end up not being taken.
  • Authoritarianism is becoming less accepted. Hierarchy and power is not enough, and people ask for deliberation and founded arguments.

We used to see power as status, and related with occupying an institution: the one who was sitting on an institution was the powerful one. But now, power is being able to exercise influence over the ones who make decisions or over the ones that have an influence over the ones who make decisions.

Thus, old politics is very concerned in occupying positions of power, of occupying institutions. And they work for the preservation of institutions and institutionalism. Institutionalising institutionalism: insiders vs. outsiders, decision-makers vs. normal citizens.

When some citizens state that you do not represent us they mean that (1) you are not answering my needs and (2) you are too different to me, and thus sure have different interests than I do.

What is changing?

There is a growing acknowledgement that “Politics” does not only happen within institutions, but also outside of them, on the streets, all the time. Politics do not end at parliaments and political parties, but outside of them.

This spreading of politics in everyday life, means also that vertical or homogeneous ideologies are less useful to provide answers or even to provide a good diagnosis of the issues at stake. It is no more about synchronicity, but about convenience, about flexibility.

In a network, authority is granted by peers, and not given by occupying a certain position. The processes of intermediation that do not contribute to the solution are automatically circumvented.

Hierarchy and competence are no more useful functions. A good function can be coordinating stakeholders, articulate solutions, being a platform for collective government, but not any more a core of power.

A new axis appears confronting old politics with new politics, the traditional way to approach government, problem-solving and decision-making and new approaches to face these challenges.


Q: do we need different ethics or philosophy for the “new politicians”? Subirats: A good definition of the old politician is the one that always has an answer. We need new ethics based on acknowledging that the world is complex, that solutions are many (or none). On the other hand, the traditional (and necessary) lack of trust or modern democracies surely has to give way to more trust in the collective to produce answers.

Q: how should be the design of the new institutions? SUbirats: influencing democratic institutions from the outside; dissenting from the actual institutions (which are also part of the problem) and proposing new designs; and resisting the old ways of functioning.

Lourdes Muñoz-Santamaría: how do we go from making proposals to making actual decisions? Subirats: it is true that making decisions is not only about aggregating different opinions or options. But it is also true that governments should acknowledge that many problems are wicked and that solutions are not simple. And defining the problem and finding out the solution collectively implies different ways of running a government. Increasingly, participating is doing, not being informed.

Marc Esteve Del Valle: is there really a third axis? Is actually the left-right axis over? Subirats: maybe not, but what we surely find is that people are less and less identified with the left-right axis. And, actually, there is people that identify themselves with new ways of doing politics and participating. The left wing has still many difficulties in understanding freelancers, cooperativism, etc. Our coordinates are so mujch Fordist that they have serious difficulties when it comes to understanding the World and providing good and effective answers.

Institutions of the Post-democracy: globalization, empowerment and governance (2013)