Education as a public and common good: revisiting the role of the state in a context of growing marketization

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Rita Locatelli


Over the course of the last two decades, there has been a tremendous expansion of school systems around the world. Especially in the countries of the Global South, this expansion has been possible thanks to the adoption of international policies that have promoted universal schooling so that all children have access, and complete, free and compulsory education. The Millennium Development Goals agenda as well as the Education for All movement are two of the most vivid expression of this global move towards universal schooling.

Having said this, the traditional schooling model is currently called into question by at least two factors. On the one hand, the growing demand for the reduction of public expenditure and the crisis of the welfare state have resulted in the greater involvement of non-state actors and to the weakening of the capacity of several States to elaborate effective public policies. In addition to this problem of resources is the need to overcome the current education system based on the mere transmission/acquisition of knowledge in order to make education more relevant to the diversity of contexts in terms both of methods and content. The changes occurring worldwide are indeed characterized by new levels of contradiction and complexity to which the schooling system is called to account. These changes are already ongoing and are strictly connected to the huge transformations that have been affecting society since the last few decades and make it necessary to rethink both the way learning systems are organized and the purposes of education itself. To address the long-standing crisis in education systems, however, there is a need for a shift in culture, a transformative change in order to significantly revisit and reshape the way of functioning of public institutions. In this respect, there should be a discussion on the fundamental principles for the governance of education that could lead to the development of new social structures and public institutions able to deal with change and favor the full development of people and of their communities.

This doctoral thesis is a contribution to this debate. It explores the implications of considering education as a public and common good for the democratic and inclusive governance of education.

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