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The Revue internationale d’éducation de Sèvres (RIES) is a journal that focuses on education systems from a comparative perspective. It periodically organizes international symposia that bring together experts and researchers from many countries in order to learn from this diversity and identify common issues:

  • 7–9 April 2005: “Better understanding the schools of tomorrow: Ten years of education around the world”

  • 12–14 March 2009: “One world, one school? School models and globalization”

  • 12–14 June 2014: “Education in Asia: What global issues?”

The success of education reforms: Why this theme in 2019?

The three previous symposia placed the spotlight on two closely related issues: which school for which world tomorrow? Why is there such a diversity of results depending on the country in question and its education system? The journal’s fourth symposium, in 2019, will consider the success of education reforms. What success are we talking about, given that the contexts are very diversified? Why do some education systems do better than others and why do some stagnate or regress? What factors make it possible to understand why certain education systems, over a given sociohistorical and economic period, transform positively while others fail to do so? Can we identify a number of conditions that are essential if a reform is to hope to effectively and positively transform a country’s education system?

Other contextual elements have become more important in recent years, with the accelerating development of many phenomena (technologies; mobility; climate-related, economic or political exoduses; pressures exerted by supranational organizations, by NGOs, by the market or by philosophical or religious authorities; and the rise of “shadow educationl”, among other things). These phenomena have entailed tensions between tradition and modernity, between communities turning in on themselves and openness to diversity, between the educational functions of school and those required by the way society is changing, between privileged and disadvantaged areas (supranational regions, countries, regions of a country, neighbourhoods), between private good and common good... At the heart of the issues covered by the symposium thus lies an essential question: what is meant by the success of an education system? Is this question at the heart of the country’s education policy? Is there thinking around it in terms of “desired effects” (internal or external)?

  1. Thinking about the meaning of success in education reforms: the meaning ascribed to the success of the education policy pursued by a country is a function of certain priority criteria: access to the education system and its different levels; efficiency; equity; the impact of the prescribed or hidden curriculum on the development of actors in the education system; relevance.

  2. The chain of actions: this question of meaning is to be placed in relation with the chain of actions laid by the education system (decisions taken and their actual implementation) around such important elements as: the systemic and integrated nature of education policy; the resources (logistical, financial and human) released; curricula and modes of dissemination; governance and steering (at national, intermediate and local levels). The aim will be to highlight the coherence of these aspects in space and time, the appropriateness of their contextualization, and their impact on the commitment and the professional competencies of local actors. Particular attention will have to be paid to the actions which condition the degree of effectiveness of the actions that follow.

  3. The information system to manage the education system: the existence of relevant data in terms of reliable indicators, which can be collected and are exploitable at the appropriate moments, appears to be an indispensable tool in terms of diagnosing the state of an education system, to establish a short- and long-term education policy, to control the system step by step, and to validate its effects. The question of the meaning of success, through the publicly chosen policy of desired effects and the chain of actions taken, leads on to the question of the information system needed to manage the education system: its explicit existence, content and relevance; updates and locations; authorized processing operations; uses made of it; and institutions and actors who benefit from it. Among the issues raised, one seems essential: how does data management serve the key players in the education system efficiently and in a timely manner?

Aims of the symposium

In a given type of context, can one identify the factors that condition the observed effects of the reforms undertaken? Teasing out the contextualized levers for action using this type of comparative approach is at the heart of the intended outcomes and spirit of both the international conferences and the editorial line of the Revue internationale d’éducation de Sèvres.

An international preparatory seminar, held on 3 and 4 May 2018, provided the outline of this programme. The symposium will focus on all regions of the world. The experts invited will be chosen on the basis of two parameters: geographical region x the degree of current success of the observed education system. It will be a question of comparing not only education systems as a whole, but also particular contexts with relatively similar characteristics. This multiplicity of contexts will underline the pertinence of the comparative approach.

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