n° 021


Questioning social justice with pupils, at school, in society and in the global world

In the sociological field, justice issues in school are predominantly confined to the analysis of social inequalities of achievement. So doing, one focuses on what is an important function of school, promoting social mobility or, on reverse, social reproduction. However, schooling has another very important role, educating young generations, so that they share common values and be prepared to become the citizens we wish for our country and for tomorrow. In this presentation, we will start from pupils’ conceptions of fairness to discuss the values school may promote in the present global context, the focus being put on cosmopolitanism. We will underline that school has specific to do so.

Marie Duru-Bellat is Emeritus Professor of Sociology of Education at Sciences-Po (Institute of Political Sciences, Paris), and researcher in CRIS (Center of Research on Social Inequalities, Paris) and IREDU (Institute of research in Education, Dijon). In addition to leading research on gender and social inequalities in education, she implements an evaluative and comparative perspective on school reforms, and investigates justice issues, notably linking global inequalities and environmental problems. In France, she has occupied different responsibilities in the academic fields and she has been regularly involved in educational debates and policies.


Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Site for Novel Encounters between Biological Research and Educational Justice?

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have become a topic of public and scientific attention in recent years. ACEs denote a range of negative experiences in early life, from sexual abuse to emotional neglect, that are thought to impact health and well-being over the life course. The term was coined in the CDC-Kaiser-ACE study, an epidemiological study that asked 17,000 adults about ACEs and their current health. Shortly after the study was published in 1998, the US CDC deemed ACEs the most important predictor of life course health. However, it is only recently that ACEs feature more prominently in scientific and public discourses, including in education. In this talk I present 1) a brief history of the ACEs concept and how it came to be linked to neuroscience and epigenetics in recent years and 2) a case study of novel, social justice-oriented practices in schools and juvenile correctional settings in the Pacific North-West of the United States that have emerged in relation to ACEs. In my presentation I will pay specific attention to notions of resilience that has gained prominence in recent years in relation to ACEs and critically discuss this turn, particularly with regard to important differences between individualist and community-oriented notions of resilience. For this talk I draw on work that has been jointly conducted and published with Prof. Dr. Martha Kenney at San Francisco State University.

Ruth Müller is professor of Science & Technology Policy at the School of Social Sciences and Technology, Department of STS, at the Technical University of Munich. Her work explores the nexus of science, technology, society, and policy, focusing particularly on how institutional norms and values shape scientific knowledge production practices, on emergent knowledge cultures in the life sciences and in biomedicine, and on the circulation and interpretation of biomedical knowledge and biotechnologies in society and policy. Across all research activities, she emphasises questions of social justice and equity, both regarding participation in scientific institutions and the impact of innovation on diverse groups in society.
3 photo-Sobhi Tawil


Renewing the social contract for education to ensure just and sustainable futures

We are at a critical juncture in global development. Climate change, the upsurge of violent conflict, democratic backsliding and regression in human rights are threatening our shared futures. These challenges to social cohesion and to sustainable development are further compounded by technological innovation which is outpacing our capacity to regulate it for the common good. We face an urgent choice between continuing on an unsustainable path, or radically changing course. Education is key to changing course and shaping alternative futures. Yet, it cannot be the same education characterized by a dual crisis of equity and relevance. Indeed, despite undeniable progress in expanding educational opportunity worldwide over the past decades, access to and participation in education remains incomplete and inequitable. And where access is near universal, our educational models and approaches often contribute to unsustainable social, economic, and environmental development patterns. If we are to ensure more just and sustainable futures, we need to renew the social contract for education, rebalancing our relationships with each other, with nature, as well as with technology. 

Sobhi Tawil (PhD) is Director of the Future of Learning and Innovation team at UNESCO where he currently leads the Futures of Education initiative, as well as work on technology and innovation in education. He has some 30 years of experience in teaching, education policy analysis, research and program management with diverse institutions and organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies (Geneva), as well as the Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training (NORRAG). He has also worked on issues of education policy in relation to identity-based conflict, social cohesion, and citizenship. Sobhi Tawil holds a PhD in Education and Development from the Graduate Institute for Development Studies in Geneva.


The societal tasks of schooling: qualification, allocation, and socialisation in comparative perspective

Education has several functions for societal needs: it needs to educate students well in terms of skills and qualifications (the qualification function), it needs to promote a smooth transition from education to the labour market (the allocation function), and it needs to socialize students into society at large, for instance by improving knowledge on and commitment to institutions and politics (the socialization function). Moreover, for all these functions one can have multiple distributional concerns, in particular efficiency and/or equality. In this talk, I highlight how educational systems vary significantly between societies, and how features of educational systems are related to realizing the outcomes under consideration. By using comparative and longitudinal data on schooling, labour market, and civic engagement outcomes, I conclude that educational policy makers face trade-offs when they want to optimize the functioning of educational systems. While some policies may be positively associated with certain outcomes, other outcomes may in fact be harmed. One example is the vocational education and training (VET) sector: a strong VET sector improves the school-to-work transition, but it also magnifies inequalities in civic and political engagement between education groups. 

Herman van de Werfhorst is professor of Sociology at the European University Institute, Florence. He is currently involved in the Comparative Life Course and Inequality Center at the EUI. His work concentrates on inequalities in and through education, in the labour market and in terms of civic engagement. Using both comparative, longitudinal and register data, his work in published in journals in various fields, including Sociology, Education, Political Science, and Economics. Before joining the EUI, Van de Werfhorst was professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, where he was the founding director and co-director of the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies AMCIS between 2010 and 2022.
Agnès van Zanten


Education-based mobility in the 21st century: Barriers and opportunities in a market-based meritocracy

Using data from a recent qualitative study of the trajectories and experiences of beneficiaries of a positive discrimination scheme developed by a French prestigious higher education institution, this presentation will explore the main features of education-based social mobility in a market-based meritocracy. Whereas in the membership-based meritocracy that prevailed until the 1980s, the cultural fractions of the upper classes could impose their own views of merit on dominated social and ethno-racial groups, the later presently face new representations of merit espoused by the now dominant economic fractions of the upper classes.  The presentation will compare the barriers but also the small opportunities offered to members of dominated groups within these two social models and examine who are the contemporary winners and losers among them.  It will also provide further analysis of the changing meaning of the concept of equality of opportunity. 

Agnès van Zanten is a Senior research professor working for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the Centre for Research on Social Inequalities of Sciences Po, Paris. She is interested in class-based educational inequalities, elite education, transition to higher education, positive discrimination and widening participation in higher education and educational markets and policies. Her most recent books and edited collections in French and English are Sociologie de l’école. Sixth edition (with M. Duru-Bellat et G. Farges, A. Colin, 2022), Elites in education. Four volumes (Routledge, 2018), and Elites, Privilege and Excellence: the National and Global Redefinition of Educational Advantage (with S.J. Ball and B. Darchy-Koechlin, Routledge, 2015).