Panel G.05 — Education & Care systems after the pandemic: social justice as a common goal

Convenors Maddalena Colombo (Università del Sacro Cuore, Italy); Kathleen Lynch (University College Dublin, School of Education, Ireland)

Keywords caring institutions, affective care relations, post-pandemic educational policies, care crisis, teachers’resilience


With no doubt, the pandemic we lived in 2020 represents not only a stress test for the social protection system (BAMBRA ET AL., 2021), but also the evidence of a care crisis throughout the different spheres of social experience, marked on the one side by a growing institutional carelessness (LYNCH, 2010, 2022) and, on the other side, a set of new care needs (BIANCHI, 2023). A couple of years after the trauma, there is now the opportunity of reflecting on the closeness between education and care, especially in emergencies (COLOMBO ET AL., 2022) in terms of lessons that can be drawn for future policies. Issues that arose during the Covid-19 include for example:

1) risks and advantages of centralization/decentralization to ensure equality and quality in the context of neoliberal pressures in turbulent times;

2) persistence and worsening of social inequalities, patterned in the normal as well as in the non-normal routines (also stemming from neglecting or postponing both prerequisite and affirmative actions);

3) legitimation and recognition of front-line care workers (school /medical workers), paralleled with a rise in anti-science and anti-intellectualism among lay people;

4) how to maintain public trust at the depth of panic, and in the post-traumatic period when stress contributes to new syndromes and pathologies;

5) a need for internal and external cooperation (between operators and users, among stakeholders),both to help promote resilience and to reform systems by «humanizing» institutional practices;

6) the gap between expectations of supports/recovery and the losses actually suffered; and others.

Starting from these points, the panel calls scholars and experts on educational policy to debate around the “caring” institutions for education (family, child services, primary and secondary schools, tertiary and lifelong education) and their transformations after the pandemic in relation to care. In our view, care is not altruism or extraordinary help for demanding people. It is rather a productive force for the whole social life, enacted on a universalistic basis, within a frame of interdependence, choice and responsibility among humans (and their environment). People are homines curans (caring people) as well as homo economicus and homo politicus, they can and do act other-wise as well as self-wise (TRONTO, 2017). Relations of solidarity, care, and love help to establish a basic sense of importance, value, and belonging, a sense of being appreciated, wanted, and cared about. To deprive or deny someone the experience of love is to deprive them of one of the great “goods” of human existence (NUSSBAUM, 2001). Care is a matter of social justice because affective care relations are not social derivatives, subordinate to economic, political, or cultural relations in matters of social justice (Lynch 2020). Rather, they are productive, materialist human relations that constitute people mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially.

Contributions from both fields, educational and welfare system, are welcome; with a theoretical as well as an empirical focus.


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