Public Action, Educational Pathways and the Capability Approach

VERO, Josiane; BONVIN, Jean-Michel; BERTHET, Thierry; SIMON, Véronique; OLYMPIO, Noémie; MENARD, Boris (2014). 'Public Action, Educational Pathways and the Capability Approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

This thematic panel brings together a selection of papers that focus on the role that public action may play in the enhancement of the capability for education and the improvement of educational pathways. It includes themes that range from international comparison of educational systems to higher educational policies, regional school dropouts policies, latency period of drop outs or regional guidance policies.

The thematic panel bundles a diverse set of voices, each of which engages with the approach its distinct manner by supplementing the Capability Approach with additional theories, methodologies and critical issues. First, echoing Sen's emphasis on the importance of the practice of democracy, T. Berthet and V. Simon engage with a research methodology, the sociological intervention of Alain Touraine, which fits exactly Sen's view to promote the ability to express one's opinions and to make them count in the course of public discussion, including youngster's voices in the shaping of public policies. Second, B. Menard explores the way to bridge Sen's CA and the social construction of social reality drawing particularly on the work of Bourdieu. Finally, N. Olympio suggest that the capability approach is incomplete without studies of the role that institutions play in supporting the evolution of capability for education over time. In a context of comparative work, she illustrates the added-value of the societal effect approach for comparative research that highlights the different types of constraints and opportunities facing pupils within the French and Swiss educational systems.

The authors tackle this central problematic of education from different angles and rely on different methodological approaches to justify their positions and findings. If two of the papers are mainly based on quantitative material (N. Olympio, B. Ménard), T. Berthet and V. Simon's enquiry offers a good example of a productive dialogue between quantitative and qualitative data. By doing so, the authors of this panel extend Sen's views on the role of public action to enhance educational pathways. Part of the value of bringing together this set of papers allows us to assess how far the approach has gone and to define potential directions for work on the approach.

Some of the results presented in this thematic panel session are drawn from the European projects Workable – Making Capabilities Work (EU FP7 2009-12) and SocIEtY – Social Innovation – Empowering the Young for the Common Good (EU FP7 2013-15).

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