We can imagine three scenarios that, in a sense, are included in the search for alternatives for the school model, educational resources and for the way they have evolved since the end of the nineteenth century.
Traditional School Replacement
The first scenario is based on the replacement of traditional school structures by the educational valorization of a set of social spaces and institutions. The idea of learning networks comes naturally, reworked from leaks into the past and into the future. The flight into the past is revealed in the myth of a past without schools, in which people were educated in life, in society, learning in an informal and convivial way. The flight into the future is fed, of course, by a technological utopia, by a device that allows, once and for all, to make learning and knowledge available to everyone. The scenario of the networks is imposing itself day by day as the most plausible.
From the social point of view, the permanent decline in the birth rate, together with the improvement of the educational levels of the population and the significant increase in life expectancy, they release a remarkable contingent of personal and social energies available for educational and cultural tasks. From a technological point of view, the surprising advances of the Internet (“inter” – “network”) invite us not to exclude, in advance, any future developments.
The second scenario is present today in educational policies around the world, particularly in the European Union. This is not a possibility, but a concrete reality. The concept of lifelong learning(learning throughout life) is considered central for the definition of educational strategies. In contrast to the intentions of the defenders of permanent education, its operation is carried out mainly within the framework of employment and professional retraining policies.
The term “employability”, which occupies a central place in the famous Lisbon Strategy adopted by the European Union in 2000, defines educational efforts throughout life, essentially, as the obligation of all workers to remain fit to perform new professional tasks. Permanent education began as a right for which successive generations of workers fought; then it became a necessity dictated by changes in the world of work; and now it is imposed as an obligation in order to get a decent job. The whole of school systems, from compulsory school to university (see the Bologna Process), is being redefined in the light of these perspectives.
Mission of the School
The third scenario points to the need to redefine the mission of the school in a more modest, more learning-oriented way. The school must free itself from its regenerative or restorative vision of society and assume that it is but one of the many institutions in society that promote education. In this sense, it is necessary to think differently about the public space of education, taking advantage of the cultural and educational potentialities that exist in society and discharging responsibilities between the public and private entities involved.
For all these reasons, the idea of a new educational contract concluded with society –and not just with the school–, based on the reinforcement of the public space of education, is at the center of the stage.