Our globalised, rapidly changing world is increasingly perceived as risky and unstable. War, violence, environmental disasters, political and economic crises, labour market upheaval – such phenomena are viewed daily, not least on account of the changing media landscape. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow exponentially. International migration, which is partly a consequence of these phenomena, leads to drastic societal change in both donor and receiving regions. Old certainties are questioned, leading to uncertainty and ambiguity regarding, for example, social cohesion, political stability and lasting peace. Europe’s geographical, political and economic model, which has stood for security and stability since WWII, has itself become uncertain. Uncertainty also plays out in individual lives, careers, families and social networks. Such developments are of utmost relevance to education systems worldwide as they are responsible for providing learners with the skills and capacities to live and act under given social conditions. Given that these future conditions can hardly be predicted in the current era of risk, educational processes, developments, and capacity building become uncertain. What do we know about the unfolding of such educational processes in present times and what are the skills and capacities that are needed in this complex situation? How can educational systems – also operating under conditions of uncertainty – provide a basis for the development of those skills and capacities? Which ‘promises’ can educational systems and institutions make to the future generations, and which can they actually keep? What is the role of education itself and educational research in dealing with the aforementioned problems? Can regional experiences and insights be ‘internationalised’, or must we work from context to context?
Educational research has a significant role to play in generating answers to these questions. This is not bound to theory as educational research possesses the tools to empirically examine assumptions and to provide evidence-based knowledge, for instance, as a basis for evidence informed decision making. ECER 2019 in Hamburg will be a platform for educational research that seeks to respond to the questions outlined here. ECER 2019 invites contributions oriented towards the overarching question concerning the role of educational research and practice in providing opportunities for sustainable, peaceful and equitable co-existence that appreciates diversity and diversification under conditions of uncertainty and risk now and in the future.
Dr Karen Block is Associate Director of the Evidence and Child Health Unit in the Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and coordinates the Melbourne Social Equity Institute’s program in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Melbourne.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Lenzen has been president of Universität Hamburg since 2010. Starting in 1975, he was professor of education, first at the University of Münster and, from 1977 onwards, he held a chair for philosophy of education at Freie Universität Berlin.
Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka holds a Tier 1 South African National Research Foundation Chair in Global Change and Social Learning Systems, and is a Distinguished Research Professor in Education at Rhodes University, South Africa.
Annette Scheunpflug holds the chair of Foundations in Education at the Otto-Friedrich-University of Bamberg in Germany and is an elected member of the Bavarian Academy of Science. She has a broad international teaching and research experience in Europe, the US, Japan and several African countries.
Dirk Van Damme
Dirk Van Damme is Head of Division in the Directorate for Education and Skills at the OECD in Paris. He holds a PhD in educational sciences from Ghent University, where he became professor of educational sciences. His main academic work focused on the history of education, comparative education, lifelong learning and international higher education.
Arjen Wals is a Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University. He also holds the UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development. Furthermore, he is a senior advisor at the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development (GMV).