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Edward Anthony Vickers Last modified date:2019.06.12

Professor / Studies in the international educational environment
Department of Education
Faculty of Human-Environment Studies


Undergraduate School


E-Mail
Phone
092-642-3114
Fax
092-642-3114
Academic Degree
PhD
Field of Specialization
Education, History
Outline Activities
I research the contemporary history of education in Chinese societies (mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong), with a particular focus on the role of schools and other public institutions (e.g. museums) in political socialization. I also conduct comparative research on portrayals of foreign 'Others', through schooling and other media, in the societies of East Asia, and have recently been involved in coordinating a project looking at portrayals of Japan in other East Asian societies. I teach a broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to Comparative and International Education - including a postgraduate seminar on China's education system. I am also involved in the Asia Joint Degree Project run by Tohoku University, of which I am an external auditor.

The bulk of my research to date has focused on official representations of history in Chinese societies, and their relationship to nationalism and the politics of identity. The issues that have formed the focus of this work are ones whose importance I came to appreciate first through my experience in the 1990s as a local schoolteacher in Hong Kong’s New Territories, and subsequently as an author and editor of English Language textbooks at the People’s Education Press (PEP, the Education Ministry’s textbook publisher) in Beijing.

As a schoolteacher during Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese rule, I observed the high political stakes attached to attempts to re-socialize Hongkongers as patriotic Chinese citizens, and the role assigned to education in this process. This prompted my decision to research the development of History as a school subject in Hong Kong, examining its relationship with political, social and cultural shifts in local society.

My doctoral thesis was published by Routledge in 2003. This work critiques widespread assumptions concerning the relationship between colonialism and the development of school curricula. It also constitutes an important contribution to the study of the emergence of a distinctive local identity, and of the role played by schooling in official attempts to shape the Hong Kong-China relationship. The book has been widely cited by other scholars, and in 2006 formed much of the basis for the Hong Kong episode in the BBC Radio series, Views of Empire.

My doctoral work sharpened my consciousness of the tensions between state-defined, homogenising visions of ‘Chineseness’, and local, often oppositional definitions of what it means to be ‘Chinese’ (or Hongkongese, Taiwanese, etc.). My time in Beijing (2000-3), when I worked for PEP and studied Mandarin Chinese (to an advanced level), further heightened my awareness of the political sensitivities surrounding identity issues in contemporary China. I began to extend my research to mainland China, and to contexts other than formal schooling – in particular, historical museums and memorials. Shortly after moving to the University of London in 2003, I bid successfully to the British Academy for a grant to fund the collection of data for a project looking at the role of public museums in official attempts to shape identity consciousness in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. This project has so far yielded a number of articles or book chapters looking at all these societies, and particularly at Taiwan, where my research was assisted by a further grant from the Ministry of Education. My work on Taiwan has led to invitations to contribute to a major comparative volume on the memories of conflict in East Asia (Ruptured Histories, Harvard University Press, 2007), to a groundbreaking volume on contemporary Taiwanese culture (Rewriting Culture in Taiwan, Routledge, 2009), to a recent Taiwan special issue of the French journal China Perspectives, and to my membership of the editorial board of the e-journal Taiwan in Comparative Perspective (based at the London School of Economics).

I have meanwhile also sought to draw comparisons between the experience of Chinese and other Asian societies in the use of schooling as a tool for shaping identity consciousness, co-editing the volumes History Education and National Identity in East Asia (Routledge, 2005) and Education as a Political Tool in Asia (Routledge, 2009). These volumes seek to examine comparatively the role of education in processes of modern state formation across Asia. This work led in 2010 to a successful bid to the UK’s Leverhulme Trust for funding to establish an ‘International Network’ of UK- and East Asian-based scholars looking at the role played by perceptions of Japan in the consciousness of national identity amongst young East Asians (in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore), and at the role of schooling alongside other factors (youth popular culture, the internet, and other media) in shaping these perceptions. I drafted the academic case for this bid, and work alongside the coordinator, Professor Paul Morris, in running the network.

I have also sought to examine the relationship between official projects of identity formation in Chinese societies and the broader development of China’s education system over recent years. I co-authored a 2007 report commissioned by Britain’s Department for International Development (Education and Development in a Global Era: Strategies for ‘Successful’ Globalisation), for which I wrote the China chapter. This focused on the links between a development strategy that has tolerated (or fostered) rising levels of social inequality, and the Communist Party’s qualified embrace of populist nationalism as a legitimating ideology. I have developed this argument in subsequent shorter pieces, including the general entry on ‘Education since 1949’ that I was invited to write in 2008 for The Encyclopaedia of Modern China. I am currently working with a Chinese scholar on a book-length history of China’s education system since the 1970s.
Research
Research Interests
  • The comparative study of the relationship between education and political socialisation in Asian societies - with particular reference to history and civics.
    keyword : Asia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, identity, history
    2000.10~2012.10.
Current and Past Project
  • Chinese claims to both ‘minority’ regions (e.g. Xinjiang and Tibet), and peripheral ‘Han’ regions (Hong
    Kong, Taiwan) are hotly contested – leading to efforts to bolster legitimacy through state propaganda and
    schooling. Control of the historical account is crucial here, but we do not understand (a) the consistency of
    narratives relating to ‘minorities’ and peripheral ‘Han’ populations; (b) how recent changes to both have
    been influenced by political shifts under Xi Jinping; or (c) their implications for China’s stability. This is
    the contribution of the research proposed here. It builds on work that the PI – a leading expert on education and
    identity politics in Chinese societies – has been conducting for many years. The analysis focuses on the portrayal
    of ‘minorities,’ and of Hong Kong and Taiwan, in Chinese History textbooks and in relevant historical museums.
    It will greatly enhance our understanding of the politics of schooling and state propaganda, of the
    dynamics of Chinese nationalism, and what this means for stability around China’s periphery.
  • Kyushu and Taiwan enjoy thriving cultural and commercial ties, but educational links (at university level) have been limited - until now. In 2017, Kyushu University, with support from the Ministry of Education of the ROC (Taiwan), established a new Taiwan Studies Program. This aims to promote interest in and understanding of Taiwan amongst students and scholars in Western Japan, and to strengthen ties between Japanese researchers, their Taiwanese counterparts, and the Taiwan Studies community worldwide. It also promotes Taiwan-related research, particularly in the area of identity politics and Taiwanese culture.
  • UNESCO MGIEP officially launched the new publication Rethinking Schooling for the 21st Century: The State of Education for Peace, Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Asia on 2 November 2017 in Paris at the UNESCO General Conference. This report involved more than 60 researchers from 22 countries in Asia and is based on the content analysis of key education policy and curricular documents from these countries and an extensive review of literature on Asian schooling. It seeks to develop benchmarks against which future progress can be assessed. It also argues forcefully that conceptions of the fundamental purposes of schooling need to be configured, if the ideals of SDG 4.7 to which the global community has subscribed are actually to be realized.
Academic Activities
Books
1. Mark Frost, Daniel Schumacher and Edward Vickers (eds), Remembering Asia's World War Two, London and New York, Published by Routledge, 2019.04, [URL], Over the past four decades, East and Southeast Asia have seen a proliferation of heritage sites and remembrance practices which commemorate the region’s bloody conflicts of the period 1931–45. Remembering Asia’s World War Two examines the origins, dynamics, and repercussions of this regional war “memory boom”.

The book analyzes the politics of war commemoration in contemporary East and Southeast Asia. Featuring contributions from leading international scholars, the chapters span China, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, covering topics such as the commemoration of the Japanese military’s “comfort women” system, forms of "dark tourism" or commemorative pilgrimages (e.g. veterans’ tours to wartime battlefields), and the establishment and evolution of various war-related heritage sites and museums. Case studies reveal the distinctive trajectories of new and newly discovered forms of remembrance within and across national boundaries. They highlight the growing influence of non-state actors over representations of conflict and occupation, as well as the increasingly interconnected and transnational character of memory-making. Taken together, the studies collected here demonstrate that across much of Asia the public commemoration of the wars of 1931–45 has begun to shift from portraying them as a series of national conflicts with distinctive local meanings to commemorating the conflict as a common pan-Asian, or even global, experience.

Focusing on non-textual vehicles for public commemoration and considering both the local and international dimensions of war commemoration within, Remembering Asia’s World War Two will be a crucial reference for students and scholars of History, Memory Studies, and Heritage Studies, as well as all those interested in the history, politics, and culture of contemporary Asia..
2. Yoko Mochizuki, Krishna Kumar, Edward Vickers, Rethinking Schooling for the 21st Century: The State of Education for Peace, Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Asia, 2017.11, UNESCO MGIEP officially launched the new publication 'Rethinking Schooling for the 21st Century: The State of Education for Peace, Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Asia' on 2 November 2017 in Paris at the UNESCO General Conference. This report involved more than 60 researchers from 22 countries in Asia and is based on the content analysis of key education policy and curricular documents from these countries and an extensive review of literature on Asian schooling. It seeks to develop benchmarks against which future progress can be assessed. It also argues forcefully that conceptions of the fundamental purposes of schooling need to be configured, if the ideals of SDG 4.7 to which the global community has subscribed are actually to be realized..
3. Edward Vickers, Zeng Xiaodong, Education and Society in Post-Mao China, London and New York: Routledge, 2017.05, [URL], The post-Mao period has witnessed rapid social and economic transformation in all walks of Chinese life – much of it fuelled by, or reflected in, changes to the country’s education system. This book analyses the development of that system since the abandonment of radical Maoism and the inauguration of ‘Reform and Opening’ in the late 1970s. The principal focus is on formal education in schools and conventional institutions of tertiary education, but there is also some discussion of preschools, vocational training, and learning in non-formal contexts. The book begins with a discussion of the historical and comparative context for evaluating China’s educational ‘achievements’, followed by an extensive discussion of the key transitions in education policymaking during the ‘Reform and Opening’ period. This informs the subsequent examination of changes affecting the different phases of education from preschool to tertiary level. There are also chapters dealing specifically with the financing and administration of schooling, curriculum development, the public examinations system, the teaching profession, the phenomenon of marketisation, and the ‘international dimension’ of Chinese education. The book concludes with an assessment of the social consequences of educational change in the post-Mao era and a critical discussion of the recent fashion in certain Western countries for hailing China as an educational model. The analysis is supported by a wealth of sources – primary and secondary, textual and statistical – and is informed by both authors’ wide-ranging experience of Chinese education..
4. Edward Vickers, Krishna Kumar, Constructing Modern Asian Citizenship, London and New York, 2015.01, In many non-Western contexts, modernization has tended to be equated with Westernization, and hence with an abandonment of authentic indigenous identities and values. This is evident in the recent history of many Asian societies, where efforts to modernize – spurred on by the spectre of foreign domination – have often been accompanied by determined attempts to stamp national variants of modernity with the brand of local authenticity: ‘Asian values’, ‘Chinese characteristics’, a Japanese cultural ‘essence’ and so forth. Highlighting (or exaggerating) associations between the more unsettling consequences of modernization and alien influence has thus formed part of a strategy whereby elites in many Asian societies have sought to construct new forms of legitimacy for old patterns of dominance over the masses. The apparatus of modern systems of mass education, often inherited from colonial rulers, has been just one instrument in such campaigns of state legitimation.

This book presents analyses of a range of contemporary projects of citizenship formation across Asia in order to identify those issues and concerns most central to Asian debates over the construction of modern identities. Its main focus is on schooling, but also examines other vehicles for citizenship-formation, such as museums and the internet; the role of religion (in particular Islam) in debates over citizenship and identity in certain Asian societies; and the relationship between state-centred identity discourses and the experience of increasingly ‘globalized’ elites..
5. Edward Vickers, Paul Morris, Naoko Shimazu, Imagining Japan in Post-war East Asia: identity politics, schooling and popular culture, London: Routledge, 2013.12, Imagining Japan in Postwar East Asia analyses the portrayal of Japan in the societies of East and Southeast Asia, and asks how and why this has changed in recent decades, and what these changing images of Japan reveal about the ways in which these societies construct their own identities. It examines the role played by an imagined ‘Japan’ in the construction of national selves across the East Asian region, as mediated through a broad range of media ranging from school curricula and textbooks to film, television, literature and comics. Commencing with an extensive thematic and comparative overview chapter, the volume also includes contributions focusing specifically on Chinese societies (the mainland PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. These studies show how changes in the representation of Japan have been related to political, social and cultural shifts within the societies of East Asia – and in particular to the ways in which these societies have imagined or constructed their own identities.

In the decades since her defeat in the Second World War, Japan has continued to loom large in the national imagination of many of her East Asian neighbours. While for many, Japan still conjures up images of rampant military brutality, at different times and in different communities, alternative images of the Japanese ‘Other’ have vied for predominance – in ways that remain poorly understood, not least within Japan itself. Bringing together contributors working in the fields of education, anthropology, history, sociology, political science and media studies, this interdisciplinary volume will be of interest to all students and scholars concerned with issues of identity, politics and culture in the societies of East Asia, and to those seeking a deeper understanding of Japan's fraught relations with its regional neighbours..
6. Edward Vickers, Marie Lall, Education as a Political Tool in Asia, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK, 2009.09, This book offers a fresh and comparative approach to analyzing the uses of education and the effects of its politicization on Asian societies in the era of globalisation. Education has been used as a political tool throughout the ages and across the whole world to define national identity and underpin the political rationale of regimes. In the contemporary world Asian societies manifest this phenomenon in a variety of ways, ranging from tensions over religious versus secular definitions of national identity in India and Pakistan, to various blends of ethno-culturally primordialist and 'multicultural' nationalism in China, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. In Asia, modern education systems have their origins in processes of state formation aimed either at bolstering 'self-strengthening' resistance to the encroachments of Western and/or Asian imperialism, or at furthering projects of post-colonial nation-building. State elites have sought to popularise powerful visions of nationhood, to equip these visions with a historical 'back-story', and to endow them with the maximum sentimental charge. This book explores these developments in various national contexts, emphasising that education is seen by nations across Asia, as elsewhere, as far more than simply a tool for economic development, and that issues of national identity and the tolerance - or lack of it - of ethnic, cultural or religious diversity can be at least as important as issues of literacy and access. Interdisciplinary and unique in its analysis, this book will be of interest to scholars of political science, research in education and Asian Studies..
7. Edward Vickers, Alisa Jones, History Education and National Identity in East Asia, New York and London, 2005.09, This original collection offers the first significant comparative study of the politics of history curricula across East Asia. Vickers and Jones examine the relationship of history education to changing official visions of the past in a context of political transformation, giving special consideration to the rise of communism, decolonization, and the Cold War divisions of China and Korea. Chapters by a range of international scholars deal with history education in Japan, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the two Koreas. They focus on the content of official syllabi and textbooks, and on the influences shaping government policy regarding the teaching of history. Highlighting the tension between the traditional nation-building priorities of history education and the emerging cross-regional concern with the promotion of 'skills', this important book shows how the school subject of History has been a major site for the construction and contestation of definitions of national and regional identity..
8. Edward Vickers, In Search of An Identity: The Politics of History as a School Subject in Hong Kong, 1960s-2005, Hong Kong, 2005.09, In most societies, the school subject of History reflects and reinforces a sense of collective identity. However, in Hong Kong this has emphatically not been the case. Official and popular ambivalence towards 'the nation' in the shape of the People's Republic of China, and the sensitivity of Hong Kong's own political and cultural status, have meant that the question of local identity has until recently been largely sidestepped in school curricula and textbooks. In this study, Edward Vickers sets out to reexamine some of the myths concerning colonialism and schooling under the British, while showing how in postcolonial Hong Kong these myths have been deployed to legitimize a programme of nationalistic reeducation. In the Afterword to this 2005 edition, he emphasizes that it is Hong Kong's fundamentally undemocratic political context that has thwarted and continues to thwart efforts to make history education a vehicle for fostering a liberal, democratic sense of regional and national citizenship..
Papers
1. Edward Vickers, Paul Morris, Schooling, Politics and the Construction of Identity in Hong Kong: the “Moral and National Education” Crisis in Historical Context, Comparative Education, 51, 3, 305-326, 2015.06, Since Hong Kong's retrocession, the government has endeavoured to strengthen local citizens' identification with the People's Republic of China – a project that acquired new impetus with the 2010 decision to introduce ‘Moral and National Education’ (MNE) as a compulsory school subject. In the face of strong local opposition, this policy was withdrawn in 2012, and implementation of MNE made optional. This article seeks to elucidate the background to the MNE controversy of 2012 by locating the emergence of a distinctive Hong Kong identity in its historical context, and analysing successive official attempts (before and after the 1997 retrocession) to use schooling for purposes of political socialisation. We argue that the school curriculum has projected and reflected a dual sense of identity: a ‘Chineseness’ located mainly in ethno-cultural qualities, and a ‘Hongkongeseness’ rooted in civic attributes. While reinforced by schooling, local civic consciousness has been intimately related to a tradition of public activism strongly evident since the 1970s, and further strengthened post-1997..
2. Edward Vickers, Yang Biao, Shanghai's History Curriculum Reforms and Shifting Textbook Portrayals of Japan, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, 2013/4, 33-43, 2013.12, [URL], This article examines the coverage of Japan in Shanghai's senior high history textbooks since the early 1990s – a period when the city's status as China's“showpiece for the global era”has been widely touted. Uniquely among cities on the Chinese mainland, Shanghai has throughout this period enjoyed the right to publish and prescribe its own textbooks for use in local schools (a right extended to most other regions only since the early 2000s). The portrayal of Japan in local texts thus offers a window onto the way in which a self-avowedly “global” Chinese metropolis has balanced an outward-looking and internationalist vision with the requirement for history to serve patriotic education. It also sheds light on the meaning and extent of local curricular “autonomy” in contemporary China..
3. Edward Vickers, Editorial: Chinese Visions of Japan - official narratives of a troubled relationship, The French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, 2013/4, 3-5, 2013.12, [URL].
4. Edward Anthony Vickers, Transcending Victimhood: Japan in the public historical museums of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, 2013/4, 19-32, 2013.12, [URL], This article looks at how the major national (or pseudo-national) historical museums in China and Taiwan interpret and display very different “new rememberings” of Japan. The main focus is on the permanent exhibitions of the modern history wing of the National Museum of China (NMC; formerly the Museum of the Chinese Revolution), which finally reopened in 2011 after almost a decade of refurbishment, and of the National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH), which opened in the same year. It discusses how museum portrayals of Japan reflect divergent public discourses on national identity. Through examining the relationship between museums and the apparatus of the Chinese state (ROC and PRC), the first section locates the NMC and NMTH in their bureaucratic and political contexts. A typology of approaches to the construction of national identity is then offered, considering the implications of different conceptions of identity for portrayals of Japan and its relationship with China or Taiwan. The remainder of the article looks in turn at the NMC and NMTH, outlining the history of each before examining how Japan is represented in their permanent exhibitions. It concludes by considering what can be learnt from this about the evolving relationship between official historical discourse and the broader political context on both sides of the Taiwan Strait..
5. Edward Vickers, History, Identity and the Politics of Taiwan's Museums: reflections on the DPP-KMT transition No. 3, 92-106., China Perspectives, 3, 96-106, 2010.09, Museums in Taiwan—as elsewhere—have always been embroiled in politicised debates over collective identity, both reflecting and helping to shape the contours of identity discourse. During the four decades of the Martial Law era, the Kuomintang (KMT) regime used museums as vehicles for its campaigns to nurture patriotic citizens of a “Republic of China” encompassing the entire Chinese mainland. However, with the onset of democratisation from the late 1980s, museums increasingly reflected and reinforced a strengthening consensus over Taiwan’s historical and cultural distinctiveness, while also mirroring the considerable pluralism of popular identity consciousness. This trend was accentuated under the regime of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after 2000, but 2008 witnessed the return to power of a KMT determined to establish warmer ties with China. This paper examines the extent to which the new regime’s more accommodative approach to China has extended into the realm of museums, while considering whether developments within the sector, and within broader Taiwanese society, mean that museums are no longer quite the pliable tools of official cultural policy that they once were..
Presentations
1. Mark Bray, UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education at the University of Hong Kong; Edward Vickers, Professor of Comparative Education at Kyushu University, Japan; Yoko Mochizuki, Head of Rethinking Curricula Programme of UNESCO MGIEP and a specialist in comparative education; while the discussants included HE Ton Sa Im, Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport of Cambodia; Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development and former Vice-chancellor at National University of Educational Planning and Administration, India; Jeremy Rappleye, Associate Professor at Kyoto University, Graduate School of Education., A Plenary Panel Discussion on the UNESCO Report 'Rethinking Schooling for the 21st Century - the State of Education for Peace, Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Asia', Comparative Education Society of Asia, 2018.05, On 12 May, a plenary panel discussion was dedicated to UNESCO MGIEP’s seminal report Rethinking Schooling: The State of Education for Peace, Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Asia. Dr Yoko Mochizuki, Head of Rethinking Curricula Programme of UNESCO MGIEP, presented the key findings.

The report is based on the analysis of 172 official documents in 18 languages based on a common coding scheme and extensive literature review on Asian schooling. It seeks to assess how far the aims and values encapsulated in SDG 4.7 have been incorporated into the educational policies and officially-mandated curricula of 22 Asian countries. By analysing current policies, curricular frameworks, subject syllabi, and textbooks, it aims to create a baseline against which further progress towards SDG 4.7 can be monitored. At the same time, it sets out to change the way we talk about and act upon SDG 4.7 and argues that a broader vision of education’s nature and social role is essential to our chances of achieving a peaceful and sustainable future for Asia and the world.

Panellists for the session included Mark Bray, UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education at the University of Hong Kong; Edward Vickers, Professor of Comparative Education at Kyushu University, Japan; Yoko Mochizuki, Head of Rethinking Curricula Programme of UNESCO MGIEP and a specialist in comparative education; while the discussants included HE Ton Sa Im, Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport of Cambodia; Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development and former Vice-chancellor at National University of Educational Planning and Administration, India; Jeremy Rappleye, Associate Professor at Kyoto University, Graduate School of Education..
2. Yoko Mochizuki, Edward Vickers (Kyudai), Lorna Down, Eleni Christadoulou, Is UNESCO still ‘the conscience of the United Nations’? Sustaining a role for UNESCO in the ‘sustainable development’agenda, Comparative and International Education Society, 2019.04, In 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education for peace, sustainable development and global citizenship is enshrined in SDG Target 4.7, which focuses on equipping learners with “knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development”. While SDG 4.7 has been characterized by UNESCO as an important target pertinent to “the social, humanistic and moral purposes of education” (UNESCO, 2016, p.288), discussions surrounding its monitoring and implementation have been limited to technical issues such as the lack of baselines, and have largely avoided raising critical questions about fundamental challenges to promoting peace and sustainability through education.

In this panel, we will argue that central to these challenges is the fact that, today, UNESCO finds itself compelled to pursue its humanistic agenda in the context of an increasingly influential movement for the ‘global governance’ of education, promoted by the OECD and World Bank. This subjects policymaking in education, as in other areas, to what Muller calls ‘the tyranny of metrics’ (2018), whereby ‘accountability’ demands assessment of ‘performance’ by reference to measurable, quantitative benchmarks. As Muller and others observe (see, for example, Morris, 2016; Wolf, 2002), this approach tends to skew the emphasis in policymaking and curriculum development towards ‘skills’ that are readily measurable and comparable. It is also informed by a largely economistic approach to the goals of education, prioritising its role in ‘human capital’ generation, on the questionable assumption that measurable ‘performance’ in ‘key skills’ translates into enhanced economic growth (Komatsu and Rappleye, 2017).

Here we will examine to what extent continuing efforts to pursue UNESCO’s longstanding humanistic goals, now repackaged as SDG 4.7, are conditioned by this global drive towards quantifiability, economistic instrumentalism and ‘skills’. We do this by focusing on the work of UNESCO-MGIEP (the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development), UNESCO’s first ‘Category 1’ Research Institute in the Asia-Pacific region, and the only one focusing on ‘education for peace and sustainable development’ (i.e. the themes encompassed by SDG 4.7). Although MGIEP has a global mandate and is an integral part of UNESCO, its evolution since its inception in 2012 cannot be properly understood without taking into consideration its base in India.

The first paper, by Edward Vickers, will provide an overview of the development of MGIEP itself, analysing the evolution of its mission and agenda, and the factors that have influenced this. It will explain how MGIEP’s agenda has been shaped by a combination of macro-institutional factors (involving both UNESCO’s position in relation to other multilateral organizations, and MGIEP’s positioning vis-a-vis other UNESCO entities); the national context, involving the state of educational debate within India (and the enormous stake national and multinational ‘ed-tech’ companies have in penetrating the Indian market); and micro-level intra-organisational factors.

MGIEP’s evolving agenda has recently led to a research focus on ‘social and emotional learning’ or SEL, and techniques for what amounts to behaviour modification informed by cognitive psychology or ‘learning science’ and neuroscience. Terms such as ‘social and emotional skills’, ‘pro-social behaviour’, ‘mindfulness’, ‘kindness’, ‘empathy- and compassion-building’ are coming to form a new lexicon framing debate over educational ‘transformation’ for the 21st century. The second paper, by Yoko Mochizuki, examines the rise of SEL as a new ‘zeitgeist’, analysing the recent fashion for foregrounding social and emotional skills—sometimes referred to as ‘non-cognitive’ (OECD) or ‘soft’ skills—and delineating some major implications of current efforts to mainstream SEL in schooling, particularly in the context of SDG4.7 implementation. While two MGIEP publications released in 2017 (Rethinking Schooling for the 21st Century and Textbooks for Sustainable Development) focused largely on curricular and pedagogical issues relating to the promotion of civic values encapsulated in SDG 4.7 (including human rights, respect for cultural diversity and appreciation of culture’s contribution to sustainable development), this new work on ‘SEL’ aims to foster a capacity for ‘self-regulation’ on the part of individual learners, with little reference to the broader social or political context. The paper will argue that this marks a potentially significant departure from UNESCO’s traditional approach to education for sustainable development, peace, human rights, and global citizenship.

Finally, Lorna Down will analyse one example of a more conventional capacity-building initiative by MGIEP—a pilot project conducted in 2018 in the State of Sikkim, India, aimed at training textbook authors (including practising teachers) to ‘embed’ ideas relating to sustainable development in teaching materials designed for use in local classrooms. Sikkim became India’s first fully ‘organic’ state in 2016, and is committed to integrating SDGs in all sectors including education. The paper will consider the challenges involved in supporting these practitioners in their efforts to grasp relevant concepts and relate them meaningfully to the experiences of young children, while taking account of the practical and material constraints faced by teachers and schools.

The contributors to the panel will debate what the overarching focus of UNESCO-MGIEP on digital learning and neuroscience means for the various projects the institute pursues, and for the interpretation by UNESCO as a whole of SDG 4 (on ‘inclusive and equitable quality education’). They will seek to engage the audience for this panel in a discussion of the extent to which the trends affecting the work of MGIEP are also at work in the education policy arena in national contexts other than that of India (where MGIEP is located), and within UNESCO at large and other multilateral and civil society organisations. Amongst the questions they will pose are: To what extent is the pursuit of ‘learning science’, ‘evidence-based’ education policymaking and technology-based means for the enhancement of schooling effectiveness crowding out serious reflection on the fundamental purposes of education, and its social and political (as well as economic) functions? And to the extent that this is happening, should it worry us, and why?
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Educational
Educational Activities
I currently teach an undergraduate lecture course on Education, National Identity and Modern State Formation.
In addition, I take graduate and undergraduate seminar classes on:
- Education and Society in Contemporary China
- History Education in East Asia in Comparative Perspective
- Japan through East Asian Eyes - images of Japan in the construction of East Asian identities
- Amartya Sen's work on identity, education and 'development as freedom'
- Comparative Studies of Educational Cultures - Tobin et al.'s 'Preschool in Three Cultures' and Alexander's 'Culture and Pedagogy'