Barry Nyhan, Cedefop
section is entitled: "How European are Europe's work and learning policies".
It was John Elliot from the University of East Anglia at the ECER conference
in Ljubljana (1998), at the opening plenary session of the whole conference,
who spoke about the role of the European research community in contributing
to European development. Europe, as John explained at that session, is
a project that can only be built by the citizens of Europe - that is if
they want to continue building it as we have learned from recent discussions
and referenda in different countries.
So the question that we are posing in this opening session is what is the
role of VET researchers in this European project. Are we here at UCD this
year, just to exchange information - we're at an international conference,
so we want to exchange information - or are we trying to build a VET research
community in Europe with the view to building a European framework for
VET, searching for common shared European values and goals around VET?
So this is the question, this is an open question, and I'm sure people
in VETNET have different views about it, but this is the underlying reason
for organising this session. Also our other session which will take place
tomorrow (Thursday morning) is again about a VET research agenda.
Now our topic today, as distinct from tomorrow's topic, is a very broad
one "how European are Europe's work and learning policies". We wanted to
start by painting a broad picture trying to situate VET in a wider area,
because in fact it is a very interdisciplinary area. It is at the crossroads
of education, work sociology, labour market, employment policies, technology,
business. So it draws into its group a good cross section of people. In
fact it's the biggest network, I think, in the whole ECER, and perhaps
this is because it offers interesting discussions on transitions between
school and work and society. So it's not just a purely educational discussion
about pedagogics, looking at schools and universities.
So we decided to have a discussion against this wide multi-faceted context.
The question again, another way of putting (it): To what extent do European
work and learning policies exist in reality? Is there such a thing as European
work and learning or social policies? Or what kind of European work and
learning policies does VETNET – do we as researchers – want to support
in the face of the current situation and discussion about Lisbon, Copenhagen,
Maastricht and all these things?
There have been a number of books written about this recently, and particularly
Jeremy Rifkin's book on the ‘European dream’, which he is supporting over
against the American dream. And there have been quite a number of books
in the past. There was a book by Michel Albert two years ago entitled "Capitalism
versus capitalism". He wrote, to quote from that book, that capitalism
was at risk from democracy because it valued making money above spending
it, but for him capitalism should be at the service of the nation state,
and not to just promote the economic interests of the nation state.
So now, for the keynote speech on our topic "How European are Europe's
work and learning policies" I'll hand the floor over to Professor James
Wickham of Trinity College Dublin.