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Europe: One geography – is it possible and is it something to strive for? . Modernities and Geography Education: A Comparative Study of Romania, Sweden and England . “The Hunch”. Experiences as a student and a teacher in different European countries Romania – pupil

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europe one geography is it possible and is it something to strive for

Europe: One geography – is it possible and is it something to strive for?

Modernities and Geography Education:

A Comparative Study of

Romania, Sweden and England

the hunch
“The Hunch”
  • Experiences as a student and a teacher in different European countries
    • Romania – pupil
    • Sweden – university student and teacher
    • Belgium and England – teacher
  • False assumption to start with: that Geography, both as a school subject and how the geographical reality is perceived, was the same for everyone
starting off the process
Starting off the process...
  • Once having been exposed to different countries’ school geographies and perception of the geographical reality, the question arose – why is there such a difference?
  • I have chosen to look for the answer in the modernity paths of three of the countries where I had most contact with geography as a school subject: Romania, Sweden and England
  • The actual research was made on the each country's respective national curricula which have been produced throughout this period of modernisation
the actual research
The actual research
  • Contextual reading of the geography national curricula of the three countries as it has developed over the years
  • Each country has been looked upon from the modernisation path point of view
  • The geography national curricula has then investigated through the different types of modernity ‘glasses’ and in this way established the role geography education playes in the construction of different forms of modernity in each country.
but what is modernity
But what is modernity?
  • As Ocatavio Paz expressed it, ‘there are as many types of modernity as there are societies.’
  • On that note I started the modernity journey for the three countries, guided by a series of theories on the topic of modernity and of the connection between modernity and education
  • An additional question is whether these modernities are interconnected in the European context
  • Education is seen by Shipman (1971) as being fluid and vibrating to social changes
      • Dual role of education: generator of new ideas, but also as a tool for mass control
  • School is seen by Apple (2004) as institution of economic and cultural reproduction
  • Watts and Pred (1992) see the postmodern world as characterised by the ‘hyperspace’ which implies a ‘maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal’
more theories
More theories
  • Meyer et al (1997) provide the link between globalisation and education and the aspect of national identity
    • Nation-state is ‘culturally constructed’ and a product of both global and local narratives
    • There is a risk of superficial standardisation produced at national curricula level
  • Dale (2000) acknowledges that supra-national bodies are driven not only by a global cohesion at cultural level, but also by economical and political developments
  • Finally, Coulby presents us with his argument that the resistance to change is too strong within the European individual nation-states for a harmonious convergence.
with these theories in mind
With these theories in mind...

Modernity features

  • Romania – a ‘fractured modernity’
  • Sweden - the story of ‘hypermodernity’
  • England – ‘hyperspace’ of the global and idyllic countryside
romania a fractured modernity
Romania – a ‘fractured modernity’
  • As Baltasiu (2009) acknowledges, the flow of the cycle of development has been interrupted by the arrival of the communist regime
  • The country’s fractures preventing the ‘smooth transition’ to modernity:
    • The division between the communist and post-communist periods
    • The division between the East and West of Europe
romanian geography education
Romanian Geography Education
  • Started off beginning of 20th century with French influence and had the focus on regional geography.
  • During the communist regime geography curriculum continued to keep regional geography completed by a strong politisation through propaganda.
  • The national curriculum today still has regional geography as its focus, but European influences are being sensed in the Key Competences introduced since 2010.
sweden the story of hypermodernity
Sweden – the story of ‘hypermodernity’
  • As Pred (1995) points out, Sweden has developed from ‘industrial modernity’ to ‘high-modernity’ and on to ‘hypermodernity’ which ensured the development of social welfare and social engineering unique to Sweden.
  • Pippi Longstocking is seen by Berggren and Trägårdh (2010) as the expression of Swedish modernism: independence and individual self-sufficiency
swedish geography education
Swedish Geography Education
  • Has seen a considerable strong orientation towards the new spirit of socially and civically suitable Swedes during at the end of high-modernity
  • The hypermodernity started off with the geography curriculum embracing global issues, social and environmental sustainability
  • Current reforms bring the geography curriculum back on the regional geography path
  • There seems to be a strong conflict between the national vs global identity
england hyperspace of the global and idyllic countryside
England – ‘hyperspace’ of the global and idyllic countryside
  • Great Britain – the leading country of the industrial revolution and historically a super-power – now looks with some uncertainty and nostalgia towards future
  • The duality traditional – innovation, and global – local characterises England’s modernity path at the moment
english geography education
English Geography Education
  • As a true expression of ‘hyperspace’, the education has been characterised by a series of ideologies which reflect the socio-economic changes.
  • Early exposure to modernity has facilitated a broader view of the world and its problems – mirrored in the radical geography phase of the geography education in England
united in diversity
United in Diversity?
  • The context in which a country has shaped its modernity seems to be the decisive factor in creating the geographical imaginations which are communicated through the geography curricula of the countries investigated in this study.
  • Culturally constructed, each country's concept of geography differs more than was initially expected. As part of the Europeanisation process, these countries curricula seem to be divergent rather than convergent.
  • As Coulby (2000) pessimistically expresses it, the European spectrum of cultures, histories and traditions seems to be too diversified to allow a unified European educational system– too many and too different geographical imaginations promoted through national-bound curricula.
  • What they all have in common is that the geography national curricula follows closely the modernisation paths, and to a certaon extent we all belong to the “hyperspace” and the geography imagination(s) of each country is shaped accordingly.


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Thank you!

Diana Larsson