Mapping Education’s Generational Neighborhood

Mapping Education’s Generational Neighborhood

The purpose of this long-term project is to acknowledge the increasing complexity of education locally and globally in a technology-enabled world. It focuses on describing and comparing important education sector issues from generational points of view. Why? Growing local/global interdependence challenges researchers used to thinking either domestically or internationally. One way to view this growing interdependence is to view it from time-delimited contexts, i.e., generations. They are both necessary and ubiquitous.

But how should these complex issues be viewed? Causal reasoning remains a most useful approach to understanding behaviors ranging from the institutional to the personal. Big data is opening up whole new vistas. They can offer not only opportunities for causal modeling, but also help contribute to “thicker” and “richer” descriptions of local/global contexts. One of IISE’s goals is to help map the School of Education’s (SOE) local/global activities so they can support both administrative planning and community engagement.

Another goal is to help develop global leadership in education from a time-delimited point of view. The consideration of the contexts of our generational neighborhoods keeps us looking both to our histories and our futures, always keeping in mind how to support our future generational success in an increasingly interconnected world. Three concepts can contribute to its development.

First, mapping allows for descriptions of complex issues with multiple, valid, and competing claims. Second, time-delimited, generational views can address complicated issues that can benefit from both disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Third, in an economy defined by competitors, it is important for us not to forget that we live in the same neighborhoods of time. This makes education for both economic competition and social cohesion significant, and generally “unsolvable.” As the boundaries of generational time shift, so do the policy contexts.

Why Mapping?

Mapping is a useful tool when there are multiple valid and incommensurable views of the same terribly complex issues. Predictive causal reasoning may be either not yet possible, or problems are framed in ways that make causal approaches simply not possible. Examples would be personal voice, moral concern, cultural identities, governance structures, social cohesion, and human rights. These are the “wicked” and “super-wicked” problems. Here the juxtapositions of different points of view in reference to each other can be helpful.

Why Generations?

First, there may be no more important reason for investments in both public and private education than that they are essential for successful generational succession anywhere in the world. It is so important that generations are often invoked, but rarely studied. Yet the education sector, both locally and globally, affects not only the young, but all ages. Generations exist within rolling boundaries and shifting contexts. There is, at least at this point in time, no escape.

Second, education for generational succession, locally, nationally, and globally, is, of course, grounded in culturally different understandings of success. So why are many governments cutting back on education funding, at the very time investments are most needed to address growing the local/global problems of demographics? Generational demographics are playing an increasingly central role in the development of education policies internationally. In an overly rough cut, many wealthier countries are aging, and many poorer countries are not.

As demographics can have major effects on both revenue capacities and expenditure needs, they can’t be ignored, but shared interpretations are difficult.  Consequently, critical analysis requires multiple ways of knowing, as it is unlikely there is “one best way” to address these policy issues.

IISE intends to focus on the issues related to local/global investments in education and their generational consequences. How do we know what a good investment is? How do we determine what a good return is?

In summary, findings from this project are useful to: a) point out topics and regions of expertise; b) ask colleagues globally to work with us collaboratively; c) continue to recruit top students globally; and d) explore new avenues for development in local/global education. Next steps include beating the bushes to see what interest there would be in looking at mapping, time-delimited analysis, and the neighborhood as a policy construct.