Education must be relevant - Europe's soft channels of influence
Institute for Political Science Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Münster, Germany
Education Policy is a key issue of the Lisbon strategy, aimed at making the EU "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world" (Lisbon European Council 2000). - This is an ambitious goal, but how and to what extend do the member states consider this aim in their national education political agenda?
The EU tries to influence the national education and social policies by soft channels like the open method of coordination, benchmarking projects, financial support or political recommendations. Through these, the basic concept of an activating social policy is to be transported.
This development includes the question whether and to what extent these influences are considered in national education polices. In this context, causalities cannot be analysed, yet possible influences and their effects on national education policies.
The paper discusses this question, investigating the example of Germany. Due to the federal structure in Germany, there is a formal separation of social and education policy. Changes in social and economic processes (including the process of Europeanization) provoke a changing relevance of education policy for the recalibration of the welfare state which fits into the concept of an activating social policy.
These developments lead to the hypothesis that Germany is characterised by increasing cross-sectional policies in the education and social policy sector with the purpose to reach a new balance between old and new social risks in Germany. This assumption includes two research questions that are to be examined in this paper: To what extent does the supranational level of the EU influence the German education sector and how is this mirrored in the education policy concepts of the German federal states? What are the consequences of such transnational effects for the national welfare state, in this case the German welfare state?
In addition to the direct impact of European directives, especially soft forms of influence are to be considered. The effects are examined by case studies of individual German federal states. This analysis aims to draw a current picture of the changes between education and social policies in Germany, with particular consideration of possible influences from the European level.