Skip navigation

Site Map / Contacts

You are in:  Home » Volume 4 » John Sayer

This site uses cookies. If you continue it is assumed that you are happy to receive all cookies. Accept and close. View privacy policy

‘Schools for the future Europe: values and change beyond Lisbon’

Book review of ‘Schools for the future Europe: values and change beyond Lisbon’, John Sayer and Lynn Erler (eds), Continuum, 2012 (ISBN 9781441165732, 200 pages, paperback published at. £24.99).


Aiming at bringing about a well spelt-out roadmap on how to put values into practice for the future of schools in Europe, the editors set the tone of the book in an undoubtedly straightforward manner: ‘It is not a neutrally comparative study. It is more about action that will make sense for our children’ (p. 5). This book marks itself apart from other books on European education for practitioners by placing a clear focus on the post-Lisbon (i.e. 2009 Lisbon Treaty) Europe and by going beyond ‘economy-driven EU to the heritage and future of Europe as a whole’ (p. 2).

Structure wise, this book comprises three parts, covering 12 chapters in total. Well organised and nicely presented, the chapter outlines on the first pages of all chapters provide easy reference for busy readers interested in specific sections of certain chapters, making the book incredibly reader-friendly.
The first part of the book presents a systemic challenge imposed from outside the school system, namely the rightful inheritance of European heritage for children. The four chapters in this part work closely together to offer a historical perspective into the post-World War II European education policy development and provide pointers for future directions. Having equipped readers with a historical overview, Part 2 makes specific references to citizenship and language education—two major components of the European heritage. Prominent among all the five chapters in this part is the discussion of specific initiatives demonstrating how a European dimension can be incorporated in local and transnational practices. The third part of this book focuses in particular the European Schools and the European Baccalaureate, with a strong overtone of identifications with the rationale behind both schemes. In the conclusion, the editors outline a comprehensive scheme of actions to be taken for the future schooling of children in Europe. The scheme encompasses four levels of actions, ranging from actions at the individual level to those at the pan-national and European level.

Among the most valuable qualities of this book, case studies are perhaps the biggest strength. They provide vivid examples of how ideologies and values in European education system can be translated into practice. For instance, for the British audience, the case studies of Wix Primary School and Chenderit School are notable illustrations of how the European School can be adapted and developed on British soil. For teacher educators interested in fostering trans-national teacher education collaboration in Europe, the case study of the PGCE/ Maîtrise FLE joint programme is a must read. As the editors insist, not only should we learn from more successful implementations, but we have to take lessons from examples where failure strikes but alternative approaches are sought, as in the case of the Culham European Academy project. The examples offered not only provide implications for ‘wider adoption’ (p. 7) in Europe, but also lend themselves to critical scrutiny by practitioners in different national contexts.

Despite the fact that all authors are from a British background, this book bears an undeniable merit of incorporating expertise and practical experiences of both practitioners (head teachers and teachers) and policy researchers. While policy researchers give readers critical perspectives into policies and initiatives, front-line practitioners provide down-to-earth and practical insiders’ perspectives into their own school practices. Their critical reflections, which are delightful bonuses, add an analytical layer to the overall presentation of the book.
Albeit at times slightly cliché-sounding, the authors are rightly critical about certain dominant assumptions of educational research in Europe, e.g. emphasizing generalization over exploratory research and favouring quantitative over qualitative research. As the authors maintain, such emphases result in researchers’ ‘search for commensurability across European systems’ (p. 224) and end up confining themselves to researching the most measurable ones, such as ‘the much disputed PISA exercise’ (ibid).

Rich in content and strong in case illustrations, this publication is surely recommended to practitioners looking to gain perspectives into European education policy development. It is also a handy and useful reference book for PGCE or Master level students working on literature reviews of European education policies from the past World War II period up to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty and beyond.

Lingling Xu /