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Ideas, interests and policy formation in the European education policy

Marina Cino Pagliarello

Education policy, traditionally a fortress of nation and state building processes, is now being challenged by the emergence of a new dimension at European level. The overall concept of education, linked till the end of the 1990s to workers mobility and to European identity, has been redefined after the Lisbon strategy of 2000 as a tool for productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of Europe. However, it is not clear which factors can account for this shift. This paper has three aims. First, it briefly examines the historical developments of EU competences in education and training, in order to identify changes in terms of policy and content of education. Second, it critically engages with the main explanations for these changes, broadly belonging to the neo-functionalist and intergovernmentalist integration theories and contends that these approaches provide an insufficient explanation of the drivers and mechanisms behind this change. Therefore, the paper suggests that a key to better understanding the changes in education may lie in the adoption of a more ideational approach that looks at the role of ideas in shaping political outcomes.

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