University College London
Editor-in-Chief, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Keynote Title:“Education and Social Inequality in Political Engagement”
During the final years of my Human Geography studies at the University of Amsterdam I developed an interest in nationalism and ethnic conflicts in the post–communist states of Eastern Europe. This interest led me to focus on the relations between the ethnic Ukrainian majority and the Russian minority in Ukraine for my doctoral research. More particularly, I examined the response of the Russian minority to state-led nation-building policies in education. I found that these policies promoted a cultural understanding of the Ukrainian nation, concentrating as they did on language and history as markers distinguishing Ukrainian national identity from that of Russia. The response of the Russian minority appeared to depend heavily on the relative strength of their numbers in the different regions of the country: opposition in places where they made up a near majority; integration in regions where their numbers were small.
After my graduation I wanted to do something completely different and started to work at the Province of North Holland as a civic servant in charge of projects aimed at the reduction of CO2 emission. This experience of working for a regional state made me realize fairly quickly however that I was made for academia.
I therefore resumed my academic career at the Institute of Education, where in December 2003 I started as a post-doc with an independent research agenda. Publishing from my doctoral research on language policies, history textbooks and understandings of national identity in Ukraine and beyond, I gradually shifted my research interests to themes such as civic values, political socialization and the relation with inequality and social cohesion, inspired by the research of Andy Green and other colleagues at the Institute. I began to examine these issues in a cross-national comparative manner, using the databases of well-known international surveys such as the WVS, EVS, Eurobarometer, ISSP and the IEA Civic Education Study.
In 2008 I began exploring the links between school socio-ethnic composition and the civic values of adolescents as part of the research agenda of the LLAKES Research Centre. I found that classroom ethnic diversity is not related in the same way to values such as tolerance and participation in every country. Strikingly, in England White British students expressed more negative views on immigrants the better their ethnic minority classmates performed. I later extended this research to other aspects of the education system such as educational tracking and citizenship education. In 2013 a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship allowed me to research the link between education and civic values more accurately through the analysis of longitudinal data such as the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study and Next Steps. In several publications emanating from this project we found that tracking only exacerbates inequalities in political participation. Currently, I’m writing a book on this topic together with Bryony Hoskins, a renowned expert on active citizenship. The focus of the book is on identifying features of education systems that help to mitigate social gaps in political engagement among young people.
Together with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam I started organizing an annual mini-conference on the social and political role of education. Since 2013 this conference has developed into a genuine travelling circus, having been organised in Amsterdam, London, Örebro (Sweden), and Groningen (Netherlands). Next year (2018) it returns to its home base Amsterdam. Over the years it accumulated a steady following which will ensure its continuity.