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Thesis Spotlight – Personalisation between Social Regulation and Subjectivation: Shifts in the Structuring of Contemporary Societies and Institutions Nika Šušterič

Thesis Spotlight – Personalisation between Social Regulation and Subjectivation: Shifts in the Structuring of Contemporary Societies and Institutions

Issue 46: Pandemic (Im)Possibilities vol. 2 Sat 1 May 2021 0

Nika Šušterič, PhD candidate, Slovenia

Email: nika.susteric[at]
Institution: Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana
Time: October 1st 2017 – September 30th 2021
Supervisors: prof. dr. Milica Antić Gaber, prof. dr. Veronika Tašner
Funding: The Young Researcher Programme, financed by the Slovenian Research Agency

Compulsory education, one of the key regulatory mechanisms of Western societies since the 19th century, seems to be facing a serious crisis that leaves few of its elements intact. We can view this crisis, at least analytically, as twofold. On one hand, it is due to radical social changes  – ranging from environmental issues and robotisation to increasing inequality and a rise in right-wing populism – which call into question the many-faceted role of education in producing citizens, workers and individuals. On the other hand, the crisis of education arises from the educational field itself, which has been the subject of criticism for several decades – education has failed to reduce social inequalities, it has not prepared pupils for life in the future, it has not contributed to economic growth, and so on.

Our thesis is concerned with one of many solutions offered to this educational crisis, namely, personalised education. However, personalised education, presented as the panacea to educational and social ills in an OECD document titled Personalising education [1], appears to be a very vague and elastic term, capable of including a variety of meanings. It appears to designate both concrete pedagogical approaches and practices as well as a comprehensive educational rationality, promising to break with the old educational paradigm and to establish a new one, one that supposedly puts the learner at the center of education, gives her room for creativity and innovation and offers her choice and control over the educational process.

In our thesis, we will therefore focus on two tasks. First, by conducting a literature review, we will try to identify the various meanings that personalised education has, and thus offer a more precise and layered definition of it. Second, we will try to establish the types of pedagogies – concrete pedagogical practices, rules and relationships – that personalised education presupposes or advocates. Working with Bernstein’s [2] concepts of the pedagogic device and modalities of pedagogic practice, we will try to gain an understanding of the consequences that personalised education has both for the reproduction of the social order and for the formation of subjectivities, since it is precisely the variations in the pedagogic device that bring about variations in the constitution of identities as subjective consequences of social, in our case – educational, regulation.

We will relate our findings concerning the above-mentioned tasks with a discussion of currently dominant social rationalities. We will do this not primarily to determine whether personalised education is “good” or “bad” – although we also do not intend to shy away from the fact that educational questions are normative questions –, but to provide an answer to a different question. Relying heavily on Durkheim’s [3] social and educational thought, our focus is not reduced to the question of whether or not personalised education contributes to social reproduction and produces specific subjectivities. Rather, the question we will ultimately try to answer is this: what kind of society finds its requirements for reproducing the social order and producing specific subjectivities fulfilled by the implementation of personalised education? Answering this question is the prerequisite for further discussion both of the effects or outcomes of personalised education in particular and of the education we should strive for.


[1] OECD (2006). Personalising Education, Schooling for Tomorrow. Paris: OECD Publishing.
[2] Bernstein, Basil (2015). Razred, kodi in nadzor [Class, codes and control]. Ljubljana: Faculty of Education, UL.
[3] Durkheim, Émile (2009). Vzgoja in sociologija [Education and sociology]. Ljubljana: Krtina.

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