Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore


International Conference of  ESA 2016: Education and Empowerment: Theories and Practices

The crucial role that education historically played in conserving, producing, transmitting and validating knowledge renders the institution of paramount importance in understanding empowerment at all social levels.

Empowerment means giving people the tools to take ownership of their own educational career, to feel that their own actions really matter or make a difference, and generally, to take their lives in their own hands.  Empowerment can take place at many different levels. Specific actors can be empowered, including students, teachers, and parents, but educational institutions and, at the highest level, national or supranational policy makers could be empowering or empowered as well. A second strand of thought emphasizes the transformative aspect of empowerment in the sense that individuals or groups are empowered to transform the society they live in.

Educational reforms in Europe and beyond are formally attuned to aspirations of empowerment through policies targeting the inclusion of unrepresented social groups. Some believe that not enough has been done to stimulate the capacity of self-determination of every individual through education. Others argue that the role that this institution is increasingly expected to play in issues of empowerment has shaped our idea of education (in particular, higher education) as a public good. The relationship between education and empowerment is not straightforward. Within the same discourse, the vision of collective empowerment meets the neo-liberal archetype of the rational, responsible individual. Is and/or should education be a channel of social empowerment? How suitable is the concept of empowerment in understanding the institution of education at the local, national and supranational levels?

For the Research Network Sociology of Education (ESA) International Mid-term Conference in Milan, we are honored to invite scholarly expertise from all around the world in order to address the issue of Education and Empowerment from the following perspectives:


  • To what extent is the concept of empowerment useful for the sociological analysis of education?
  • What are the major theoretical developments in the study of empowerment and education?
  • What are the main methodological issues involved in exploring empowerment in/through education?
  • Which are the main empowering factors in education (through access, treatment, success, occupability …) and how do they work and relate one-other for different social groups?
  • How did the relationship between education and empowerment evolve in the context of globalization, crisis, resistance, innovation etc.?
  • What changes can be identified in the conceptualization of empowerment with regard to education?
  • How suitable is the concept of empowerment in understanding the role that education plays in society?
  • What are the different conceptions or visions of empowerment?

Policy Focused

  • What are the main educational strategies contributing to empowerment? At which level? And under what social conditions?
  • How does educational policy today respond to issues of empowerment in society?
  • How strong is the relationship between empowerment and educational reforms ?
  • How differently is “empowerment” embedded in the practices of social actors in education (students, families, teachers, principals, staff and local services…)?

Official Poster’s Event