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Tackling early school leaving and low school performance through working with students’ representational spaces. The case of 15 years old students in France, Italy and Greece.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RE-mapping (Tackling early school leaving and low school performance through working with students’ representational spaces. The case of 15 years old students in France, Italy and Greece.)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

The Re-mapping project addressed two long-standing difficulties of the European Education Policy Space. First, the long-standing difficulty of education policy convergence in the EU, and second the difficulties that both policy makers and educational practitioners encounter in effectively tackling school dropout and low educational performance in the context of the European Union (EU), established reference points in the 2001 Lisbon agenda.
The above difficulties are of outmost importance as educational underperformance, due to any of the above three reasons, is directly associated with a country’s employability levels, limitations in productivity, innovation capacity, and with its overall ability to build and participate in a knowledge‐based economy.
Given the above difficulties, the overall objective of the Re-mapping project was to conceptualize the above difficulties under a new perspective and to create new metrics and additional languages to the accountability and performativity paradigm that have prevailed the last two decades in education. Through its two transversal pillars, the Re-mapping project aimed to render visible the invisible dynamics that: a) take place during the convergence process at the education policy level, and b) those that prevent students from reaching their full potential.
The RE-mapping project’s work revolved around two pillars:

I. First pillar: Addressing the difficulties of policy convergence in education.
This research pillar, having explored both state of the art and the difficulties encountered in the process of educational policy convergence in the EU since the Lisbon agenda, put forward an innovative argument stating that: (1) policy convergence in education should be viewed as a complex process of dialogue between multiply coded social semiotic systems, (2) any change in the national education systems cannot disregard their semiotic substrata and (3) locating and understanding the semiotic areas of entropy emerging in the policy convergence process offers valuable insights into the ongoing challenges encountered in policy convergence.
In service of the above-mentioned objectives, this pillar selected education policy documents of Italy, France and Greece for the period 2001 to 2017 as the corpus for analysis, to explore the semiosis of their dialogic process with the EU policy documents of the same period. In this regard, a thematic qualitative text analysis of the above corpus was first conducted using the MAXQDA 18 software on three parameters of Jacobson’s (1985) model of communication (the addresser, the addressee and the message itself), and secondly, concept maps for the thematic category ‘goals and objectives of education’ qualified as the ‘message’ in Jacobson’s model, were created with the Leximancer software.
Research results revealed that, in the official policy discourse of the three countries, there are significant differences: a) in the constitution of the national Self, b) in the constitution of the EU as partner in dialogue, and c) significant absences in the “translation” process of the EU directives concerning the thematic category “goals and objectives of education” in the national policy documents.
These results are breakthrough because a) they revealed that a semiotic analysis of policy discourses can locate areas of “untranslatability” between State-Members and the EU and b) suggest that a semiotic knowledge brokering, as additional source of data can facilitate and accelerate policy convergence in education. In Table 1, we can see the five dimensions of the proposed Semiotic Knowledge Brokering paradigm.

II. Second pillar: Addressing the difficulties in students’ underperformance.
By looking into the shortcomings of the current state-of-the-art and policy making in relation to the consideration of global-scale dynamics in the construction of educational disadvantage, this pillar built innovative theoretical alliances with capability theory, sociology, human geography and architecture, and through a mixed methods research, based on questionnaires, visual methodologies and elicitation interviews, explored how 212 vocational students from Italy, France and Greece position themselves in time and space. During the adopted research protocol, students were provided with graphic material and a visual code and were invited by positioning themselves in the present, to use the visual code in order to design under the form of a reflexive cartography, the path towards their dream.
Results revealed that in all three countries more than half of the students participating in the research, had difficulty to use the visual code in order to create the path towards their dream, revealing in fact an invisible form of sociological disadvantage manifested under the triple absence of a) the ability to dream, b) the ability to position themselves in space and time, and c) the ability to create a meaningful relationship with society. In figure 2 we can see nine examples of reflexive cartographies in which the students although they used some parts of the visual code, could not describe the path towards their dream or could not create connections with their present life, whereas in figure 3, we can see 9 examples of reflexive cartographies in which students either could not use the visual code at all, or they could not establish the connections between the elements of the visual code to create a path.
The above detected type of disadvantage is critical because: a) it reveals a new type of exclusion that is not located in the physical or the social space but in students’ imaginative space of possibility, b) it has repercussions on students academic profiles as the sustaining conditions for learning are missing, c) seems to affect for our sample highly similarly students with similar socio-demographic characteristics and d) has strong social and political implications.

So far. the project has communicated its results a) in the schools participating in the research, in their local communities and in their local universities; b) in scientific conferences of the education field, c) in scientific conferences of other fields, d) in the MSCA If cluster of education in EC in Brussels in June 2019, e) in the European Researcher’s Night in September 2019 in Padova.
Although the Re-mapping project started as a project addressing difficulties mainly in the education field, its results are much vaster as they address the key EU societal issue of inclusive and secure societies. The research idea so far has reached the Technological Readiness Level 3, which indicates that the research methodology adopted during the Remapping project a) could be digitalized in order to provide massive scale analysis in the education field and b) could be retested in diversified populations experiencing difficulties with their positioning in space and time such as refugees, long-term unemployed and displaced persons, in order to create a transferable diagnostic tool of a different type of exclusion. The methodology and the approach developed during the Re-mapping project can generate substantial societal direct and indirect economic benefits (by also avoiding direct and opportunity costs) through the diagnosis of undetected forms of disadvantage and the re-inclusion of marginalized or excluded populations together with all the social benefits associated in terms of employment, healthcare, security and political engagement.