Structures of identification in Curriculum – European examples

By Solvejg Jobst & Tom Are Trippestad | September 13, 2015

Summary: The educational debate in Europe is marked by the assumption that international education can help to cope with the increasing interconnectedness of people, activities, places and events. At the same time, the protection and restoration of each nation’s economic and cultural base against globalization and multiculturalism also have an impact on educational policies and educational practice. The characters of those competing discourses are strongly framed by structures of identification that imply various kinds of in- and out-group relations with different emotional, cognitive, and evaluative connotations. Against this background, the paper focuses on agencies that are being set up by educational policies and teachers in reshaping contemporary complex society. It investigates different European cases: a) European identification in the individual curriculum of German, Czech, and Polish teachers and b) identification as a political issue of nations outside the EU through a Norwegian example.
Keywords: curriculum, identification, national identity, ingroup – outgroup, teachers, educational policy

Резюме (Сольвейг Йобст & Том Аре Триппестад: Структуры идентификации в учебном плане – европейские примеры): Европейский образовательный дискурс в значительной степени определен гипотезой, состоящей в том, что международное и межкультурное образование создает центральные предпосылки в обращении с растущей взаимозависимостью лиц, видов деятельности, мест и событий. Одновременно укрепляется функция защиты национальной экономики и культуры от глобализации и мультикультурализма, центральную роль в которой играют образовательная политика и практика. Противоречия приводятся в систему структурами идентификации, которые, в свою очередь, подразумевают различные формы привлечения собственных и побочных групп с различными эмоциональными, когнитивными и оценочными коннотациями. В контексте этих дебатов обсуждается вклад общественных структур, производимых образовательной политикой и обучающимися/учителями. Данный вклад основан на европейских примерах: a) на европейской идентификации в индивидуальном учебном плане немецких, чешских и польских учителей и б) на роли продуктов идентификации в образовательном политическом пространстве, с привлечением Норвегии как нации за пределами ЕС.
Ключевые слова: учебный план, идентификация, национальная идентичность, собственная и побочная группа, учителя, образовательная политика

Zusammenfassung (Solvejg Jobst & Tom Are Trippestad: Identifikationsstrukturen im Curriculum – Europäische Beispiele): Der europäische Bildungsdiskurs ist weithin von der Annahme geprägt, dass insbesondere die internationale und interkulturelle Bildung zentrale Voraussetzungen im Umgang mit den wachsenden wechselseitigen Abhängigkeiten von Personen, Aktivitäten, Orten und Ereignissen schaffen. Gleichzeitig verstärkt sich der Ruf, nationale Ökonomien und Kulturen gegenüber Globalisierung und Multikulturalismus zu verteidigen, wobei Bildungspolitik und Bildungspraxis eine zentrale Rolle spielen. Diese Kontroversen sind von Identifikationsstrukturen strukturiert, die wiederum unterschiedliche Formen von Eigen- und Fremdgruppenbezügen mit unterschiedlichen emotionalen, kognitiven und evaluativen Konnotationen implizieren. Im Kontext dieser Debatte diskutiert der Beitrag Gesellschaftskonstruktionen, die von Bildungspolitik und Lehrern/Lehrerinnen (re)produziert werden. Er bezieht sich auf europäische Beispiele: a) auf europäische Identifikation im individuellen Lehrplan deutscher, tschechischer und polnischer Lehrer(innen) sowie b) auf die Rolle von Identifikationsangeboten im bildungspolitischen Feld, wobei Norwegen als eine Nationen außerhalb der EU herangezogen wird.
Schlüsselwörter: Curriculum, Identifikation, nationale Identität, Eigen- und Fremdgruppe, Lehrer(innen), Bildungspolitik


The national school – although there is a variety in each national system – tends to homogenize culture and to reproduce the social structure of society. Educational politicians, curriculum planners, teachers, and other school agencies are taking part in constructing a symbolic order that is quite ambivalent in its social and cultural consequences. On one hand, it provides all members of society with common knowledge, values, and norms that can help as the basis for mutual understanding, communication, belonging, and social integration. On the other hand, the same norms, values, and knowledge represent the symbolic order underlying the interests and understandings of special powerful groups within society. In this sense, national education appears as an instrument of closure and exclusion and as the place of struggling for cultural and social recognition. Against these complexities and ambivalences a closer examination of identity construction within school curriculum will underline the role of school in constructing social order, as well as its opportunities and limits of individual and social development.

Nowadays, the trendsetting force of identity construction is particularly significant – given increasing international and intercontinental immigration, the creeping colonization of national education by the world capitalist economy, and the weakening of national educational policy. Within this context, contradictory developments emerge. First, the national identity and its formation in school are no longer taken for granted as the call for an intercultural and international education becomes stronger. Second, however, the fundamental social change leads to a formation of resistance identities, where nationalism is only one expression of it (Castells, 1997, p. 9). Those identities are related to the always ostracizing question: Who belongs to us, and who does not belong to us? It is this complex role of national and supranational identity construction we would like to examine more closely in the following discussion. We will focus on inclusive and/or exclusive structures of identity construction within the individual curriculum of teachers and the formal curriculum of policy. What agencies are being set up by educational policies and teachers, reshaping contemporary society in light of internationalization and multiculturalism? Answering this question we investigate different European cases. We show examples of European identification in the individual curriculum of German, Czech, and Polish teachers and we discuss identification as a political issue of nations outside the EU through a Norwegian example. We reflect these examples in the light of social identity theories that see identity as a social construction and related to different structures of identification. As a conclusion, we want to underline the common and contextual problems, ambiguities and opportunities to create a diverse and inclusive contemporary society.

Theoretical framework: Structures of Identification

Construction of Cultural Identity as Process of Identification. National identity – as a special kind of social identity – is constructed in and through institutions, but is also shaped by people on the bases of social and cultural materials in their daily lives. It is nothing we are born with, but a production which will never be finished (Hall, 1994, p. 26). The dynamic character of identity is underlined by the term identification, which is seen as social categorization, ascription and belonging (Graumann, 1997; Jobst, 2004, pp.125). First, identification of something and somebody refers to the fact that we categorize our environment and ourselves by discriminating between what belongs and what does not belong to us. By doing so, complexity and uncertainty is reduced. The downside of this function is that it can serve as a basis for building stereotypes. For example, Tajfel and Turner (1986) argue, that the “mere perception of belonging to two distinct groups – that is social categorization per se – is sufficient to trigger intergroup discrimination favouring the in-group” (p. 13). Second, identification as ascription points to the fact that other individuals are positioned in comparison to others within their life course. Identifications that imply belongings, responsibilities, and expectations are most significant (Graumann, 1997, p. 312). Spatial identifications, such as national identification, are most suitable to serve as ascription of social status, as means of ideologies, power, and hegemony. Third, however, categorical and attributing identifications only become an identity (identification with something) when people find them meaningful.

Internationalization and multiculturalization, the growing interconnectedness of social action and events, make people navigate through a great variety of social and cultural identifications. They cope with concentric, competing, and overlapping loyalties to different objects of identification (e.g. Davies, 1993, p. 295) and build up multiple, transcultural, hybrid identities or resistance identities (Castells, 1997, p. 9). Against this growing complexity, it is fundamentally decisive to differentiate between structures of identifications (Jobst, 2004, p. 138; Jobst & Skrobanek, 2001). First, we can assume a conflicting structure of identification – an identification that structures the perception of the social world through a fixed, closed border between in-group and out-group – between “we” and “them” (e.g. nationalism). In clear contrast, an inclusive structure of identification is conceivable, based on the fact that people feel affiliated with several socially defined spatial categories or groups. Third, we may assume a dominant structure of identification that implies a strong orientation on one spatial category, but does not encourage a negative stereotyping of others (e.g. national patriotism).

The importance of others as a part of one’s own identifications has already been emphasized by classical social (identity) theories, which see the “we” as always being constructed in contrast to the “them” (e.g. Marx, 1988, p. 67; Mead, 1973). However, seeing that national identification can have different structures and thus various kinds of in- and out-group relations with different emotional, cognitive, and evaluative connotations, this old wisdom should be subject to more differentiated empirical investigation. Thus, in this paper, the general question “How is national identity being effected – displaced or strengthened – today in the context of internationalization?” is specified by examining the structures of identifications within school curriculum.

Identification structure and school curricula: Empirical insights

In the following we discuss the development of identification through two forms of curriculum. First, we discuss the national identification in the official national curriculum of Norway. Second, we focus on the individual curriculum of the teachers in Germany (Saxony), Poland, and Czech Republic. In educational theory, the official curriculum is seen as a concrete instrument for the implementation of the educational contents and goals as they are manifested in education policy documents or from various interest groups within society. As one of the “populärste Lenkungsinstrument von Schule” (“most popular steering instrument of school”), the official curriculum fulfills a legitimacy and a regularity or control function (Vollstädt & Tillmann, 1999, p. 19). The official curriculum legitimatizes the educational content, objectives, and methods to the public and functions as a guide for teachers. At the same time, curriculum stands for a political text as a “selective tradition” to be shared. “That is from that vast universe of possible knowledge, only some knowledge gets to be official knowledge, get to be declared legitimate as opposed to simply being popular culture” (Apple, 1999, p. 11).

However, teachers have their own interpretation of curriculum and, in the exercise of their profession, make vital contributions to the constituting of society. In interactions between the internal professional field and the wider societal change, they produce worlds of meaning specific to their profession (Jobst, 2010, p. 113). At the same time, teachers embody a social group whose jobs also reproduce fundamental social structures and cultural identifications. According to Bourdieu (1996; Wacquant, 2004), the social structure is found in the teacher’s habitus. In this sense, the individual curriculum of teachers is seen as a result of the dialectical interaction of teacher’s habitus with the given situation (Jobst, 2010, p. 114).

The National Identifications in the Core Curriculum: The case of Norway

The core curriculum of the Norwegian school system was constructed in 1993 and still shapes the main visions, principles and overarching goals for the local school curricula of the Norwegian school system from kindergarten to adult learning today. The global yuppie era and the economic crisis hitting Norway in the late eighties were an important background for the new curriculum. A powerful economic narrative was set up making dramatic diagnoses of the condition of the identity of the population of Norway as an economic state.

Conflict structures of identification within the economic narrative of national curriculum

The core curriculum of Norway was developed with explicit analysis deducted from models based on Hobbes and neoclassic economic theory, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. The educational minister at the time, Gudmund Hernes, was a professor of sociology and specialized in economic sociology and political power theories. A Hobbesian construction of the public was set as a premise for the curriculum. The individual was viewed as selfish and driven by wanting to gain resources. Resources are viewed as too scarce to share. Individuals would be in a constant pull towards a battle over resources. This conflicting economic narrative paints individuals as selfish and in a constant, near state of war with each other; they would need an outside sovereign to make peace and contracts possible, allocating the right amount of resources for the right job to the right person or group. A stronger social identification barrier between the public and its leaders was developed through this new public management ideology. Participant democratic styles of governance were weakened. Distrust in the individual and the public as positive democratic driving forces grew. Stronger political leadership and school leadership were promoted (Trippestad, 2011, p. 638)

From this Hobbesian conflict structure, a narrative was created, telling of nations competing over scarce resources in an economic race over world market domination. Nations would win by training their human capital through education. The threat of the international competition nurtured a national, economic identity of competitiveness – an economic “us” nationally in competition with “them” internationally. The lack of an outside sovereign, making peace and treaties possible, made cooperation between nations quite necessary to address the complex, transnational and intertwined crisis of economic globalization. Paradoxical goals of identification became key curricular aims – goals of being competitive and effective, while also fostering economic solidarity by sharing gained wealth globally became key curricular aims.

Another major economic analysis was done with explicit negations to Marx. Contrary to Marx, who had predicted that the forming of a world market would create a working class with common identity and solidarity ready to grasp power and share resources more justly, the global differentiated and specialized market led to specialized workers only showing solidarity to their kind:

When function becomes more important for power than numbers – a development converse to what Marx expected emerges. Class solidarity becomes of less instrumental value than occupational solidarity. Rather than Ricardian labour markets leveling skills and unifying the great mass of workers on the same low, untrained basis, we find the opposite development, where occupational specialization leads to organizational fragmentation and to conflicts when groups use their power to improve their relative position. Occupational loyalty (‘group egoism’ is the negatively loaded term) is further stimulated by the types of services that occupational unions seem to be better able to provide for their members, such as loans for housing or other fringe benefits through special agreements. (Hernes, 1991, p. 246)

The modern interdependency made this a threatening or conflicting situation. The government analysis predicted those small specialized groups with occupational loyalty and no organic solidarity could paralyze the nation through strike or destructive actions. In the core curriculum, the problems of the specialized identities and homo economicus were explicitly addressed through an enlightened ideology and identity politics. Curriculum gave the pupils a rich work concept and a broad theoretical and cultural approach as a counter strategy.

In the chapter, The Working Human Being, work is introduced as something much more than gaining resources. It is seen as developmental:

Work is not merely a means of earning a livelihood. It is intrinsic to the human personality to test, express and extend skills through work. Education shall provide pupils and apprentices with awareness of the variety and scope of the world of work and bestow the knowledge and skills necessary for active participation in it. (KUF, 1993, p.16)

By installing protestant ethic as an identity, work should be seen as a reward on its own and not only as a mean of getting resources. The surplus of society would increase, making a bigger and more even distribution of resources possible. The understanding of an ideal “we” as an enlightened member of a contract-society were explicitly expressed in the curriculum

Our welfare society itself is built upon a moral contract: on the one hand by everyone contributing to a system that supports and serves oneself when in need; and on the other by empowering others to develop their skills and strengthen them when they are in need. (KUF, 1993, p. 9)

In the chapter, The Social Human Being, modern pupils are presented as being alienated from work and not understanding how society works. Youth have little opportunity or practice in making decisions with practical consequence. Vicarious experiences have increased, at the expense of direct experiences. Schools would need to teach students a system of duties and responsibilities, giving social training and experiences with attention to the practical consequence of their actions:

For this reason, it is important to exploit the school as a community of work for the development of social skills. It must be structured in such a way that the learners’ activities have consequences for others, and so that they can learn from the impact of their decisions. (…)This implies that learners – from the first day of school, and increasingly with age – must have duties and responsibilities, not only for the sake of their own benefit and growth, but also as an obligation to classmates and other members of the school community. (…) The aim of this type of training is to develop empathy and sensitivity towards others, provide practice in assessing social situations and promote responsibility for others’ well-being. (KUF, 1993, pp. 30-31)

Conflict structures of identification within the cultural narrative of national curriculum

According to educational authorities, the centripetal power of differentiation and specialization was given further force by a global mass media expansion, multiculturalism and a knowledge explosion. A strategy governing the personalities and superstructure through a national curriculum was set:

Since the topography of society – its basis – split the nation, we in the council of the king need to unite. The grip of the statesman must be this; what is dissolved by the natural infrastructure, we need to correct by affecting the structure of the personality. The basis is difficult; we must govern by shaping the superstructure. (…) One belief gives one people. It is the mind that needs to be lifted and uniformed if the nation is to be kept together. (…) We shall take on the task of building a nation and therefore need a common, firmer basis – the ground of a belief. (…) If we are to secure the right faith, the faith must be one. Therefore we need curriculum. (Hernes, 1992b, p. 36)

The need of protecting the nation’s culture and its identity against globalization was set as an important goal. The core curriculum and subject curricula set up a canon shaping the common reference and association ground for the goal of creating a harmonious, supportive and democratic society. In this sense, a nostalgic and stereotypical construction of national identification was set.

These constructions were based on the assumption of dystopias that all could emerge in the wake of global culture, mass media explosion, and immigration. The nation could be split in a new war over ideas, or a new “religion war” as it was metaphorically stated. Migration without integration could split the country and breed new conflicts. Superficial and international mass media images would nourish vicarious experience and irrationalism at the cost of real knowledge and values. The cultural heritage of the nation – its history, myths, stories, songs, and paintings – needed protection so that the nation as a whole could contribute, with originality and its special offers of identification, to the world community. To master the threat of the knowledge explosion, classical scientific models and academic skills were needed to construct a “we” able to master the flow of information.

The possibility of geopolitical control was diminishing with the knowledge and mass media explosion, immigration, and specialization, potentially leading to a weakened and fragmented nation. The manufacture of consent, inspired by Walter Lippmann, was made explicit as a political strategy and goal to counter these potential conflicts though a common national curriculum. The new core curriculum used Norway’s dominant majority culture and religion as the key building bricks in this new national identification process. Central government set the fundamental associations and references allowing members of the community to organize information, communicate effectively and understandably with each other creating a harmonious society. The premise of the construction was to safeguard a cultural “we” group against a global “they” group. In traditions, the connection of local and national identification laid the important values creating distinctiveness, depth, stability, breadth, vigor, and unity in identities against the transitions and massive changes of globalization.

[…] The increasing specialization and complexity of the global community requires a deepened familiarity with the main currents and traditional tones of our Norwegian culture. The expansion of knowledge, moreover, demands heightened awareness of the values which must guide our choices.

When transitions are massive and changes rapid, it becomes even more pressing to emphasize historical orientation, national distinctiveness and local variation to safeguard our identity – and to sustain a global environment with breadth and vigor. A good general education must contribute to national identity and solidarity by impressing the common stamp from local communities in language, tradition, and learning. This will also make it easier for pupils who move to find their footing anew as migration will mean relocation within a familiar commonality. The bonds between generations will be closer when they share experiences and insights, stories, songs, and legends.

Newcomers are more easily incorporated into our society when implicit features of our culture are made clear and exposed to view. Knowledge about past events and achievements unite people over time. The knowledge of history enhances our ability to set goals and choose. (KUF, 1993, p. 29)

The core curriculum and the subject plans were given long and detailed lists over the references and associations that were to set the common set of national identifications. Later, in the new reform Kunnskapsløftet (2004) the detailed subjects planned were removed and more local curriculums were expected; still they were to be deducted from the core curriculum of 1993, which is still the premise of schools today.

Through the analysis, it was determined that both the economic and cultural identifications in the core curriculum of the 1990s were driven by very strong conflict structures. The nation’s economic and cultural states were both threatened by inner and outer enemies. Inner economic threats came in the form of homo-economics and occupational specialization, fostering individual or group egoism rather than organic solidarity with the nation. Outer threats came from international economic competition, migration, a knowledge explosion, and a mass media culture spreading images and culture with little value, breaking down the nation’s cultural common ground and possibility of community. The result was a dominant structure of national identification within the curriculum – an identification structure that was based on the majority culture’s premises which provided little support for schools dealing with the new, diverse pupil population of a global age (Trippestad, 2011, 2014).

Teaching for European Identification? The Curriculum of Czech, German and Polish Teachers

The growing cultural diversity that accompanies increasing international immigration, political internationalization, and growing social interconnectedness of people and events is not only experienced as a danger to traditional and national values, norms, and standards. It is also taken as an opportunity to question the national identification and to overcome its limits by designing and coping with permanent change of modern societies. Promising answers to the global change are made by international and intercultural concepts of education. Offering an open identification structure to the students, it is assumed to contribute to international and intercultural understanding, global (organic) solidarity, and peace. The legal framework of this perspective can be traced back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (e.g. Art. 26). Since then national and international political agents have published a large number of documents, striving for a peaceful, respectful, and equal relation between people, nations, and cultures in education.

The humanistic and universal goals became most popular in the process of European integration, where the formation of a supranational identity helps to build trust between Europeans to overcome the democratic and cultural deficit of the European integration process. Thus, EU and its member states are undertaking steps to implement the European dimension in school curriculum (e.g. the Single European Act of 1986, Mickel 2002). The international (European) perspective on education has received fresh impetus since the big change of 1989; a crucial part of educational policy has stemmed from the Central East European transformation states. For instance, Czech Republic and Poland integrated European identification as a focus of the creation of new national school curricula. The Czech Education Ministry published in the beginning of 1990s reports of experts, with the title: “The future of education and school in a renewed democratic society and in the integrating Europe.” With reference to Poland, Hörner (2002) underlines the “Europa-Kompatibilität” of Polish school as the guiding narrative of school reform discourse. In (East) Germany the situation has been slightly different. With the German unification and the “Quasi-Beitritt” (“quasi-joining”) of the GDR to the EC, (Teske, 1993, p. 13) the EU’s previous educational decisions and the resolution “Europe in classroom” by The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (1978, 1990) gained credibility in the five new federal states in East Germany.

All in all, the radical transformation in Central Eastern Europe demonstrates that social change and uncertainty do not necessarily lead to a renaissance of national identifications. However, the question is: Does the strengthening of the European dimension in school curriculum lead to a real alternative to the conflicting and fixed national structure of identification? To shed light on this problem, we shall now present the “European curriculum” of Czech, Polish, and German teachers. What do they perceive as the curriculum for European identification and which structure of identification is implied? The answer to the questions results from empirical data which was gathered during the project “Teaching for Europe”. During the 2003-04 school year, problem-centred interviews with 92 teachers from Katowice (Poland), Liberec (Czech Republic), and Leipzig (Germany-Saxony) were carried out. For each country, ten teachers at the primary school level and twenty teachers at the first secondary school level were interviewed, all of whom were history, civics, or social studies teachers. The discussions examined the issue of 22 theoretically grounded and socially relevant guiding questions which gave information about the content knowledge particular to one’s profession (Shulman, 1991) and expectations that teachers hold with respect to the cultivation of an European consciousness as well as their European affiliations. (Jobst, 2010)

In the following discussion, we concentrate on the results that point to the relation between national and European identification.

The central role of national references within individual “Europe-curriculum” of teachers

The response of the teachers, to which extent their teaching contains contents about Europe, was answered quite differently by the teachers in each of the three study regions. It is shown that the Polish teachers from Katowice include Europe into their lessons at a comparatively extensive level. In contrast, the German teachers are the group with the fewest European references in their teaching. Looking at the grade level in which the children are introduced to Europe, it is notable that even in the Polish primary school, children learn about Europe extensively and learn about the interactions between the Polish and European history and culture. In this sense, topics like “Our Europe”, “The emergence of Europe”, or “European roots in Polish culture” are discussed. Against this background of the “European curriculum”, lessons by Leipzig teachers can be described as “minimalistic” because they are limited to isolated topics including “the borders of Saxony” or celebrations in other countries. According to statements of the Leipzig teachers, teaching about the EU takes place only in 10th grade. The Czech teacher point to an intermediate position: compared with the Polish teacher, they include Europe less extensively in their lessons, but in contrast with the German teacher, they underline the development of an European membership at more primary level.

What are aspects that can explain those significant differences? A key question is whether or not the teacher’s identification with Europe will also correspond with a strong engagement in teaching supranational identifications. To test this assumption, a quantitative analyses, measuring the effects of local, regional, national, European, and global identification of the teachers, as well as the influence of the study region on the dependent variable “intensity of teaching European identification” was used. As can be seen in Table 1 – in the final model 2 – substantial effects were revealed only in the case of national identification and study region.

Table 1: Effect of “identification” and “study region” on the “intensity of teaching Europe”

independent variable dependent variable
“intensity of teaching Europe”
  r (bivariate correlation) Regression model 1 Regression model 2
    standardized regression coeffizient Beta
local identification -,06 -,20* -,06
regional identification (Saxony/Bohemia/Silesia) ,19* -,03 ,07
national identification (Germany/
Czech Republic/Poland)
,60*** ,57*** ,19*
European identification ,40*** ,24* -,14
global identification ,06 -,05 ,05
Study region (dummy with reference: Katowice/Poland)

Leipzig (Germany)

-,55*** -,86***
Liberec (Czech Republic) -,22* -,72***
Control variable


-,07   -,06
  ,41*** ,68***

Note: * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p<.001

One result stands out: It is not the teacher’s identification with Europe, but rather their national identification and their wider teaching context that have a strong impact on the integration of European contents into teaching. In the present study, the Polish context fosters a comparatively strong consideration of Europe in the teacher’s curriculum. Looking into the Polish official subject curriculum, you will in fact find a significant contrast to the German and a contrast to the Czech intended subject curriculum. The Polish core curriculum (podstawa programowa) as well as the “author’s curriculum” written by teachers and extra-curricular actions (e.g. Europaclub) focus very much on European identification (Jobst, 2014, p. 293). However, it is not the European identification of the teachers but their national identification that lays the foundation for teaching supranational identification. This interesting finding is confirmed by considering the actual content and aims of teachers’ teaching for Europe.

Dominant structure of national identification as basis for a meaningful Europe

From the reports of both the Polish and the Czech teachers it is clear that the identification of the European topic is closely linked to the national interests. In this sense the teacher’s nation can be considered as central reference point when it comes to European identification. A teacher from Katowice explained:

The aim of the European education is to help the young people to become a true European. During these hours, we show how we – the Polish people – have enriched Europe and how Europe has enriched us. During these hours, we show our connections to Europe, from the beginning of time. [203, 14-18]

Considering, however, the Leipzig teacher pays no attention to the nation when it comes to Europe.

With respect to the question to which extent the formation of European identity or consciousness could be of any worth, most of the teachers indicate universal expectations. Focusing on European identification, school should contribute to the development of universal values like tolerance, understanding, acceptance of other cultures and nations, as well as to the reduction of xenophobia. However, a closer look into the different regions shows: Whereas German and Czech teacher see European education closely connected to an universalistic moral, the Polish teachers are characterized by a strong national in-group relation (Cramers‘V = .48; p = .000). 47% of these teachers think that the European awareness should help pupils to consolidate their national identity. One teacher commented as follows:

A larger belief that the Pole also counts in this united Europe. They should understand the contribution to European culture and history. For whatever reason, we always feel worse than others. Sometimes foreigners judge us better than we judge ourselves. I wish that the youth believes in itself and feels that they are equal partners for EU citizens. They should believe that the Poland has much to offer to the EU. [222, 69-79]

It should also be noted that in most cases (70%) the strengthening of the national Polish identification was not accompanied by the development of universalistic values. (Jobst, 2010, p. 185)

To summarize, an extensive articulation of European issues in teaching is closely connected to national identifications. Teachers that are most likely to address European identifications to their students connect their “European curriculum” to national interests and focus on national belongings. In addition, the more teachers identify themselves with their nation the more they include European contents in their teaching. To conclude, without national identification there is no European identification. On the basis of this study, a dominant national identification structure is the basis for European identification. This could be a way to make the abstract category Europe more meaningful and subjectively understandable. On the other hand, and under certain conditions, the dominant identification structure may end up in a conflicting, nationalistic identification structure. Evidence for this can also be found in this study, since further analyses show that “Europe in classroom” functions as a social exclusive category. Half of the teacher underline – without asking them – that a European identification curriculum can also be exclusive, since the European identification of the pupil changes with the social-economic background. They point to the poor economic situation of some families which may not allow them to travel to other countries or to the fact that individuals may not care for Europe or are frightened of Europe (increase of unemployment rate, poverty). In this sense, an European education will reinforce the distance between school and social-economically disadvantaged kids.


It was the aim of this paper to discuss the role of national identification set up in school curriculum of different European states. All the analyses distinctly point to the fact that national identifications are far away from being displaced. Rather they are strengthened in the course of economic globalization, increasing immigration and even as a part of a supranational European curriculum.

The conflicting economic narrative and dominant cultural narrative in Norwegian curriculum can be characterized as a modern version of utopian engineering, describing by Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies (Trippestad, 2009). However, the recourse to national identification and the popular slogan “Back to Europe”, which shaped the educational policy of the Central East European transformation states during the 90s, can be seen in this light. Popper describes two political panic reactions to these more open, relativistic, and uncertain societies. The first reaction he calls the arrested state. It is a political reaction formed on the premise that you can control the present flux with values and solutions from the past. Typical traits of such reactions are conflicting narratives of tribalism, patriotism, and active use of religious and mystic rhetoric in governance. The world is seen as in decay from an ideal or original golden age. Restoration of this golden age is at the core of politics and becomes a dominant structure. The second reaction is the belief that policies can control the future through visions, planning, use of science, and instrumental bureaucracy.

Of course, the actions within the political field are not without controversy. From political theory, we know that political governance is characterized by problem solving bias and power bias (Mayntz, 2009, p. 48). Within the context of our paper, this is underlined by the fact that the national identification, set up by educational policies, will only become an identity when teachers and pupils connect meaning to it. Further, it can be assumed that teachers, implementing their curriculum, make their own vital contribution to the development of society and its underlying structures of identification. However, the results of the teacher study also suggest that an European curriculum, as a concrete example of international education, cannot be considered as a way for fundamental changes of national school and national identity formation. Quite the opposite, the data indicate a “hidden curriculum” of European identity formation. First, the identification of European issues serves to strengthen the national identity – to preserve a fixed traditional culture. Second, European identification in school seems to foster social reproduction and by preserving the old ambivalent role of the national school. In this sense, the focus on supranational identification follows the old national ambivalent patterns of social and cultural reproduction. One can even dare to argue that the practice of European education in the national school stabilizes the unequal distribution of cultural capital since social justice is seen as an automatic integrated part of international education, but not discussed yet as one of its intended and hidden element.

Taking those contradictions of European education and the double identity goal of the Norwegian official curriculum – which identifies modern individuals as being competitive, effective, and at the same time acting in solidarity, sharing gained wealth globally – educational agencies set up paradoxical identifiers while dealing with social change and uncertainty.

Last, but not least, reshaping contemporary society in the context of transitions and massive changes in economic globalization, internationalization, and multiculturalism requires an open structure of identification – an identification structure that questions the majority culture’s premises.


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About the Authors

Prof. Dr. Solvejg Jobst: Bergen University College (Norway), contact:

Prof. Dr. Tom Are Trippestad: Director of Centre for Educational Research, Bergen University College (Norway), contact: