University of Oulu

Nonformal education and youth empowerment in the knowledge-based economy : a critical discourse analysis of the Europe 2020 strategy

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Author: Masoud, Ameera1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Oulu : A. Masoud, 2014
Publish Date: 2015-04-07
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Roberts, Gordon
Reviewer: Roberts, Gordon
Räsänen, Rauni


Nonformal education (NFE) and training is quite widespread in Europe nowadays, and is considered a tool for empowerment for youth and other individuals. Nonformal education was founded in the late 1960s as a response to the failure and limitations of formal systems, and was supposed to replace the bureaucracies practiced by such institutions within those. One of NFE’s aims is to empower learners through achieving un-met learning needs, and programmes should be tailored to meet their own interests. Thus throughout the years, the values related to NFE have developed into a different dimension and its educational programmes have been employed to serve political agendas. It has also been attributed to economic and neoliberal discourses. Having said that, this study examines how NFE and the concept of empowerment evolved through critically analyzing discourses in the Europe 2020 Strategy. Since the EU’s major objective is to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy of the world, the study will attempt to critically examine what influence does this objective have on youth empowerment, and whether NFE is being exploited to transfer the knowledge favored by the Strategy, thus contributing towards hegemonic ways of thinking and acting.

The focus of this study is to reveal the power of language in policies and its influence on shaping empowerment, utilizing Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis as the methodology to help in analyzing the significant discourses in the Europe 2020 Strategy. Accordingly, two narratives were identified and analyzed: a Transformation narrative that bisects into two sub-narratives of ‘Information Society’ and knowledge transformation towards a ‘Knowledge-Based Economy’. The second is an Adapting Skills narrative that has transformed the competencies of individuals to contribute to the former narratives. This has helped in exposing how ideologies and power through the language conveyed in the Strategy govern social change and youth’s interest towards a collective educational pathway.

This study argues that the policy lacks a critical approach, as it focuses its attention on building an information society that requires lifelong learners to be educated and empowered within certain domains. It could be noticed that it mobilizes educational programmes to promote determined objectives that marginalize other knowledge and competencies, also contributing to building ‘class’ and privileges among learners. Using Critical Theory and empowerment theory as the theoretical framework, suggests that transforming the society should result in improving the human condition, allowing not only for empowerment according to political interests, but most importantly for emancipation.

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Copyright information: © Ameera Masoud, 2014. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.