Gert Biesta

Gert Biesta is Professor of Public Education in the Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy at Maynooth University, Ireland; Professor of Educational Theory and Pedagogy at the Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh, UK.; and, until 2020, NIVOZ Professor for Education at the University of Humanistic Studies, the Netherlands. In addition, he holds visiting professorships at the University of Agder (Norway) in the departments of education, fine arts and crafts, and mental health, and Uniarts, Helsinki (Finland), in the Centre for Educational Research and Academic Development in the Arts. His work focuses on the theory of education and the theory and philosophy of educational and social research, with a particular interest in questions concerning curriculum, teaching, teacher education, citizenship and democracy.

He has been a long-standing critic of the ongoing ‘learnification’ of education, that is, the reduction of everything educational to questions of learners and their learning and continues to seek updated ways to put a broad and robust account of teaching at the centre of educational thought and practice.

His work has so far appeared in 20 different languages. Recent books include: The Rediscovery of Teaching (Routledge 2017); Obstinate Education: Reconnecting School and Society (Brill-Sense 2019); and Educational Research: An Unorthodox Introduction (Bloomsbury 2020).


(Re)turning the question: Is education the first reality of the self?

The encounter with the other is often described in precisely this way, that is, about how I encounter an other. Education’s interest here tends to lie in the ambition to prepare students for such encounters. One approach focuses on how we can help students to better understand others, on the assumption that better understanding will translate into better encounters, and some believe that the humanities have a special contribution to make here. Others, also at policy level, have a strong belief in the power of so-called intercultural competencies, and see it as a key-task for education to equip students which such competencies. Along both lines, education’s interest can be characterised as a strategy of empowerment: giving students the power to encounter the other. One thing that is remarkably absent in this way of thinking is the simple fact that before we encounter others, others are already encountering us. Rather, therefore, than starting from a sovereign subject who needs to gain the power to encounter the other, there may be good reasons for turning the educational question in another direction. Not: “How can I encounter the other?” But: “What is this or that ‘other’ asking of me?” The latter question, which, in my view, is the more productive one, calls for a strategy of disarmament rather than empowerment, not least because it is through this question that the whole issue of my existence as self comes into play.

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