One characteristic of modern societies is that they are likely to assign their social problems to education. Arising in the specific context of the late eighteenth century, this ‘educational reflex’ paved the way for education to become an important social factor on regional, national and global scales. Witnesses for this upswing are for instance the expansion of compulsory schooling, the state organization and tertiarization of teacher education and thus the introduction of education departments in the universities.
However, in contrast to the social artefact of modern societies – pluralism in languages, cultures, values, and customs –, education research seems in many respects still committed to ideas of unity or uniformity. For instance, the global standardization movement fosters uniformity in curriculum and content to serve the purpose of dominant global evaluation schemes, which in turn are based on the idea of human cognition as an immutable arrangement of mental processes with regard to learning. Moreover, critics of these developments often argue with arguments and convictions that can be traced back to the time when the education sciences emerged in the context of the cultural and political idea of the uniform national state.
Obviously, today’s education research often operates using concepts that are derived from ideas of unity and uniformity in order to tackle the challenges of cultural and linguistic plurality in the context of democratic societies. This is both a paradox and an occasion to reflect upon the present and future role of education research in the context of modern societies in four attempts: Education Systems in Historical, Cultural, and Sociological Perspectives (Vol. 1); Multimodality and Multilingualism: Current Challenges for Education Studies (Vol. 2); Professionalization of Actors in Education Domains (Vol. 3); Education and Learning in Non-Formal Contexts (Vol. 4).