Education policy, traditionally a fortress of state-building processes, is now being challenged by the emergence of a new dimension at the European level. The Lisbon Strategy of 2000 has not only redefined education as a tool for improving Europe’s competitiveness within the knowledge economy, but it has also significantly expanded the role of the European Commission as a legitimate actor intervening in education. Although the increasing involvement of the EU in education has been empirically covered by the existing literature, less attention has been devoted to elucidating these changes from a theoretical point of view. This article contends that these transformations raise a theoretical puzzle in terms of the understanding of the two mainstream theories of European integration. This argument is developed in three steps. First, the article examines the historical developments of EU competences in education. It then critically engages with the main theoretical explanations of European integration theories in relation to these changes, namely supranationalism and liberal intergovernmentalism, asserting that these approaches do not fully account for a comprehensive explanation of the drivers behind these transformations. By contrast, the article suggests that broadening the analytical lens to include a more ideas-centred approach provides a more in-depth understanding of European education policy.
European education policy, European integration theories, European Commission, Ideas
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