“Bildung”: Concept, evolution and influence in Western pedagogy from a historical and current perspective

Alicia Sianes-Bautista


Germany is a recognized "laboratory country" which key influence on contemporary thinking and pedagogy has been unanimously recognized by the currently most respected academic comparatists. The Bildung concept has had a special influence on Western pedagogy, which, incardinated in the German 18th century’s neohumanist movement, is a concept coined and developed by Humboldt with rich and multiple meanings, which analysis seems necessary for the purpose of unravelling all the wealth of nuances and implications that its projection is susceptible of generate in the education scope. It is interesting for the theoretical corpus of pedagogical discipline to bear in mind the unprecedented educational relevance of this German concept which has been taken as the object of study in this paper, and to analyse its etymology and meaning, as well as the real influence of this term in Western pedagogy, not only from a historical point of view, but also analysing its impact in the 21st century. In order to carry this out effectively, it has been applied a qualitative methodology, mainly based on the analysis of content through a detailed review of the specialized literature about the subject of study. The obtained results include, among others, the etymological origin of Bildung, in addition to its conceptual and educational development throughout history until it comes to converge in the current state of the issue. In conclusion, it is evident that this concept has been taken as a unique precedent of multiplicity of educational and formative currents not only in Western European but also in Anglo-American pedagogy, having evolved to the point of even conceiving itself as a facilitator of current educational processes, which are inevitably framed in the ICT and web 2.0 era.


Bildung; Pedagogy; Western World; Education


AÑAÑOS-BEDRIÑANA, F. T. (2012): Pensamiento y acción socioeducativa en Europa y España. Evolución de la pedagogía y educación social, Revista Historia de la Educación Latinoamericana, 14, pp. 119-138.

BARDIN, L. (2004): Análise de conteúdo. (Lisboa, Edições 70).

BECKA, E. E., SOLBREKKEA, T. D., SUTPHENB, M. AND FREMSTADA, E. (2015): When mere knowledge is not enough: the potential of bildung as self-determination, co-determination and solidarity, Higher Education Research & Development, 34, pp. 445-457.

BENNER, D. AND TENORTH, H. E. (2000). Bildungsprozesse und Lernen im Erwachsenenalter. Soziale Integration und Partizipation

durch lebenslanges Lernen. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 42, pp. 69-90.

BIANCHIN, M. (2012): Bildung, meaning and reasons, Verifiche: Rivista Trimestrale di Scienze Umane 41, pp. 73-102.

BIESTA, G. (2002): How General Can Bildung Be? Reflections on the Future of a Modern Educational Ideal, Journal of Philosophy of Education, 36, pp. 377-390.

BIESTA, G. (2016): Who’s Afraid of Teaching? Heidegger and the Question of Education (‘Bildung’/‘Erziehung’), Educational Philosophy and Theory, 48, pp. 832-845.

CALZADILLA, R. (2004): La pedagogía como ciencia humanista: conocimiento de síntesis, complejidad y pluridisciplinariedad, Revista de Pedagogía, 25, pp. 123-148.

PERSISTENT ENLIGHTMENT. (2014): Culture & Civilization: The first English translation of Mendelssohn’s answer to the question “What is Enlightenment?” Part II (https://persistentenlightenment.com/2014/04/20/mendelssohn2/), consultado el 30 de enero de 2017.

DEIMANN, M. AND FARROW, R. (2013): Rethinking OER and their Use: Open Education as Bildung, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14, pp. 344-360.

FELLENZ, M. R. (2016): Forming the Professional Self: Bildung and the ontological perspective on professional education and development, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 48, pp. 267-283.

FEJES, A. (2008a): Standardising Europe: The Bologna Process and new modes of governing learning and teaching, Learning and Teaching The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 1, pp. 25–49.

FEJES, A. (2008b): European citizens under construction: The Bologna Process analysed from a governmentality perspective, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40, pp. 515–530.

GARCÍA GARRIDO, J. L. (1991): Fundamentos de la Educación Comparada. (Madrid, Dykinson).

GARCÍA GARRIDO, J. L. (2013): Sistemas educativos de hoy. (5ª ed.) (Madrid, Ediciones Académicas).

GRIÉGER, P. (1972): Pedagogía general. (Alcoy, Editorial Marfil, S. A).

GRUSCHKA, A. (2015): Der Bildungs-Rat der Gesellschaft für Bildung und Wissen. Vorgelegt nach längerer Konsultation vom Präsidenten der Gesellschaft für Bildung und Wissen. (Opladen, Budrich).

FRANZEL, S. (2014): Recycling Bildung: From the Humboldt-Forum to Humboldt and Back, A Journal of Germanic Studies, 50, pp. 379-397.

HAMANN, J. (2011): ‘Bildung’ in German human sciences: the discursive transformation of a concept, History of the Human Sciences, 24, pp. 48–72.

HANSEN, K. H. (2008). Rewriting Bildung for Postmodernity: Books on Educational Philosophy, Classroom Practice, and Reflective Teaching. [Essay Review de los libros Educating Humanity: Bildung in Postmodernity, de L. Løvlie, K. P. Mortensen and S. E. Nordenbo; Looking Into Classrooms. Papers on Didactics, de P. Menck; and Teaching as a Reflective Practice. The German Didaktik Tradition, de I. Westbury, S. Hopmann and K. Riquarts].Curriculum Inquiry, 38, pp. 93-115.

HARDY, I., SALO, P., and RÖNNERMAN, K. (2015): Bildung and educational action research: resources for hope in neoliberal times, Action Research, 23, pp. 383-398.

HORLACHER, R. (2015): Bildung, la formación. (Barcelona, Octaedro).

HORNSTEIN, W. (2001): Erziehung und Bildung im Zeitalter der Globalisierung. Themen und Fragestellungen erziehungswissenschaftlicher Reflexion. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 47, pp. 517-537

HOUSSAYE, J. (2014): Formar en pedagogía. Sí, ¿pero cómo? Estudios Pedagógicos, XL, pp. 275-283.

IPLAND GARCÍA, J. (1999): El concepto de Bildung en el Neohumanismo alemán. (Huelva, Hergue Editora Andaluza).

JAEGER, W. (1945): Paideia: The ideals of Greek culture. (New York, Oxford University Press).

JÖRISSEN, B., and MAROTZKI, W. (2008): Neue Bildungskulturen im „Web 2.0“: Artikulation, Partizipation, Syndikation, en F. VON GROSS, W. MAROTZKI and U. SANDER (Eds.) Internet Bildung Gemeinschaft, pp. 203–225. (Wiesbaden, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften).

KLAFKI, W. (1998): Characteristics of critical-constructive Didaktik, en B.B. GUNDEM and S. HOPMANN (Eds.), Didaktik and/or curriculum. An international dialogue, pp. 307–330. (New York, Peter Lang).

KLIEME, E., AVENARIUS, H., BLUM, W., DÖBRICH, P. GRUBER, H., PRENZEL, M., REISS, K., RIQUARTS, K., ROST, J., TENORTH, H. and VOLLMER, H. J. (2003): Zur Entwicklung nationaler Bildungsstandards. Eine Expertise. (Berlin DIPF/Bonn, BMBF).

LOVE, K. (2008): Higher education, pedagogy and the ‘customerisation’ of teaching and learning, Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42, p. 15–34.

MALDONADO, C. E. (2014): ¿Qué es eso de pedagogía y educación en complejidad?, Intersticios sociales, 7, pp. 1-23.

MENDOZA, C. (2004): La pedagogía como ciencia: notas para un debate, Educación y postgrado, 9, pp. 229-240.

MENZE, C. (1981): Formación, en Speck, J., Wehle, G. Conceptos fundamentales en pedagogía. (Barcelona, Herder).

MESSNER, R. (2016): Bildungsforschung und Bildungstheorie nach PISA - ein schwieriges Verhältnis, Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 19, pp. 23-44.

NASSIF, R. (1983): Pedagogía general. (Madrid, Cincel-Kapelusz).

OLMOS DE MONTAÑEZ, O. (2009): Algunas ideas para la reconceptualización de la pedagogía como fundamento de la formación docente, Paradigma, XXIX, pp. 7-29.

PIERCY, G. (2014): Becoming oneself: dimensions of Bildung' and the facilitation of personality development, Studies in Continuing Education, 36, pp. 380-382.

PIKKARAINEN, E. (2012): Signs of Reality – The idea of General Bildung by J. A. Comenius, en P. SILJANDER, A. KIVELÄ and A.

SUTINEN (Eds.), Theories of Bildung and Growth. Connections and Controversies between Continental Educational Thinking and American Pragmatism, pp.19-29. (Rotterdam, Sense Publishers).

QUINTANA CABANAS, J. M. (1995): El concepto de formación (Bildung) en el pensamiento alemán, en Quintana Cabanas, J. M. Teoría de la Educación. Concepción antinómica de la educación, pp. 33-45. (Madrid, Dykinson).

REICHENBACH, R. (2014): Humanistic Bildung: regulative idea or empty concept?, Asia Pacific Education Review, 15, pp. 65-70.

REINDAL, S. M. (2013): Bildung, the Bologna Process and Kierkegaard’s Concept of Subjective Thinking, Studies in philosophy and education, 32, pp. 533-549.

SANVISENS, A. (1984): Introducción a la pedagogía. (Barcelona, Barcanova).

SENENT SÁNCHEZ, J. M. (2005): Los estudios de pedagogía en Europa en el contexto de la implantación del proceso de Bolonia y la situación de la Educación Comparada, Revista Española de Educación Comparada, 11, pp. 95-133.

TENORTH, H. E. (2016). Philosophy of "Bildung" and research on human development, "Bildung" and "basic education for all". An attempt to clarify relations, with a special respect to PISA. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswisenschaft, 19, pp. 45-71.

VERGARA CIORDIA, J. (2014): La educación en la antigua Grecia, en O. NEGRÍN FAJARDO and J. VERGARA CIORDIA, Historia de la Educación: de la Grecia clásica a la educación contemporánea. (Madrid: Dyckinson).

VON HILDEBRAND, D. and BARRIO MAESTRE, J. M. (2006): ¿Existe alguna legalidad o autonomía propia de la pedagogía?, Educación y Educadores, 9, pp. 87-101.

VON HUMBOLDT, W. (1960): Theorie der Bildung des Menschens, en W.VON HUMBOLDT, Schriften zur Anthropologie und Geschichte. (Stutgart, J. G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Nachfolger GmbH).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5944/reec.30.2017.18850


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Revista Española de Educación Comparada (REEC)

Faculty of Education. UNED. 
c/ Juan del Rosal, 14
28040 - MADRID (Spain) 
Phone number: +34 654 73 1122
E-mail: reec@edu.uned.es



ISSN (printed version): 1137-8654
ISSN (electronic version): 2174-5382
Legal Deposit: M.38499-1995