The United States has a rich history of migration, from involuntary immigration resulting from the slave trade to the waves of immigrants who sought a new life on its shores. Partly due to the legislative changes in immigration policy in the last quarter of the 20th century, the cultural and linguistic diversity of the immigrant population has made the country more diverse. These demographic shifts affect schools across sectors in the United States—public and private, secular and religious—and across all geographical settings from urban to suburban to rural. Different immigrant groups have faced prejudice and marginalization, which have cemented cycles of socioeconomic disadvantage and persistent barriers to integration. Immigrant students tend to be disproportionately distributed across schools and are highly concentrated in schools with large numbers of students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. In tandem, educational policy prioritizes social efficiency (moving immigrant students into the workforce) instead of social mobility (advancing to higher education). The growing knowledge base that is centered on effective approaches to providing equitable opportunities to learn has identified three axes for action: (a) promoting students’ sociocultural integration, (b) cultivating their language proficiency, and (c) supporting their academic achievement. School reforms supporting these axes include the promotion of bilingual education, integration of immigrant students into schools, and advancement of authentic partnerships with families and communities.
Martin Scanlan, Francesca López, Maria Baez-Cruz, and Tsuru Bailey-Jones
In India, the teaching of English, a British colonial import and imposition, occurs within an ideologically contested, socioeconomically stratified, and politically charged terrain. Several centuries after its first arrival on Indian shores, English remains a minority, elite language, accessible mostly to urban dwellers and those in the middle and upper classes. Therefore, its present-day circulation helps reproduce and sustain colonial language hierarchies. Significantly, ideologies about English span a wide spectrum, from the language being cast as an illness, to its being seen as a necessary evil for progress, to its being heralded as a vital instrument for uplifting the poor and marginalized. Furthermore, the idea of an indigenized “Indian English” holds sway in the scholarly imagination, even as it is unclear what shape its porous boundaries take within the national consciousness. In perpetual dialog with other Indian languages, English is constantly negotiating a role in India’s rich multilingual networks. Crucially, it functions as the most powerful medium of instruction in the country, firmly regulating access to socioeconomic mobility and higher education. English instruction in India was established to serve colonial interests, and the traces of this past remain in contemporary pedagogical practices. Further, English instruction faces a variety of challenges in India today, including infrastructure constraints, complexities of multilingual pedagogy, rigid grammar translation pedagogy and rote-learning practices, teaching to the test, widespread use of inappropriate and culturally insensitive textbooks, and inadequate investment in teacher training. English controls access to power, prestige, and privilege in modern India; these factors, among others, play a determining role in perpetuating educational inequality across classes. Shining a light on the context in which English instruction occurs in India is thus both an educational and a social justice imperative.
The field of transnational childhood and education emerges under intensifying mobilities. These global conditions disrupt universalist educational treatments of childhood as a fixed developmental stage of human being. Transnationality shows childhood to be a psychosocially constructed experience that takes myriad form across diverse cultural, historical, educational, and political contexts. The lives of actual children are caught in colonial and national constructions of childhood and subject to its discourses, politics, and normative enactments through public schooling. The emerging field of transnational childhood and education represents a potentially critical intervention in colonial and national enactments of childhood worldwide. Despite interdisciplinary efforts to reconceptualize childhood, Western educational institutions continue to hold to and reproduce hegemonic and colonial understandings of childhood as monocultural, heteronormative, familial, innocent, and protected. Mass global flows of people, culture, and ideas compel policy-makers and educational experts worldwide to consider transnational childhood as the dominant situation of children in and across multicultural nations. The fluidity of malleable childhood experience is poised to generate new educational arrangements and innovations. Transnational lives of children de-stable normative categorizations and fixed situations placed upon children in and through the mechanisms of early childhood education and national schooling. Researchers of transnational childhood and education engage a range of educational experiences and arrangements of children moving within, across, and outside of formal and national schooling institutions. Increasingly children and families are caught in experiences produced by global, geo-political conditions including: war, forcible migration, detainment on borders, internal colonization, and environmental catastrophe. To respond to the times, families and communities seek out and/or are forced to provide opportunities and alternatives for children outside of school. Increasingly children use emergent digital and other forms of remote and inventive means of education. As research in this area is new, transdisciplinary, and ground-breaking, the study of transnational childhoods and education has the potential to radically innovate and deepen the meanings and possibilities of both childhood and education in a rapidly globalizing, uncertain, and changing world.
G. Sue Kasun, Patricia Sánchez, and David Martínez-Prieto
Transnationalism describes the ways in which ties between two or more nations are maintained; these ties abound in social practices that are, at times, situated within rigid governing structures. Transnationalism implies not only physical movement across borders, commonly referred to as “immigration,” but also emotional ties across borders. It also includes distinct ways of knowing that are informed by social media, loved ones, and cultural practices that span borders. The transnational social spaces in which youth are raised are often filled with deep understandings of geopolitical contexts that weave together multiple national perspectives, personal navigation of physical borders (both with and without authorized documentation), and complex social networks in more than one country sustained through ever-changing media applications. However, these knowledges often remain unengaged in and underacknowledged by schools. The disciplines of sociology and anthropology have informed much of the research on transnationalism, although from different standpoints. Sociology has taken a more literal sense of transnationalism, focusing narrowly on physical bodies’ movements back-and-forth over borders. Anthropologists have more robustly engaged the emotional and psychological aspects of transnationalism as it impacts the groups generally described as “immigrants.” Unfortunately, most of the research related to transnational children and education has been under the larger framework of assimilation. The unfortunate result is that the focus on how immigrants assimilate misses the opportunity to interpret (and perhaps misinterprets) a larger set of accompanying phenomena alongside the immigration act. For education, transnational experiences can help students develop a sense of identity, which in turn helps them achieve in the school settings of both receiving and sending countries, should they have to return. Similarly, transnationalism complicates and makes notions of citizenship more robust. Immigrant students are always potentially engaged transnationals during their settlement processes—the possibility exists that they will remain actively connected to their home countries and even potentially return for visits or permanently. Educational research has more recently examined how transnationalism helps create and can deepen literacy practices, especially digital literacies. Numerous education scholars have called for educators to draw upon students’ transnational lives in the curriculum. This can help prepare all students for an increasingly globalized world. This does not suggest a “learning styles” approach in which transnational students are considered a monolithic group in need of a repertoire of instructional strategies to meet the group’s needs. Instead, educators need to create the space in which students’ transnational experiences and perceptions are allowed to be aired, understood, and built upon in schools. In education, the commonly stated goal is for the classroom to function as a “community of learners.” If, in fact, educators aspire to build true communities, transnational students’ lives should no longer remain hidden from the view of their peers and teachers.