Asia literacy is an Australian education policy goal intended to educate Australian school students about Asian languages, cultures, and economies and, in turn, deepen Australian engagement with the Asian region. First defined in 1988, the concept has since been adapted by a suite of Asia education policies with more than 60 relevant policy documents having been published since the 1950s. However, despite being a cornerstone education policy, political vagaries have prevented the widespread and sustained implementation of Asia literacy education in schools. Tied to the broader goal of engaging with Asia, Asia literacy is in conflict with a sense of an Australian national identity and entangled with Australian economic, education, and foreign policies. A thematic review of the extant policy data and scholarly literature reveals several flaws in Asia literacy policy. Namely, it is underpinned by several assumptions: Asia literacy is learned in formal education; Asia is a knowable entity; proficiency in languages, cultures, and economies equates to Asia literacy; and Asia literacy is assumed to resolve national disengagement from Asia. This approach fails to account for everyday Asia literacy enlivened in the multicultural and multilingual Australian society. Scholars have argued that this “others” Asia from everyday Australian life. The implications of this model of Asia literacy play out in the classroom with few teachers reporting confidence in teaching Asia literacy content, and enrollments in Asia-related subjects being perpetually low. Newer policy imperatives which stipulate the teaching and learning of intercultural competencies may help to dissolve the construct of the Asian other and enliven Asia literacy in the classroom beyond knowledge of languages and cultures. If pursued, this can foster dynamic knowledge of Asia in Australian schools, bringing Asia closer to the everyday and enhancing engagement with the Asian region.
Emily S. Rudling
Nicholas C. Burbules
Meritocracy is a normative principle directing the distribution of opportunities and benefits based on ability, talent, or effort. It is a central issue in education, which seems centrally concerned with identifying, developing, and rewarding merit. But many have come to doubt the reality of meritocracy, apart from its worth as an ideal; and in a society in which opportunities and benefits (including educational opportunities and benefits) are in fact not distributed based on merit, the belief in meritocracy functions as a kind of legitimating myth. The essay concludes that meritocracy is an ambivalent principle, producing some things that we want and many things that we do not want.
The philosophy of Islamic education covers a wide range of ideas and practices drawn from Islamic scripture, metaphysics, philosophy, and common piety, all of which accumulate to inform discourses of learning, pedagogy, and ethics. This provides a definition of Islamic education and yet also of Islam more generally. In other words, since metaphysics and ontology are related to questions of learning and pedagogy, a compendious and indigenous definition of “education” offers an insight into a wider spectrum of Islamic thought, culture, and weltanschauung. As such, there is no singular historical or contemporary philosophy of Islamic education which avails all of this complexity but rather there exists a number of ideas and practices which inform how education plays a role in the embodiment of knowledge and the self-actualization of the individual self to ultimately come to know God. Such an exposition may come to stand as a superordinate vision of learning framing Islamic educational ideals. Questions of how these ideas are made manifest and practiced are partly answered through scripture as well as the historical, and continuing, importance of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam; as paragon and moral exemplar in Islamic thought. Having said “I was sent as a teacher,” his life and manner (sunnah) offer a wide-ranging source of pedagogic and intellectual value for his community (ummah) who have regarded the emulation of his character as among the highest of human virtues. In this theocentric cosmology a tripart conception of education emerges, beginning with the sacred nature of knowledge (ʿilm), the imperative for its coupling with action (ʿamal), in reference to the Prophet, and finally, these foundations supporting the flourishing of an etiquette and comportment (adab) defined by an equanimous state of being and wisdom (ḥikma). In this sense, the reason for there being not one identifiable philosophy of Islamic education, whether premodern or in the modern context, is due to the concatenations of thoughts and practices gravitating around superordinate, metaphysical ideals. The absence of a historical discipline, named “philosophy of education” in Islamic history, infers that education, learning, and the nurturing of young minds is an enterprise anchored by a cosmology which serves the common dominators of divine laudation and piety. Education, therefore, whether evolving from within formal institutional arenas (madrasas) or the setting of the craft guilds (futuwwa), help to enunciate a communality and consilience of how human beings may come to know themselves, their world, and ultimately God.
Homelessness, with poverty and housing inaccessibility as its underlying structural drivers, has an enduring presence in all Western nations. While governments traditionally focus on supporting adults, families, and youth out of homelessness, increasingly attention is being turned to the significant number of children under 18 years who experience homelessness alone without an accompanying parent or guardian. Unaccompanied children commonly leave home early against the backdrop of family conflict and breakdown, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect. They may sleep rough without shelter, couch-surf between extended family members, friends, and acquaintances, and access those youth refuges that will accommodate them. Without access to the consistent care of a parent or guardian, unaccompanied homeless children experience unique personal, systemic, and structural vulnerabilities that, without adequate developmentally appropriate intervention, will result in a range of physical, psychological, social, and educational harms. Schools, as the sole universal statutory service for children, can be central in the immediate safeguarding of children and their referral to services for additional supports. Schools can also offer a pathway into lifelong learning, employment, and community connectedness that is crucial to reducing poverty and enabling wellbeing and social inclusion. As such, schools have a key role to play in responding to unaccompanied homeless children by ensuring equitable access to education and engaging with the international shift toward child and youth homelessness prevention and early intervention. Research consistently suggests school-based programs are key to identifying children at risk, preventing homelessness, and improving learning outcomes for those who do experience homelessness. At a minimum, schools can intervene in educational harms, such as low attainment and early school leaving, that are associated with high mobility, a lack of support, cumulative trauma, and stigma. Addressing administrative and practical barriers to homeless children’s school access and attendance, implementing trauma-informed practice, and increasing awareness of homelessness are essential starting points. Further, the trend of articulating child wellbeing as a shared, cross-sector goal has increasingly created opportunities for schools, in collaboration with social services, to become innovative homelessness prevention and early intervention hubs that strengthen children’s outcomes.
Conversation is a topic of burgeoning interest in the context of educational theory and as a prospective means for conducting empirical research. As a nonformal educational experience, as well as within the classroom, or as a means to researching various aspects of educational practice and institutions, research on or through conversation in education draws on a range of theoretical resources, often understanding conversation as analogous to dialogue or dialectic. Although only brought into this research context in the early 21st century, the philosopher who has engaged most extensively with conversation is Maurice Blanchot (1907–2003). His text, The Infinite Conversation, originally published in French as L’Entretien infini in 1969, responded to and took forward many elements of what would go on to be described as poststructuralist or deconstructive thought. Blanchot’s notion of conversation (in French, “entretien”) is distinct from those reliant upon philosophical conceptions of dialogue or dialectic. Itself the subject of philosophical research, Blanchotian conversation has been interpreted variously as either not sufficiently taking into account the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas, or else expanding beyond its more limited scope. Some of these interpretations stress the ethical and political implications of conversation; however, none engage specifically with its educational implications. Blanchotian conversation allows for contradicting and contrasting thoughts to be voiced without being brought to shared consensus or internal resolution. Its “lesson” is not only in the thought that it produces but also in the ethical relation of sincerity, openness, and non-imposition that it develops. Unlike some recent applications of conversation to educational context, Blanchotian conversation does not re-entrench the subject to be educated but rather deprioritizes the subject in favor of the movement of thought and the ethical “between” of conversation itself. This notion of conversation has corollaries in political thought, notably with Jacques Rancière’s understanding of “dissensus” and Karl Hess’s thought of an “anarchism without hyphens,” as well as the politically informed educational ideas of Elizabeth Ellsworth and the educational practice and research of Camilla Stanger.
Christopher B. Crowley
The study of the curriculum and educational knowledge is a study of ideology. The curriculum is never neutral. It always reflects or embodies ideological positions. Ideologies present within the curriculum are negotiated and formulated through multilayered processes of strategic compromise, assent, and resistance. And as such, the curriculum ideologies become operationalized in both overt and hidden means—constructing subjects and objects of knowledge in active as well as passive ways. Teaching is always a political act, and discussions and debates over curriculum ideologies have a long history within the field of curriculum studies. In terms of its function related to the organization and valuing of knowledge, it remains important to recognize not only the contested nature of the curriculum but also how such contestations have ideological dimensions in the framing of the curriculum. Curriculum ideologies manifest in terms of what might be thought of as values, visions of the future, and venues or forms. This is to say, the curriculum is imbued with processes for valuing assumed choices related to its design, development, and implementation. These choices draw from ideologically based assumptions about the curriculum’s basis in political, economic, historical, sociocultural, psychological, and other realities—whether they be discursive or material in effect. Additionally, these curriculum choices also pertain to the means by which the curriculum achieves these goals or objectives through the formulation of designed experiences, activities, or other forms of learning opportunities. The curriculum—in certain regards as finding principle in the conveying of knowledge through a system of organization related to an outset purpose—has, as a central component to some degree, a vision of a future. The curriculum is something simultaneously constructed and enacted in the present, with often the expressed purpose of having implications and ramifications for the future. The curriculum’s role and purpose in constructing both tested and untested or imagined feasibilities again has to do with some type of vision of learning inflected by ideology. This may even take the form of envisioning a future that is actually a vision of the past in some form, or perhaps a returning to a remembered time that may have existed for some but not others, or by extension a similarly romanticized remembering of a mythic past, for instance. Ultimately, the curriculum, whether translated into practice or in being developed conceptually, is in all likelihood never exclusively one of these, but instead is in all probability an amalgamation of such to differing degrees wherein a multitude of possibilities and combinations exist. Among the key questions of curriculum studies that remain central in terms of both analyzing and theorizing the curriculum are: Whose knowledge counts and what is worthwhile? These questions help to raise to a level of concern the ideological underpinnings of all curricula in ways that through sustained critical dialog might work to collectively build a more sustainably just and equitable world.
Lynn Revell and Sally Elton-Chalcraft
The relationship between extremism and schools is a seemingly contradictory one. The UK Prevent Duty’s aim (to prevent and also root out extremism in schools) is often, ironically, blamed for aiding the radicalization process, but it is also identified by states and international bodies as a primary tool with which to combat it. In the early 21st century there has been a development of policies and law designed to prevent violent extremism (PVE) as a part of an international response to 9/11 in 2001 and the war on terror. Policy approaches to extremism in education were revised and reworked in the first and second decades of the 21st century in response to various events, including the 2005 London and 2017 Manchester bombings, and the increasing fear that education system had allowed homegrown terrorists raised in England to commit terrorist acts. The promotion of fundamental British values in school and teacher education contexts has been met with varied responses. Since the inception of this strategy, it has been criticized from a number of perspectives. The National Union of Teachers passed a motion at its annual conference in 2016 condemning the idea of promoting “fundamental British values” as an act of cultural supremacism and other researchers have noted that conceptually the strategy is flawed and counterproductive. In 2014 a document that was to become known as the Trojan Horse letter was leaked to Birmingham City Council, which outlined an alleged plot by hardline jihadists to take over a number of Birmingham schools. The outcome of the affair had ramifications beyond that initial cluster of schools and impacted on the way all schools engaged with the counterterrorism agenda. The furor surrounding the event acted as a catalyst for the generation of policy that introduced an even greater meshing between education and the security agenda, resulting in the concepts of Muslims being seen as a “suspect community” and teachers being positioned as “agents of surveillance.” Research has also investigated the extent to which there has been a “chilling effect” in educational settings in the early 21st century as a result of the Prevent policy, with both teachers and learners feeling under scrutiny, and cautious about speaking freely in their educational environment. Many researchers consider that teachers face a dilemma—to deliver governmental policy uncritically (the safe option to ensure compliance and positive outcomes in terms of Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills); or to challenge a perceived governmental stranglehold and take the more risky option, whereby teachers critically explore effective ways of promoting British values. Some scholars in the second decade of the 21st century have argued that teachers have subsumed counterterrorism policy into their own safeguarding practice. Extremism, values, and education is an emerging field in educational research, that is uncovering (among other things) the extent to which educational professionals from Early Years to university level challenge the prejudicial implications of the Prevent Duty legislation, are providing open spaces for critical and informed debate, and are adhering to policy to prevent violent extremism.
Besides being protected by the First Amendment, the right of students and faculty to express different ideas and opinions—even discomfiting ideas and opinions—is central to the academic mission of schools, colleges, and universities. Two familiar arguments articulated by John Stuart Mill underscore this point: First, the dynamic clash of contrary ideas offers the best prospect we have of arriving at the “whole truth” about any complex subject. Second, unless it is subject to periodic questioning and critique, any established and received bit of wisdom “will be held in the manner of a prejudice with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.” These arguments notwithstanding, heated debates persist as to the proper bounds of free speech in educational institutions dedicated to open inquiry and the examination of multiple viewpoints. Two distinct positions provide us with a useful framework for analyzing many of these debates. The libertarian position rejects regulation of campus speech—except in extreme cases of speech that invade the rights of individuals or small specific groups of people—while instead championing a maximally free marketplace of ideas. The liberal democratic position, however, proposes that, in the interest of scholarly objectivity and rational autonomy, verbal interaction that denigrates or stigmatizes others on account of ascriptive characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation should be constrained in higher education. Adherents to the libertarian position oppose the implementation of campus hate speech codes on the grounds that such codes violate First Amendment principles and are not an effective bulwark against prejudice, discrimination, and inequality. Adherents to the liberal democratic position support narrowly tailored speech codes that formally sanction slurs, “fighting words,” and the like, but they generally believe that most of the work of regulating abusive speech should occur through the informal enforcement of new “norms of civility” on campus. Although these two positions constitute a major fault line in debates over campus speech, they do not capture the range of standpoints taken by participants in the debates. To cite one noteworthy example, some scholars, in the name of what they refer to as “an affirmative action pedagogy,” call for broader restrictions on speech (particularly classroom speech) than either the libertarian or liberal democratic positions endorse.
Paul Farber and Dini Metro-Roland
Moral education and technology seem to represent two fundamentally different kinds of concern and domains of inquiry. But these domains are fused in educational practice. Teaching as a fundamental human endeavor and form of activity has been a central component of human cultural evolution and regeneration from the earliest human social groupings. As a distinctive form of activity, teaching braids together ethical and instrumental norms and values. The modern, global institution of schooling has added layers of institutional support, constraint, and governance on the teaching it structures as well as increased scrutiny of the ethical and instrumental values in play; schooling is in effect a kind of moral technology for advancing certain norms and values in an efficient way. At present, technological developments with modern society make possible new forms of teaching and learning that likewise warrant scrutiny as they impact the ethical and instrumental ends of teaching and instructional practices today.
Critical thinking is active, good-quality thinking. This kind of thinking is initiated by an agent’s desire to decide what to believe, it satisfies relevant norms, and the decision on the matter at hand is reached through the use of available reasons under the control of the thinking agent. In the educational context, critical thinking refers to an educational aim that includes certain skills and abilities to think according to relevant standards and corresponding attitudes, habits, and dispositions to apply those skills to problems the agent wants to solve. The basis of this ideal is the conviction that we ought to be rational. This rationality is manifested through the proper use of reasons that a cognizing agent is able to appreciate. From the philosophical perspective, this fascinating ability to appreciate reasons leads into interesting philosophical problems in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. Critical thinking in itself and the educational ideal are closely connected to the idea that we ought to be rational. But why exactly? This profound question seems to contain the elements needed for its solution. To ask why is to ask either for an explanation or for reasons for accepting a claim. Concentrating on the latter, we notice that such a question presupposes that the acceptability of a claim depends on the quality of the reasons that can be given for it: asking this question grants us the claim that we ought to be rational, that is, to make our beliefs fit what we have reason to believe. In the center of this fit are the concepts of knowledge and justified belief. A critical thinker wants to know and strives to achieve the state of knowledge by mentally examining reasons and the relation those reasons bear to candidate beliefs. Both these aspects include fascinating philosophical problems. How does this mental examination bring about knowledge? What is the relation my belief must have to a putative reason for my belief to qualify as knowledge? The appreciation of reason has been a key theme in the writings of the key figures of philosophy of education, but the ideal of individual justifying reasoning is not the sole value that guides educational theory and practice. It is therefore important to discuss tensions this ideal has with other important concepts and values, such as autonomy, liberty, and political justification. For example, given that we take critical thinking to be essential for the liberty and autonomy of an individual, how far can we try to inculcate a student with this ideal when the student rejects it? These issues underline important practical choices an educator has to make.