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Article

Qualitative Methodological Considerations for Studying Undocumented Students in the United States  

Aurora Chang, Júlia Mendes, and Cinthya Salazar

The study of undocumented students in the United States is critical and growing. As scholars increasingly employ qualitative methodologies and methods in studying undocumented students, it is important to consider the specific challenges, nuances, and benefits of doing so. Undocumented students have a right to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of immigration status, per the 1982 court case Plyler v. Doe. While the stress that undocumented students face during their K-12 years are real and consequential, this stress becomes particularly acute in their postsecondary lives when education is neither guaranteed nor readily accessible. Qualitative research gives insight into the complex obstacles undocumented students face and advocates for the institutional and social change necessary to best support them. Existing qualitative research on undocumented students employs various methodologies and methods including but not limited to narrative inquiry, testimonio, phenomenology, case studies, ethnography, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. Among the salient issues that scholars must take into account when engaging in such research are the ethical, logistical, and relational problems that arise when working with undocumented people; the politicization of researching undocumented students; and the power and privilege that researchers possess in the researcher–participant relationship. Within every stage of the research process, researchers need to take special care when working with undocumented students to ensure their anonymity, respect their lived experiences, and advocate for their human rights. Undocumented research participants are in need of extra protection due to their undocumented status, and this need should not be conflated with weakness. Often, undocumented participants are framed as illegal, powerless, vulnerable, fearful, and in the shadows. While it is true that undocumented people face intense, life-altering, and consequential struggles relative to their undocumented status, it is also true that their intelligence, resilience, and persistence are equally intense. Researchers have an obligation to bring undocumented students’ authentic experiences to the fore in ways that acknowledge their undocumented status and the related struggles while affirming their agency and resistance. How they employ methodological practices is central to this goal.

Article

History and Development of Education in Africa  

Shoko Yamada

Thanks to the concerted effort of the international community to promote basic education, driven by the Education for All (EFA) goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), indices of education in Africa have improved dramatically since the 1990s. Although the access to schooling has improved, there are still issues of quality related to teachers, facilities, teaching and learning materials, and relevance of educational contents. Recently, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the focuses of educational policies of African countries have been diversified, to concentrate not only on quantitative and qualitative improvement of basic education, but also on secondary, tertiary, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). One of the problems which critics point out is that, regardless of the massive expansion of basic education, learning outcomes of school leavers in Africa have not improved. It has also been remarked that school enrolment has not directly led to poverty-reduction or decent employment. Another side-effect of the expansion of basic education has been an increased dependency on aid. So, although there is a constant demand for higher and more education among the general public, aid-dependent expansion of the system is unsustainable. Before colonization by European powers, many groups in Africa had a tradition of oral transmission of knowledge, although there were some significant exceptions of societies which had formal educational institutions. With or without formal institutions, African traditional societies had their own mechanisms of transmitting knowledge across generations. However, Europeans overwrote such existing modes of education by introducing Western school systems. With the paternalistic conviction of their civilizing mission, they refined traditional cultures and practices which could be maintained and taught in school, while replacing other “barbarous superstitions” with teaching of European subjects. Resistance to such impositions of European education eventually led to nationalism, which accompanied the desire to find a uniquely African epistemology and teaching method. At the same time, the mechanism of recruiting African white-collar workers through schooling, which started during the colonial period, planted a strong hope for social advancement through gaining school certificates deeply in the mind of African people.

Article

Indigenous School Education in Brazil  

Roseli R. Mello, Marcondy M. de Souza, and Thaís J. Palomino

Self-determination of the original peoples of any nation, preservation of their territories, preservation of traditions, and negotiation of customs facing national cultures are central themes in the debate about and among indigenous peoples in the world. School education is directly linked to such themes as an instrument of acculturation or self-determination and emancipation. As in other countries of the globe, throughout history, what happened and is happening in Brazil is not isolated fact. Current conditions are the product of colonization processes, the development of industrial society, and more recently of globalization. Such historical processes bring struggles, confrontations, transformations, and solidarity. In the legal sphere, international conventions, declarations, and treaties have influenced more or less directly the norms and laws on the subject: from the papal bull and treaties between colonizing kingdoms, to the Declaration of Human Rights, to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, the Brazilian indigenous issue, like that of many other countries, is also based on, supported by, or held back by actions, debates, and international interests. But what makes the case of Brazil worthy of relevance for thinking about indigenous education? Two elements make up an answer: the specific way the governors establish relations with the original peoples, and the fact that Brazil has the greatest diversity of indigenous communities.

Article

Teacher Unions  

John McCollow

Teacher unions (or alternatively “education unions”) are organizations formed to protect and advance the collective interests of teachers and other education workers. What the collective interests of educators entail and how they should be pursued have been and remain active matters for debate within these organizations. Different unions at different times have responded differently to these questions, for example, in relation to the degree to which an industrial versus a professional orientation should be adopted, and the degree to which a wider political and social justice agenda should be embraced. Several ideal-type models of teacher unionism have been identified, as well as various strategic options that these unions might employ. A spirited debate is ongoing about the legitimacy and power of teacher unions. One perspective portrays them as self-interested special interest groups, and another as social movements advocating for public education. The status of teacher unions as stakeholders in educational policymaking is contested, and union–government relations occur across a spectrum of arrangements ranging from those that encourage negotiation to those characterized by confrontation and hostility. Internationally, education unions face significant challenges in the early decades of the 21st century. Neoliberal economic and industrial policies and legislation have eroded the capacity of unions to collectively organize and bargain, and the global education reform movement (GERM) has created a hostile environment for education unions and their members. Despite these challenges, education unions remain among the most important critics of GERM and of global neoliberal social policy generally. The challenges posed and the strategies adopted play out differently across the globe. There is evidence that at least some unions are now prepared to be far more flexible in adopting a “tapestry” of strategies, to examine their internal organization, build alliances, and develop alternative conceptions of the future of education. Researchers, however, have identified certain internal factors in many teacher unions that pose significant obstacles to these tasks. Unions face difficult choices that could lead to marginalization on the one hand or incorporation on the other.

Article

Dynamics in Education Politics and the Finnish PISA Miracle  

Hannu Simola, Jaakko Kauko, Janne Varjo, Mira Kalalahti, and Fritjof Sahlström

The international debate on Finnish educational “success” had made relevant a cultural and historical analysis of Finnish education, with a focus on the effects of the ongoing preoccupation with the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results on basic education. Such international comparisons demand a strong theoretical approach, in part because the contrastive analysis of empirical “facts” and “realities” requires that they be situated in relation to their local and, in this case, national systems and contexts. It may be assumed that the quantitative indicators agreed on in intergovernmental negotiations between senior bureaucrats do indeed provide valid comparisons of education systems, as is the conventional wisdom in the field of economics. Nevertheless, these remain value-loaded collections of indicators of development that offer at best parallel lines of comparative analysis. The Finnish case argues for strong theory-based conceptualizations as the basis for, first, complex comparison and, second, shared models of policy action and intervention. The comparative education field faces four interlinked challenges. First, there is a lack of theory building and development in the field, where politically and ideologically motivated investigative large-scale assessment practices are defining the state of the art. Second, the focus of the studies tends to be on empirically measurable end products instead of documented processes, which makes it possible to generate competitive rankings but reveals little about specific and shared developmental processes in educational systems. Third, although complexity and contingency are widely accepted in the social world on the general level, they appear to seldom reach empirical studies; the vast majority of standard approaches still advocate simple explanatory models. Finally, and paradoxically enough, there is a form of intellectual nationalism that inhibits the conceptualization and understanding of the relationship between, for example, transnational processes and nation-states. In this regard, comparative education needs a strong and ambitious theory-based framework with the potential to incorporate sociohistorical complexity, cultural relationality, and sociological contingency. Without a strong theory-driven approach, it is hard to go beyond merely listing the similarities and differences that facilitate the rankings but blur the processes. At the research unit for Sociology and Politics in Education (KUPOLI) at the University of Helsinki, a new conceptualization was formulated in early 2010s and an ambitious research plan, Comparative Analytics of Dynamics in Education Politics (CADEP), was launched. The thesis was that to progress beyond the state of the art and arrive at a comparative understanding of educational systems, it would be necessary to focus on dynamics, with a view to grasping the fluid and mobile nature of the subject. This heuristic starting point echoed relativistic dynamics in physics, characterized as a combination of relativistic and quantum theories to describe the relationships between the principal elements of a relativistic system and the forces acting on it. It is curious that, though on the conceptual level the dynamics of a system are constantly referred to as being among its key attributes, there has been little progress on the analytical level in the social sciences since the seminal work of Pitirim Sorokin in the 1950s. The CADEP develops conceptually the theoretical understanding of dynamics to resubmit a specific social field of education to scrutiny by analyzing the relations between the main actors and institutions and essential discursive formations and practices. It is assumed that given its connection with relations and movement, the concept of dynamics will not reduce a mobile and fluid subject of study to a stagnant and inanimate object. There are four constitutive dynamics that make the Finnish educational success story understandable. Success and failure in basic education seem to be relative, and to reflect intertwined dynamics in policymaking, governance, families’ educational strategies, and classroom cultures. The emphasis of the understanding is on the contingent, relational, and complex character of political history.