The theme of social justice appears to be central in education research. A polysemic and sometimes empty notion, social justice can be defined, constructed, and used in different ways, which makes it a problematic notion to work with intra- and interculturally. Global education research has often relied on constructions of the notion as they have been “done” in the West, leaving very little space to constructions from peripheries. This problematic and somewhat biased approach often leads to research that ignores local contexts and local ways of “discoursing” about social justice. Although some countries are said to be better at social justice in education (e.g., top performers in the OECD PISA studies), there is a need to examine critically and reflexively how it is “done” in different contexts (“winners” and “losers” of international rankings) on macro- and micro-levels. Two different educational utopias, China and Finland, are used to illustrate the different constructions of social justice, and more specifically marginalization and belonging in relation to migrant students—an omnipresent figure in world education—in the two countries. A call for learning with each other about social justice, and questioning too easily accepted definitions and/or formulas, is made.
Yongjian Li and Fred Dervin
Zana Marie Lutfiyya and Nadine A. Bartlett
Rooted in the principles of social justice, inclusive societies afford all individuals and groups regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, ability, religion, immigration status, and socioeconomic status access to and full participation in society. The movement toward inclusive societies is progressive, and continues to occur incrementally. Regrettably, there are deeply rooted belief systems and norms of exclusion, which continue to create barriers to the achievement of more inclusive societies. Some of the contemporary issues that stymie the development of inclusive societies include but are not limited to (a) the marginalization of Indigenous languages, (b) the denial of basic human rights, such as healthcare, to undocumented migrants, and (c) differential access to inclusive education for individuals with disabilities. Using a framework of analysis developed by Therborn, which describes the actualization of inclusive societies as a five-step incremental process—(1) visibility, (2) consideration, (3) access to social interactions, (4) rights, and (5) resources to fully participate in society and Social Role Valorization theory (SRV)—and posits the need for all individuals to hold valued social roles, continued progress toward the achievement of more inclusive societies might be attained.
Liang Du, Huimeng Li, and Weijian Wang
Rural education has received considerable attention from researchers and policy makers in their attempts to understand the deep-rooted rural/urban dichotomy in China. Most debates surround how to improve the “quality” of rural education and to “rebalance” the level of educational development between rural and urban regions. For this purpose raising the “quality” of teachers across rural schools is highlighted as the key element in many policies and studies, and the focus has shifted from addressing a teacher shortage to the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, especially in those remote regions. Issues in China’s rural education are not only reflections of rural–urban differences but also reproduce these social differentiations. Those who pay the price of the entrenched rural/urban dichotomy in China are the increasing number of “left-behind” children in the rural villages as well as the “floating” students in the urban schools whose numbers have also increased in the past decades. Most members of both groups tend to undergo a social reproduction process in the school systems and eventually become workers in the manufacturing and service industries in urban centers. Meanwhile, rural education in China is also abundant in culturally meaningful processes. While many scholars and policy makers view the rural school as a critical site for passing on the cultural inheritance of “rural China,” rural students themselves nevertheless creatively make meaning of their daily experiences and produce rich cultural forms. Some of them develop certain forms of “counterschool” culture as they experience educational failure, while others take up cultural traits valued by their rural families and turn them into a form of cultural capital, which consequently plays a pivotal role in the educational and social mobility of rural students.