The countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) share a history of colonialism that has left an indelible mark on all their institutions and systems of socialization, including education. A dominating theme across these countries is the question of equitable access to quality education at all levels, an issue that increasingly finds resonance in the 21st century’s technological era. The region has generally made important strides in the areas of universal access to basic education and increasingly to secondary education. Tertiary education has also been prioritized under the new “knowledge economy,” with many countries exceeding the 15% of qualified cohort (those who are academically qualified to be enrolled) that was set as a regional target in 1997 by Caribbean governments. Yet, even with these strides, the education project is still incomplete, with new and continued challenges of affordability and quality. These concerns are now incorporated into the Caribbean’s deliberate attempts at regionalism through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which serves as CARICOM’s organizing mechanism to face the new opportunities and challenges of the 21st century’s knowledge economy. These regional and development plans are expressed in CARICOM’s Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy (HRD Strategy), a multiyear development plan that is predicated on educational advancement across the region. The Caribbean’s educational achievements, equity challenges, and development plans are best understood in a historical context that captures the social, political-economic, and cultural idiosyncrasies of the region.
A Critical Appraisal of Education in the Caribbean and Its Evolution From Colonial Origins to Twenty-First Century Responses
A Critique of Neoliberalism in Higher Education
Gerardo del Cerro Santamaría
Neoliberalism—the prevailing model of capitalist thinking based on the Washington Consensus—has conveyed the idea that a new educational and university model must emerge in order to meet the demands of a global productive system that is radically different from that of just a few decades ago. The overall argument put forward is that the requirements, particularly the managerial and labor force needs of a new economy—already developing within the parameters of globalization and the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs)—cannot be adequately satisfied under the approaches and methods used by a traditional university. Neoliberalism affects the telos of higher education by redefining the very meaning of higher education. It dislocates education by commodifying its intrinsic value and emphasizing directly transferable skills and competencies. Nonmonetary values are marginalized and, with them, the nonmonetary ethos that is essential in sustaining a healthy democratic society.
Adult Literacy and Basic Education in the United States
From colonial times to the modern era the United States has provided adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) for those adults seeking better work, a better home life for themselves and their families, greater educational achievement for their children, and engagement in civic duties for community development. In the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky, illiterate country folk learned to read and write to run their farms and towns better. In the cities, immigrants learned English and their civic duties as citizens in programs of “Americanization.” By the 1960s, civil and voting rights movements helped tens of thousands of African Americans learn to read and write so they could exercise their rights of self-government through democracy. In 1966, the United States established for the first time a national Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) formed in a partnership of the federal and 50 state governments. From serving some 50 thousand or so adults in its early years the AELS enrollments rose over the next 35 years to around 4 million. Then, following the implementation of a National Reporting System with stringent performance accountability requirements, enrollments fell over the next 20 years to less than 1.2 million. But during all these years the AELS provided basic education aimed at achieving general educational outcomes and benefited from research and development projects leading to the implementation of special programs in which the basic skills of English language, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught contextualized within the domains of workplace, health, civics, family, and digital knowledge. At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, the AELS had seen its mandate extended from helping adults gain contextualized skills and knowledge, and the achievement of a secondary school level of education, to gaining access to postsecondary, college, and specialized certificate programs within a career pathway with recurring education and credentialing. There is increasing interest in moving forward with ALBE within a full “lifelong” and “lifewide” AELS.
Analytical Review of School Reforms Toward the Education 2030 Agenda in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a semiautonomous archipelago in the Indian Ocean along the East African coast. It gained independence in 1963 from the British. After the Zanzibar Revolution in January 1964, it united with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania in April 1964. The Government of Zanzibar has its own executive branch led by the president of Zanzibar, legislative body (called the House of Representatives), and judicial system. The national framework for the education sector is informed by legislations, policies, and plans such as Zanzibar Vision 2020, the Zanzibar Strategy for Economic and Social Transformation, the Zanzibar Education Development Plan II, Education Act No. 6 of 1982 (amended in 1993), Children’s Act No. 6 of 2011, the Spinster and Single Parent Children Protection Act No. 4 of 2005, the Local Government Authority Act No. 7 of 2014, the Zanzibar Vocational Education and Training Policy, and the Zanzibar Education Policy. The mission of the 2006 Zanzibar Education Policy is to strive for equitable access, quality education for all, and promotion of lifelong learning. This mission is consistent with the global Education 2030 Agenda as elaborated in United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4. Responding to reforms in both local and global education-related goals and plans, Zanzibar introduced reforms to address areas such as (a) the structure of the formal education; (b) the language of instruction; (c) the entry age; (d) curriculum; (e) inclusive education and learners with special educational needs; (f) alternative education; (g) decentralization; (h) school inspection; (i) married students, pregnant girls, and young mothers; and (j) education financing. Other measures to reform the education sector were announced by the Zanzibar president on the anniversary of the country’s revolution in 2015 and 2017. Many of these reforms are in effect, and plans for decentralization, education financing, and school inspection reforms are not yet in full operation. Some of the reforms promise positive results, such as an increase of enrollment in preprimary and primary schools, due in part to the removal of the voluntary financial contribution. Introduction of inclusive education has contributed to increasing community awareness of the right to an education for all without regard to gender, (dis)ability, or socioeconomic status. Likewise, some pregnant girls resume studies after delivery. However, there have been challenges in the implementation of some of the reforms, including the change in the language of instruction from Kiswahili to English for some subjects at the primary level. Though the actual implementation of the reforms on decentralization and education financing is yet to come into effect, there are potential risks that might negatively impact quality, equity, and inclusion. The risks include the lack of clarity of the responsibilities and functions of each actor, insufficient resources to meet the actual needs of schools, and limited capacity at the local level for the commitment to inclusive education.
An Overview of Historical Transitions in Politics of Education in Spain
Gonzalo Jover and Mariano González-Delgado
Politics of education constitutes a major line of research in Spain in recent years. This interest is the result of a long process. Enlightened thought and the emergence of new ideas led to thinking about the need to develop a national education system. The 19th century witnessed the birth of just such a system, along with the unfinished debate between liberals and conservatives on who should control education (church or state) and how it should be funded. By the 20th century, the education system had become one of the main resources for achieving social modernization in Spain and grew accordingly. Despite the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), this push for modernization carried on into the Franco dictatorship, with the typical peculiarities of a totalitarian regime. By the end of World War II, the Spanish education system was characterized by following the development of educational policies inscribed in the model of Western societies, or what has been called “global governance in education.” This conception of education was continued during the restoration of democracy in 1978. Despite its intention of configuring an education system based on the agreement between the major political parties of the day, the Constitution of 1978 did not manage to end the “school war,” which has caused considerable instability in the system. Since the end of the 20th century, the Spanish education system has been inserted in the context of international trends such as the resizing of political spaces, the push of the neoliberal global economy, and the move toward multicultural societies. The battle of statistics, figures, and scores has led to a supposed depoliticization of the debate. In face of this alleged depoliticization, an argument can be made in favor of resituating the politics of education as a field of knowledge that concerns social aspirations forged in the course of history and ethics.
Autism, Neurodiversity, and Inclusive Education
Sara M. Acevedo and Emily A. Nusbaum
A brief history of the emergence of the inclusive schools movement demonstrates its reliance on the pathologizing paradigms that are both the foundations and frameworks of traditional special education. Throughout this recent history, the utilization of a positivist approach to research and practice for autistic students, both those who are segregated and those who have access to mainstream classrooms, has maintained a person-fixing ideology. Instead, a neurodiversity framework adopts an integrative approach, drawing on the psychosocial, cultural, and political elements that effectively disrupt the systematic categorization of alternative neurological and cognitive embodiment(s) and expressions as a host of threatening “disorders” that must be dealt with by cure, training, masking, and/or behavioral interventions to be implemented in the classroom. Centering the personal, lived experiences and perspectives of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent activists and scholars affiliated with the U.S. neurodiversity movement offers an emancipatory lens for representing and embodying neurological differences beyond traditional special education’s deficit-based discourses and practices. This emphasis on political advocacy and cultural self-authorship effectively challenges unexamined, universalizing assumptions about whose bodyminds are “educable” and under what auspices “educability” is conceptualized and written into special-education curricula.
Autonomy and Higher Education in Africa
Joseph Jinja Divala
In an age of increasing automation, what separates a human process from automation is the flexibility and autonomy human beings have and operate with in real time. Despite the fact that humans are driven by autonomy to operate and process things, such autonomy is often taken for granted and at times is only alluded to as an afterthought. But what is autonomy? How does autonomy make a person’s actions differ from those of an automated, inanimate being? Autonomy is often talked about as synonymous with freedom. This basic characterization partially responds to the fuller meaning of autonomy. This is the case when freedom is confined to freedom from, which is most often how this concept is used. Autonomy as an internal drive to determine one’s actions necessarily combines both freedom from as well as freedom to. It is no simpler to discuss or pin down “autonomy” within the context of university traditions and practices. The variability of practices and traditions has resulted in different formulations of what autonomy would mean in a university context. Similar to what determines autonomy as concept at an individual personal level, the autonomy of the academic or the academic institution, in this case the university, also brings forth specific understandings of life and its processes. Just as autonomy cannot exist without any forms of life to exercise it, the conditions in African universities today mean that neither traditional communitarian positions nor liberal conceptions are necessarily amenable to the progress of autonomy within these institutions. A neo-communitarian position serves as a more tenable concept that can represent forms of autonomy that are neither alienating nor too deterministic.
Black Women Superintendents
Sonya Douglass Horsford, Dessynie D. Edwards, and Judy A. Alston
Research on Black women superintendents has focused largely on their racial and gendered identities and the challenges associated with negotiating the politics of race and gender while leading complex school systems. Regarding the underrepresentation of Black female superintendents, an examination of Black women’s experiences of preparing for, pursuing, attaining, and serving in the superintendency may provide insights regarding their unique ways of knowing and, leading that, inform their leadership praxis. Informed by research on K-12 school superintendency, race and gender in education leadership, and the lived experiences and knowledge claims of Black women superintendents, important implications for future research on the superintendency will be hold. There exists a small but growing body of scholarly research on Black women education leaders, even less on the Black woman school superintendent, who remains largely underrepresented in education leadership research and the field. Although key studies have played an important role in establishing historical records documenting the service and contributions of Black women educational leaders in the United States, the bulk of the research on Black women superintendents can be found in dissertation studies grounded largely in the works of Black women education leadership scholars and practitioners. As a growing number of aspiring and practicing leaders who identify as Black women enter graduate-level leadership preparation programs and join the ranks of educational administration, questions concerning race and gender in leadership are almost always present as the theories presented in leadership preparation programs often conflict with or represent set of perspectives, realities, and strategies that may not align with those experienced by leaders who identify as Black women. For these reasons, their leadership perspectives, epistemologies, and contributions are essential to our understanding of the superintendency and field of educational leadership.
Bringing a Humanistic Approach to Special Education Curriculum
Michelle Parker-Katz and Joseph Passi
Special education curriculum is often viewed as an effort to provide ways for students with disabilities to meet specific academic and socio-/behavioral goals and is also heavily influenced by compliance with multiple legislative policies. Critical paths forward are needed to reshape a special education curriculum by using a humanizing approach in which students’ lived experiences and relatedness to self and others is at the core of study. Intentional study of how students and their families draw upon, develop, and help shape local supports and services that are provided through schools, along with community and governmental agencies and organizations, would become a major part of the new curricular narrative. However, the field of special education has been in large part derived from an epistemology rooted in science, positivism, and the medical model. The dominance of these coalescing epistemologies in educational systems has produced a myriad of structures and processes that implicitly dictate the ways special educators instruct, gather data, and practice. Core among those is a view that disability is synonymous with deficit and abnormality. What emerges is an entrenched and often implicit view that the person with disabilities must be fixed. In adopting a humanistic approach in which we value relationships, the funds of knowledge families have helped develop in their children and the identities individuals shape, and the linkages of persons with multiple community networks, the groundwork could be laid for a new curricular narrative to form. In so doing, the field could get closer to the grounding principle of helping all students with disabilities to thrive. For it is in communities that people can thrive and choose to participate in numerous life opportunities. In such a way curriculum is integral to lived experience, to the fullness and richness of lived experiences—lived experiences that include the study of academic subject matter along with the development of social and emotional learning.
Chinese Education in Malaysia
Ming Chee Ang
Despite the fact that Mandarin is not accorded official language status in Malaysia, and that ethnic Chinese communities accounted for less than 30% of the country’s overall population, Malaysia is the only country outside China and Taiwan with a comprehensive and complete Chinese education system. It is also the only country in Southeast Asia that has perpetuated the Chinese education system established during the colonial era. The prolonged endurance of the Chinese education system in Malaysia is the result of many factors: heavy brokerage and lobbying efforts by ethnic Chinese political leaders; incorporation of vernacular schools into the Malay-dominated national education system in the backdrop of the Malayan nation formation stage; social mobilization of the Chinese education movement in Malaysia; and the increasing significance of Mandarin proficiency in the world. In particular, the assimilation policies for nation building by the Malay-dominated regime have threatened the cultural distinctiveness of the Chinese-speaking communities. Resistance from the Chinese speaking minorities is manifested through their support of the Chinese schools. Moreover, the elimination of English schools during the 1970s has unintentionally favored the Chinese primary schools. Despite their standing at that time as the “second-best” option after the English school, Chinese schools that offered the benefit of trilingual education, stricter discipline, and more competitive academic performance enjoyed an accelerated boost in student enrollments. More importantly, many parents who do not speak Chinese began to appreciate the quality of Chinese schools, and the enrollment of non-ethnic Chinese students has continued to rise ever since. Above all, China’s rapid economic ascendancy and growing political influence since the 1990s has enhanced the importance of Mandarin as a global language. This has added value to the importance of Chinese schools as language and cultural learning institutions for Malaysian. Such opportunity has enabled the Chinese school model to become one of the most successful and inclusive educational institutions for multicultural Malaysians.
Community-Based Reforms in the Monitoring Architecture of Elementary Education in India
Governance has emerged as a major factor explaining the decline in the quality of public education around the world, including India. Monitoring is an important element of governance, not just as a means of tracking performance but also for planning and policymaking. In recent years, it has gained greater relevance in light of the increased participation of the private sector in all aspects of education delivery. How the government monitors education depends on the structures and systems it has in place to collect adequate and appropriate information, process the information, and follow through with a feedback mechanism. However, for monitoring to be effective, not only is it necessary to get information to the government, but it is equally important to close the feedback loop by acting on the information in a timely fashion. The community can play an important role in this process by verifying official data and providing valuable information not collected by government sources on the functioning of schools in real time. What is required are platforms for sharing that information with the community and a mechanism for response from the government. The importance of community participation in monitoring education was given a boost in India with the passage of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, in 2009, which assigned the monitoring function to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)—a body answerable to the Parliament of India. This separation of implementation and monitoring functions created an opportunity for the community to participate directly in the monitoring of the RTE Act through an exercise of community monitoring undertaken by the NCPCR. The impact of this exercise was wide-ranging—from creating awareness about the right to education to mobilizing the community to voice their concerns regarding schools, creating platforms of dialogue between the state and the citizens, building trust with teachers, and bringing concrete improvement in the functioning of schools. Unfortunately, the inability to get the process institutionalized with state structures led to its early demise.
Complexity Theory and Teacher Education
Susan D. Martin, Vicki McQuitty, and Denise N. Morgan
Complexity theory offers possibilities for thinking about the challenges and opportunities inherent in teaching, teacher learning, and many other networked systems in teacher education. Complexity theory is a theory of learning systems that provides a framework for those interested in examining how systems develop and change. It is transdisciplinary in nature, drawing on insights from diverse fields across both the hard and social sciences, and when applied to education may provide a complex rather than simplistic view of teaching and learning. Further, complexity theory has the potential to offer a powerful alternative to linear and reductionist conceptualizations, with implications for methodology of teacher education research as well as its analysis and design. This small but growing body of work has influenced teacher education in two ways. First, scholars have argued for complexity theory’s usefulness as a framework to understand and describe how teacher education functions as a complex system. The second category of work, smaller than the first, uses complexity theory to frame and analyze empirical studies. Much of the emerging body of research conducted from a complexity theory perspective is descriptive and largely confirms what has been theorized. Empirical work has confirmed that a variety of systems, at different levels, influence teacher learning and pedagogical decisions. Gaps in our knowledge still exist, however, as theorists and researchers continue to struggle with how complexity theory can best serve teacher education for the benefit of teachers and students.
Complexity Theory as a Guide to Qualitative Methodology in Teacher Education
Fiona Ell, Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Mary Hill, Mavis Haigh, Lexie Grudnoff, and Larry Ludlow
Qualitative teacher education research is concerned with understanding the processes and outcomes of teacher preparation in ways that are useful for practitioners, policymakers, and the teaching profession. Complexity theory has its origin in the biological and physical sciences, where it applies to phenomena that are more than the sum of their parts—where the “higher order” form cannot be created by just putting together the pieces that it is made from. Complexity theory has moved to social science, and to education, because many social phenomena also seem to have this property. These phenomena are termed “complex systems.” Complexity theory is also a theory of learning and change, so it is concerned with how complex systems are learning and changing. This means that methods to investigate complex systems must be able to identify changes in the system, termed “emergence,” and must also account for change over time and the history of the complex system. Longitudinal designs that involve the collection of rich data from multiple sources can support understanding of how a complex system, such as teacher education, is learning and changing. Comparative analysis, narrative analysis, extended case studies, mapping of networks and interactions, and practitioner research studies have all been used to try to bring complexity theory to empirical work in teacher education. Adopting a complexity theory approach to research in teacher education is difficult because it calls into question many taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of research and what is possible to find. Linear, process-product thinking cannot be sustained in a complexity framework, and ideas like “cause,” “outcome,” “change,” and “intervention” all have to be re-thought. A growing body of work uses complexity thinking to inform research in teacher education.
Critical Race Theory and STEM Education
Terrell R. Morton
Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that attends to the prevalence, permanence, and impact of racism embedded within and manifested through the policies, practices, norms, and expectations of U.S. social institutions and how those concepts have differentially impacted the lived experiences of Black and Brown individuals. CRT bore out of the legal studies—complemented by philosophical and sociological fields—and has since been applied to a multitude of disciplines including education. Composed of several tenets or principles, CRT approaches to research, scholarship, and praxis take a structural, systematic, or systemic perspective rather than an individual or isolated perspective. CRT provides scholars and practitioners the ability to acknowledge and challenge structural racism and intersectional forms of oppression as foundational to the perceived and experienced inequities outlined by various constituents. In providing such a perspective, CRT facilitates the opportunity for future ideologies that promote radical and transformative change to systems and structures that perpetuate racial and intersectional-based oppression. STEM education—representing the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from inter- and intradisciplinary perspectives—constitutes the norms, ideologies, beliefs, and practices hallmarked by and within these fields, examined both separately as individual disciplines (e.g., science) and collectively (i.e., STEM). These concepts comprise what is noted as the culture of STEM. Scholarship on STEM education, broadly conceived, discusses the influence and impact of STEM culture across P–20+ education on access, engagement, teaching, and learning. These components are noted through examining student experiences; teachers’ (faculty) engagement, pedagogy, and practice; leadership and administration’s implementation of the aforementioned structures; and the creation and reinforcement of policies that regulate STEM culture. Critical race theoretical approaches to STEM education thus critique how the culture of STEM differentially addresses the needs and desires of various racially minoritized communities in and through STEM disciplines. These critiques are based on the fact that the power to disenfranchise individuals is facilitated by the culture of whiteness embedded within STEM culture, a perspective that is codified and protected by society to favor and privilege White people. CRT in STEM education research tackles the influence and impact of racism and intersectional oppression on racially minoritized individuals in and through STEM by revealing the manifestation and implications of racism and intersectional oppression on racially minoritized individuals’ STEM interactions. CRT in STEM also provides opportunities to reclaim and create space that more appropriately serves racially minoritized individuals through the use of counterstories that center the lived experience of said individuals at the crux of epistemological and ontological understandings, as well as the formation of policies, programs, and other actions. Such conceptions strive to challenge stakeholders within STEM to alter their individual and collective beliefs and perspectives of how and why race is a contending factor for access, engagement, and learning in STEM. These conceptions also strive to challenge stakeholders within STEM to reconfigure STEM structures to redress race-based inequity and oppression.
Current Debates Over the Teaching of Phonics
Phonics is a method of teaching people to read and spell (and therefore write) in an alphabetic writing system by associating symbols (letters/graphemes) with sounds (phonemes). The place of phonics in teaching children to read and spell is vigorously debated among researchers, often spilling over into the popular press. Advocates of principally comprehension-based (e.g., whole language) teaching have maintained that little or no phonics instruction is needed; others are of the view that it is essential and must be systematic. Analysis of the most rigorous evidence from research reviews and meta-analyses suggests that systematic phonics teaching is effective for teaching children to read and spell in English, and that the combination of systematic phonics teaching and comprehension-based approaches is probably more effective than either alone. Research has therefore begun on integrated teaching of literacy that incorporates both code and meaning emphases, but currently the requisite professional knowledge and teacher capacity are challenges for many school systems. The principal forms of phonics teaching are synthetic, where children are taught to sound out the letters of a word and to blend (synthesize) the sounds together to form a word; and analytic, in which sounding-out is not taught to start with, but children identify the phonic element from a set of words in which each word contains the element under study, for example, pat, park, push, and pen. There is not yet sufficient convincing research evidence to decide which of these is more effective. Systematic phonics teaching in general is effective across the primary age range, for normally developing and most at-risk children, and probably for children whose first language is not English; and its effects last, at least in the crucial early years. Nonetheless, government policy and reform interventions in this area are sometimes heavy-handed, frequently influenced by political and community pressure, and may face difficulties of scale, resources, and implementation that hamper their effectiveness and generalizability across school systems. A new, large systematic review may be needed to clarify various outstanding issues.
Current Issues and Trends in India’s School Education
Discussing the heterogeneous nature of Indian society and the management of school education is not only diverse, but it is characterized by inequality at all levels. The Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009 attempted to address these inequalities, however, given the quasifederal nature of the distribution of powers to make laws pertaining to education and unequal access to financial and human resources, implementation has been uneven. The variations are particularly significant in dropout rates, secondary education completion rates, teacher deployment and in-school availability, inclusion/exclusion of children belonging to different communities/castes and religions, and most importantly, gender equality. There is considerable variation in school size and pupil–teacher ratios—with some states reporting a large percentage of single teacher schools and small schools with enrolment of fewer than 50 students at the elementary level. This is not the case in secondary and higher secondary schools. If all children entering grade one wish to move on to higher secondary, there are not enough schools to accommodate them. While there are over 814,000 primary schools, the number of secondary schools falls sharply to 22,700 and higher secondary to just 12,400. The systemic barriers to access beyond the elementary level remains a big concern in many states of India. Equally, there are also sharp rural–urban differences—with rural and remote areas reporting skewed ratios of elementary to secondary and higher secondary schools. Children drop out in different states for a wide range of reasons; however, in the last 10 years, it is generally accepted that poor learning at the elementary stage is one of the most important reasons. Evidence from qualitative research studies reveals that the cumulative burden of poor learning is carried forward from grade one, leading to the inability of many children to cope with secondary education. Several scholars have argued that embedded inequality and exclusion are serious issues—which are most evident in learning outcomes. The issues of teacher availability, teacher preparation and certification, and the persistent problem of nonavailability of teachers—including the problem of teacher absence—are also explored. Notwithstanding these challenges, the net attendance rates have been going up steadily since the 1990s—with some improvement in rural–urban gaps. Many more teachers have also been recruited. The gender gap has been closing, albeit less effectively in some states. Many of the issues discussed in this article have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 lockdown. As this article covers the period before 2020, these have not been captured.
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.
De/colonizing Educational Research
Decolonizing educational research encompasses the understanding and entanglement of colonialism and decolonizing agendas. Such an understanding includes the colonial history of the world, in which once-colonized and settler colonial nations configure varied, divergent, and overlapping decolonial agendas that can inform educational research. However, such divergent agendas are always in relation to resisting colonizing forces and imagining a utopian future free of colonizing and other interconnected structures of oppression. To represent the shuttling between the present and the utopian imagination, de/colonizing is written with a slash and theorized. De/colonizing educational research requires understanding western intellectual canon-building dating back to the European Enlightenment and disrupting such superiority of knowledge construction through knowledge democracy, intellectual diversity, and pluriversity. De/colonizing educational research is committed to negating and erasing the ontoepistemic violence caused by colonizing and related structures of oppression. Engaging de/colonial approaches to inquiry in education requires restructuring both education and educational research. De/colonizing educational research must include a global agenda while simultaneously marking specific localized agendas. This is how the violence in settler colonial and once-colonized nations can be disrupted, mitigated, and eradicated in educational research, education, and nation-states. Calling for liminal and border work and recognizing that colonizing forces of oppression are not static, de/colonizing educational research advocates for an understanding of fluidity in resistance.
Developing Inclusive Schools in South Africa
In South Africa, new legislation and policies on inclusive education in the post-apartheid era since 1994 have placed a strong emphasis on equity, equality, and human rights, as defined in the South African Constitution. As a result, a White Paper on building an inclusive education and training system was published in 2001. It acknowledges the failure of the education system to respond to the barriers to learning and development experienced by a substantial number of learners, including diverse learning needs caused by, for example, language, socioeconomic, or gender issues as well as disabilities. This policy document describes inclusive education as being based on the ideals of equity and equality and as a result recognizing and respecting learner and learning diversity within mainstream schools. As stated in the policy, in practice this means identifying and removing barriers in the education system to ensure that the full range of diverse learning needs are met in mainstream classrooms as well as providing support to learners and teachers in addressing barriers to learning and development. Research studies on the implementation of inclusive education in South Africa, however, are finding that despite the development of a wide range of implementation guidelines since 2007, complex interrelated issues continue to complicate the development of successful inclusive schools. These issues include a continued divergence of views of inclusive education with a continuing strong belief in special education and separate educational settings by most teachers, therefore leading to a resultant lack of clarity regarding the implementation of inclusive education at the level of local practice in schools and classrooms. These differences in the understanding of inclusive education and its enactment in diverse school contexts also bring the question of power and agency into South African debates about inclusive education: who should decide which version of inclusive education should be the goal of the development of inclusive education in a specific school district or a specific school. Furthermore, contextual issues including the lack of financial and human resources, for example effectively trained teachers, effectively functioning district educational support teams for schools in specific school districts, lack of textbooks, and overcrowded classrooms, play a dominant role in the development of effective inclusive schools.
Development of Cross-School Professional Learning Communities
David Middlewood and Ian Abbott
Effective schools are widely recognized as those in which the adults who work there are committed to their own learning and where learning is at the heart of everything undertaken, in effect learning organizations. In such learning cultures, there is a perpetual process of change and development and such schools have become known as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Such PLCs are discovering that one of the most successful ways of supporting continuous development is through the use of in-house structured research which identifies relevant learning needs at all levels and strives to meet these needs through the school’s provision. In the 21st century, very few schools operate in isolation and collaboration between schools or groups of schools has become essential for their improvement and for the development of the education system as a whole. The use of in-house research both within and across schools increases the validity of both the learning and the collaboration, which, at its most effective is based on willing participation, trust, and notions of professional partnerships, where all parties are willing to learn from each other, whatever their official or apparent status. Although barriers to this development of cross-school PLCs through in-house research do exist, notably pressures from a competitive environment with a focus on measurable outcomes, a lack of resources including time, the growth of such communities is proving powerful through the use of student voice, staff involvement and leaders’ firm beliefs. Furthermore, a new kind of educational leadership is emerging which depends much less on hierarchical structures and more on openness to new ideas, acceptance that progress is often uneven and rarely simplistic, and a recognition of the importance of personal qualities of all those involved, including the leaders.