Global Imaginaries and the Capacity to Aspire

 
Every Wednesday at 4.30 pm, 14 November – 12 December 2018 
Room 4.09, 35, Berkeley Square 
 
CIRE Reading Group
The decisions that people make in and through education are often influenced by their view of globalisation, the opportunities it offers them or the exclusions it creates. Literature theorising how we imagine the globalisation and how we imagine the future may help us to understand why some young people decide to the West to study higher education; how they respond when they are denied access to education; the career decisions of foreign language teachers or why some policy ideas become global policy agendas.
This reading group engages with texts primarily from anthropology and cultural studies in order to explore how dominant or widespread ways of imagining globalisation shape the possibilities that individuals imagine for their own future, or their aspirations. Some readings are concerned with how globalisation is experienced by internationally mobile individuals living within hybrid communities. Others focus on poorer, marginalised communities and individuals, with identities strongly associated with specific localities.
Week 1: 14 November 
Taylor, C. (2002) Modern Social Imaginaries. Public Culture 14(1): 91-124. Introduction (pp. 91-2) and Section 3 (pp. 105-111) 
Charles Taylor coined the term social imaginaries in order to explain how ideas about individuals and society that originated with a small number of European thinkers came to shape modernity in the West. 
Canclini, N.G. (2014) Imagined Globalization. Translated by Yúdice, G. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Ch. 2.  
Canclini focuses on how globalization and identity is conceptualised and represented at a time of unprecedented mobility. Nestor Garcini Canclini is an Argentinian anthropologist with an interest in hybrid cultures.  
 
Week 2: 21 November 
Steger, M. B. (2009) The rise of the Global Imaginary: Political Ideologies from the French Revolution to the Global War on Terror. Oxford: Oxford Scholarship online. Introduction.  
Steger also draws on Charles Taylor’s concept of social imaginaries to understand concepts and experiences of globalisation but his analysis has a more political focus. 
 
 
Week 3: 28 November 
Appadurai, A. (2013) The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition. London & New York: Verso. Chapter 9 – The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the terms of recognition. 
This week we turn to the aspirations. Appadurai discusses the capacity to aspire in relation to the voice and agency of oppressed communities to imagine and navigate an alternative future. Arjun Appadurai is an Indian-born anthropologist, who has conducted extensive research with slum dwellers in Mumbai. 
 
 
Week 4: 5 December 
DeJaeghere, J. (2018) Girls’ educational aspirations and agency: imagining alternative futures through schooling in a low resourced Tanzanian community. Critical Studies in Education 59(2): 237-255. 
In the last week, we look at one example of the application of the Appadurai’s concept of the capacity to aspire to education. Dejaeghere also draws on the capability approach to conceptualise agency and Bourdieu, to understand structure. 

Comparative Education and Development Alternatives: CIRE at the BAICE Conference 2018

By Angeline Barrett

This year, the British Association of International and Comparative Education (BAICE) annual conference was held at the University of York from the 12th– 14th September. Professor Michael Crossley delivered the Presidential Address titled Policy Transfer, Sustainable Development and the Contexts of Education. This report highlights Michael’s Address and summarises the other Bristol contributions to the conference.

It was fitting that Michael should be BAICE President in the year that the Association celebrated its 20th anniversary. Michael has been an active member of BAICE throughout its twenty years,  serving as Vice-Chair and Chair, and later creating its archive, an open online record of reports on projects and awards sponsored by BAICE, short discussion articles, and, of course, BAICE Presidential Addresses. Michael was the Editor of Comparative Education from 2003-2010, a world-leading journal in the field, and he continues to serve on the Editorial Board of that and other leading journals and was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) for his contribution to the field. Michael was the founding and long-time Director of CIRE, including many years when it was known as the Research Centre for International and Comparative Studies (ICS), and he continues to support CIRE as Emeritus Professor.

The Presidential Address: Policy Transfer, Sustainable Development and the Contexts of Education

The voice of Aretha Franklin singing Sam Cooke’s American civil rights anthem, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, announced the start of the Presidential Address. Her legendary voice evoked the 1960s and symbolized an emerging ‘disruptive and creative youth culture’. And so, Michael’s address began with an introduction to the cultural, local, and global milieu within which he, a young Yorkshire man, became a secondary school teacher and developed a practical and theoretical interest in comparative and international education. This led to a PhD from La Trobe University in Melbourne (an ethnographic study of policy transfer from the UK and Australia to a remote Southern  Highlands school in Papua New Guinea), a first academic post at the University of Papua New Guinea (PNG), and an extensive body of published work, inspired by early research in PNG, challenging the uncritical international transfer of educational policy and practice.

 

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Michael’s address took us on a grand tour of international education policy transfer and ‘borrowing’ and its critique by comparativists. We started with a historical long view. The field of comparative education, since its origins in the early 19th century, has been influenced by a rich spectrum of changing theoretical and methodological approaches, with some practitioners favouring positivistic research, intended to furnish policy makers with ‘scientific’ evidence,  and others developing more theoretically-oriented, sociocultural analyses, with critical theory and postcolonial perspectives that foreground the contextually situated and contested nature of education policy and practice.  We quickly moved to a critical and theoretically informed interrogation of the contemporary era of ‘deterritorialised’ policy making (Steiner-Khamsi and Waldow 2012) enabled by global-scale international surveys and an influential network of consultants (Auld and Morris 2014). We were shown how big data and global league tables have become technologies of global governance and how international power differentials and inequalities often constrain the agency of local policy actors in aid-dependent nations (Crossley, 2014).

Sustainable development was a strand of Michael’s research before it became a headline international development agenda. Michael’s interest arose from his long association with small island developing states (SIDS). In the Address, we were thus invited to contemplate the potential to learn from such contexts at the ‘sharp end of climate change’. This potential was effectively illustrated by recent British Academy and USP-funded research collaboration between the University of the South Pacific, and the universities of Bristol and Nottingham, conducted between 2012 and 2016, with work continuing in the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Winston (see Crossley, Koya Vaka’uta et al. 2017).

The address concluded with an in-depth analysis of implications and challenges for the future of the field of comparative and international education and, in its 20th anniversary year, for BAICE itself. I highlight just one of these: the challenge to apply ‘comparative and international education, and the policy transfer literature to new research priorities and contexts that have urgent human rights and global security implications.’

Aminath Shiyama:  Science process skills and environmental education in the Maldives

 

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In her conference presentation, Aminath presented her PhD work, which is also concerned with a low-lying island context, vulnerable to climate change, and focuses on science education and curriculum development. From a curriculum and pedagogy development perspective, she presented findings from a scoping study, which explored how and whether upper primary school teachers are developing learners’ science process skills and addressing environmental education. She analysed learners’ work books and then used samples of their work to stimulate conversation with teachers. She found that teachers tended to focus on learning of content rather than the development of process skills (e.g. argumentation, observation). Hence, they taught about the environment rather than for the environment, meaning children were not engaged in action with respect to the environment or encouraged to analyse the social and political causes of environmental degradation in the Maldives. She concluded by showing how these findings informed the design of her main study for her PhD, in which she collaborated with a small group of primary science teachers to prepare curriculum materials that support the development of science process skills.

Angeline Barrett and Leon Tikly: Sustainability and social justice

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Angeline and Leon revisited their framework for conceptualizing education quality, to consider whether or how it could be extended to address the concerns of sustainability. Our original framework had drawn on theories of social justice. Hence, we turned to environmental justice literature. We found this highlighted the deeply social nature of environmental justice. Environmental injustices, such as contaminated water supply or polluted air, are inevitably experienced by communities. Further, communities subject to maldistribution and misrecognition (socioeconomic and sociocultural injustices) are most vulnerable to environmental injustices. This focuses attention on the role of education in expanding the ability of communities to reason about the environment (relevance), including through engaging with postcolonial critiques of scientific reasoning.

Sustainability also offers us the analogy of complex systems as a device for understanding and modeling education processes. Complex systems are dynamic; they self-organise into patterns that may rhyme but never repeat and that are made unpredictable by feedback loops. Complex systems are not isolated systems but co-evolve with other systems. We applied the analogy to understanding the relationship between classroom pedagogy, formal curricula and disciplinary subject knowledge, modelling these as nested co-evolving systems that change at very different rates. We concluded that making the curriculum inclusive and relevant involves creating coherence in processes of translation between knowledge production (research), the formal curriculum, and classroom pedagogy. Making them democratic involves opening up of these processes to active participation and knowledge co-production.

 

References

Auld, E., and P. Morris. 2014. “Comparative Education, the ‘New Paradigm’ and Policy Borrowing: Constructing Knowledge for Education Reform.” Comparative Education 50 (2): 129-115.   doi:10.1080/03050068.2013.826497.

Crossley, M. 2014. “Global League Tables, Big Data and the International Transfer of Educational Research Modalities.” Comparative Education 50 (1): 15-26.

Crossley, M., C.F. Koya Vaka’uta, R. Lagi, S. McGrath, K.H. Thaman, and L. Waqailiti. 2017. ‘Quality Education and the Role of the Teacher in Fiji: Mobilising Global and Local Values.’ Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 47 (6): 872-890. doi: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1338938.

Steiner-Khamsi, G., and F. Waldow, eds. 2012. The 2012 World Yearbook of Education: Policy Borrowing and Lending in Education. New York: Routledge.

 

Making Sense of CPD Policy: The Quest for Transformation of Teacher Professionalism in Malaysia

By Faizulizami Osmin

Amis Viva

Faizulizami Osmin recently completed her PhD (above a picture captured right after the Viva). We celebrate her success and give a flavour of some of the excellent doctoral research carried out by CIRE members. We share the abstract for her dissertation.

This research investigates how teachers in Malaysia are experiencing recent changes in the direction of their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) which have shaped their sense of professionalism. The new CPD policy known as the Pelan Pembangunan Professionalisme Berterusan (PPPB), has been developed by the Ministry of Education but is profoundly influenced by the results of international student assessments. It is intended as an instrument to develop a teaching workforce that would turn Malaysia into a top performing nation in international assessments, such as (and particularly) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Teachers, however, must understand the choices and decisions made by the Government and to accept, adapt or ignore the possibilities created for their professional development. The research in this study is guided by a review of international literature on educational change, the influences of globalisation on policy trends and practices as well as teacher professionalism.

The research adopted interpretivism as an epistemological stance and has two strands. The PPPB policy was investigated through review and interviews with policymakers involved in writing the policy. Teachers’ perspectives on the policy were collected through focus groups and individual face-to-face interviews. By exploring teachers’ perspectives on policy rhetoric, the Spectrum of CPD Model developed by Kennedy (2014) is employed to analyse and evaluate the policy. Indeed, this is especially useful in determining the level of synchronisation between the directions set in the policy and the policy’s intended outcomes. The findings suggested that teachers question and challenge the nature of the policy and its implementation which have adversely affected their mindset and attitude, in turn, impacting their involvement and commitment towards implementing the present system-wide reform.

When the PPPB Model of CPD is positioned within the global context of teacher professionalism, it is argued that the dominant conception of professionalism reflects rather, a managerial perspective and adopts a standards-based approach. In other words, professionalism relates to the needs of an individual teacher to meet and maintain prescribed government standards. Further, it was found that a collaborative concept of professionalism within the policy is limited, indicating that teachers continue to remain a compliant workforce. Although professionalism is being cast into the direction that the Government considers to be the best fit, in the current teaching profession, teachers are deploying and working towards different concepts of professionalism. Therefore, this transformation strategy, for teacher professionalism, could be much better understood as the Government’s attempt to change not only the public’s perception of teachers and teaching but also how teachers themselves view their own professional roles and practice.

Nevertheless, some teachers may have struggled in the process of changing their existing controlled-compliant professionalism (which requires them to comply with the Government’s change agenda) into more collaborative-activist professionalism that adopts collaborative work cultures. In this vein, professionalism emerging from the managerial and democratic discourses is not static or two-dimensional but instead, evolves and changes according to the teachers’ working conditions thereby allowing the teachers to embrace several discourses of professionalism simultaneously. In brief, this study represents the relationship between CPD and professionalism and the range of conflicting models that co-exist when a system is in a state of change. It highlights the unevenness of change and the contradictory views of CPD-professionalism that it can generate.

“Peace education has been worked without asking students neither teachers how they understand peace”

Interview with Ariel Sanchez, author of “Knowledges of the War: Memory and Intergenerational Understandings of Conflict in Colombia”

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By Marcela Ramos

How education might contribute towards processes like peacebuilding? How education can promote knowledge and skills to build a culture of peace and non-violence? These questions highlight some of the challenges set by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in times where the role of education in the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence commands widespread global attention. Within that context, to know and understand some of the key features of the research undertaken by Ariel Sanchez in Colombia is particularly illuminative.

In his book “Los saberes de la guerra: Memoria y conocimiento intergeneracional del conflicto en Colombia” (Knowledges of the War: Memory and Intergenerational Understandings of Conflict in Colombia) (2017), Sanchez approaches the topic of peace building from two interesting and unexpected angles: the experience of conflict and the voices, reflections and memories of young people from different parts of Colombia. He engaged with students from private and public schools, girls, boys and mixed schools, urban and rural schools, mestizos and indigenous, who grew up within a context of an internal armed conflict, which lasted over 40 years. “Their voices were recorded through their responses of questionnaires (…) The questionnaire allowing anonymity to provide answers that I don’t think they would be able to give face to face”, explained Sanchez. Among the unexpected findings was that Pablo Escobar, leader of Medellin Cartel, the most violent organization involved in narco-trafficking, was mentioned by youngsters as one of their favourite Colombian historical figures.

-What do you think when you realise how alive is the image of Pablo Escobar?

-Escobar is a ghost you cannot get rid of. Maybe if it comes back once and again, instead of running away from that image, what we need to do is to incorporate it into the institutional educational dynamics, to avoid that image being reproduced exclusively by the media in the way the media does.

-Among the aims of the book is to present how young people in Colombia understand their country’s past, present and future. Why is it important to put the focus on young people?

-Peace education has been implemented without asking students or teachers how they understand peace. (The aim was) to listen to the new generations to hear how they perceive themselves and others and create a proper initial diagnosis before assuming what we have inherited supposedly as a conflict (…) Those claiming to work and talk about peace and peace education did not even bother to listen to the new generation before setting a whole framework and defining whatever peace should look like and whatever peace should be wanted by the new generation. Finally, is about acknowledging them also as producers of knowledge, historical agents.

-Another interesting feature of the research is the role assigned to memory…

-This is a project of recognition of a constant unending process of reviewing our history and the way meaning is produced around that history; it’s also a way of making a transformative action story from different angles, on the assumption that memory is actually a generative epistemic process. In this way, the construction of memory is understood as a constant process, without any ultimate version. Thus conceived, memory can be understood as a mechanism of reconciliation.

Positionality from a wooden stool: a blog post about my fieldwork in Rwanda

By Leanne Cameron*

Leanne Cameron is a PhD student at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Currently she is at the end of her second year and her research topic on English teacher professionalism in Rwanda. In this post Leanne reflects on how researchers, while doing data collection, act as “filters” for data and construct knowledge in trying to understand and grasp what is happened out there.

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It’s all unsettlingly familiar: honey-colored brick buildings surround a bright, manicured quadrangle, edged with shrubs and featuring Our Lady encased in glass. In the classrooms, wooden desks in tight rows are carved with years – decades? – of teenage musings. Our glow-in-the-dark Lord and Savior hangs on crucifixes above the blackboards. The full picture is strongly reminiscent of my own parochial childhood – with a few substitutions beyond the plastic Jesus: the wood carvings are 21st century-centric (“Kylie” and “Kendrick Lamar”), not to mention that the location is probably six thousand miles from my idyllic Northern California hometown.

I’m at a boarding school in the Southern Province of Rwanda, not quite awake for the 7:40 start time. The school specializes in science concentrations at A-level (Senior 4-6), but the student body also includes O-level (Senior 1-3). All of the students are gathered in the quad, grouped around the headmistress on the basketball court. After singing the school song and national anthem, they scatter to their classrooms and she comes to shake my hand. Like any ex-Catholic school girl, I forced a smile and tried not to dwell on memories of my own strict, similarly short and square headmistress wringing a cheating confession out of an eight-year-old me.

It’s the first day of proper data collection: my research is with a teacher association, and one aspect of the many methods I have engineered for the project involves observation and interviews with individual member teachers. Thus, I am wearing a dress and functioning as the center of school gossip on a cool morning: the thing about quadrangles is you can’t hide, and the thing about being white in Rwanda is you really can’t hide. Students in royal blue sweaters and white shirts and ties embroidered with the school crest rush past me; one kind, brave Senior 5 soul greets me and takes me to the Teacher’s Room where I find the “Maurice,” the association teacher that I will shadow today.

Back in my teaching days, I would always get a little nervous when being observed, regardless of whether it was my boss, some visiting delegation, or even a colleague. But today, the roles are reversed: Maurice seems cool, collected, and unbothered by my presence, and I’m the one who’s sweating and shaking a bit and constantly dropping her pen. As a PhD student, starting your data collection is declaring your allegiance to one philosophical orientation and beginning the process of knowledge construction. Knowledge begins with data, and it is especially important for qualitative researchers that extensive thought and care should be put into how you collect that data. I have put in that thought and care, but this is where it becomes something real.

Until this point, it’s all been theoretical. Who I am as a researcher is passionate but theoretical, recorded in proposal documents and argued in an upgrade panel, but it is a construction, an ideal. Data collection is when you morph into that person, or a totally different one, where you start to work and communicate and face decisions and problems and become mired in messiness. It’s where things can get personally uncomfortable. Not just sitting in the back of the class, balanced on a stool, trying to remember what I am supposed to be looking for and recording for this observation, what will set me up for our later series of prompted interviews.

Maurice has so many class periods, I lose count: maybe seven? Some are short, only 30 minutes; others are more than an hour. All of the classes are A-level and divided for the concentration: MCB (Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology), MCE (Mathematics, Computing, and Economics), and MPC (Mathematics, Physics, and Computing) – but I probably got at least one of those wrong. It all seems like my own high school subject nightmare. So. Much. Math. Some of the rooms are expansive concrete boxes like classrooms from my previous tenure in Rwanda as a university lecturer: rooms that are loud and echo with every movement across the uneven floor, every scraping chair. They are lit by daylight, with peeling, crumbling blackboards painted on the walls. Some are bricked, hung with ubiquitous net curtains and featuring detailed images drawn on the boards: one classroom for MCE has an elaborate drawing of an Excel spreadsheet. The teacher-artist has used multiple colors of chalk and indicated screen details down to the battery percentage on the bottom toolbar. It’s a clever work-around when teaching technology with limited materials.

For each classroom, I introduce myself. By the seventh class, it’s rushed and to the point. Leanne. Research. American. UK for Phd (yes, I know it’s strange). PhD (don’t do a PhD, you’ll go crazy). They ask me many of the same questions. Married? No. How old? Guess (they are either very polite or very poor at estimation). Some of the classes ask detailed questions – how do I improve my public speaking ability? Others are less interesting – what’s your favorite drink? I wasn’t going to say “gin and tonic” out loud at a Catholic school, so apparently it’s a mocktail of mango juice and Vittolo, the local sparkling water option. After the introductions, I take a position in the back of the room.

Qualitative researchers are (rightly) neurotic over this idea of position and positionality– beyond my wooden stool. Kant famously argued that we cannot possibly experience “things-in-themselves” but can only experience them as they appear to us, encapsulated here by writer Anais Nin: “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Whatever the world is, we process it through our selves. It doesn’t mean that research is some therapeutic self-exploration but it means that we are aware that we exist as a filter for that data and subsequently constructed knowledge.

Without getting too far down the research philosophy rabbit hole, I hold a critical constructivist research philosophy which argues that the world is messily put together, and knowledge reflects this: critical constructivist capo Joe Kincheloe (2005) argues that from this perspective, it is “misleading to merely study random outcomes… isolated ‘facts’ and ‘truths’” (p. 2). Rather, knowledge always involves a knower who is permanently linked to a historical and social context: “how the knower constructs the known constitutes what we think of as reality” (p. 2). Thus, for researchers, especially, our position in this place is important. We can’t just fade into the background, become the nameless automaton behind the experiment. As researchers, we play an exaggerated role in constructing knowledge and deciding what “counts” as knowledge. Ultimately, practically, this perspective requires humility, caution, and social awareness in the practice of research.

As such, critical constructivism requires being aware of who you are, what you’re doing, how you’re behaving, how you are reflecting on your work, how dynamics of power and postcolonialism enter the equation. It means examining your biases and what goes into the questions you ask, how you hear the answer. Obviously, you can’t remove yourself from the work – and to believe that is possible is itself naïveté. Instead, we have to recognize who we are in the situation. To quote from my progression document, the solution is an anti-solution: observe, listen, ask questions and be ready to receive responses that cut at the base of who I think I am, recognize the privilege I have and be able to talk about it with honesty and openness. Gadamer (1989) suggests laying bare your affiliations or “horizons” and consider their impact on your interpretation, what he labels a “fusion of horizons” (p. 370). When this is done fully and intentionally, it is meant to be deeply painful in separating what I actually believe and value from what I express as beliefs and values. It I am asking this of my participants in examining their own practice as teachers, I should be doing the same thing. There’s the discomfort.

I tell myself that this classroom, this moment of mentally pressing record is where it all begins, but that’s not exactly true: PhDs require you to define and package your philosophy, epistemology, ontology, and axiology, but really, none of this is linear – just like travel, research requires that you keep going back over yourself, learning more about who you are and what you think and how all of that changes when you are confronted with things that are different and unknown. So I settle in and watch as Maurice divides the blackboard into sections for the class to review last week’s material: “What I know” and “What I want to know.” Fitting. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a girl nudge a folded note towards a broad-shouldered boy while her desk mate furiously copies Maurice’s board composition. In my own notebook, I start making margin notes in pink pen. Honey-colored bricks, a bright quadrangle, glow-in-the-dark Jesus. 

 

*Leanne personal blog with more writing on her experiences in Rwanda can be found at http://athousandhillsfromhome.wordpress.com/

 

References

Gadamer, H.-G. (1989). Truth and method (2nd, revis ed.). London: Continuum.

Kincheloe, J. (2005). Critical constructivism primer. New York: Peter Lang.

“Education has a key role in peace education but this role it’s not straightforward”

 

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By Marcela Ramos

Dr Hilary Cremin, University of Cambridge, was one of the keynote speakers at the BAICE-CIRE 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sustainability, Peace and Education, that took place at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Dr Cremin researches, writes and teaches about peace education and conflict transformation in schools and communities. In this interview, Dr Cremin reflects on the different meanings peace has and the value of acknowledging it while thinking of peace building as an alternative to imposing peace. Within this paradigm shift, “education has a key role but this role it’s not straightforward”, highlights Dr Cremin.

-In your presentation, you stressed the idea of building but not imposing peace. Why is this distinction relevant? Why is it meaningful to think about peace in different ways?

-I think different parts of the world have developed their own traditions about peace and part of the problem is when a Western idea of peace is seen as relevant across the entire planet.

-What kind of peace is the Western one?

-Securitize, so our word peace comes from pax, which is pax Romana, the Italian root. And this word means cessation in hostilities. So in our concept of peace we have the idea that we are not fighting at the moment, but the fighting could always return. Whereas in Eastern traditions, peace is about balance and harmony, a completely different idea. So this is much more about embracing dualities. In Colombia for example, they have a particular focus on moral peace because of Catholic traditions there, so anyone working towards peace in that context would need to be aware of local cultural associations with peace and not just imposed a kind of United Nations idea on what peace is across the whole planet.

-How can we address these significant issues through education research?

-I think we have to get away from the idea that reductionism it’s a good thing. Everybody likes simple models. This is what we have with globalized markets, everything reduced to simplicity, and the world isn’t like that, and so we can’t find the solution from within that paradigm. We’ve got to get used to think about complexity.

-This is interesting because, generally speaking, as social researchers, we are looking to represent our ideas through patterns, abstract concepts…Indeed the idea is somehow to simplify the explanations in order to better disseminate our research…

-Indeed I’m very interested in the art space and bodies research methods as ways of deepening our understandings of teaching and peace education.

BAICE-CIRE 20th Anniversary Symposium on Sustainability, Peace and Education

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To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), the Centre for Comparative and International Research in Education (CIRE) at the School of Education, University of Bristol, hosted a one-day symposium where diverse perspectives on sustainability, peace and education were presented. The symposium was very well attended, lively and intellectually challenging in nature, with participants contributing diverse disciplinary perspectives and specialist expertise. Underpinning the different sessions running throughout the day a core argument emerged that acknowledged and addressed the place and influence of complexity in both education and development.

The symposium, generously funded by BAICE, was also an occasion to re-launch CIRE as the centre builds upon past achievements to advance new multidisciplinary approaches to comparative and international research and prioritise the role of quality education in promoting sustainable and peaceful development worldwide. The event was opened by Professor Michael Crossley, President of BAICE and former Director of CIRE, Professor Qing Gu, University of Nottingham and Chair of BAICE, and Dr Angeline M  Barrett the current CIRE Director.

Being disruptive

The day’s activities began with an excellent and engaging video/Skype, Keynote Presentation delivered from Providence University in Taichung, Taiwan, by Arjen Wals, Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. According to Wals the times we now live in are characterized by high levels of complexity and uncertainty. This led to an exploration of appropriate ways of teaching and engaging learners while addressing such challenges. Professor Wals identifies four critical competences that need to be enhanced through education: learning to know, learning to critique, learning to make change and learning to care. He then introduced these as sustain-abilities, related to capabilities such as asking critical questions, reflecting upon contemporary issues from different perspectives and the development of leadership, compassion and empathy.

The idea of being disruptive, in the way street artist whose art interrupts people’s unconscious daily walks, ran throughout Wals’ presentation. In the same vein, Dr Hilary Cremin, from the University of Cambridge, who researches peace education and conflict transformation acknowledged the value of art as an open methodological attitude that could feed discussion about peace education. Based on Dietrich’s (2012) five families of peace, Cremin’s transrational peace education means a pedagogy that: develops curious, confident, wise, compassionate and knowledgeable learners; is aware that learning is always situated, contingent and relational; and enables learners to achieve wisdom through investigation, practice, reflection, and integrates body, mind, heart and spirit.

The afternoon Keynote, delivered by Professor Leon Tikly, drew upon his research in Rwanda and addressed the relationship between unsustainable development, inequalities and postcolonial conditions. Here it was argued that to play a key role and not be complicit in reproducing inequality, education systems need to expand the capabilities of all learners and so become inclusive, relevant and democratic. He highlighted the agency of teachers, learners, policy makers, parents and researchers in achieving this.

Interactive sessions throughout the day

Four main themes were addressed during the interactive break-out sessions led by speakers from different parts of the world. Within the ‘Education, inequalities and sustainability’ theme, Daniel Capistrano (visiting research fellow at the University of Bristol from National Institute for Educational Research and Studies (INEP), Brazil) presented work on the silences associated with equity indicators. Dr Keith Holmes (Programme Specialist in Unesco) analysed the policy implications of a ‘lifelong learning’ approach to the development of inclusive and equitable education systems; and Professor Sheila Trahar and Dr. Sue Timmis, University of Bristol, reflected on the early lessons emerging from their collaborative research on Southern African rural students’ journeys through higher education.

Key issues relating to sustainable peace were explored through presentations on research undertaken in Colombia (Ariel Sanchez Meertens, Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliacion, Bogota) and South Africa (Abigail Branford, University of Oxford). New insights on how peace education could be addressed theoretically and methodologically were considered by Stephanie Bengtsson (Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Human Capital, Vienna), Basma Hajir (University of Cambridge), Elisabeth Maber (University of Cambridge), Goya Vasquez Wilson (University of Bristol) and Lindsey Horner (Bath Spa University). Paul Vare (University of Gloucestershire) also drew upon an EU-funded project that developed a framework to enhance twelve competences for sustainable development across the next generation of educators.

The significance of dialogue

The final plenary took the form of an interactive and engaging panel discussion based around questions inspired by the day and raised by participants. In a closing word of thanks, Professor Lalage Bown, University of Glasgow, reflected upon more than 30 years’ experience in adult education in Africa and UK. She emphasised one of the key messages of the day: the significance of dialogue. Looking ahead she asked how we can generate more interaction between those working in peace education and education for a sustainable development; how community education could build stronger bonds with lifelong learning that takes place beyond the school classroom; and how conversations between different fields, themes and spaces can be promoted within the multidisciplinary field of comparative and international education.

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