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

foto 1

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.

foto 2

CIRE at Conferences Part 1: UKFIET

In the past month, CIRE members have been active at conferences around the UK. This post is the first in a series that details recent conference presentations and publications.

Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development

CIRE at the UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development, University of Oxford, 5-7 September

by Angeline M. Barrett, CIRE Director

CIRE was well-represented at the 11th UKFIET Conference on Education and Development, on the theme Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development.  In total four staff and three students presented papers in sub-themes on Pedagogies for Sustainable Development, Enabling Teachers and Rethinking Curriculum, reflecting new and longstanding streams of research within CIRE.

Pedagogies for peace and sustainable development goes bananas

banana

Julia Paulson and Angeline Barrett joined with James Lawrie of the Save the Children, to convene the subtheme on Pedagogies for Sustainable Development. Julia herself presented with Lizzi Milligan, University of Bath, on a review of history textbook analysis in post-conflict settings. The review found that very little research had gone beyond content analysis to ask questions about how textbooks were commissioned, produced and used in classrooms. Angeline’s paper co-presented with Prof. Kalafunja Osaki, St. Augustine’s University of Tanzania, however, did address the authorship and design of bilingual science textbooks created by teacher educators and curriculum developers in Tanzania.  The presentation questioned whether targeting formal scientific language in just one language was sufficient to address sustainable development within multilingual societies. Kalafunja’s examples of the knowledge of 15 species of banana, preserved within his mother-tongue memorably illustrated the argument. David Bainton, a CIRE Research Fellow, presented his own reflections on the Language Supportive Teaching and Textbooks in Tanzania project, applying an epistemological justice framing to evaluate its bilingual pedagogies.

Enabling teachers: Continuous Professional Development, voice and wellbeing

Faizulizami Osmin and Leanne Cameron presented on very different forms of continuous professional development for teachers. Enabling Teachers subtheme. Faizulizami’s paper titled, Empowering Teachers through Self-Initiated Continuing Professional Development: A New Vision for Teacher Professional Development in Malaysia presented a critical analysis of the formulation and reception of a formal, centrally imposed policy on teachers. The analysis identified conflicts and tensions between how the policy was conceptualised by its authors as promoting autonomous responsibility for professional development; and how it was experienced, interpreted and implemented by practicing teachers as a top-down coercive initiative. This paper won a competitive grant from the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE), which sponsored Faizulizami’s attendance at the conference. Leanne’s paper, Sustainable Continuous Professional Development? Considering models from East and Central African Teacher Associations, problematised the apparent autonomous professionalism associated with teacher associates. Drawing on data on Language Teacher Associations it highlighted the support and influence of external international sponsors, in particular US Department of State and British Council. The paper highlighted the different organisation of associations and their potential to foster sustained continuous professional development initiated by members, who are practicing teachers.

IMG_20170907_191022_453

Faizulizami, Angeline and Leanne at UKFIET

In the same theme, Tigist Grieve, a postdoctoral fellow, presented Teachers’ Voice: Essentials for Pursuit of Sustainable Development in Teaching and Learning in rural Ethiopia. Her findings from ethnographic research in Ethiopia highlighted the professional and wellbeing concerns of teachers posted to rural schools. Drawing on her ongoing ESRC-GCRF research, Tigist stressed the materiality of voice, and argued, given the emphasis on inclusivity and learning in which teachers are imagined as ‘transformative agents’, their voice, agency and wellbeing must be part of the scholarly debate and key consideration for policy makers.

UKFIET Conference photo

Tigist’s presentation

 

Rethinking the curriculum at Higher Education

Amy Walsh, a Masters student, presented on a Bristol Student Union sustainability project, Get Green, in her paper Learn Act Engage Create: A four-step approach to engage higher education students in sustainability. The project aimed to challenge staff’s and students’ attitudes to sustainability through a holistic approach to teaching and learning, which spanned the formal, informal and sublimal curriculum. It aimed to involve students engaging with ESD through the formal curriculum and then extending this to social action outside of their course. Her quick fire paper was presented in the subtheme Beyond Literacy and Numeracy: Rethinking the Curriculum.

New BAICE President: Michael Crossley

Also at the Conference, Prof. Michael Crossley was announced as the next BAICE President. For more on this see the School of Education news story. We look forward to hearing Michael’s Presidential Address at next year’s BAICE Conference, in York.

Publications related to this blog

Barrett, A. M. (2017): Making secondary education relevant for all: reflections on science education in an expanding sub-sector, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1343127

Barrett, A.M. & Bainton, D. (2016) (2016) Re-interpreting relevant learning: an evaluative framework for secondary education in a global language, Comparative Education, 52:3, 392-407, DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2016.1185271

Paulson, J. (2017). From truth to textbook: the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, educational resources and the challenges of teaching about recent conflict. In M. J. Bellino, & J. H. Williams (Eds.), (Re)constructing memory: education, identity, and conflict. (pp. 291-311). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Paulson, J. (2015). ‘Whether and how?’ History education about recent and ongoing conflict: A review of research. Journal on Education in Emergencies, 1(1), 7-37.

Reflections on Kenneth King’s talk, “Lost in Translation? Learning Challenges in the SDG4 Target-to-Indicator Process”

Below, CIRE Members and Msc students Sabah Hussein Shide, Doris Asimeng, and Chris Doel reflect on their impressions and the questions, yet to be answered, that arose in their consideration of Kenneth King’s recent talk on Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Sabah Hussein Shide: Problematic indicators and educational quality

Professor Kenneth King presented a lively and stimulating discussion on the fourth Sustainable Development Goal for education (SDG4) titled: Lost in Translation? Learning Challenges in the SDG4 Target-to-Indicator Process. Whilst many aspects of this presentation resonated with me, I will share my reflections on just one of the issues raised which was the narrowing and reducing of education goals into useable global indicators.

Professor King highlighted the inconsistency with the claim that SDG 4 resulted from ‘the most inclusive process of consultation in the history of the United Nations’ (Naidoo, cited in King, 2017). Yet, arguably the most important task of translating these into achievable targets and essentially the process of global indicator development has been principally left to technical experts (in UN’s Inter-Agency Expert Group). This, King argued, has resulted in the omission of vital, qualitative aspects of some of the globally agreed targets whilst other aspects have been misrepresented, bearing little resemblance to the idealistic goals they represent.

Professor King gave some striking examples, like that of SDG 4.3 & 4.4 where equal access for all to ‘quality technical, vocational and tertiary education’ and increasing numbers ‘who have relevant skills, including technical & vocational skills for employment, decent jobs & entrepreneurship.’ Which gets translated into a global indictor that only aims to measure the ‘proportion of youth and adults with information & communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill’ And ‘quality technical and vocational’ becomes merely ‘participation rate in formal & non-formal education & training’ in last 12 months.

It struck me that whilst on the one hand the ‘right things’ are relatively easy to identify and say in a global declaration of sorts, it is clearly far more difficult to measure in any meaningful way. Instead what we are left with is a mismatch between the global education targets highlighted in SDG4 and the indicators that are said to measure the progress towards these. For me, as an inherently qualitative-focused individual, the idea that an area such as education which is multifaceted and complex can be reduced to that which can be measured or counted is hugely problematic and needs redressing.

It also made me question the extent to which the same goals that are supposed to be levelling the playing field and raising the education standards of all countries around the world are instead effectively eroding the scope of education to enrich and empower beyond statistically compliant measures. For countries that continue to pursue their national goals in conjunction with regional and global goals and targets, perhaps the limitations set by SDG4 indicators can be overcome more easily. However, my concern is more for developing countries that are more likely to internalise global goals and agendas, sometimes at the cost of national and regional goals. Can relevant skills such as ‘…technical & vocational skills for employment, decent jobs & entrepreneurship’ in these countries really be reduced to just ‘ICT skills’?

Doris Asimeng: Whose expertise?

A system is being set up in which only the global indicators will be used for the key annual SDG Report. What happens therefore to the priorities set by, for example, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, with its very different deadline? Or to countries, such as China, with their Five-Year Plans? Do countries have to accommodate the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs within their own agreed national plans? Assumption of a Global Governance concept a problem: Who are they? Where are they? And what power do they have over nations? (King, 2017 Slide 14)

The above excerpt from the presentation from Kenneth King summed up my sentiments about the global influence on policy making at the national level. I had not given much thought to the targets and indicators of the SDG 4 until that presentation. Indeed I became familiar with the SDG 4 last term whilst researching an assignment on quality education. In my quest to know more about EFA and SDGs, in particular, the influence of global actors on national policy in respect of EFA attracted me to this seminar.

It was interesting to learn from King that there has been a dilution of indicators used for measuring the targets set for the SDGs. The key idea I took from the presentation was the conflict and tension that nations, especially those from the developing countries face in meeting these SDG indicators which take no cognisance of national and regional educational plans as shown in the quote above.

The involvement of OECD-DAC in developing indicators for SDGs was revealing. King pointed out that ‘the vital process of global indicator development has been principally left to technical experts (in UN’s Inter-Agency Expert Group)’. He did not elaborate on the constituent members of the group but my personal guess is that the group is likely to be dominated by OECD countries.

In the final analysis, the presentation clearly contributed to my research on the influences of the global on national policies of countries in the area of the EFA Framework.

Chris Doel: Local contexts and technocrats

The opening question ‘Lost in translation?’ relating to SDG4, was apt for a group of MSc students embarking on research into the significance of SDG4 and global education policy in a UK context.

The session explored the intricacies of global policy that does not really take into account the realities of local contexts. Of course, local contexts are alluded to in the goals, and not just in SDG4; but how are less developed countries supposed to implement SDG4 if some, or all of the goals, do not align with local contexts? This is the case in developed countries too where it is right to assume that the SDGs are not widely known about, or they are ‘managed’ and ‘implemented’ (if at all) by ministries not aligned with education. Let us take the UK context where DfID have the responsibility to implement SDG4 but do not communicate directly with the DfEE. Therefore, what is the significance of global education policy when, it is argued, many developing countries are implementing SDG4 whilst many (Northern) states are not. How can the SDGs be achieved? Is there ever going to be equity across the globe in terms of how people are educated? Do the UK see SDG as a national or international education policy?

Are the SDGs achievable? It would seem that other hurdles are already in place (unwittingly). Such hurdles contradict the advertised nature of setting up the SDGs because of the proposed failure of the preceding EFA and MDGs. Where was the transparent democratic process? What about ‘targets’ and ‘monitoring’.

Not only are there targets, but indicators too: the latter being developed by ‘technocrats’, as opposed to the publicised consultative process leading up to the implementation of the SGDs in September 2015. ‘It is claimed that SDG 4 resulted from ‘the most inclusive process of consultation in the history of the United Nations’. By contrast, the vital process of global indicator development has been principally left to technical experts. It is claimed that the ‘global indicator framework will be simple yet robust’, but how? For SDG 4’s 10 targets there are 11 global indicators and 32 thematic indicators; there will also be regional and national indicators; it would be interesting to ascertain whether such ‘regional indicators’ have been contextualised. What happens to quality learning and children’s rights to education, where only 11 global ones are the main source of data for the UN’s annual SDG reports?

Therefore, ‘global governance by targets and indicators’. Linked closely to this we see that there is also a closely aligned relationship between the public and the private, which highlights the ambiguous nature of ‘free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education’ (SGD4.1). This begs the question of ‘whether such partnerships undermine education as a human right’. The relationship between the public and the private will always be a contested one and could jeopardise the intended aims of SDG4. Which members in the global society will miss out? The poor and vulnerable? However, the private sector could raise awareness of SDG4 which is not widely known about, let alone understood.

Kenneth King concluded on an assumption of global governance, posing the following question: The Final, Bigger Question: Global, Regional or National Priorities? Which brings us back to the ‘targets’ and ‘indicators’ discussed earlier. What about priorities set by individual countries that may not necessarily have the same priorities as the global community? What happens, for example, to the priorities set by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, with its very different deadline? OR ‘countries, such as China, with their Five-Year Plans?’ There are 17 goals and 169 targets; how are these to be integrated into national plans? There is also the ‘Assumption of a Global Governance concept’ (which is) a problem: Who are they? Where are they? And what power do they have over nations? This is all to be taken into consideration within national and local political contexts. What about the political shift to the Right? Will SDG4 be a priority and align with national politics (King)?

Get Green: Learn, Act, Engage, Create

Amy Walsh is currently undertaking an MSc Education (Policy and International Development) and also works for the Student Union at Bristol as Student Engagement Projects Coordinator. Here, she shares with CIRE members her work and what it means for higher education.

I joined the MSc programme through a slightly alternative route. I work at the University of Bristol Students’ Union (Bristol SU), facilitating students to develop their skills, values and confidence through sustainability campaigning and volunteering alongside their course. I led Bristol SU’s Get Green project, which was funded by the National Union of Students (NUS) Students’ Green Fund between 2013-15, and have since been working to embed Get Green’s legacy at the University and SU.

getgreengroup
University of Bristol students and the Get Green team at Welcome Fair 2014

Bristol SU Get Green

Get Green’s primary aim was to mainstream sustainability at the University of Bristol. My team developed a four-step approach – Learn Act Engage Create –  to engage students in economic, social and environmental sustainability. The approach was underpinned by active learning theory and maximised peer-to-peer engagement. The four-step approach involved students engaging with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) through their formal curriculum and then building on their experiences by participating in and leading projects and campaigns outside of their course. You can read the full project report on the EAUC Sustainability Exchange.

getgreen1
Get Green’s four step approach – Learn Act Engage Create (Bristol SU, 2015)

ESD can provide a much needed and radical alternative to neoliberal curricula (Blewitt, 2012), but it needs to encompass more than just increasing students’ knowledge of international development and sustainability (Jickling, 1992; Dillon & Huang, 2010). Education should help us to better understand our own values and beliefs including how they relate to, and are different from, others’ frames of reference. ESD needs to facilitate the development of skills to create positive change, be critical and challenge the status quo, and help us to understand the impact each of our decisions has on the world. In an attempt to work towards this vision, Get Green took a holistic approach to engaging students with sustainability through their formal, informal and subliminal curriculum, in a similar way to the University of Plymouth (Sterling, 2010).

Over the two-year project we recorded a shift from 26% to 44% of students identifying as “positive greens” according to the DEFRA Segmentation Model, with a decline in the number of students leaning toward the negative end of the spectrum. My experience working with students on ESD has been inspiring and I have seen many flourish into environmental and social justice activists determined to make the world better for everyone and teach their peers about sustainability.

getgreen2
University of Bristol Student DEFRA Segmentation Survey results from 2010, 2013 and 2015, n=~500 (Bristol SU, 2015)

What next for ESD in HE?

A major challenge we continue to face is the ironically unsustainable funding for sustainability projects. Since the Get Green project funding ended, the team’s capacity has been vastly reduced so the team are prioritising work around the Learn and Create steps of the four-step approach. This has left a hole in sustainability activity at Bristol, relying on students to deliver projects within the ‘Act’ and ‘Engage’ strands of the Learn Act Engage Create framework. This is theoretically great for peer-to-peer engagement but some student groups haven’t managed to reach out beyond their usual audiences and therefore students who would probably identify in the mid-sections of the DEFRA segmentation aren’t being reached. It also relies on having a pool of interested and driven students, which can be difficult given the high turnover of students as they graduate each year.

If the HE sector seriously wants to “make a real contribution to the emergence of a more socially just and environmentally sustainable society it must embrace an alternative and radical critical pedagogy” (Blewitt, 2012, p.1). The HE sector must stop bolting-on ESD and greenwashing as a result of the new requirements from the QAA and TEF.  It is time to invest in radical curriculum change that includes transformative and active learning inside and outside of the formal curriculum, co-designed with students, academics and the community.

If you are interested in finding out more, the Bristol SU Student Sustainability Committee have organised a speaker series focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, workshops and a student research conference for this term. Find out about these events and how you can present your UG or PG sustainability-related research at the ‘A Student’s Guide to Sustainability’ conference by visiting the Bristol SU website.

References
Bristol SU, 2015. NUS Students’ Green Fund: Bristol SU Final Project Report, Bristol: University of Bristol Students’ Union. See: EAUC Sustainability Exchange
Sterling, S., 2010. Sustainability Education: Perspectives and Practice across Higher Education. London: Taylor & Francis.

 

Education and the sustainable development goals debate: Student reflections

Education and the Sustainable Development Goals 28 November 2016, 4.00 PM – 28 November 2016, 6.00 PM: Simon McGrath, Leon Tikly and Michael Crossley

Reflections from Marcia Shah

marcias-picMarcia Shah has recently defended her doctoral thesis, which investigated teachers’ perspectives on upgrading to degree status in Trinidad and Tobago. In this post she reflects on the recent CIRE research debate and its implications for improving the quality of education.

Throughout this debate, these prominent academics engaged the audience in thinking critically about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this blog, I reflect upon the aspects of the debate which I found particular affinity with.

Professor Tikly provided a brief historical overview, which identified education as a basic human right, since the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Professor McGrath highlighted the ways in which the 1990 World Conference on Education for All, aimed to improve both the quality of education, as well as, to increase access to educational opportunities. However, he illustrated the ways in which the 2000 Dakar Framework reduced these rich discourses around educational quality to issues of access, evident in the six Education for All (EfA) goals and the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The SDGs were then examined in great detail. The three members of the panel affirmed that education is critical if countries are to build their capacity to achieve the other SDGs. Thus, while there are 17 SDGs, the speakers mainly focused on the education goal, SDG four. This goal was accompanied by seven targets and three sub-targets. One of the indicators of quality education, as expressed in target 4.7C, relates to teachers’ qualifications. This target was critically assessed, as it questioned the quality of teacher education, and the impact of teacher training on actual practice, among other things.

Professor Crossley provided intellectual stimulation on the implications of the SDGs in relation to national, regional, and global priorities. He noted the ways in which small states are inevitably ‘forced’ into global agendas, although their unique priorities may be quite different. Therefore he made a very pertinent argument that in order for the SDGs to be more meaningful, countries should adapt these to their unique needs and priorities. In concluding, he argued that there is room for mutual learning between the ‘developing world’ and the ‘developed world,’ as too often policies are dictated by the ‘developed world’ without learning from the rich experiences of the ‘developing world’.

Although this debate lasted for less than two hours, it has certainly left the audience thinking, evaluating, and reflecting upon the discussions, for many more than two hours, many thanks to the speakers for this!

20161128_161317

Reflections from recent Masters graduate, Bowen Xu

15123400_1353156641363853_7569529262005242563_oBowen Xu is a recent graduate with a Msc Education (Policy and International Development) from the University of Bristol. He also holds a BA Education (Honours) degree from the University of Nottingham. His research interests include higher education and comparative education in the fast-changing global environment.

I am interested in the intersection of sustainable development and education as I have written an essay for Chinese higher education internationalisation by applying the concept of sustainable development. The seminar held by CIRE on Monday evening provided an excellent opportunity for me to upgrade my understandings about this concept by engaging with different perspectives from speakers and audience in relation to education development.

I believe sustainability presents a difficult standard for countries worldwide,  as achieving triple-sided economic, environmental and socio-cultural advancement simultaneously is absolutely a challenge for every country. So how can we integrate this notion into our educational system?  Perhaps we need some imagination and creativity.

Prof’s Crossley’s work on Small Islands Developing States particularly draws my attention. He argues that countries such as Maldives on the Indian Ocean risk the danger of drowning due to the rising sea level caused by climate change, and this can be disastrous for many places such as Maldives.  Indeed, they face the consequences of global warming and they are the victims of such ecological change. But who is responsible for this? The whole global community, and perhaps bigger economies in the West and Northern hemisphere. I worry about those small islands developing states; in fact, their future is not controlled by themselves, but controlled by others:  this could be the negative discourse of the globalised world.

UN’s sustainable development goals are rather comprehensive in a sense that it includes many different dimensions. Some suggest this could be referred to as an ideal list in which nation states can pick those that are more relevant to themselves. I partially agree with this, because some more powerful countries’ choice might affect how others survive. For example, in the case of global climate change, if the US and China do not reduce the carbon emission, then the world will continue to warm more quickly, and polar bears are going to be struggling with the melting Arctic Sea ice. How does this relate to education? Maybe we need to include those texts into our curriculum to let the next generations know the facts of this over-crowded and over-exploited planet and that they are living in a increasingly fragile earth.

I couldn’t help noticing some audience members and Simon and Leon are interested in the role that a growing China plays in such a scenario. As a Chinese national, I would say China’s development over the past few decades has not been sustainable enough and we need to explore more sustainable development pathways. Some also suggest that China should be invited into the core global community to play a central role in overcoming the new crisis. I think in fact that unchecked capitalism is actually the reason for the unsustainable development we have seen at the current time. We, as human beings, could only take from the earth what we need; the earth can satisfy our needs, but not our greed.  If un-regulated neoliberalism is not restricted and capital interest is flourish without restriction, then we can only see a continuing destruction of our ecological system, a growing gap between rich and poor and the emphasis of private interest over public good. I don’t see these as sustainable. In fact, we are in a crisis of searching for sustainable development and will not be able to bring the true spirit of sustainability into practise until we recognise that nature needs to be respected and human community needs to be more unified than divided. So, there is a problem of sustainable development of education, but it is so much more than that, it is a problem of human, nature and our relationship with each other, with the earth.

20161128_163220

CIRE Research Debate – ‘Education and the Sustainable Development Goals’: the case of China

Dini.jpegDini Jiang is a PhD student at the Graduate School of Education, investigating teacher effectiveness and professional development in China. In this post he reflects on the recent CIRE research debate and the specific case of China.

 

What are the mechanisms that are driving international development agendas? This was the key question that arose for me from the CIRE research debate about Education and the Sustainable Development Goals. It follows from what I see the distinctive educational needs and policy priorities of mainland China to be and the engagement of these needs and priorities with international development agendas such as the Education for All [EFA], Millennium Development goals [MDGs] and Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. It also arises from how ‘education governance’ (Dale 1997; Robertson & Dale 2013) has shaped the form, pattern and scope of educational policies and practices globally.

China

Crucially, the educational needs and policy priorities of mainland China are distinct from those of many countries worldwide. As Law (2014) argues, the Chinese government has taken a human capital development approach to coping with the manpower-related challenges of the 21st century, and, through curriculum-making, the state has played an important role in the social distribution of knowledge, skills and dispositions in order to ease the tension between globalisation and nationalism. This key argument can be evidenced by a series of educational reforms undertaken in the mainland Chinese context, including the sushi Jiaoyu – Quality Education Reform – (The Communist Party of China Central Committee & State Council of PRC 1999), the Basic Education Reform (The State Council of PRC 2001) and the Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (The Ministry of Education of PRC 2010). In order to address economic, socio-political and educational changes, the Quality Education Reform is essentially concerned with enabling children and adolescents to achieve all-round moral, intellectual and physical development so as to lay the foundations for cultivating socialist siyou xinren – people with socialist ideals, moral virtues, good education and discipline (The Ministry of Education of PRC 1986). The Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development has highlighted guidelines (p.7) of “upholding the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, “carrying out the Party’s principles on education” and “promoting the scientific development of education” as well as strategic themes (pp.10-11) of “always putting moral education in the first place”, “emphasising capacity building” and “stressing all-round development”.

Access, quality and equity

These educational needs and priorities in China do, to some extent, engage with international development agendas. Since Dakar, China has improved access to education by expanding lower and upper secondary enrolment; the gross enrolment ratio in lower secondary education increased by at least 27 percentage points from 1999 to 2012, with that in upper secondary education increasing by over 50 percentage points (UNESCO 2015).

unesco2

unesco2a
Gross enrolment ratios in lower secondary (top) and upper secondary education (bottom), 1999/2012 (UNESCO 2015, p.114)

The concept of ‘quality’ in China is understood broadly in terms of context, inputs, process and outcomes, which reflects the UNESCO (2005) framework for understanding education quality (Thomas et al. 2011). Student academic outcomes in national exams are perceived as the main criteria of quality evaluation, in consideration of the long standing exam-oriented culture and educational competitiveness caused by access expansion. The importance of ‘equity’ is emphasised locally with regards to reducing East/West and urban/rural differences (Thomas 2011). The hukou – household registration – system is the foundation of China’s divisive dualistic (rural and urban) socioeconomic structure and the country’s two classes of citizenship. Its impact on China’s industrialisation, urbanisation and social and spatial stratification has intensified educational inequalities (Chan 2009) and gaps between urban and rural areas in lower secondary school attainment remain (UNESCO 2015).

unesco3
Lower secondary attainment rate by location, 2000/2010 (UNESCO 2015, p.117)

All of this reflects the significance of ‘context sensitivity’ (Crossley & Watson, 2009) in understanding educational reform and international development.

Education governance frameworks

Returning to the key question – ‘what are the mechanisms that are driving international development agendas?’ – perhaps education governance frameworks (Robertson and Dale 2013) can provide us with further insights into understanding the social justice implications of privatisation. The governance frameworks are comprised of a combination of distinct forms of education activity (funding, provision, ownership, regulation), particular kinds of entities or agents with different interests (state, for-profit/not-for-profit market, community, individual) and different platforms or scales of rule (sub-national, national, supranational). As Robertson and Dale (2013) argue, “education governance innovations demand an explicit engagement with social justice theories, both in themselves, and as offering an opportunity to address issues of social justice that go beyond the re/distribution of education inputs and outputs, important though these are, and which take account of the political and accountability issues raised by globalising of education governance activity” (p. 426).

References:
Chan, K.W. (2009) The Chinese hukou system at 50, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 50 (2), 197-221.
Crossley, M. & Watson, K. (2009) Comparative and international education: policy transfer, context sensitivity and professional development, Oxford Review of Education, 35 (5), 633-649.
Dale, R. (1997) Educational Markets and School Choice, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 18 (3), 451-468.
Law, W. (2014) Understanding China’s curriculum reform for the 21st century, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 46 (3), 332-360.
Robertson, S.L. & Dale, R. (2013) The social justice implications of privatisation in education governance frameworks: a relational account, Oxford Review of Education, 39 (4), 426-445.
The Communist Party of China Central Committee & State Council of PRC (1999) Decision concerning the deepening of education reform and the full-scale promotion of quality education.
The Ministry of Education of PRC (1986) Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China.
The Ministry of Education of PRC (2010) Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development.
The State Council of PRC (2001) Decision concerning basic education reform and development.
Thomas, S.M. (2011) Improving Educational Evaluation and Quality in China. ESRC End of Award Report, RES-167-25-0353. Swindon: ESRC.
UNESCO (2005) Education for All: The quality imperative. EFA Global Monitoring Reports.
UNESCO (2015) Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges. EFA Global Monitoring Reports.

Education for sustainability and the MFL classroom

Jennifer is a current MSc Education student at the Graduate School of Education. She is a languages teacher with a PGCE from KCL and has taught French and Spanish in the UK and French in Peru. In this post she argues for the inclusion of ‘Education for Sustainability’ in the languages classroom.

As a French and Spanish teacher I have long felt that education, and specifically Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) education, can and should be a force for positive change. Recent work on education and sustainability, as part of my Master’s study at the University of Bristol, has led me to believe that education for sustainability should have a place within the UK’s MFL curricula at secondary level. Here, I tell you why and consider some of the practicalities.

Education for sustainable development vs. education for sustainability

Jickling’s Why I don’t want my children to be educated for sustainable development (1992) rejects the idea of education for sustainable development (ESD), highlighting the ‘paucity of precision’ in the term sustainable development and pointing to the inconsistencies that some people see in juxtaposing the terms development and sustainable. It also problematizes the idea of educating for anything, stating that ‘the prescription of a particular outlook is repugnant to the development of autonomous thinking’. In recognition that ESD aligns with a development-centered view of the world as opposed to leaving room in which to debate issues such as whether development and sustainability are compatible, I am not advocating for the inclusion of ESD in the UK’s MFL curricula. However, I do not agree with Jickling’s claim that education should not be for anything; I feel it would be naïve to claim that secondary school teachers do not have some idea of how we hope our pupils will respond to certain issues. It is for this reason that I would advocate for the UK’s MFL curricula to include education for sustainability, defined by Wade in Journey’s around Education for Sustainability (2008) as ‘education helping to bring [sustainability] about’.

The importance of education for sustainability

Whilst it is true that ‘teachers know that their job is primarily to teach students how to think, not what to think’ (Jickling 2000), I feel it is important to acknowledge that all decisions regarding school curricula are a result of value judgments on the part of teachers. Our choice of subject material (if not prescribed by a manager or exam board) is certainly based on our own interests and worldviews, whether we acknowledge this or not. My argument for the inclusion of education for sustainability in the MFL GCSE and A-Level curricula is based on a desire to see young people consider environmental issues, and I believe that this is reasonable, provided room is left to ‘enable students to debate, evaluate, and judge for themselves the relative merits of contesting positions’ (Jickling 1992). After all, covering education for sustainability within the curriculum will lead to pupils who are knowledgeable enough to consider the issues facing our world and, ultimately, act upon them.

Education for sustainability in the MFL classroom

It is quite easy to move from a conviction that education for sustainability is positive, to a conviction that it should be incorporated into MFL curricula in the UK. I view MFL lessons as not just a place to learn the language studied, but a window into different countries or cultures. For me, reading about the Sahel drought in French, for example, or Spanish approaches to recycling, enables pupils to engage with environmental issues beyond their immediate experience and to actively think about the interconnectedness of the world. It is my belief that education can, and should, expand pupils’ horizons and create agents of change and that’s why I argue education for sustainability should have a place in the UK’s MFL curricula.

jakehurst_wordcloud
Example word cloud for use with students (created with Tagul.com)

The practicalities of integrating education for sustainability into MFL teaching

So, if we accept that education for sustainability should be integrated into the UK’s MFL curricula, we must consider how. Currently environmental topics feature on the GCSE and A-Level syllabi of all main exam boards, providing space and time for the inclusion of education for sustainability in the classroom. The challenge facing MFL teachers is how environmental issues can be covered in a way that involves reflection on the state of the world as opposed to mere learning of vocabulary. For me, this is a challenge that can be met through careful planning, the use of authentic texts, videos and audio files to introduce new perspectives through the target language, and leaving space for pupil discussion.

References:
Jickling, B. (1992). Viewpoint: Why I don’t want my children to be educated for sustainable development. The Journal of Environmental Education, 23(4), 5-8
Jickling, B. (2000). A future for sustainability? Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 123, 467–476
Parker, J. and Wade, R. eds., (2008) Journeys around Education for Sustainability, London: Education for Sustainability Programme London South Bank University