Learning towards an ecological worldview April 11, 2016Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Secondary Education, Social Ecology, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
Tags: ecopedagogy, Education and community, education and transformation, environmental education
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by David Wright
For a little over 20 years I have worked as an educator in a university based Social Ecology department. Here considerable attention is paid to the construction of ecological understanding and, in association, the ‘learning ecology’ of both students and (Hill, Wilson & Watson 2004; Wright & Hill, 2011). This is central to our process. We argue that it is one thing to observe ‘an ecology’, it is another to understand one’s self as part of it. Capra (1966), who has made a significant contribution to applying this thinking to education, draws on Maturana and Varela (1992), to describe this as ‘bringing forth our world’. With this in mind, our students are invited to pursue understanding through real world practice, self-reflection and creative, academic writing.
As an illustration of the context for this study, I quote ‘Anne’, a primary school teacher and a recent graduate of our Social Ecology program.
Before [I did the Master of Education: Social Ecology course] I didn’t have [an integrated] understanding… Ecology was a separate thing… I see everything in [connected] terms now. I see it in our relationship with the world, how our relationship with each other impacts upon the world around us… I look at the ecology of the classroom, because you see a shift when someone is away… The class… I see it as a body, an organism made of many bodies…. And I see the staff like that also… So yes… my understanding has changed totally (Personal communication, July 24, 2012).
Anne’s response demonstrates personal and social insight as well as insight into her work as an educator. She notes benefits to her work and benefits to her life outside of her work and she identifies this in relation to ‘the world’. I am excited by her analysis and keen to understand how insights of this kind can permeate education more fully. This is more than a response to an environmental problem. It is a response to ‘our’ circumstance: a social-ecological point in time, in which we are all participants (Wright, Camden-Pratt & Hill, 2011).
I argue therefore that ecological epistemologies can offer a considerable amount to the practice of education. The influence of Bateson’s thinking (1972, 1979; Harries-Jones, 1995) can be seen in constructivist approaches to learning, most particularly in radical constructivism (von Glasersfeld, 1996), where it is argued that the construction of understanding (or learning) is an individual experience built around reflection upon systems of relationship. Maturana and Varela (1992) extend this through theories of systemic self-organisation and autopoiesis. Autopoiesis (or self-making) draws on the biology of cognition to argue a process based understanding of experience, from the perspective of the participant. Varela (1999) extends this through further work on ‘enaction’, which identifies embodied experience as a generator of emergent knowledge. Such knowledge, Varela argues, creates consequences, for which responsibility must be taken. Capra (1996) captures such thinking in his discussion of the way in which we bring forth our world. Sterling (2003) argues this as the basis of a paradigm shift in education and an emerging ecological worldview.
In his work with the Centre for Eco-literacy (Stone & Barlow, 2005), Capra calls for education systems that learn from and reflect the workings of self-organising systems. He notes, “at all scales of nature, we find living systems nesting within other living systems – networks within networks” (1996, p.24). These living systems include schools. An ecological worldview draws attention to inter-relationships within a system. It does so from the perspective of those within that system, rather than that of detached ‘objective’ experts. Bowers (1999, 2011) describes this as ‘ecological intelligence’: the intelligence of the systems – including human systems of thought and action – that sustain the organization of life. He argues that the transition from individual to ecological intelligence should be a major focus in education.
The challenge will be for education professors, as well, as their colleagues in other departments, to recognize how the patterns of thinking they now equate with progress and enlightenment contribute to the ecological crisis, and to make the radical shift in consciousness that is required (Bowers 1999, p. 170).
In predicating ‘the local’ as central within such learning Bowers emphasizes local communities, local histories and local environmental practices. He argues the importance of examining the local in terms of its sustainability. This can be known better Bowers suggests, through greater awareness of place based culture, tradition and ‘elder knowledge’. This calls up the values and experience of traditional and indigenous communities and challenges the assumptions and practices of colonial cultures. Immersive experience in nature-based learning is a vehicle for such learning (Sobel, 1996). Sobel argues, “we teach too abstractly, too early” (p.5). Grunewald (2003) also seeks to build a critical consciousness of the ways in which place permeates schooling. He challenges educators to recognise and utilise place-based pedagogies. In doing so he cites Wendell Berry.
Properly speaking, global thinking is not possible. Those who have “thought globally” [and among them have been imperial governments and multinational corporations] have done so by means of simplifications too extreme and oppressive to merit the name of thought… Unless one is willing to be destructive on a very large scale, one cannot do something except locally, in a small place (Berry cited in Grunewald, 2003, pp. 633-634).
These issues of systems thinking, criticality, the perspective of the participant, reflection, responsibility, ‘the local’, nature-based and place-based learning, indigenous perspectives and imaginative and emotional engagement in the construction of relationship are core elements in an ecological understanding of education. Much literature suggests that these can be linked and interwoven very effectively (Stone & Barlow, 2005; Smith & Williams, 1999; Saylan & Blumstein, 2011; O’Sullivan & Taylor, 2004; Judson, 2010). This thinking is applied and reflected upon in a research project that looks at ecological understanding in a selection of Australian and North American schools (Wright 2013). It is also discussed in relation to the use of drama as a teaching methodology in two recent book chapters (Wright 2015a, 2015b).
Bateson, G. (1972) Steps to an ecology of mind. New York: Ballantine Books.
Bateson, G. (1979) Mind and nature. New York: Bantam Books.
Bowers, C.A. Changing the dominant cultural perspective in education, In Smith, G.A. & Williams, D.R. (eds) (1999) Ecological education in action. Albany NY: SUNY Press.
Bowers, C.A. (2011) Perspectives on the ideas of Gregory Bateson, ecological intelligence and educational reforms. Eugene, OR: Eco-Justice Press.
Capra, F. (1996) The web of life. London: Harper Collins.
Grunewald, D.A. (2003) Foundations of place: A multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. In American Educational Research Journal, Vol 40:3.
Harries Jones, P. (1995) Ecological understanding and Gregory Bateson. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Hill, S.B. Wilson, S. and Watson, K. Learning ecology. A new approach to learning and transforming ecological consciousness. In O’Sullivan, E. & Taylor, M. (2004) Learning towards an ecological consciousness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Judson, G. (2010) A new approach to ecological education. New York. NY: Peter Lang,
Maturana, H. and Varela, F. (1992) The tree of knowledge Boston MA: Shambhala.
Saylan, C. & Blumstein, D.T. (2011) The failure of environmental education. Berkely CA: University of California Press.
Sobel, D (1996) Beyond ecophobia: Reclaiming the heart in nature education. Barrington MA: The Orion Society.
Smith, G.A. & Williams, D.R. (eds) (1999) Ecological education in action. Albany NY: SUNY Press.
Sterling, S. (2003) Whole system thinking as a basis for paradigm change in education: Explorations in the context of sustainability. University of Bath: Unpublished PhD.
Stone, M.K. & Barlow, Z. (eds) (2005) Ecological literacy. San Francisco CA: Sierra Club Books.
O’Sullivan, E. & Taylor, M. (2004) Learning towards an ecological consciousness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Varela, F.J. (1999) Ethical know-how. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.
von Glasersfeld, E (1996) Radical constructivism: A way of knowing and learning. London UK: Falmer Press
Wright, D. & Hill, S. Introduction. In Wright, D., Camden-Pratt, C. & Hill, S. (2011) Social Ecology: Applying ecological understanding to our lives and our planet. Stroud, UK: Hawthorn Press.
Wright, D., Camden-Pratt, C. & Hill, S. (2011) Social Ecology: Applying ecological understanding to our lives and our planet. Stroud, UK: Hawthorn Press.
Wright, D. (2013) Schooling ecologically: An inquiry into teachers’ ecological understanding in ‘alternative’ schools. Australian Journal of Environmental Education Vol. 29: 2.
Wright, D. (2015a) Drama & ecological understanding: Stories of learning. In Anderson, M. & Roche, C. (eds) The state of the art: teaching drama in the 21st century. Sydney, NSW: Sydney University Press. ISBN 9781743320273.
Wright, D. (2015b) Drama and ecological understanding: reflections upon ecology, performance, place and indigenous knowledge systems. In Linds, W. & Vettraino, E. (eds.) Playing in a house of mirrors: Applied theatre as reflective practice. Sense Publishers.
Dr David Wright is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Western Sydney University, Australia. He is also the Academic Course Advisor for the Master of Education (Social Ecology) program at the university.
Teaching ‘shared humanity’ and promoting inclusive belonging in schools. Could this be an answer to radicalisation? February 10, 2016Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Inclusive Education, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
Tags: education and transformation, social and emotional learning
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by Sue Roffey
The shooting of a police accountant by a teenage boy in Parramatta last year the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris have led to increasing calls to identify young people who are at risk of radicalisation. Although assessment of those at risk “shows a group of people clearly failing to gain satisfaction or friendship in mainstream Australian life” (Australian Strategy Policy Institute, June 2015) there appears to be no clear appreciation that what happens in schools can either contribute to or help address the problem. There is much that can be done but it needs to be pro-active and start yesterday.
In order to take preventative action we must understand at least some of the psychological motivations behind radicalisation.
Young people often have strong ideals and many need to feel they are important. Giving their all for a ’cause’ can be motivating if it turns you into a hero. A sense of belonging is also critical to psychological wellbeing and many young people look to groups and associations as a means of finding both belonging and meaning in their lives. Many of these hold out the promise of building a better world for future generations. This is an exhortation that has run throughout history – often with devastating results as many wars attest to.
Feeling connected is a major factor for resilience. It is one reason why marginalised young people often end up in gangs. Belonging that is exclusive rather than inclusive promotes rejection of anyone outside the group. We therefore need to do everything we can to promote inclusive belonging in as many contexts as possible. Feeling connected to school means you believe your presence matters, you are valued for who you are, not just how you perform; the learning environment is both positive and safe and you perceive your learning as meaningful.
In March 2009 the New Scientist reported on a study (Wike & Fraser, 2009) with the headline “Teen killers don’t come from schools that foster a sense of belonging”. Incidents of multiple killings in US schools took place in establishments where some students were seen as stars and others rejected as outsiders, even though they might be academically able. It was these marginalised individuals who perpetrated these atrocities, partly in revenge and partly to make themselves feel noticed at last. The killers reportedly showed no empathy for those they gunned down and had no apparent concern for their own safety or future.
Learning to Be and Learning to Live Together were identified as two of the four pillars of education for the 21st Century by UNESCO in 1996. The other two pillars are Learning to Know and Learning to Do. The overwhelming focus in schools on academic content can mean there is no time left for learning about relationships or exploring values. Any time devoted to understanding the self or developing relational skills can be deemed by some as a distraction from the ‘real’ purpose of schooling – educating for an economic future.
We not only have young people being radicalised, we also continue to have bullying in our schools alongside homophobia, racism, and increasing incidents of family violence and abuse in our society.
Much of the conversation appears to focus on reactive strategies. We cannot continue to put our energy into picking up the pieces. We need to actively teach our children and young people ‘shared humanity’ – helping them understand and appreciate how much they have in common with others.
They need to reflect on how every major religion in the world espouses a version of ‘ The Golden Rule’ – treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. More connects us than divides us, but unless we give young people structured opportunities to think and talk about this they may be at the mercy of those who want to denigrate and dehumanise those ‘not like us’.
Schools can provide activities that connect students with each other – not just their mates but with those they don’t usually associate with. We can teach empathy. In the light of what we share we can value diversity. We can enable young people to understand their emotions and therefore raise awareness of how these might be manipulated.
There are skilled educators doing this all over the Western world and changing perceptions and behaviours as a result. But this is often under the radar where social and emotional learning does not fit with current policy. We are now paying the price for ‘learning to be’ and ‘learning to live together’ being jettisoned in favour of more time spent on formal curriculum goals. We need to revisit the balance in education for all our futures.
Reference: Wike, T. L., & Fraser, M. W. (2009). School shootings: Making sense of the senseless. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(3), 162-169.
Associate Professor Sue Roffey is an adjunct professor in the School of Education at Western Sydney University, Australia. She is a psychologist, academic, author and creator of the Circle Solutions framework for social and emotional learning. email@example.com
Young people, “radicalization” and schooling October 26, 2015Posted by Editor21C in Community Engagement, Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Engaging Learning Environments, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
Tags: curriculum, democracy and education, education and transformation, indigenous education, national curriculum, teacher researchers
from Carol Reid
The recent events in Parramatta and subsequent ‘threats’ on social media located at two south-western Sydney high schools has brought to the fore the role of schooling in developing and countering threats to social cohesion. This is not the first time that the relationship between schools and terrorism and crime have been raised and it is not just in this part of Sydney, which is home to the most diverse number of first and second generation immigrants in Sydney. For those of us who have worked in and with schools around these matters for a number of decades there is little surprise. Before discussing what might be done it is critical that we comprehend what hasn’t been done, or rather what has been erased.
In the culture wars over school curricula Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire argued that critical approaches in high schools were ideologically driven and took the place of what really ‘ought’ to be in the curriculum. Donnelly was the ‘non-ideological’ choice of government for interrupting what was seen as left-wing tendencies among teachers and reforming ‘tainted’ curricula. This article does not want to waste space recounting the debates as arguments can be found elsewhere, but it is important to outline what this has meant for schools and young people.
The attack on critical thinking skills (including critiques of government policy and our history) by conservative educationalists leads to schools becoming places where ‘touchy subjects’ can’t be raised. They are taboo in schools. This means that they find space in subterranean places. This happens in schools in part because that is where young people gather. Schools are therefore important sites for airing and challenging views, no matter how extreme. It is not surprising that fellow students of the Arthur Phillip High School student involved in the Parramatta shooting had not heard him mention anything untoward, nor is it surprising that he also silenced discussions of religion or appeared disinterested. This concealed two things – his own complicity with unspeakable texts, but more importantly the related silencing of different views of the world by conservative forces surrounding schooling.
If we are not blind we can take this opportunity to reconsider what schooling is and how marginalising some forms of critique only serves to deepen disaffection but more critically drives some young people to commit acts of terror. The new Turnbull government is beginning to soften the tone but often points to factors such as mental health issues, isolated young people or poor family relations as factors that leads to anti-social behaviour at school or by young people of school age. But this begs the question given all the mental health opportunities provided for young people. Assistance for this kind of anomie is off the radar. It cannot be spoken.
In the rest of this short article I would like to outline what might be done and in doing so stand in solidarity with commentators such as Yassar Morsi who said:
It maybe counterintuitive but the answer lays in less authority – a space for young Muslims to politically dissent in their own language, rather than more policing of their dissent. Less parenting, more growth and a space to criticise the west and Australia, without an Islamophobic or generational backlash and without the hysterical fear and suffocation that surrounds everything they do and say.
Indeed, the first response to the Parramatta shooting by the NSW State Government is to monitor more closely ‘prayer’ groups in schools and while not clearly stated, this appears to be only Muslim prayer groups. Dr Anne Aly – who works with Muslim youth and adults who are already radicalized – similarly argues for dialogue. But what can schools do? In the remainder of this article I provide an approach that builds on young people’s capacities to know, and to trust them to articulate this knowing and emerge with new understandings that enrich them, their peers and their teachers.
In late 2006 I was invited by Larissa Treskin, then the NSW Department of Education Liverpool Education Director of Schools, to consider a project working with public high schools in Liverpool on racism post-Cronulla riots. Apparently there were still simmering issues bundled up with everyday competitiveness by school boys about girls and turf; the usual spatial dynamics that have been around for a long time. Six high schools were approached and I invited two of my colleagues (Drs Les Vozzo and Debra Costley) to work with me on the project, which was funded by a competitive ‘Living in Harmony’ grant for 2007, managed by the then Department of Immigration and Citizenship (now the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) with a contribution by my university, now Western Sydney University (WSU).
The project began with selecting the age groups to be involved. Year 9 and 10 students (14 to 16 year olds) formed two groups. The first (47 in total) spent a full day at WSU where we discussed the media representation of young people involved in two riots – Macquarie Fields and Cronulla. We were careful to approach the issue as one where the construction of young people was at the heart of the matter and thus to evoke a sense of ‘needing to understand’ different perspectives from and about their own peers. The objective was to explore and document through youth voices the causes of youth tensions in a context of rapid social change. We provided them with workshops on how to interview, carry out focus groups and ethical research practice. We argued that the main concern was to understand racism – whether it was indeed an issue, thoughts about the Cronulla riot and whether another might occur.
At the end of the day’s workshop we all co-constructed five questions (eight teachers included) that would be covered in their research. The students then left and with their teachers developed plans to interview a group of students and teachers at another school after a pilot focus group at their own school and an interview practice with a teacher or two volunteers. They also interviewed community members such as parents and local business owners. Staff workshops were also held.
A second group of students worked with a theatre group led by Kaz Therese on a creative representation of the issues, and also findings from the first group’s investigations. The youth theatre group decided to use a narrative approach so that the students involved could use theatrical forms to narrate stories of migration, indigeneity and everyday teenage concerns, along with a song they developed around the rejection of racism. The production was called ‘Pieces of Harmony’ because the students felt that while harmony was a fair enough aim it was a little naïve, but that in the act of aiming for harmony a rapprochement could be attained in pieces of harmony. The performance was held at the Liverpool Catholic Club and was attended by community, parents and dignitaries with a DVD produced.
What happened to those doing the research? The students were slightly apprehensive; pleased they had got the questions agreed on before leaving the workshop, but feeling intimidated about talking to parents due to cultural mores about respect and obedience among many second generation students. So, we had a mock focus group to prepare them. Students interviewed 301 other students in total across the six schools. Initially they were concerned about going to other schools but the evaluation of the project revealed that collaboration with other schools was the aspect they enjoyed most.
Furthermore, when they were asked about what they had learned, the greatest number of comments related to how doing the research had shifted their thinking about issues of cultural difference, race and harmony. A number had held negative constructions of students from other schools based purely on ethnicity or reputation rather than knowledge of their perspectives. Other interesting results here include the relatively poor perception of parental support for young people. Students were also surprised by some of the attitudes of teachers. The young people involved in the research requested another full day workshop to discuss their findings and asked why there were no more opportunities for this kind of learning. The young people who were involved in the research found some startling facts about others, themselves and their teachers.
Some key community attitudes about young people and the project that emerged from the focus groups led by students were:
- They felt there was a lot of diversity in their communities;
- Dominance of a certain culture made others feel inferior to that group;
- Kept referring back to just ‘youth’ rather than racism – i.e. not their problem in other words;
- Families had different values and morals;
- Indigenous parents particularly enjoyed the performances where students told their stories.
From the students’ perspective:
- The project produced an overall shift in attitude towards students from other schools and cultures developed through an exploration of local and global issues;
- They concluded that older students had more fixed views influenced by the media;
- Younger students were less decided. Still testing out the possible ideas available;
- Concluded that Year 7 and 8 is a good place to start as they haven’t formed opinions or stereotyped people.
The students found that teachers:
- Held the basic idea that more diversity produces racism and that this is an area that needs some substantial work done with teachers;
- Lifestyles did not include much mixing with diversity;
- Were worried about Bebo – site of racist narratives.
To conclude, the outcomes of the project were that people were now more conscious that racism takes many forms and that it is not just young people but community, parents and teachers who are implicated in multiple ways. While this project was related to racism, it is the model of youth engagement in understanding the issues from their perspective and in their words that is central. Working in multimodal forms also makes different forms of expressing these understandings and perspectives available. The project also developed critical thinking capacities and provided knowledge about ethical research practices.
More could be done to make schools safe places for student discussion of current issues. While it may seem counter-intuitive from a conservative perspective – that ‘touchy subjects’ ought to be repressed because they are dangerous – not dealing with valid concerns that young people have, whether radicalization or other matters, means that it is hard to make schools relevant in the totality of their lives. Educationalists must be explaining and debating. It is fertile space for further research and community engagement.
Deschooling Senior Secondary: Young Adults learning-earning and the New Spirit of Capitalism March 24, 2015Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Educational Leadership, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
Tags: democracy and education, education and training, education and transformation, educational leadership, teacher education
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Classroom-centric schooling need not interfere with learning-earning in senior secondary
Deschooling L’earning (Sing & Harreveld, 2014) has been written for twenty-first century senior secondary teachers interested in the lives of young adult’s life/work trajectories. Unlike orthodox school-centric teacher educators there are those teachers whose ‘calling’ or vocation is to broker young adults’ learning and earning – or l’earning – through networked l’earning webs. Research during the course of the last decade has documented changes that extend and deepen the integration of young adults’ education, training, work, in the face of separatism agenda for education and production. There are now senior secondary teachers who invest considerable time in brokering new forms of partnership-driven l’earning for young adults to make real world contributions to adult life as part of accredited curricula. The findings from this research means for teachers’ professional learning, posing challenges for teacher education to further the education of teachers employed as network leaders.
Young adults’ disenchantment with disengaging classroom-centric schooling
Young adults’ disenchantment with disengaging classroom-centric schooling is evident in their disaffection and alienation from education. The research literature questions disengaging senior secondary schooling for its the separation of education from production, especially as many disenchanted young adults find its failure to contribute to a life worth living. Young adults’ critiques of classroom-centric schooling have seen the generation flexible l’earning services and work-integrated l’earning along with the reconfiguration of national qualifications frameworks. However, young adults’ confront continuing sources of insecurity, due in part to government policy adversity impacting the deschooling of their l’earning. Further, the international competition for high skilled, well-paid jobs adds to politically regressive policies of selection/exclusion that are adversely affecting young adults’ life/work/ security.
Brokering capital friendly l’earning webs
The changing spirit of capital accumulation has given rise to the brokering capital friendly l’earning webs for young adults. These capital friendly l’earning webs, which involve the brokering of their l’earning through outsourcing and subcontracting, are meant to contribute to the capability development of young adults. Teachers are now working as l’earning brokers. These l’earning brokers are integral to the flexible l’earning required for forming and maintaining capital friendly l’earning webs. Despite counter-moves that would seperate schooling from production, Illich’s (1973) critique which is directed at deschooling society now seems compatible, even if it is in a wayward fashion, with the new spirit of capitalism via the brokering of capital friendly l’earning webs.
Networking policy for deschooling l’earning
Government policy changes in young adults’ l’earning, and thus the work of teachers, are displacing classroom-centric schooling with the ethos of deschooling l’earning. This points to the importance of teacher education providing innovative opportunities and choices for the capability development of teachers. Structured by government legislation, participation in l’earning is now compulsory for young adults. This has given rise to the possibilities for interactional policies that maximise young adults’ participation and enhance their continuous transitions through cycles education, employment/unemployment and training. However, the international convergence in government testing regimes is doing little to counter the changes in international competition for high skilled and relatively well-paid labour. Given that international standardisation in government policy agendas around OECD tests works against the divergence that is necessary for innovation, changes in the mode and content of tests are now warranted.
Networking l’earning webs is not so radical
Teachers are attending to the organisational learning and changes required to move beyond classroom-centric schooling in order to deal with young adults’ project-driven networked l’earning. Deschooled leaders are creating divergent forms of networked l’earning webs for young adults. They interrogate government policies, legislation and national qualifications frameworks as part of their work to grasp the opportunities and choices they have for deschooling of young adults’ l’earning. These deschooled networked leaders have established their reputations for adaptability, flexibility, mobility, availability and, perhaps ironically loyalty to capitalist enterprises in which they have minimal control. To serve the common good, their networked l’earning webs are expected to advance young adults’ capabilities to enhance their security through a precarious life/work trajectory that is characterised by project-driven employment/unemployment.
Deschooling network leadership
The deschooling of schooled leadership can be examined in relation to three character types, namely bureaucratic system-thinking leadership, tradition-bound leadership and charismatic leadership. Increasingly, principals and teachers work through and across a multidimensional mosaic of these that can be described as deschooled network leadership.
Deschooling, democracy and government accountability
Subjecting the powers governing young adults’ l’earning to electoral accountability through monitory democracy is an important focus of deschooled network leadership. Democracy – demos the people, kratos power – means that ‘the people’ subject power – across all forms of institutionalised power at all levels of organisational management – to accountability. Increasingly, monitory democracy provides an important vehicle for holding those in power to account to the people. The instrumental values expressed in government policies provide one focus for having governments account for the sources of young adults’ life/work insecurities. Governments may make good policies, but deschooled network leaders can contribute to making better interactional education-employment/unemployment-training policies.
Tests of government accountability for deschooling l’earning
New tests of intersectionality of governments’ policy actions for deschooling young adults’ l’earning are required. Such tests of government policies might focus on their value for building young adults’ commitment to capital accumulation, for assuring their security through capital accumulation, and for determining whether new forms of capital accumulation serve the common good. These are tests which provide one vehicle for holding governments accountable for deschooling the l’earning opportunities and choices of young adults. The disability care and insurance industry, which relies on unpaid as much as paid labour, provides an important focus on monitory democracy so as to hold elected government representatives accountable for policies – or the lack therefore – in this field. A transformative intersectional policy agenda for young adults’ l’earning could link the government sponsored disability insurance industry with innovation in the assistive technology industry providing new directions for their education, employment and training, including in advanced research and development.
Implications for deschooling l’earning
Classroom-centric schooling research and policies offer a limited understanding of the complex l’earning partnerships and networking that is now a defining feature of young adults’ precarious life/work trajectories. A multi-stranded coalition of partnerships among intersecting fields of education-employment-training interests can test government policies and practices for their capacity to build young adults’ commitment to new modes of capital accumulation, to realise the security they claim to assure, and their capacity to serve the common good. Deschooling through networking l’earning provides possibilities for robust responses to, and expressions of renewed struggles regarding, young adults’ capital accumulation in the twenty-first century.
Note well – All references can be found in: Singh, M. & Harreveld, B. (2014). Deschooling L’earning: Young Adults and the New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Michael Singh is Professor of Education in the School of Education and Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where he leads the Research Oriented School Engaged Teacher-Researcher Education Program.
Lost opportunities, forgotten children: Education for refugee children in detention February 21, 2015Posted by Editor21C in Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
Tags: children with special needs, democracy and education, Education and community, education and transformation
From: Susanne Gannon
This morning I read about my university’s most recent ‘remarkable graduate’, Rwandan-born Noel Zihabamwe, and I heard on Radio National from Afghanistan-born PhD graduate Dr Ahmad Sarmast about his work bringing music back to Kabul. Yesterday I picked up a copy of Supporting School-University Pathways for refugee students’ access and participation in tertiary education hot off the press by my colleague Associate Professor Loshini Naidoo and her team, and last Monday I watched more buck-passing about children in immigration detention on ABC’s Q&A by politicians from the major parties. This month the child I know who was born in detention in Nauru started high school. Fortunately, that family moved to Australia as refugees before their child was old enough for school. But these events made me wonder about how we might think about equity issues in the education of children in detention.
Although we might quibble about how we define ‘equity’ in education – with opinions clustering around access, outcomes, ‘choice’, aspiration, quality, funding, and so on – what is clear is that education changes lives. It is, at heart, and at best, a social justice project and fundamental to democracy. Arguably, it is for the most disadvantaged communities that education can have the greatest impact. Without doubt, the most disadvantaged are children from refugee backgrounds, particularly those who have been, or who are, in immigration detention.
This afternoon I returned to the two reports, ten years apart, on children in immigration detention to consider what they have to say specifically about education. What is surprising is not their differences, nor do they deploy the volatile rhetoric that circulates around them in the public sphere. Rather I am struck by the sobriety and consistency of their messages. The core purpose of education to help people to achieve their potential has been – and continues to be – deeply compromised by Australian immigration detention policies and practice.
A last resort: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (April 2004), presented to then Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock by then HREOC Commissioner Sev Ovdowski, dedicates Chapter 12 to Education for Children in Immigration Detention. The new report The forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (November 2014)  presented to Attorney-General George Brandis by AHRC President Gillian Triggs and released last week shifts its focus somewhat by disaggregating the category of children in detention, and by taking a more developmental approach. Chapters 8 and 9 focus specifically on school-aged primary and secondary school-aged children, respectively. Rather than being separated into a distinct chapter of its own as it was in 2004, education is addressed in a subsection of each chapter alongside emotional health and well-being, physical environment and so on. Chapter 12, on Children in detention on Nauru, also addresses education directly.
Equality of access is the crucial issue in the 2004 inquiry, and the Report concludes that it is best achieved by accessing education outside detention. Their investigation shows that this was the only way that an adequate quality of education could be provided in light of the ‘significant barriers to education inside the centres’ (579). External education ‘significantly improves the education received by detainee children’ though regrettably, had only become available to detained children late in the period of the inquiry with 80% of children in external schools by mid-2003 (579). Prior to that, internal provision of education was impacted by inadequate facilities and equipment, insufficient teachers, inappropriately qualified (ESL) teachers, inappropriate or no curriculum, teacher turnover, inadequate hours of tuition, lack of assessment and reporting, attendance, mobility, children’s depression, distress and trauma (587-623).
The 2004 report notes that the Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges the Australian government to provide primary and secondary education to all children, regardless of whether or not they are in immigration detention. The principle of nondiscrimination also means that it must be of equivalent quality to that available to other children (581). The ‘best interests of the child’ are the first consideration in education (582). The report noted ‘inherent inconsistency between the current mandatory detention system, and the protection of children’s fundamental rights’ (630). Children who attended external education benefitted from ‘the opportunity to experience a full curriculum, …to socialize and make new friends, and …to regularly leave the detention environment’ (632), and were described by one Principal as ‘model students’ (632), and by another Principal as demonstrating ‘high levels of participation in extracurricular activities’ (632). The detailed description of specialized support for refugee children at one exemplary school (Holroyd High School, Sydney) demonstrates not only what is needed, but what is possible (568).
Fast forward ten years. The 2014 Inquiry reiterates the legal frameworks for Australia’s obligation to care for children and to consider the best interests of the child ahead of all other considerations. Our current policies remain in breach – as they also were in 2004 – of our obligations under the Conventions of the Rights of the Child (74-77). The chapter subsections on education are much briefer than the long chapter on education in the 2004 Report. They do not address issues of curriculum or teacher quality that were relevant when the Detention Centre Management (ACM in 2004, SERCO in 2014) endeavored to provide education inside centres. It is clear that external provision by fully qualified teachers with proper curriculum in appropriate learning spaces is now recognized as essential. However access to schools remains problematic, so for those children who are not attending schools there is not even an inadequate alternative available inside detention.
For primary and secondary school children, there is uneven provision of schooling with mainland children accessing external schools if they have been enrolled and very poor access for children on Christmas Island and Nauru. Children on Christmas Island, which is an Australian territory with schools staffed and regulated by Australian educational authorities, had ‘almost no school education… not more than two to four weeks over an eight month period’ in 2013, however a new agreement with WA Catholic Education Office improved provision from mid-2014 (130-131). Teenage children on Christmas were similarly impacted by very limited access to education. Though most teenagers on the mainland were enrolled in public schools, stress, trauma and security measures were impacting on their capacity to learn. Some teenagers in the Melbourne Detention Centre were prevented or discouraged from attending school because of the possibility or threat that they would be transferred to Christmas Island (147). The chapters on primary aged children and teenagers both conclude that the inadequate provision of school education on Christmas Island ‘has had negative effects on their learning and may have long term impacts on the cognitive development and academic progress of these children’ (134, 148). Nauru seems to be the only detention centre where provision of primary and secondary school education is made largely on site, within the detention centre, and the concerns are consistent with those expressed ten years ago. The environment inside detention on Nauru ‘is not conducive to learning’ (184), with inadequate equipment and facilities, and multiage classes with teacher quality inside the detention centre not explicitly addressed. A pilot project had allowed a small number of older students to attend external schools in Nauru, but teacher shortages and resourcing problems within those schools made it unlikely to continue.
Finally, although education is addressed much more briefly in the 2014 report, it is clear that adequate provision is far from being achieved. Education is not a high priority for the management of detention centres, who are charged with detaining people rather than expanding their capacities to achieve their individual potential or to contribute to society. Governments too are blind to the potential of these young people, and to our obligations – morally, ethically, legally – to provide education that might assist with this.
Associate Professor Susanne Gannon is Equity Program leader in the Centre for Educational Research, School of Education, at the University of Western Sydney.