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by Urszula Markowska-Manista, University of Warsaw
“Education either functions as an instrument … to bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women … discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Freire 2003: 34)
Truth and equality are categories that are central to human rights in both local and global contexts, as they speak to diversity in social life. These categories are present among the so-called "contemporary sensitive topics" (Markowska-Manista & Górak-Sosnowska 2022) and include the difficult knowledge of migration and mobility, social and cultural conflicts, education for peace in a world full of inequality and crises, and education for sustainable development and ecology. At the same time, truth and equality are key categories for the implementation of education that imparts knowledge to young people and enables them to acquire the skills to initiate and implement social change. These are categories that, in a critical approach, develop a sense of responsibility for the cultural and natural world, and knowledge regarding social participation, subjectivity and empowerment.
Truth and equality in education are consistently founded on four basic aspects of knowledge and education: "learn to know," "learn to act," "learn to live together," and "learn to be" (Delors 1998). Hence, the constant duty of education is to provide everyone who is part of the process with the conditions necessary for harmonious development (physical, mental and worldview-related), to educate for respect towards nature, other people and their cultures by learning about the dynamics of the world while maintaining respect for oneself and native culture and thus sensitizing to the environment and forming socio-cultural and intercultural competences.
While we have diverse approaches to building planes of equality, tolerance and respect in conventional curricular structures that are based on educational, social and environmental decisions, we need matrices and compasses that would allow us to critically deconstruct content, reflectively orient ourselves in systemically delivered knowledge, participate in the creation of that knowledge, and navigate politically and ideologically constructed curricula. Thus, approaches that are inclusive and take into account the participation of different groups and different narratives, the use of different sources of knowledge, and diverse methods and strategies of work and cooperation seem necessary. Such approaches have a socially critical quality involving majority and minority groups that deconstruct and are simultaneously constructed in a given context, in society and in the environment. It is thus a bundled transaction - (co)learning through action and co-participation for social change in search of social justice and equality in and through education.
The reflexive need to search for planes of truth and equality in and through education provides a legitimate path to reach out to diverse bodies of knowledge, use a variety of tools, and take action that deconstructs schematic practices, so that the knowledge we use is integrated with an awareness of the limits of human interference with our natural environment and the local and global society we are a part of.
The analyses of the planes of truth and equality in and through education are based in this introductory text on an analysis of publications on education for peace, education for sustainable development and equality education related to teaching in unequal societies.
Examples of good practice in these areas can be found, among others, in the book Peace Education: International Perspectives (Bajaj & Hantzopoulos 2016). Prepared by researchers and practitioners deeply involved in peace education efforts in various contexts and locations around the world, the book takes a closer look at the basic concepts and current trends of peace education. Highlighting the need to teach about peace, as well as to teach for peace, the authors offer concrete ideas to readers who want to delve into this field of research, seeking opportunities for work and practice based on critical pedagogy, human rights education, critical race theory, and postcolonial theories.
The authors, following Paolo Freire (1970), advocate strengthening the participation and empowerment of students as agents of transformative change. Involving young people in the educational activities that concern them makes it possible to activate their social potential in the environment and to tap the resources of individual and community action as well as shape the competence of peacebuilding in everyday life. Authentically engaging young people with a diverse set of skills is important for building their sense of responsibility for the community and environment. Participatory education based on a critical analysis of the power dynamics and interdependence between different factors (race, class, gender, special needs, sexual orientation, language, religion, geographic location and other factors) as forms of social stratification, allows for identity-building based on respect for the group the students belong to and the environment that surrounds them. This is complemented by another element - education for equality and diversity as the development of specific skills, and proficiency in the use of knowledge in promoting peace and building the attitudes and behaviors necessary to promote nonviolence.
The publication shows that mass media can also be used to bring about positive social change. One example is provided in the chapter ‘Promoting Peace through Children’s Media: The Case of Sesame Workshop’ (Subramanian et al. 2016) based on a model to build tolerance and mutual respect and understanding among children. Sesame Workshop's holistically oriented, child-centered approach promotes the knowledge and skills necessary to nurture peaceful attitudes, promoting resilience and the ability to interact positively with others. By building critical thinking, it also aims to change children's attitudes by enabling them to challenge forms of structural and cultural violence, including the oppression of marginalized and oppressed groups. Education for Peace, based on the case of Sesame Workshop, allows for the development and expression of empathy, appreciation of similarities and differences, peaceful conflict resolution, cooperation, and the development of basic pro-social skills that children need in specific contexts in both post-conflict and fragile peace.
Read more from Peace Education: International Perspectives here.
Another important and highly topical subject is teaching for sustainable development taking into account the currents of ecopedagogy and critical environmental education approaches. In the book Ecopedagogy: Critical Environmental Teaching for Planetary Justice and Global Sustainable Development (Misiaszek 2020), ecopedagogy is portrayed as education for reading (wise understanding) and rereading human acts of environmental violence and as a process that relies on critical thinking and people's capacity for transformation and deconstruction.
The author focuses on understanding the connections between human acts of environmental violence and acts of social violence that cause injustice, further violence, domination, oppression and unsustainability of the planet. At the same time, it reveals the challenges and boundary situations for ecopedagogy from the side of Post-Truthism and the Sustainable Development Goals (Misiaszek 2020). The educational goal of ecopedagogy, the author emphasizes, is to construct learning with increased social and environmental justice (Misiaszek 2020). This is important because of the need to implement critical teaching, decolonial reading through various epistemologies and methodologies and research by problematizing the causes of socio-environmental violence, including the oppressive processes of globalization and the triadic constructs of citizenship, development and economics.
Read more from Ecopedagogy: Critical Environmental Teaching for Planetary Justice and Global Sustainable Development here.
In the book Teaching in Unequal Societies (Russon et al. 2020), the authors address the subject of teaching in the face of diversity and pluralism, and the issue of inequality in contexts of radical diversity, for example, in relation to school environmental education (Lama 2020). Taking into account the historical, social and cultural context, the authors analyze the impact of inherited caste and racial inequalities on the situation in the school classroom, particularly in terms of relations between students, teachers, institution, environment and the system. At the same time, they point to the phenomenon of the capitalization of education, the undervaluing of the teaching profession and the prejudicial perception of participants in the learning process in terms of clients and consumers of knowledge (George 2020) which is diametrically opposed to an approach based on reflective and critical thinking that seeks empowerment and inclusion in and through education.
Read more from Teaching in Unequal Societies here.
Exploring and discovering the planes of truth and equality in and through education is a rich program area relating to mutual respect and understanding in and for diversity. Shaping the competencies of critical and reflective thinking, peacebuilding and understanding the social aspects of being part of society and nature is based on the pillars of (co)learning through action and co-participation for social change in the search for social (human and planetary) justice and equality in and through education. The publications cited above indicate how education for peace, ecopedagogy and education for sustainable development can be implemented in the curriculum and in the practice of everyday life, taking into account the perspectives of the contexts of time, place and space and relating them to local and global knowledge. The issue worth paying attention to is how, in the face of constant social change, to carry out the task of education of understanding, discovering and seeking truth and equality. This points to education that, in the face of and despite differences, will enable social change based on social justice towards the transformation of individuals and societies (Evanoff 2010) as well as the well-being of the environment and the sustainability of the planet.
Bajaj, M., & Hantzopoulos, M. eds. 2016. Peace Eeducation: International Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Delors, J. 1998. Learning: The Treasure Within. Paris: Unesco.
Evanoff, R. 2010. Bioregionalism and global ethics: A transactional approach to achieving ecological sustainability, social justice, and human well-being. London: Routledge.
Freire, P. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th anniversary edition. New York: Continuum.
George, S. K. 2020. 'Prejudice and the Pedagogue: Teaching in a Democratic Classroom' in Russon, J., George S.K., Jung P.G. Teaching in Unequal Societies. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Lama, R. 2020. 'Environmental Education in Schools: Perspective and Challenges', in Russon, J., George S.K., Jung P.G. Teaching in Unequal Societies. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Markowska-Manista, U., Górak-Sosnowska, K. 2022. Tackling sensitive and controversial topics in social research-sensitivity of the field. Society Register, 6(2), 7-16.
Misiaszek, G.W. 2020. Ecopedagogy: Critical environmental teaching for planetary justice and global sustainable development. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Russon, J., George S.K., Jung P.G. 2020. Teaching in Unequal Societies. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Subramanian 2016. 'Sesame Workshop's Approach to Peace Education' in Bajaj, M., & Hantzopoulos, M. Eds. Peace Education: International Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Images above are courtesy of PixaBay.
In honor of World Access to Higher Education Day on November 17th, this theme explores global challenges in equitable higher education access. Higher education access is monitored by studying participation in higher education by students, particularly those who are disadvantaged due to their age, race, gender, religion, sexuality, or economic class, and by the outcomes of their education, on both the individual socio-economic level and globally.
In Serbia, Roma remain underrepresented in higher education due to racial and economic discrimination. Learn more about the obstacles that they face and how this inequality can be overcome.
Over the last two decades, China has rapidly grown into a global economic superpower. Read about how this and other developments have impacted higher education access.
How does being first-generation impact students’ experiences in higher education? How can embracing students from a wider variety of social and economic backgrounds cultivate diversity? Read this study on the experiences of first-generation Māori and Pasifika students at university in New Zealand.
Explore the theme here.
While many criticize the media for reproducing oppression, mass media can also be used to enact social change. In Peace Education, the authors take a look at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street and other locally created co-productions worldwide. Sesame Workshop’s programming exposes children to peace education content with the goals of ‘[empowering] children between the ages of three and eight years old with the skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to promote nonviolence’.
What exactly is confidence? Throughout the years, many have wrestled with the ‘possibly intractable questions of whether dispositions such as confidence are skills, competences or “capabilities”, attitudes, personality traits, particular mind-sets, feelings or emotional responses to situations’. In Reinventing the Curriculum edited by Mark Priestley and Gert Biesta, read about confidence as a high-stakes educational and social goal.
How do you define transitions, especially within an educational context?
In the chapter “Agency, Participation and Transitions Beyond School” by Caroline Sarojini Hart, the author discusses developing different understandings of transition and the different aspects and angles that come with it. Drawing on data from two different studies with young people undertaken in Yorkshire in the UK, Hart looked at factors such as relationships with communities, families, and peers, to study how these factors influenced change.
Read about conversion factors and agency and transition in Agency and Participation in Childhood and Youth
In honor of Earth Day, which took place on April 22nd, this theme explores how sustainability education can be implemented in the curriculum.
Read about environmental education initiatives in India in Environmental Education in Schools: Perspective and Challenges
Children are highly affected by all forms of migration, regardless of its motivations. This can result in emotional trauma, disruption to schooling, and family instability, while also leading to more stable environments, improved employment opportunities, and family reunification.
There has been a flurry of great activity in educational policies applied in Chile since 1980. During the 1980s, Chile reformed its education system so that it would function according to market logic. This promoted expansion of private education and encouraged competition among schools. In the 90s, the return of democracy brought about programmes for educational equality: curricular reforms, longer school days, and improved teacher training. In the 2000s, the student movement proposed ways to enhance public education and eventually, the Quality Assurance System was born. Read more in Education in South America.
Amongst OECD countries, Chile has the lowest level of social inclusion in their schools. In this policy report, the authors’ note causes of social segregation of Chilean schools and how parents’ attitudes contribute to this issue.
One of the main factors of quality education is the quality of teachers. For quite a few years, Latin American countries have been heavily critiqued in preparing competent teachers. In The Struggle for Teacher Education, learn about the teacher education issues in six South American countries and the possible solutions.
Albania has seen an increase in efforts to introduce significant pre-university and higher education reforms in the past two decades. Up until 1991, the country was one of the most economically disadvantaged countries of Europe, as it was under a totalitarian regime for many years. With the end of communism: , Albania looked to international agencies and organizations not only for educational models and policies, but also financial assistance. The early 1990s saw curriculum revisions that included new ideas about democracy. In 2001, the country adopted the United Nations framework of the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction and education and health sector reform. And in 2004, basic compulsory education changed from an eight-year system to a nine-year one. Read all of the details in ‘from Education in Non-EU Countries in Western and Southern Europe: Education Around the World.
Generally, participatory action is needed to hold educational officials and institutions accountable for malfunctions or misdeeds. In this policy report, the authors conduct research on participatory accountability and collective action with parents and teachers in Albania and note how this relates to elections of parent class representatives and voting in the latest national elections.
Since 1995, teachers in Albania have been faced with evolving demands. The 2005 National Report on Albanian education revealed that there is a lack of standardized criteria for teachers, evaluation and self-evaluation systems and competent people to do training. In moves to address this, Albania has had an uptick of teacher education programs undergoing accreditation procedures and the development of a mentoring system.
Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education and today is regarded as one of the world’s best education systems, despite being a young country that is scarce in resources. It has sought to create a modern society that values and rewards hard work, and culture of excellence combined with policy focus and targeted investment over the last four decades has resulted in high academic achievement for Singapore’s students.
In Education in South-East Asia the Singapore section is focused on the theme of “Transition.” The first part of the chapter details the key transitions and initiatives that are responsible for the development of the education system. The second part discusses the demands and challenges, such as ensuring that graduates remain competitive in a global space.
In Ukraine, the education system mixes elements inherited from the Soviet Union with a growing desire for national renewal. Under the Soviet Union, near-universal literacy was achieved, despite major ideological influences on education. Following the nation’s transition to a democracy in the 1990s, major reforms led to the abolition of ideology in the education system and new initiatives promoting national culture. Today, education is regarded as one of the most important human values in Ukraine. The ideas of scientific and cultural progress, humanism, democracy, and mutual respect underpin Ukrainian education.
As Ukraine faces another conflict with Russia, it is yet to be seen how this will impact that nation’s future.
Education in Iran has a complex history characterized by ideological struggle, competing agendas, and contrasting methods. Until the twentieth century, the Islamic seminary system led education until being eclipsed by the state-run education system popularized in Europe. Before the Revolution, Iranian leaders promoted nationalism and the glory of pre-Islamic Persia before the new regime attempted to unite the population under Islam. Following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, seminaries once again grew in influence, eventually producing most of the country’s political elite. The cultural revolution dramatically altered the nation’s educational framework, impacting institutions at all levels with a particular focus on universities.
Today, gender equality, instruction quality, and academic achievement remain the greatest issues facing the nation’s educational development. Following weeks of protest in September 2022 in support of women and against governmental oppression, Iran seems poised for more transformation.
Images above are courtesy of Getty Images and PixaBay.