2019 in Review
2019 in Review
2019 in Review
What role does higher education play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?
My guest today is Tristan McCowan, author of the new book entitled Higher Education for and beyond the Sustainable Development Goals, which was published earlier this year. Tristan interrogates the idea of a so-called developmental university working towards the SGDs, identifying both positive and negative outcomes.
Tristan McCowan is a Professor of International Education at the Institute of Education, University College London. I spoke with Tristan in his office in London, which just so happens to be around the corner from mine. This is actually the first podcast that I’ve recorded at my new intuitional home at the Institute of Education. There’s a lot more to say about the future of FreshEd now that I live in London, but I’m going to wait until next year to tell you all about it. For now, enjoy our latest episode and stay tuned for our end of year show with Susan Robertson and Roger Dale, which will air next week.
Citation: McCowan, Tristan, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 184, podcast audio, December 9, 2019. https://freshedpodcast.com/mccowan/
Will Brehm 1:39
Tristan McCowan, welcome to FreshEd.
Tristan McCowan 1:41
Thanks, Will. It is a great pleasure to be here.
Will Brehm 1:43
So, I want to start by talking a little bit about the SDGs, but specifically about higher education because this is something that might not get talked about as much as primary or secondary schooling. So where in the SDGs – in the Sustainable Development Goals – is higher education even mentioned?
Tristan McCowan 2:02
So, I think it is worth thinking about what comes before the SDGs to talk about how it does appear. And in the Millennium Development Goals that came before, there was a conspicuous absence of higher education there. So, the education goal was around primary education. I suppose higher education might be included in the requirement for gender equality that was also there, but it was absent in the education goal. And this was also indicative of a general neglect of higher education in the development community for some decades before. So, the inclusion of higher education in the SDGs marks something of a return – a rekindling of interest – in higher education generally in development. And there was a lot of discussion in the consultation around the creation of what was going to replace the MDGs about how higher education might be included in that. In the SDGs themselves, the most obvious inclusion of higher education is in how it appears as a target in itself. It appears along with vocational education, tertiary education, and a specific mention of university. So that is the access goal. It is not very demanding, in my view. It doesn’t require universal access or anything resembling that. What it requires is equal access, which, as we know from international law, is really around nondiscrimination. It is an important requirement, but it is not very demanding on this. But nevertheless, it is there. And I think it is very important that universities mentioned in terms of access, getting people into university or some form of higher education. But that is not the only way that it appears in the SDG. In the book, I distinguish between three different ways that it appears. So, there is that first one we have talked about, which is access, and then two others. The second is as part of the education system as a whole. And this relates to one of your previous podcasts that was talking about SDG 4.7 and the overarching aims of education in terms of promoting global citizenship, sustainable development itself. So higher education fits into that. It is part of the education system. And it might promote a lot of the goals that we would like to see in society. The third role for higher education is the one that the book focuses on mainly, and that is higher education as a driver for all of the goals. So, every one of the 17 goals in all different areas: environmental, health, poverty, and so forth require to some degree on universities in the broadest possible way, through its teaching, but also its research and community engagement and all of its functions.
Will Brehm 4:45
So I mean, in a way, what you’re saying is that universities have this massive role to play in the SDGs not simply as access not simply as being part of the education system to meet some of these very lofty goals of 4.7, which, as the previous podcasts have shown are very sort of diverse and complex ideas. But more importantly, and perhaps most importantly, this idea of higher education as being a driver of development. So, this is a pretty large role for education, for higher education. Can universities actually even fulfill this role, do you think?
Tristan McCowan 5:24
I think my answer to that is yes, but perhaps not in the way that might immediately be imagined. So, I think the potential of universities is extraordinary. And one of the arguments that I try to make in all different kinds of fora is that universities are essential for all countries and not just for the wealthy countries that we might imagine might afford it. Universities aren’t luxury; they are critical part of all countries, however impoverished they might be, however many challenges they might face. In fact, we might think of as being especially important in those. The teaching role of universities is crucial for forming professionals in a whole range of different areas, including the kinds of primary services that were focused on in the MDGs, but also in the SDGs, around education, health, and so forth. There is a much broader teaching role of universities as well for civic and personal benefits. There is the research role of universities, breakthroughs in health, the environment, all sorts of areas in which there are huge challenges facing humanity. And then the community engagement role where universities can apply that knowledge and also engage with the knowledge that communities have. So, the potential of universities is extraordinary. Whether they can fulfill that is a different matter, and that does depend on the level of quality that universities have, the resourcing that they have, how they are organized, the kinds of autonomy they have. So, it is not guaranteed. And I think, you know, the empirical research that we have… and we have fairly good research on some countries, less good on others. The research we have shows that they are sometimes able to do that. Sometimes they are able to do that in ways that we hadn’t actually imagined. In others, they struggle to. It is worth pointing out that in low-income countries, universities have roles that are not present in higher-income countries as providers of basic services often. So, communities will often use universities because they don’t have other spaces for meeting, for, you know, cultural pursuits. Even for things as basic as Internet access, and so forth. So, universities can play a really crucial role in all countries. The final point I’d make is that the role of universities as a driver perhaps is not as automatic or guaranteed as we might imagine, even when we might consider that to be a quality university. And that is because there is a level of unpredictability to all processes of learning and scholarship.
Will Brehm 8:01
So, what do you mean? Is there a downside, sometimes, to higher education?
Tristan McCowan 8:06
There certainly can be a downside. I mean, universities have not always had positive impacts on their societies through history. One of the downsides is in exacerbating inequalities in societies. So, while universities can certainly act as mechanisms for social mobility, they can also do the opposite. And in many points in history where access has been restricted to an elite, or for particular religious or language groups, or just for men, for example, it has actually made things worse rather than make things better. So, there is that element. Also, universities have been implicated in fostering of prejudice and xenophobia as all parts of the education system.
Will Brehm 8:51
Right. Okay. So you’re sort of taking this complex view, whether it’s good and bad, the development is not always this positive linear idea but can have a complex multitude of outcomes as a result of work in higher education, or any sector, I would imagine in education more broadly defined. So, I guess when we think about the university, what you are sort of saying is that not all universities are the same. There is a lot of potential in higher education, but what actually happens looks different in different contexts; the cultural context, the national context, whatever it is. So, when you think historically, then, how can we make sense of, you know, different types of universities? You know, maybe ideal types, not necessarily what actually exists. How can we start categorizing different types of universities?
Tristan McCowan 9:48
Thanks. It is a really important question, and one that’s not posed often enough, I think. And it is worth saying at the start that what we are seeing now across the world in higher education is much less diversity than there might have been. Historically there have been models of higher learning in many parts of the world – in India and China, in the Islamic world, in Mesoamerica. Other places as well that have been quite distinct. And many of those have been lost. In fact, most of them have been lost through history. We’ve seen a dominance of the European model of university from medieval Europe, which in its spreading around the world has gained new forms of diversity, but perhaps not as much as we might have wanted and still rooted in some very similar assumptions. So, there is a degree of homogeneity around the world, but what I argue is that universities have a kind of a mixing of different historical models within them. And as you say, they are partly ideal types and partly real historically. So, you have got the medieval institution, which was a community of scholars, a community of students, engaging and debate over authoritative texts. You have the Humboldtian model that emerges in the 19th century of the research university on the pursuit of truth and academic freedom and so forth. You have then got drives towards greater relevance of the university to society, and the land grant universities in the United States were very influential in this regard. Also moves in Latin America in the early 20th century towards democratization of the university space. And leading to what in Africa in the post Second World War period was called the “developmental university,” one that is tied very much to service to society. And then most recently, the emergence of the entrepreneurial or the enterprise university, one which is focused on income generation through selling of its services. So, we have got these different models, and I think we can see them all in our institutions. In some, you know, the entrepreneurial model is dominant. In others, we might see, you know, more of the Humboldtian model, but jostling for space, and of course, in the different actors that are engaged as well.
Will Brehm 12:07
You are thinking through this developmental university because it sort of links in with the SDGs. So, in what way do you see the developmental university? How do we think about that university, that type of university, if it truly does do service to society in the ideal that is written in the SDGs?
Tristan McCowan 12:31
Yeah, I mean I think if you look at the role that’s proposed for universities, it is something close to the developmental model: a university that has as its primary purpose serving society in an egalitarian mode, or perhaps beyond the egalitarian, actually focusing primarily on the most disadvantaged populations. By privileging those populations, reducing poverty and so forth, and dealing to a large extent with applied knowledge and an impact on nonacademic communities. And there is something of a contradiction there between the kinds of higher education that are promoted by many of the international agencies, which in many ways actually undermine that kind of developmental role of universities.
Will Brehm 13:13
Tristan McCowan 13:15
Particularly through a promotion of expansion at all costs. Now, there is a real need for expanding higher education. Access has grown rapidly over the last 20 years. But much of the expansion has taken place in very commercialized, for-profit sectors of higher education, or sometimes distance education with low quality, which has, while it has allowed more people to gain higher education diplomas, it has not necessarily allowed them the learning that will be meaningful in their lives, and certainly hasn’t promoted research and community engagement in the public interest. So, there have been dynamics in the growth of higher education sectors, which have brought some benefit for individuals, but without much of a contribution to the public good.
Will Brehm 14:04
So, given this sort of “massification” of higher education and how that might begin to challenge some of the value and the functions of the university, what sort of trends have you noticed worldwide? You know, let’s take a broad view here. Broadly speaking, what sort of major trends do you see in higher education today?
Tristan McCowan 14:24
Well, one of them I have touched on already, which is the move towards commercialization. Which is present in the astounding growth of the for-profit sector. And that is very evident in one of the countries that I work very closely with, which is Brazil, but you can also see it in many other parts of the world. But also, of course, there is a commercialization of public institutions through so-called cost-sharing policies, the charging of fees, and other forms of creeping privatization. Now commercialization is a term that encompasses a whole range of different activities which have different kinds of influence. And it is certainly, in an immediate sense, has assisted in allowing higher education systems to grow. So, it is complex. But if we are thinking about the SDGs, or about the public good more generally, there are some very worrying outcomes of that. Firstly, around the attaching of quality to price. So, as the system starts to marketize more, variable costs of courses will start to become attached either to quality or to prestige, which has worrying implications for equity. But also it makes it much harder for universities to engage in research in the public benefit, or community engagement in the public benefit, without some kind of a name to generate income from those communities; makes it much harder to fulfill the SDGs. So that is one of the big trends. A second trend is associated with the very often discussed international rankings in higher education. And one of the implications of those rankings is a privileging of a certain kind of university or a certain kind of university action. And I am not saying for a moment that the elite universities that do well in rankings are not benefiting the SDGs. Actually, I think they are with a lot of their work. But it is certainly not the only kind of institution that does that. And much of the work that is most beneficial for communities around the world is not valued by those rankings. Community engagement has almost no presence in the rankings. And an inclusive intake of students also is not valued through most of the rank.
Will Brehm 16:33
In your book, you point to this like unbelievable indicator or proxy for, I think its quality of teaching in these rankings, that is used. Can you explain what it is?
Tristan McCowan 16:44
Well, in the Shanghai ranking, the number of alumni with Nobel Prizes is taken as a proxy for quality, which is…
Will Brehm 16:52
That is crazy! I mean, so, these rankings then, the way they sort of measure this idea of quality across universities, can be pretty absurd, almost to the extreme sometimes.
Tristan McCowan 17:06
It is a small minority of all higher education institutions that are listed on international rankings at all. So, you could say, “Well, perhaps it’s irrelevant”. But actually, it does have an influence. Because even if most institutions don’t have a realistic chance of getting into the upper echelons, discursively, it does influence the way institutions see themselves. They start not to value the good work that they are doing. And they start to aspire towards work that perhaps isn’t in their best interest.
Will Brehm 17:33
I mean, we are sitting here at the Institute of Education, and out the front door, there is a big sign with the ranking on it. I mean, it is sort of, you know, it is the first thing you see when you walk into this building.
Tristan McCowan 17:46
Will Brehm 17:48
So, one of the last trends that you write about in your book, you use the word “unbundling”. Can you explain what this is? I never really came across this term before.
Tristan McCowan 17:57
So, it is a term that comes from business originally. And it is the process of separating out products that had previously been sold together for commercial advantage, either for the producer or sometimes for the consumer. I suppose the most obvious example in contemporary times is low-cost airlines, where you are not tied into paying for your baggage or your seat or so forth; you can purchase things individually. In higher education, it is a very controversial process. It is quite incipient; we’re just seeing the earliest signs of it yet. But for example, the separation out of different parts of what we might have considered to be the bundle of higher education. Of instruction, assessment, research, extracurricular activities, and so forth. So, one way that this has manifested itself is in the provision of no-frills, what I call no-frills courses. Very basic provision, where you pay a lower cost, and you just have access to the basic instruction, and you have to pay extra if you want some other things
Will Brehm 19:01
Such as? Like access to the library?
Tristan McCowan 19:03
Well, I have never seen a case of no access at all to the library. But certainly, there is an example in the UK where you have very minimal access to university facilities beyond what you would basically need to do one’s course. You know, this does open the door to a kind of a segregation of lower and higher-income students.
Will Brehm 19:25
Of course. And where does the process end? Right, you almost can get to the point where you have to pay to use the bathroom.
Tristan McCowan 19:30
Absolutely, absolutely. I think it is very worrying. It is a seductive idea because it appears to be addressing the huge escalation of costs, particularly in the United States. And allowing more people into the higher education system. So, it is seductive in that sense, but it is very worrying because then you start to have a very hierarchical system, a stratified system, where disadvantaged students have access to less.
Will Brehm 19:54
Second class students. You know, these are pretty worrying trends. This idea of status, this idea of commodification and commercialization, and this idea of unbundling. So, do you think this idea of, you know, the developmental university, service to society, these sort of liberal democratic ideals. You know, what has to change so we can actually create universities that embrace those ideas rather than … or, you know. It seems as if some of these other ideas and trends you have been talking about sort of go against some of these developmental ideas.
Tristan McCowan 20:32
Well, I think we need two things. I think there does need to be state investment; there needs to be public investment and state support. But I wouldn’t want to say that all of initiative needs to come from the central state. I think we also need to create more opportunities for local innovation. So, in my work, I am very interested in and supportive of various grassroots initiatives in higher education. I think this is a really important part of the answer as well. And there are some great examples around the world of developmental institutions. They are fragile in many cases, but they are very inspiring. So, we have got University for Development Studies in Northern Ghana, which is a very interesting institution serving the arid regions of Northern Ghana, working in very innovative ways with integrated teaching and research and community engagement. There are the so-called “thematic” federal universities in Brazil, which were established over the last 15 years to promote different forms of international engagement and local development. They are fragile because, to a large extent, they just depend on the governments of their day. And in Brazil, you have had a very radical shift to the right and the consequent withdrawal of support from these institutions. You have also got challenges with innovative institutions starting to, you know, being pulled back to the conventional type over the years. So, there are challenges, but there are some inspiring examples that we can look to.
Will Brehm 22:01
I also think about some of these protests in Chile. I know it started recently with bus fare increase, but it sort of dovetailed with that longer student protests from 2013 that was very much against what we might call the “neoliberal university,” or whatever it might be. And even here in London, they only just had, in the UK, 60 universities went on strike for about eight days trying to really counter a lot of these same trends that you are talking about. So, there are these signs, it seems, of pushback. Now, will it actually result in any action, that’s another sort of question, I guess.
Tristan McCowan 22:41
Absolutely. I think there are mobilizations in different parts of the world. South Africa recently has had a huge student mobilization around decolonization, the curriculum, and also around fees. I think we look at Chile as a great example of a student mobilization, not only because of its massiveness, but also because, perhaps unusually, but very successfully, what started as a student mobilization started to bring other spheres of society on board. And also gained real endorsement from society and, you know, made things … you know, the government couldn’t ignore it anymore. So, I think it is a really successful example.
Will Brehm 23:20
You know, that actually makes me think of the Chicago teacher strikes in America, where it wasn’t higher education, but it was public school teachers going on strike, I think 2012/2013. And one of the reasons that they were successful, that many scholars point to, is precisely the same reason is that they had this broad coalition; it wasn’t just this narrow focus on teaching and learning, but it brought in all sectors of society, and it became such a massive movement that the government had to respond. And more importantly, a lot of the leaders from that strike ended up getting elected in many parts in Chicago. So, I mean, it seems like it is a bigger conversation on social mobilization and successful social mobilization.
Tristan McCowan 24:03
That is a really interesting example. And it also makes me think of, you know, these ideas of “post-truth” and “anti-experts” that were coming out in 2016, through Brexit and the election in the United States. And I think some politicians have tried to drive a wedge between universities and society by creating resentment. And I think it is a really important task that those involved in universities have is to try and communicate with society this shared enterprise to a large degree.
Will Brehm 24:32
Exactly. And to see it as a service to society. It is not just our own little siloed workspaces here. So, as great as that makes me feel: this idea of social mobilization and trying to change universities away from status competition, away from commodification, away from unbundling, I do wonder – and you point out in your book – that, you know, there’s a critique, as well, of that movement. Of, you know, promoting a university for liberal democracy, for furthering capitalism in many respects. So how can we even begin to think about post-development: a critique of development itself?
Tristan McCowan 25:14
So, this is why I ended up making the title “For and Beyond”, because it is very important to look beyond as well. And I see the SDGs as being important. I am not trivializing them, but they are an intermediate step. And I think ultimately, they are not going to solve all of the problems that the global community faces at the moment. As you say, the SDGs are rooted in liberal capitalist model, to a large extent, a modernization model. And there are some deep flaws in those, and indeed, you know, we can be very skeptical about whether a capitalist system can ever really achieve, you know, equality and sustainability in a global community. You know, some of the incentives for accumulation and profit that corporations have are precisely the problem that we have with the fossil fuel lobby and so forth. So, there are some real problems there. There’s another issue with the SDGs in the lack of attention to questions of identity, culture, language that leading into another issue that I think is important to a certain relation to higher education, which is around what Boaventura de Sousa Santos calls a dialogue of knowledges. So how can we think about epistemic pluralism? How can we think about not just mainstream Western academic knowledge, which is important. But how do we put that in dialogue with other forms of knowledge from different knowledge communities, from indigenous peoples, from diverse traditions around the world, which will inevitably enrich that knowledge. And this is a very important aspect of where we go with development and also where we go with higher education. And I think we need to think about two forms of creativity and imagination in the higher education space: one is around questioning the institutional forms that we are very familiar with. You know, we look at a university, and we assume that it’s going to have very particular kinds of structures and practices. And I think we need to open up our imagination, perhaps drawing on Ivan Illich’s ideas of deschooling to think about how our university might be otherwise. And then the second point around epistemic pluralism, around having different kinds of knowledge in the university, and drawing on the experiences. I’m familiar with experiences in Latin America, indigenous institutions around the continent, but there are some in other parts of the world as well, Swaraj University in India is an interesting example of how we can create universities in different ways. And if we need to go beyond the SDGs, we need to think about sustainable development. It is a different kind of university that’s going to help us achieve it.
Will Brehm 27:56
Tristan McCowan, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. It really was a pleasure talking today, and I look forward to your next book.
Tristan McCowan 28:02
Thank you very much.
Let the Children Play
The timeframe to achieve the sustainable development goals is tight. We have just over a decade to complete the 169 targets across 17 goals. Target 4.7, which aims for all learners to acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, is particularly challenging. What are the knowledge and skills needed for sustainable development? And how can they be integrated into policies, programs, curricula, materials, and practices?
My guest today is Andy Smart, a former teacher with almost 20 years’ experience working in educational and children’s book publishing in England and Egypt. He is a co-convener of a networking initiative called Networking to Integrate SDG Target 4.7 and Social and Emotional Learning into Educational Materials, or NISSEM for short, where he is interested in how textbooks support pro-social learning in low- and middle-income countries. Together with Margaret Sinclair, Aaron Benavot, Jean Bernard, Colette Chabbot, S. Garnett Russell, and James Williams, Andy has recently co-edited a volume entitled NISSEM Global Briefs: Educating for the Social, the Emotional, and the Sustainable. This collection aims at helping education ministries, donors, consultancy groups and NGOs advance SDG target 4.7 in low-and middle-income countries.
Photo by: Helena g Anderson
Citation: Smart, Andy, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 182, podcast audio, November 25, 2019. https://freshedpodcast.com/andysmart/
Will Brehm 3:03
Andy Smart, welcome to FreshEd.
Andy Smart 3:05
Thanks, Will. It is a great pleasure to be here.
Will Brehm 3:07
Okay, so, I want to start with a pretty subjective question, let’s say. Do you think the Sustainable Development Goals will actually be achieved by 2030?
Andy Smart 3:17
Well, I wish I had the answer to that one. I wish everybody else had the answer to that one. I am naturally an optimist by nature, but I recognize these are hugely ambitious across the board. I mean, you know, targets that talk about, you know, ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary, secondary education. I mean, the word “all” is a pretty big word. Even goals like ending poverty. Yeah, I wish. So, these are hugely ambitious. And, I was interested to see, just these past few days, how there’s been some discussion over the announcement by the Bank of their ending learning poverty initiative, which is setting what might be called a more realistic target. Of course, that’s been getting a bit of pushback as to, you know, why dropping back from the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals? So, you know, you travel hopefully, basically, in this business; you arrive as far as you can.
Will Brehm 4:19
So, you brought up the World Bank’s annual meeting where they introduced this idea of “learning poverty”, some metric to measure learning poverty. This particular show that we’re recording now is not about that topic, even though it probably deserves a whole show unto itself, but you said it is sort of trying to make, maybe a more, a metric that could be achieved. So, what is problematic about the SDGs as they’re currently written, in terms of being able to achieve them by 2030, that has made the World Bank propose something maybe less ambitious and perhaps more feasible?
Andy Smart 4:55
Yeah, I mean this is way above my pay grade, as we might say, but I mean, my view on any kind of system change, which I think is what we’re engaged in within the NISSEM team: we’re looking at system changes which are scalable and sustainable. But you know, systemic change across a country, it means changing the practices of thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people. When we are looking at how textbooks impact on classroom practices, we are talking about teachers’ practices. We are talking about all those who support the teachers: the supervisors, head teachers, etc. We are talking about a lot of people changing the way they do things. That is at bottom why I would be cautious about how far you can get within this quite short time.
Will Brehm 5:52
So, in these new policy briefs that you and your colleagues put together and put out as part of NISSEM, you talk about how SDG Target 4.7 is sort of very critical to the SDG 4 overall, if not all of the SDGs. What is SDG Target 4.7, briefly?
Andy Smart 6:13
Well, the shorthand that we tend to use within the NISSEM networking team is the pro-social themes and values. So it’s looking at a more holistic view of the purpose of education, and it’s bringing together some of the stories that have been going on in the education and development arena for decades and trying to group them together in a single package. Of course, it’s very diverse; it seems rather sort of unbalanced, sometimes not very clear. On the other hand, I would say you could juxtapose what you find in 4.7 as being the other side of education: you’ve got the academic purpose, and you’ve got the non-academic purpose. And I think that’s something which resonates for people, both in the practitioner community, but also in terms of parents and students themselves, you know, that is the reason kids go to school, why parents send the kids to school. It is partly, of course, about getting those academic skills and qualifications, but it’s also about a lot more than that. And that’s what 4.7 brings together. It’s the pro-social aspects of education.
Will Brehm 7:33
And so, what would be some of these themes in this pro-social aspect of education, or these non-academic areas? How would we start to classify what some of these themes would be?
Andy Smart 7:43
Well, I mean, you could start with the name of the Sustainable Development Goals itself. So “sustainability” is a clear theme that needs to be unpacked in all sorts of ways. So, sustainability is not simply about environmental protection; it is about sustainability across social fabrics and other aspects. It is also about gender equality; it is about cohesion between communities. A lot of the schools that we are targeting in the low and middle-income countries and post-conflict countries – which are the areas of interest for us in the NISSEM networking group – these are countries which are challenged by social tensions within the country, as well as refugee tensions, etc. So, you know, social cohesion is clearly an important theme, and promotion of peace and resolution conflict.
Will Brehm 8:38
So, these different themes: the social fabric, the gender equality, social cohesion, peace, and reconciliation, even the environment. In the policy brief, the term that is often used is this idea of “social and emotional learning”. You know, I hear that as just jargon, and quite vague and very difficult to even begin to comprehend and define. What is social and emotional learning? And why is it important in the education of young adults and young children?
Andy Smart 9:08
Well, first, I want to thank you for your honesty, Will. To admit confusion, I think, is a great starting point for any understanding. I think everybody has their different understandings. And that’s part of the challenge that we face. To some extent, this is due to the terminologies that are used, many of which overlap, and you will find any discussion or any text that is addressing these issues, especially within the non-OECD country context, has to start out by saying, “Well, we’ve got all these terms. How do they overlap? How do we separate them out? What do they mean in these different contexts?” So that’s going to lead to confusion, that’s for sure. Where there is a common understanding, I think, and that’s what brought us together within the NISSEM team, is that although we come from different backgrounds, we all had this sense that what we were doing needed to be rooted in something that was not part of the narrow academic purpose of education, but it was rooted in what we understand to be the meaning of the word “learning” itself. And so, learning, in my view, is often used as shorthand for “learning outcomes”, and learning outcomes is a shorthand for “academic achievements”. But I think it’s critical that we think of learning as a process, not just as an outcome. And so, “social and emotional learning” describes, actually, how learning happens, as well as the purpose of learning. So, this begins to take us into something which is, I think, very important, very interesting, but also quite difficult to grasp unless you have a lot of time to unpack it in different ways. But separating, to some extent, the idea of the process of learning from the product or the outcomes of learning, I think, is very important.
Will Brehm 11:08
So, I mean, it almost sounds like it is a philosophical issue here. The purpose of learning, I would imagine there is not one universal purpose of learning; that it would be contextualized both within nation-states, within governments, but also within households. You know, families probably have very different conceptions of the purpose of learning.
Andy Smart 11:30
Absolutely. I mean, there is increasing evidence for how the social and the emotional play a part in learning, not only in academic learning outcomes but also in building the more rounded learner and rounded member of society. So, a lot of this research is coming out of higher-income contexts because that’s where research is better funded. But one of the things we’re trying to do is apply the appropriate evidence and results of this research into other contexts. But at bottom, there are some universal principles, or universal ideas, about how learning happens. After all, the child, who age seven in one country, has pretty much similar developmental processes as a child age seven in another country. And as far as I’m concerned, I think that the differences between contexts are more related to the differences in the way the adults operate around the child than in the way the child is actually following their own developmental path.
Will Brehm 12:41
So, what would be some of these universal principles, then, of social and emotional learning?
Andy Smart 12:47
Yeah, that’s where you get into the wonderful world of models. And so, we love models. We all love models. They have sort of visual directness that is immediately appealing. Unless they’re far too complicated, which some of them are. But there are definitely various models, and it’s not too difficult to bring them together and compare them. And again, when commentators or practitioners are looking at the different models, you have to start thinking, “So, what are the common characteristics of these models? And then how do they apply in my own context?” The best-known model of all – or the most widely quoted, let’s say – is the one that comes out of Chicago: the CASEL model, with these five competencies. Again, the word “competency” itself is a word that needs a bit of thought. But they have these five competencies, which are: the two related to the self, or the intrapersonal, which has the self-awareness and the self-management; and then the interpersonal, the relations between people. That is the social awareness and the relationship skills. And then the fifth competency is responsible decision making. That is one of the models, and there are several around. They tend to be simplifying because that has to be the nature of a model; otherwise, it’s going to be difficult to grasp. And sometimes you might think, “Well, this is a bit too simplistic”. So, I think that has to be a balance between what these models try to do in terms of simplifying and what they have to do in terms of recognizing the complexity of what we’re talking about.
Will Brehm 14:31
Another idea in the NISSEM policy brief is about this idea of 21st-century skills. And I’ll admit that this also causes some confusion for me, because it’s rather vague, and you know, why are we talking 21st-century skills rather than 20th-century skills? Are these skills that people in the 20th century, in the 19th century never needed? Why aren’t we talking about the 22nd-century skills? So, what on earth is that idea? How do we begin to understand 21st-century skills?
Andy Smart 15:03
Yeah, I think probably – I haven’t done a sort of word count on this – but I think in the NISSEM global briefs, you probably won’t find so many references to 21st-century skills, at least not necessarily from within the co-editors. It is not a term that we have used a great deal. I think different contexts have different preferences for the way they think about these, what may be called sometimes “soft skills”, what may be called “21st-century skills”. What we prefer, as a way of thinking, to call “social and emotional learning”. I would say my personal view is that very often, when people are talking about 21st-century skills, first of all, they’re talking about, to some extent, vocational or pro-career, pro-work kind of soft skills, and therefore it’s not something which is as much used in terms of primary education as for secondary and post-secondary education. So, I would say the opposite of a 21st-century skill might be the traditional academic skills. To some extent, we are back to what we were talking about at the beginning of this conversation. It is about thinking about these different skills areas and different purposes of education. Some of that comes from studies about what employers are looking for: they’re not just looking for the hard skills, sometimes people rather disparaging call “the basics” – the reading, writing, and so on. But the employers are talking about they need these “people skills”, these 21st-century skills. But again, those are very often coming from higher-income environments, which are not our main area of focus.
Will Brehm 16:45
So, let’s turn to some examples here, right. So, SDG Target 4.7 has this non-academic focus of social and emotional learning, maybe 21st century skills or soft skills, all these other non-academic skills that are valuable and important to the learning process. Now, what does that actually look like in practice? In non-rich countries, what have you found? Can you give some examples of, you know, what even exists today?
Andy Smart 17:17
Yeah, before I answer that, what I wanted to just underline is that we are not promoting the idea that non-academic skills are any way more important than the academic skills. So, I think the big message from the research, and the message that we carry, is that the two are interrelated and impossible to disconnect. And I think this is something which the neuroscience is very much telling us, and particularly the researcher who we interviewed for the NISSEM global briefs, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang at University of Southern California. So, this is really about how social and emotional learning in the field of cognitive science and neuroscience supports academic learning, and you cannot separate the two out. So that is the first thing I want to say. So, going back to the examples, well, I mean the examples that we are looking at primarily, as you know, are the lower-middle-income countries. And the reason we are focusing on that is partly because that’s where we’ve always worked all our lives. That is where I started out as a teacher, in low-income countries, in government schools. And the reason that what we’re promoting as a sort of NISSEM approach is that there are characteristics across low- and middle-income countries that make them slightly different from contexts of high-income countries. One of the differences is the way that the curriculum operates. What is called a curriculum in a school in, say, the UK or the US, is very often something that belongs to the school. You have national curriculum standards or state standards, and then the school develops a curriculum within that sort of framework. Now, in low- and middle-income countries, that’s different. The curriculum is what comes down from government, from the Ministry of Education. And very often, it’s what’s represented in the textbook. So, that’s why we see the textbook as so critical to this whole business: because the textbook shapes so much of what happens in the classroom in terms of the teaching, learning and the activities, and the way of thinking, and the pedagogy. So that’s something which is really characteristic of the lower-middle-income countries. And it is why we are focusing on textbooks as a main vehicle for the NISSEM ideas. Now, there’s a paper in the NISSEM global briefs which comes out of my own experience working with the National Curriculum Textbook Board in Bangladesh a few years ago, where we were asked to work with the curriculum developers who were, to some extent, also the textbook writers. And all the textbooks in Bangladesh are centrally written by the NCTB, National Curriculum Textbook Board. All schools use the same textbooks. And we were asked to come in and look at how the textbooks shape what happens in the classroom to improve learning outcomes. So, this was funded by cross donor, sectoral approach and the paper that’s in the global briefs talks about what we were able to do in terms of the social studies for upper primary, and to set out a different kind of way of teaching and learning in the classroom what we and others have called a “structured pedagogy”, which is not scripting a kind of step-by-step, this is what you should do as a teacher and reducing the teacher’s autonomy to very narrow area, but setting out a principle for teaching and learning that will work in a crowded classroom, limited number of resources and doesn’t push the teacher into something which is an imported kind of over child-centered pedagogy, but it’s something that takes them into something which is supported by social and emotional learning principles, but within an academic framework to achieve better learning outcomes, more engagement by learners, and frankly, more engagement by teachers. And we’ve had some great feedback from the teachers who have used these books in Bangladesh.
Will Brehm 21:16
So, I would imagine this then, you know, not only changing textbooks in a particular way, but I would imagine the preparation of teachers and how to be a teacher, teacher training, in a sense, would similarly have to change to incorporate these social and emotional learning.
Andy Smart 21:36
Yes, absolutely. And I don’t want to oversell the power of the textbook to create change. I mean, after all, the tool is as good as what you do with it. But what we see the textbook as is a sort of lever for change; it enables different way of thinking, a different way of supporting good pedagogy that can be translated into teacher education, into the professional development, even into the assessment approach. But the textbooks legitimize approaches. I think this is a critical point about the role that textbooks play. There is a textbook in every classroom, and many cases in every home in the country. In a large country like Bangladesh, there is a lot of, sort of policy statements and legitimization statements going on. And what we found was that the textbooks that were in use beforehand were really gearing the teacher to teach by rote learning. In fact, there was really no other recourse for the teacher other than to teach by rote learning, for various reasons. Partly, because the language was very dense, very academic. Too many concepts piled onto the page, partly coming out of the curriculum itself. And then a textbook writing plan that is based on what I would simply call, you know, “comprehension plus”. So, you have a great chunk of text. It could be two, three pages of text, uninterrupted text, followed by some very narrow gap-filling, you know, right-or-wrong type answers. And that’s the way that science was taught in terms of the textbook. It’s always social studies, very often language. So, the core subjects are being taught in this sort of comprehension plus kind of way. And I would say by comprehension, we’re talking about a narrow definition comprehension; we’re talking about comprehension where there is only a right or wrong answer. So, what we tried to do is just rethink that text in the textbook so that it is supporting a pedagogy. So that when you open the textbook as a teacher, you can see how this could be taught. And this is how teachers across the world, in contexts where they have a chance to choose their textbooks, that’s how they evaluate a textbook. They pick up a textbook; they open it up and say, “Oh yeah, I can see how this would work in the classroom”. And they’re not only looking at the language level and the quality of illustrations, but they’re looking at how the learning will flow out of the way it’s presented in the materials. So that is what we’re trying to do in an appropriate way for the context that we’re working in.
Will Brehm 24:17
And have you found any challenges? I mean it seems like, you know, here’s a group of foreign experts coming into a country and saying, “Based on these globally circulating policies and ideas, this is the more appropriate way to design a textbook, or have teachers’ pedagogy implemented in a classroom. So, in a sense, there must be challenges. It must be deeply political since education is a deeply political process, particularly at the national level. And if textbooks are being centrally created, even more so. So, I just wonder: have governments been open and receptive to some of these ideas that have been sort of externally brought into some of these countries?
Andy Smart 25:05
So, I think that’s a really important question, Will. And people working in this sector need to proceed with humility. We need to recognize that we’re coming from outside. We don’t bring answers; we bring different ways of thinking. And we proceed through partnership, collaboration, discussion, etc. On the other hand, I would say that even if we might talk about something that looks like the global North on the one hand, the global South on the other hand, each of those communities represents a wide range of different perspectives. So, when we are talking to partners in government, there are going to be people with very different ideas. There are going to be policymakers; there are going to be curriculum directors; there are going to be curriculum writers, textbook writers, teachers. There are not going to be teachers in urban areas and rural areas who are going to have quite different ways of thinking and doing things. So, we have to reflect, as far as possible, a huge range of perspectives and needs. I’ll give an example: So, sometimes, you know, I’m sitting in the office of a curriculum directorate in a particular low-middle income country, and looking at what role experienced teachers are playing in the process of contributing to textbook development, or textbook evaluation so that the materials that are being provided actually are fit for purpose and they’ve been designed with teachers’ needs in mind. And quite often, you get a bit of pushback in those curriculum directorates because they’re often quite senior people, they’ve had strong academic backgrounds, they’re in very comfortable government jobs. And they’re not thinking necessarily about how the teacher in the rural areas thinks about things, and they’re not necessarily valuing how those teachers in rural areas think about things, and maybe just don’t trust the teachers to make good decisions; they don’t trust the teachers’ judgments. And I think that’s part of the issue. So I think, yes, we need to be humble about what we define as our own expertise and experience, but we also need to ensure that the different voices are brought into that conversation at every point, and not just at the sort of high level, policy discussion level. You know, at every point in the chain, which takes us into the classroom in the rural and semi-rural areas of the country.
Will Brehm 27:25
I guess, you know, this idea that there’s all these different voices, and there’s sort of this political process that goes into the creation, the reform of textbooks, of teacher training, of all different aspects of the education system, it would also necessarily mean that the measurement of these, you know, outcomes of academic and non-academic skills would sort of go through this same political process, and then therefore be different in each country. And then the question that I have then is: How then do you begin to think about measurement of social and emotional learning on a global level that is comparable if these measurement indicators are being sort of debated within each nation with a different set of politic?
Andy Smart 28:08
Yeah, I think that is fundamental. And that for us is a really testing question within NISSEM, because to some extent, we are really still trying to develop what you might call “proof of concept”. And by “proof”, we normally expect to see evidence, not just sort of argumentation. So, evidence and measurements, I think we need to think about it in different ways. So, what some people expect from measurement is something more related to accountability. What other people expect from measurement is more related to evidence that you can build on in order to improve what you’re doing. So, I think this takes us back to, to some extent, the way that measurement and assessment are used in classrooms. You know, there is the idea of summative and formative assessment, and I think when we’re thinking about measurement of the impact of social emotional learning, we have to think about it, to some extent, in that same sort of way. So, measurement for learning how to do things better as planners, as policymakers, as curriculum specialists. Yes, I think it’s very possible to create a system for measuring something that is culturally, rather, let’s say, contextualized, but conforms to good practices in terms of reliability and validity, and is a combination of different measurement instruments. So, to some extent, observation. To some extent, self-reporting. To some extent, testing. So, I think that’s all very possible because that’s intensive and quite expensive, and has to be done on a sampling basis. Then, the other kind of measurement, which sometimes what comes to mind in some discussions, is measurements as system-wide accountability, and being treated in the same way that academic learning outcomes would be measured, which, you know, allows you to say whether the system as a whole is benefiting from the inputs that you’re providing. And I think that’s more problematic, and I think that takes us back a little bit to what we were saying earlier, which is the relationship between academic learning and social emotional learning. That the social emotional learning supports the academic learning, but at the same time, it has its own clear validity. It is not there simply to provide a platform for academic learning, that it has its own purpose, that’s part of the purpose of education. And so when we’re measuring the academic outcomes, to some extent, we’re measuring the impact of the social emotional learning, but at the same time, for us at least in NISSEM, we would like to be able to do more to show proof of concept, and to show through more intensive, more diverse measuring processes and instruments, that providing social emotional learning inputs really can make a difference. Not only to the academic learning outcomes but also to long-term engagement with learning, to produce lifelong learners, not learners who are simply able to pass the end-of-month or end-of-term or end-of-year exams.
Will Brehm 31:32
And do you think this will all be possible in the next ten years?
Andy Smart 31:35
Define “this”, Will.
Will Brehm 31:39
I guess, you know, what NISSEM is sort of, you know, this proof of concept is step one, but obviously, moving forward is that there would be some system-level reforms happening in line with SDG 4.7. And, you know, the goals are concluding in 2030. You know, it doesn’t seem like that long for the type and extent of change that is being discussed.
Andy Smart 32:05
Yes. Huge challenge. What I would say is this: that we sense that there is an enormous receptivity to these ideas at the level of policy strategy, both in the global North and, as far as we can see, in the global South. We were encouraged by the responses that we were getting in presenting the global briefs at the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education recently. So, to some extent, that part, we feel that there is an acknowledgement these are important issues that could make a difference. How do we turn this into a proof of concept? How do we embed what we want to do in the textbooks and curricula of the countries that we are concerned about? I guess “One by one” is the answer to that. So, what we are looking to do is to show, in small number of countries, that here is a different way of doing things. Here is some of the evidence that shows it appears to be working – obviously, the timescale is very short. And then to expand from there. If we were able to achieve a number of changes in terms of textbooks and curriculum in a large number of countries within the next ten years, and the momentum is clearly moving in the right direction, and those who have adopted this approach are able to show that is making a difference to them, and to impress those who have not yet adopted the approach, I would say that would be tremendous progress. And obviously, our part is just a tiny part in the overall drive to achieve as much as possible under the SDGs in this very short time.
Will Brehm 33:59
Well, Andy Smart, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. It really was a pleasure of talking today.
Andy Smart 34:03
Will, the pleasure was all mine. I really enjoyed that. Thank you.
What are the possible futures presupposed within the organization of refugee education worldwide? Do the understood purposes of refugee education align at the global, national and school levels?
My guest today is Sarah Dryden-Peterson, an Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has been researching refugee education for 15 years. Together with Elizabeth Adelman, Michelle Bellino, and Vidur Chopra, she has recently co-authored an article for the journal Sociology of Education that looks at the purposes of refugee education today. Sarah and her colleagues argue that quality refugee education must further a sense of belongingness.
Citation: Dryden-Peterson, Sarah, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 181, podcast audio, November 18, 2019. https://freshedpodcast.com/sarah-dryden-peterson/
Will Brehm 2:30
Sarah Dryden-Peterson, welcome back to FreshEd.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 2:33
Thanks so much, Will. It is great to be on your show.
Will Brehm 2:36
So, there has been a lot of talk about futures lately. We actually recently did a whole show on UNESCO’s new project on “The Futures of Education: Learning to Become,” this new idea that they’re promoting. So, when it comes to refugees, and particularly refugee education, how can we even start thinking about the idea of futures?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 2:59
It is such a great question, and really one that preoccupies our work. I love the show that you did with Noah Sobe, and I am really excited about this commission’s work. And it does, like you’re saying, really resonate with the work that we’ve been doing on futures within refugee education. I was thinking about it, and the last time I was on your show, we were talking about unknowable futures and this uncertainty that is embedded within the experience of being a refugee. And I think, like UNESCO’s project, our work has really tried to embrace this uncertainty of futures and think about ways in which education can contribute to future making despite the uncertainty. I do think that within refugee education, there are some quite specific parameters that are important to keep in mind when we think about the futures for which education prepares young people. Particularly because most national education systems quite explicitly prepare young people for a future that is connected to that nation-state. So, national governments invest in education with the promise of returns of economic growth and social and civic development really to accrue to that nation-state. But, of course, refugees are, by definition, non-citizens. And so, the specificity of their futures, especially in terms of their physical location and where within a nation-state they might be, is uncertain and unpredictable. And so, my co-authors and I – Elizabeth Adelman, Michelle Bellino, and Vidur Chopra – we really in this paper try to think about four possible futures for refugees: a future of resettlement; a future of return; a future of integration; and a future of transnationalism. We observe that how children, families, and teachers, as well as others involved in education, really think about the purposes of refugee education in terms of the future that they imagine. And the kinds of refugee education they design really depend on those futures.
Will Brehm 5:00
So, what sort of purposes of refugee education do these different futures presuppose, in a sense? I mean, these different imaginations of where refugees will end up in the future would, I guess, determine how we then or a nation-state or an NGO or whatever, organizes education for refugees?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 5:25
That is right. And so, in this 14-country study, we see different nation-states orienting refugee education in different ways, depending on the dominant view of what the future might be. So in a situation where the future is imagined as resettlement – meaning to a distant, usually high-income country – refugee education usually takes place such that refugee young people are able to develop some skills that would be transferable to a new context, and develop language skills that would be useful in that new context. But of course, the future of resettlement is quite small and unlikely for most refugees, with only 1% of refugees having that kind of opportunity open to them. So, there’s really quite a limited amount of refugee education that focuses on that future.
Will Brehm 6:17
So, this would be something like a refugee that, you know, leaves a particular country for whatever reason, and claims refugee status, but then ends up getting resettled in a third country. And the idea would be that that person then lives there for the rest of their life and becomes a citizen.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 6:38
That is right and becomes a citizen and has that different certainty about what the future would be in resettlement because of that pathway to citizenship.
Will Brehm 6:47
But this is a very, as you said, small percentage of refugees actually have this future possibility of resettlement. So, what about return, the future of return?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 6:56
So, a future of return has really been, in many ways, the dominant way of thinking about what refugee education is for, what the purposes of refugee education are over historical time, with this idea that, really, most refugee young people and their families would look for a future of return if that future of return were possible. But I think what is different right now and is important as we think about refugee education is that so many of the conflicts that young people are fleeing are protracted. So that a refugee young person living in exile can expect to live outside their country of origin for an average of 10 to 25 years, which is very different than it was in the 1990s. So, this future of return, while desirable in many ways, is often unlikely. Yet, preparing for a future of return often requires quite different kind of education than would preparing for a future of integration, for example. So if a refugee were to be certain of a future return to a country of origin, it would be quite clear what language of instruction would be useful, the kind of credentials that could transfer to that country of origin system, and there would be the potential for more continuity, again with that certainty of the possibility.
Will Brehm 8:19
But it is not that certain. I mean, 10 to 25 years, this is incredible, right. So you can be a child and basically have your entire childhood in a third country, where, you know, you are being educated, in a way, to go back to a country that you have no connection to by that point, after 25 years.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 8:38
That is right. That is right. So, we talk about this future of return. But the reality for many young people, even if they were to return, it is actually not a return. It is a journey to a place where they have never lived themselves because of this protracted nature of being displaced and living as a refugee.
Will Brehm 8:58
So, integration becomes perhaps a future that is more realistic.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 9:03
So that’s been a real shift within thinking on refugee education within the past ten years or so, with this idea that if the reality of exile is at least medium-term, but often long-term, that thinking about education that prepares young people for a future within the host country is an important way in which education could help prepare young people for a future. So, a future of integration would involve enabling labor market participation and a sense of belonging through the kinds of education that are available. And this idea of permanence, so that a future would be built together with nationals and in that place. One of the distinctions I think we try to make in this paper that’s important when thinking about policy, too, is that the idea of inclusion and the idea of integration are really being used quite differently within discussions on refugee education. So “inclusion” could be temporary and really could be just about structures of access to school. So, including refugees within a school. But “integration” really implies a much longer-term commitment to this idea of building a future together and to social belonging, which is the crux of this paper.
Will Brehm 10:22
Right. So, okay, so, there’s refugees are being included in national systems of education, but not necessarily integrated into those systems.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 10:33
That is right. That’s what we really find in this paper: that there has been widespread movement toward including refugees in national education systems over the past six or seven years, and yet that inclusion does not necessarily mean the social process of integration and working toward a sense of belonging.
Will Brehm 10:55
And so, you also have this other idea, what you call in the paper “transnationalism” and this future of transnationalism. Can you explain what that is, and how some refugee education, the purpose of refugee education, presupposes this idea of transnationalism?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 11:13
This future of transnationalism really comes out of what we hear from refugee young people in particular. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has long defined what they call three durable solutions, which are, in fact, somewhat like thinking about the futures, which are these futures of resettlement, return, and integration that we’ve just talked about. But we find that most refugee young people really imagine a future of what we call “transnationalism” that’s not geographically bounded, and that where, in fact, opportunities might be created through mobility rather than limited through mobility and through borders, which is often the experience of refugees. And I think part of this idea of needing to conceptualize a future of transnationalism stems from the uncertainty of any of these other futures and entails some need to think about flexibility and adaptability within refugee education, as well as some of the structural dimensions of national education systems that, in fact, are not transnational, and really do provide certification and provide content-specific education that is what young refugees find often only relevant within a particular nation-state.
Will Brehm 12:29
So, when it comes to these different purposes of education, and that obviously then gets translated into particular policies and practices of education, of refugee education, you know, I guess, who’s deciding? You know, what are the actors, who are the actors involved in different cases, say at the global level, deciding how we should even imagine a future of refugees and then translate that into policy and practice? So, who, in other words, are the actors, sort of thinking through some of these issues?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 13:03
We have really tried to structure this paper – and I think this is important methodologically – as a vertical analysis. So looking at actors at a global level, at a national level, at a local level, and really trying to tease out some of the differences in the way that the purposes of refugee education are viewed at these different levels. So at a global level, there are multiple actors involved in refugee education, including UN agencies like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and UNICEF, as well as Education Cannot Wait, a host of international NGOs that have a long history of working on refugee education, as well as bilateral donors that are committed to funding refugee education either through some of these multilaterals and NGOs or in direct funding to nation-states. And I think for all of these organizations, increasingly it is becoming evident the need to work in collaboration across the kind of organization, which is not always the norm in humanitarian situations. But as we see this movement toward including refugees in national education systems, this real shift toward a longer-term thinking and toward development, and the kinds of collaborations that are needed in that kind of setting.
Will Brehm 14:19
Okay, so that is the global level. What about at the different national levels in these different countries? How is refugee education being imagined, and you know, the future of refugees being imagined?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 14:31
At the national level, we really see this policy of inclusion looking quite different in different contexts. And I think for this particular refugee education policy of inclusion, it was really designed to be adapted to national contexts. And as a result, we see different kinds of models of inclusion developing. So, in Malaysia and Bangladesh, for example, we really don’t see inclusion taking place. Governments have not adopted a policy of inclusion, so that refugees and nationals attend separate schools, and refugee education is in these particular cases quite informal, with lack of certainty around what certification options might be. But in other countries, we’ve seen a real rapid uptake of this policy of inclusion since the first UNHCR strategy in 2012 put it forward. So in places where refugees live in camp settings, such as in Kenya, we see an inclusion model developed where refugees use the Kenyan curriculum and use English and Kiswahili as the languages of instruction, even though refugee and national children are isolated from each other because geographically they live in different spaces within the country. So, they don’t attend school together, but there are structural elements of inclusion in terms of curriculum and certification. Yet other places, like in the example of Lebanon, we see a model of inclusion that involves refugee children attending the same physical schools as nationals with many of the same teachers. They use the same curriculum, the Lebanese national curriculum, Lebanese national examination system, but at a different time of day in a double shift. So Lebanese students come to school in the morning, and refugees in the afternoon. It is only in few places, and not consistent across national contexts, that we see refugees and nationals actually attending school together at the same time. And usually, that is in urban areas where there may be smaller populations of refugees or long-standing populations that are quite integrated with national populations.
Will Brehm 16:40
So in a sense, using these two examples that you provided: Lebanon, in a way, would be more closely connected to this idea of a future of integration, whereas in Kenya, it’s much more about a future of inclusion; or you know, it’s not necessarily really integration since, you said, they’re in two different physical spaces.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 17:01
And I think this is a really open question within refugee education of what can enable integration and not just inclusion. So even in the case of Lebanon, there is quite substantial separation between national students who attend school in the morning and refugees who come in the afternoon. In our work there, particularly with grade nine students, we see a lack of relationships, a lack of possibility for relationships to develop between refugee students and national students. There is a short gap in the middle of the day so that, physically, the students don’t cross paths within the schools. And quite a tight sense of the school really belonging to the national students, and the refugee students just being there in the afternoon to have some opportunity for learning. But as one of our participants said, no opportunity to become established. And I think that, again, it provides this example of where inclusion can be a strategy towards providing access to education and can provide this access to the structures of what a quality education might involve. But very little focus on what it means to develop relationships across long-time residents and refugees and this process of social integration and belonging.
Will Brehm 18:22
Right. So, one of the main purposes of education being this idea of social cohesion. Not only preparing someone for the labor market but actually being connected to some national society or even local society. And so, it does bring up a very interesting point about what is even the meaning of quality education when it comes to refugee education.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 18:46
I think that is right. And you mentioned both labor market participation and social cohesion here. And across our 14-country study, we really hear these dimensions of education being described at almost all levels by teachers, by students, by families, by international organization actors, as real purposes of education. And yet real tensions in refugee education as to whether it is even possible to think about those dimensions of quality. So, in most places, refugees don’t have the right to work. So, this idea of education as a preparation for labor market participation is not guaranteed. And what we often see is young people very cognizant of this disconnect between what they’re being asked to do in school, how they imagine that preparation will assist them in building a livelihood, and yet knowing what the laws are in place that will prevent that from happening. And also, in terms of social cohesion, in many places, including most nation-states that host refugees, there are long histories of conflict and divisions so that social cohesion, as it is taught, particularly within national curriculum and within national education systems, is often about a fairly tight, standard view of what national unity might look like. And that often can be quite politically, ethnically, linguistically exclusive, not only for refugees who can’t see themselves within that national narrative but also of marginalized national students. And there’s also this idea that refugees, particularly in places that continue to experience conflict and division, might disrupt very fragile social cohesion, which can result in even more forceful standardizing of curriculum for the sake of control and legitimate goals of preserving unity, when it is fragile that way.
Will Brehm 20:50
Is there a good example of a particular country where that phenomenon is found?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 20:55
We do see this in our ongoing work in Lebanon now. And I think that this idea that refugee education is often situated within marginalized national populations is really important as we think about the idea of quality. And I think, in particular, it points to areas within national education that are often overlooked. And the kind of possibility of imagining any of these futures that we’re talking about when access to poor quality schooling is the norm. So in Lebanon, for example, refugees have access to the second shift that I was describing in public schools, but only 30% of national students attend public schools, and those with other options will choose other options outside of these public schools. And so, there’s already this sense that a future of integration would be a future of integration into an education system and into a level of society that is not desirable by nationals and is also not something that refugees are looking for.
Will Brehm 22:04
And so, they would continue to be marginalized, even if integrated?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 22:08
In many of the places where refugees are included in national schools, in fact, what we find in most places, is that the quality of education is not high for nationals either. And so while the promise of including refugees in national education systems often comes back to this idea that it might be of higher quality within an already established system with trained teachers, with a sequenced curriculum, that the particular places in which refugees are being included are often within countries that struggle broadly to provide quality education, or within regions of countries, or areas of cities, where the quality of schooling is unequal and in fact, poor quality schooling that refugees are not seeking out either.
Will Brehm 22:53
So, I mean, it seems as if you are beginning to differentiate the idea of “integration”, which, sort of, on the surface sounds quite good. But actually, it’s more … and I think you use this term before in our conversation: of “belongingness”. So, you know, what is this difference between belongingness and integration?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 23:12
I think this really is at the crux of what we get at in this paper. And I think that what we see in the model of including refugees within national education systems is a very important focus on the structures of inclusion. So, as I was saying, the teachers, the curriculum, the certification, but much less focus on what these relational elements of a longer-term integration would mean. And I think it’s important to distinguish here: in almost no cases do we hear from the various actors involved in refugee education that long-term permanent integration is the goal. Even though we know that crises are protracted, in the end, most refugee young people would elect to pursue a future of return or a future of transnationalism. And yet wanting to keep open this possibility of being able to be an active, productive contributor to the society in which they live, which for the immediate term, is a country of exile. So, this idea of belonging really comes back to these relational dimensions: the opportunity to build relationships, to build understanding across lines of difference. And I think that the models of inclusion that we have found within most countries simply don’t even allow the contact among young people to foster this kind of relational dimensions. And even when they do, in cases where refugees and nationals attend schools together, there’s often very little focus within curriculum and pedagogy on these dimensions of relationship that might allow for working through some of the conflicts or the perceived threats that may or may not exist, but when you don’t have that opportunity to know someone as an individual are very hard to overcome.
Will Brehm 25:07
Is there any example where, you know, refugee education was actually able to create such a sense of belongingness?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 25:16
It’s been hard for us to find large-scale examples of this kind of relational integration and belonging. But this idea of belonging has emerged as so important from the work that we’ve been doing that it’s a real focus of our current work. And right now, we’re launching a project that we’re calling the Together Project and studying individual schools in multiple national contexts with large refugee populations that we’re finding to be extraordinarily successful at building welcoming communities among long-time residents and newcomers. And it’s really our hope in this project to be able to identify some of the pedagogies and the processes – these real “how” questions, not the “what” questions – of what schools, teachers, students, families are doing to actively build communities in which there’s a sense of welcome. And I think that this is even more important to me because what we hear from young people and from teachers in all of these national context in which we’ve been working is that they’re looking for ideas of how to do this. It is not a sense of not finding belonging and not finding people who are seeking out the mechanisms to create that. In fact, it would be the number one request that we would hear from teachers, are for sharing ideas about how they could better do their work to create this kind of inclusive communities. So, hoping that through this project, we might be able to identify ways in which there are possibilities within schools that everyone could imagine a future, even if those futures are divergent. Coming back to this idea that it is not just one future, but maybe multiple futures pursued within any form of education.
Will Brehm 27:01
It’s really quite fascinating. I mean, it does remind me of some of the work of Benedict Anderson and really pushing issues of imagined communities a bit further. It’s imagined future communities that are, you know, in many ways, diverse and transnational. And it really sort of is this new idea, I think, that has to be sort of theorized and, you know, researched quite heavily.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 27:26
I think that is right. And it brings me back to thinking about the history of refugee education to in the post-war, and particularly through the 60s and 70s, refugee education was really a very localized endeavor. So communities creating their own schools to educate refugees, often with this real sense of self-determination, because many refugees were in exile due to independence struggles, and a very clear sense that the future for which refugees were being prepared would be to return to a country of origin and take up leadership roles in a post-independence place. And we saw a lot of transnationalism at that time too, which I think is resurfacing as really critical as we think about what these imagined communities are that may actually look quite different from what we see now, and how education can, in fact, attempt to remake these kinds of communities and allow individuals to imagine what they might look like. And hopefully, over the long run, break down some of the structural barriers, particularly around abilities to migrate and abilities to work and to actually tangibly take up the rights that we think of as universal to be able to pursue these futures.
Will Brehm 28:48
And so, you know, given your research and your analysis of the history plus this Together Project that you’re beginning to work on, you know, what sort of policy proposals have you and your team sort of begun to think about, or realize, are really important for successful refugee education that sort of does contribute to this idea of belongingness?
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 29:15
I think what comes out of our work is the real need to focus on more of the relational dimensions of education. So, making sure that we do think about quality not just as that form of access to a national system, but what actually happens in classrooms in terms of curriculum, in terms of pedagogy. And the new UNHCR strategy, Inclusion 2030, really advocates for this shift in thinking more about the daily teaching and learning that goes on. But they’re very hard challenges, as we all know, and particularly within national education systems that struggle to meet the needs of national students. And I think what comes out for us quite heavily is this is a real collective challenge. That, in fact, when we think about the purposes of refugee education, what we expose are areas in which the global movement to provide quality education for all, in fact, has obviously left out many national students. And the places in which refugees are attempting to access education are also places where nationals don’t have access to that kind of a quality education. So, thinking about refugee education not in isolation, but as the real collective challenge of ensuring that all marginalized young people have access to a quality education. And one of the initiatives that we’re launching, connected to this, is called refugee REACH: research, education, and action for change and hope. This is an initiative of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and we’re really trying to think about ways to connect researchers, policymakers, and educators in collective thinking about quality education and building welcoming communities in settings of migration and displacement. We’ll be launching this initiative next month to coincide with the Global Refugee Forum, and one of the elements of it that I’m particularly excited about is a series of virtual conversations on some of these critical dilemmas in refugee education, research, in policy, and in practice that we’ve been talking about today. My hope is really that collectively, through these ongoing conversations, that we can develop ways to educate so education doesn’t stand in the way of refugees’ futures, but instead can create concrete spaces for weaving together the success of all of our futures.
Will Brehm 31:40
Well, Sarah Dryden-Peterson, thank you so much for joining FreshEd again. Best of luck in the conference next month, and please come back on and share some of these… the learning that happens with these different projects that you have going on. So, thank you very much again for joining.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson 31:56
Thanks so much, Will.
Have useful resources related to this show? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
School students all over the globe have declared a “Climate Emergency.” For some time now, youth have been striking for immediate and effective action to stop global warming and secure the habitability of our planet. Greta Thunberg is perhaps the most recognizable student protesting. You’ve probably seen her moving speech at the United Nations last month.
In the context where students skip school to protest, what role do teachers play? More broadly, what is the role of education in times of climate crisis?
One group of university professors and activists have thought deeply about these questions. They have recently launched a “Call to Action” for educators, asking signatories to transform their pedagogies and curricula, realign research agendas, and reformulate policy frameworks – all in line with the climate crisis and other environmental challenges. In short, signatories are asked to voice their concerns any way they can in their professional work in and outside the classroom.
By early November, almost 2,000 educators signed the Call to Action.
Today’s show takes you behind the scenes of this Call to Action, connecting the student protests and the climate crisis to the Sustainable Development Goals and Global Learning Metrics.
(Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/climate-change)
Sign the call to action here: https://educators-for-climate-action.org/petition/
Transcript, Translation, and Resources:
Today I speak with Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Tessie Naranjo about indigenous women and research. They have co-edited the latest issue of the International Journal of Human Rights Education, which was released last week.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman is an associate professor of Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota. An Indigenous education researcher, her work focuses on the link between Indigenous lands and natural resources, languages, and cultural and educational practices in the North and South America. Tessie Naranjo lives in northern New Mexico and is an internationally recognized Indigenous community education, language revitalization, and arts advocate. She is a founder of the Pueblo Indian Studies Program at Northern New Mexico College where she served as faculty, and former co-Director of the Northern Pueblos Institute.
Citation: Huaman, Elizabeth Sumida & Naranjo, Tessie, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 179, podcast audio, November 4, 2019. https://freshedpodcast.com/indigenouswomen/
Will Brehm 2:55
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Tessie Naranjo, welcome to FreshEd.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 3:00
Thank you for having us, Will.
Tessie Naranjo 3:01
I am glad to be here.
Will Brehm 3:03
So, let’s start by talking about colonization – a big topic. In your new co-edited volume, in your introduction, you call it a “strategy of imperialism that has left an indelible mark on colonized lands and people.” What sort of narratives has colonization constructed about indigenous peoples and lands?
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 3:25
I can address that. We talked about this a little bit in our introduction, but I think maybe one of the things that we can clarify is that we’d like to differentiate colonization as a set of actions or patterns that empires will use towards expansion of their empire, and oftentimes that’s bounded by time. So, there is a period of colonization, and then what we’ve seen around the world in different national contexts, is that there’s then a time of decolonization or post-colonization, often referred to as “independence.” I think what Tessie and I are referring to, and what our authors are speaking to, is a condition called “coloniality.” And so, there is an Argentinian scholar that Tessie and I use; his name is Walter Mignolo, and he talks about “coloniality,” which is the ongoing condition of colonial oppression and struggle that’s exemplified through four domains. So, these are four areas where indigenous peoples are encountering resistance and struggle. So, we think very closely about those four domains as: control of economy, which includes manipulation of land and natural resources; control of authority, which is the creation of institutions – political and legal institutions, as well as military; this creation of what is considered normative, so that oftentimes is heavily influenced by ideas of religion, as well as gender and sexuality; and then, this control over knowledge, which is oftentimes most clearly exemplified by the construction of education, and what constitutes knowledge. So, in our issue, we really think very closely about how indigenous peoples are speaking to, or speaking back to, conditions of coloniality in all of those areas. And all of our authors, I think, write about those areas in one way or another. So, they address, really, that entire system of domains, and they address coloniality as a whole, but taking up different lenses. So, one of the things that I think is really important for us to think about is not just how coloniality has left, or leaves us, in a condition where there is that, you know, as we might refer to, this mark on lands and peoples. “Lands” meaning the impact to our natural resources: you know, our earth, our water, our animals, our skies, and so forth. But then also peoples, meaning bodies and psyches. And I think what’s really critical is that our authors who put forth their work so lovingly, speak to that condition. They speak to coloniality in some way or another. And so, for example, we have one author, June Lorenzo, who is from Laguna Pueblo, who talks about this idea, counters this idea, that land and natural resources are only for human exploitation or for capital gain. And she writes about uranium mining in her own village of Paguate in Laguna Pueblo. And we also have authors like Robin Minthorn and Heather Shotton, who take up this idea. So, they would be countering this normative view of gender and sexuality. And primarily, this idea of women in leadership; they take up this idea that you know, women are not leaders because they are not visible, for example, or as visible as men. And they really challenge that.
Tessie Naranjo 7:25
Well, I was thinking about answering the question in terms of fences. I am from one of the pueblos in northern New Mexico, and I have enough knowledge about the history of our place. And I was thinking about when the colonizers came in, first the Spaniards, and then later on the white Americans. And the idea of fences became a part of our understanding. Reluctantly. And so, I was thinking of fences in terms of creating borders and boundaries, and I was thinking of how these fences psychologically make us feel less than.
Will Brehm 8:15
It is interesting. I mean putting up these fences and borders and boundaries and feeling “less than” when thinking about coloniality. And Tessie and Elizabeth, you both sort of mentioned issues of knowledge and even education. And so, you know, I want to ask a little bit about how coloniality has impacted the very meaning of research. So perhaps, Elizabeth, maybe you can start.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 8:44
Sure. So, in terms of how coloniality has impacted research, you know, Tessie and I are, we are community members, and we are educators, and we write as well. And we think. And we speak. I think that you know, but we also come from places. We come from very strong peoples and places that we have very strong connections to. And I think one of the ways that coloniality has shaped dominant understanding of research is to devalue those places, and to devalue our interactions as intellectual beings, as spiritual beings, with those places. So, there are wonderful scholars, some of them in our special issue. Others like Linda Smith, who is a very highly regarded Māori scholar, who has really informed our thinking around decolonizing research approaches, who do that work very well. And they help us to understand how research can be transformed by indigenous peoples. I think one of the issues that we encounter consistently as indigenous peoples is that our knowledge isn’t really knowledge – that what we know, and how we’ve managed to live in a particular place over time, isn’t necessarily something that is considered valuable. You know, it’s this idea that: well, maybe indigenous peoples didn’t really know that much about their environment, or they lived in a way that was haphazard, or they were lucky. When in reality, indigenous peoples have very strong systems and ways of interacting and of living and of thriving in places. And I think that that’s one of the key issues that we are interested in as community members is this idea that we, too, have had research for a very long time as indigenous peoples. We maybe didn’t call it “research.” There’s lots of different ways in our languages that we think about inquiry, and we think about knowledge production. But I also think that there are different reasons that we sought to understand, or to know something, and there were different uses for what we did learn.
Will Brehm 11:15
I mean, it is interesting, the idea that you know, this coloniality, the domain of the normative, as you were saying earlier, and how that has sort of narrowed the very meaning of what science is, to, you know, the scientific method or Western science. But, in fact, there’s so many other and diverse ways of knowledge, of inquiry, of what we might call research, very broadly. And, you know, your special issue really sort of draws out all of these different, diverse traditions of what research could be, and has actually been marginalized by this sort of normative stance of what modern research is supposed to look like.
Tessie Naranjo 11:57
Well, I was thinking about the community that I come from and the pueblo world, that I know more about than any other tribal group. And I was thinking about how we have our own way of researching, so that we understand our place and our land, and I was thinking that our methods are different from that non-tribal world. And I was thinking of how we are more circular in our thinking, we are more fluid in our thinking, and in contrast to the Western way of researching, which is, I don’t know if you call it regimented, but it’s different than the way that we understand how to do things. And I will give you maybe an example or so of how we have learned to live off the land. For example, the irrigation. We are a traditional agricultural people, and so how we learn how to grow corn and beans and squash is something that we learn through experimentation. And so, “researching,” if you want to call it that, has been very much a part of our lives. And in terms of, for example, the pottery making that is a traditional part of our lives: how we’ve learned how to mix clays, and how we’ve learned how to use the plants for coloring the designs on our pots, all of that is a researching. Our place, our land, so that we know what its resources are. Our methods are different, but it is researching, nevertheless.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 13:50
Will, you know, to speak to your point about the Western scientific method, I think Tessie really exemplifies that with her description of pueblo knowledge and living as agricultural people. I think that one of the things that is really disturbing that we’re seeing about the condition of the earth. And what we are seeing in terms of environmental catastrophe today is the distancing of our relationship from our respect and our regard for place. Our respect and our regard for natural resources and land as living beings. And I think that one of the things that, you know, Western science is not our enemy. Western science in many ways, scientists today, I think, are starting to wake up to, and have been, you know, at least for the last several decades. There are voices and people who are talking about. And they are naming it different things. So, they are calling it things like biocultural diversity, you know, or concentric ecology, for example. So, there are people who are understanding and delving more deeply into this idea of relationships. And I think that indigenous peoples, because of our relationships and our regard and our exercise of values, we don’t just talk about the values of respect or the values of love for the things around us. We have ceremonies, we have activities, we have daily things that we do as community members and as individuals, that put those into practice. And I think that people are seeing the importance and the value of that, and certainly, our authors are seeing that. So, for example, we have Danelle Cooper and her coauthors, her wonderful professor-mentors, who have really shaped a beautiful submission that highlights a couple of different sacred places, one of them being Mauna Kea in Hawaii. And we see there the tension between Western science and this drive to build, you know, super telescopes and more telescopes, and things that can really help humans to explore the universe in ways that assume that indigenous peoples didn’t have the capacity, or the technology, to do that. And I think we are talking about different purposes and different uses of technology, different definitions of technology. And I think so much of it comes back to purpose: Why do we seek knowledge? Why do we think about science the way we do? What is the ultimate goal for us? And for many of us who are really attempting to reclaim those connections to the beautiful things around us, and to appreciate the gift of life that we’ve been given, the purpose is to sustain life and to live a life of values and quality where, you know, children and communities and all the creatures can flourish. So, I don’t know that it’s necessarily a clash of Western science because Western science can be used as a tool of and as a resource for us. But it is: what is the purpose, you know? And I think that you know, those of us who were colonized by the Spanish – and there were many communities that were colonized by the Spanish back in the 1500s – you know, we joke about the Spanish being some of the very early colonial researchers. They were very early anthropologists, and they would ask questions, you know, there’s lists of questions that you can see in the archives. What were the questions that they would ask of community members? You know, they would ask questions like … and they knew, they knew that we had a relationship with place. So, for example, our mountain deities are called Apus, and so they would say, “Okay, we know this Apu. You know, the Quechua people, for example, believe that this Apu has a wife and children and so forth. We know that you know, the Quechua people believe that these mountains are families.” And they would ask the question, “Well, okay, what is the name of this Apu? Who is his wife? You know, who are his children?” And then they would say, “And where are his treasures?” And we can see a very early and primitive approach to science, a primitive approach to social science, a primitive approach to inquiry, that is material gain based. And I don’t think that you know, indigenous peoples today – what our authors, especially the authors who are participating in this special issue – are really interested in, is reclaiming our connection. For the purpose of, not just survival, but of really honoring our existence, and the existence of the things that are in creation.
Will Brehm 18:58
I mean, I love that idea of sustaining life rather than exploiting and advancing economic gain in anyway. I mean, you know, it is a very different purpose, as you said. So, Elizabeth, could you talk a little bit about why, in this special issue, you and Tessie basically situate indigenous women at the center of this conversation, in a way. Can you speak a little bit about why that is the case?
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 19:22
Sure. So, Tessie and I were very interested in promoting and supporting a special issue that involves indigenous women because we are indigenous women. And we do research, we interact with community members, we work with institutions that serve indigenous peoples. And we do that from our own experience. And I can speak for myself to say that I began doing work with generations of Quechua grandmothers – people from my own communities – and I was very interested in, “Well, if I’m having these kinds of experiences and thoughts as an indigenous woman, as a descendant of these women that I’m speaking with, what might be the unique lenses that indigenous women bring to the conversation? Are other women having these kinds of questions? Are they having these kinds of discussions? What feelings are coming up that might be distinct to indigenous women, particularly women who are from the communities where they’re doing the research, or who are serving the people that they hope their research will highlight in some way, uplift, bring forward?” So that’s one of the reasons why I became interested in working on this project with Tessie. And of course, I’ve held her in such high regard for so many years, and have heard the stories of her talking about her mother and her grandmother, and how she was raised by very important people, women who lived daily lives. And similarly, in my own family background, I was raised by people and had a grandmother, who is no longer with us, and aunties, who are people living daily lives in community. Experiencing certain struggles that in many ways are distinct, gender-based struggles for women in my community; I will only speak from my experience. And you know, these are women that, they are not necessarily scholars, they are not necessarily researchers. But in many ways, I think both Tessie and I wanted to pay homage to what we’ve learned from them as well. And to bring together women in this special issue that also come from somewhere, that also have aunties, that also have grandmothers, that also themselves are living daily experiences, and encountering struggles and challenges as women, and that they too have something to offer a broader conversation that is often very lofty – that’s considered very lofty, and academic, and intellectual – which is a conversation about human rights.
Will Brehm 22:22
Tessie, would you like to add anything?
Tessie Naranjo 22:24
Well, I’d first like to get started in my thoughts, and knowing that, in the pueblo world, our world is constructed with the feminine in mind, the female in mind. So, it is a natural understanding that it is the female who is a part of our beginnings. And so, I’ll start with that. And then, Elizabeth invited me to be part of this project; I did not know what I was getting into. But I was resistant, admittedly, because I thought it was too much for me, because I am pretty much, home is important to me, and I don’t stray too far from home. But in the reading, and the helping edit the articles that were submitted, I began to feel that I had the best opportunity to look at what other indigenous females were very passionate about in the work that they were doing to better the lives of their home communities. And I got all of this understanding in appreciation of the feminine through my great grandmother, who was born in 1867, and then raised my mother. Because my mother was raised by my great grandmother, who did not know how to talk English or any other language, except my language, which is Tewa. I have very much appreciation for the strength of the women in my family, as well as for the strength of women in all other tribal communities, and we are doing our part as individuals, whatever place we live at, and whatever our passion is, whatever fight, whatever cause we want to get involved in. I have been able to look at all of these, or read all of these, articles, and just I am so proud of the dedication of the females who have submitted their articles, showing that they are lifelong contributors to bettering the health of their communities.
Will Brehm 24:59
Recently, I guess, I have noticed a lot of talk about indigenous research through, or within, international organizations, like the United Nations. And I just wonder in your opinion, to what extent is the United Nations, and even places like the World Bank – I have seen them promoting ideas of indigenous research, as well. And, you know, what is your take on it? How does that all fit in? Is it helpful? Is it problematic in ways? You know, how do you see the sort of the international push, through international law and human rights groups, advocating for, and supporting, indigenous research and knowledge?
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 25:41
So, there is undoubtedly value to international organizations like the United Nations, that are comprised of, and promote and highlight and create spaces for dialogue, that involve indigenous peoples and recognize indigenous peoples as actors in their own self-determination. There is absolutely a place for that. And I think there is a lot of tremendous work that’s been done by the United Nations. For example, the folks who worked on, including one of our authors, June Lorenzo, who worked on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And at the same time, I think that we have to recognize what era we’re in. So indigenous human rights, or indigenous rights, are considered to be third generation, the third generation of human rights discourse. So, the first generation, you know, in many ways, really focused on what we might think of as these very normative approaches to rights. So, the first generation was really about political and civil liberties. We also hear a lot about European constructions of rights in terms of male property rights; you know, that is very early on. And then the second generation of rights is really about social and economic rights, as well as equality for women and so forth. But I think it is very telling that indigenous rights are only recently, in many ways, being recognized as this third generation of rights. And I do think that many organizations, and lots of different bodies that are involved with bringing forward indigenous issues and struggles for self-determination, do very good work. But I think there’s conditions to that. I think that those organizations, or really any organization – it could be a grassroots community organization – really needs to have some sort of awareness and be very explicit around certain starting point questions. So, for example, what are rights? What are even rights? What is law, for example? How are those things conceptualized and named by indigenous peoples, representative of indigenous communities, at all levels? And how do those reflect principles that are embedded in indigenous languages? So, is that explicit in the work? I think another point that is really critical is that we also have to think about indigenous self-determination and the role that indigenous self-determination plays in those organizations, which refers to the ability of people to decide how they want to live their lives. And is that an explicit part of the conversation. As well, in any organization, are there clear reporting of biases? Is there also another explicit conversation around power, for example? So, who speaks for indigenous peoples? Who represents indigenous peoples? What constitutes indigenous communities? And how are decisions made? What kinds of questions are being asked? What kinds of goals are being identified? So, I think that there is several different areas of consideration that need to be explicitly laid out if organizations are going to attempt to be less problematic.
Will Brehm 29:30
So, Tessie, I want to bring you into this conversation, and ask a little bit about this concept of land and place, and why it’s such an important concept in indigenous research and education.
Tessie Naranjo 29:40
Well, in thinking about that question, I was thinking about, we have a local tribally run school here in my community. And I go to visit the community school every once in a while, and I love what is happening in the school because the children are learning about who they are and what their place is. Knowing how to appreciate their place, and knowing what it means to have a place, and have an appreciation for that. I was thinking about my mother. I would ask her the question, “What is important, Gia?” And Gia is “mother” in Tewa. She would tell me, “Children,” and I didn’t appreciate that as much as I do in my older age, but it was a very profound response to that question, although I didn’t think so at the time. But it is about kids. It is about children that you teach so that they can move forward and pass on the information so that, as they become adults, they can then become the leaders within the community. So that children, I would say, like by mother, children are probably the most important persons to guide, so that they can then maintain the village as they are growing up, when they grow up. That is what I can say about response to that question. But it is very important, I think, to pass on the knowledge of any community in whatever way you can: Who you are. Names of places in your land area. What your name is, for example. Like in the school, everyone has their tribal name. I can give you example of my tribal name and what it means to me because it talks about place and land. My name is Pae Ojegi in Tewa. I was born in January. My great grandmother, that I talked about earlier, took me to greet the sun and to name me. But we have a deer dance in the wintertime. The deer were passing from the mountains, and these, of course, are humans, dressed with horns on and sticks to emulate the deer coming to visit us in the village. And so, as they were coming by, she looked at the deer passing by, and she said to my mother, “We shall name this Pae Ojegi. Pae Ojegi is “deer with frost on its horns,” and I have loved that name all of my life because it represents the time, the cycles that we live, continuously – we live according to the seasons. And because I was given my name, Pae Ojegi, I am always reminded, whenever I see a deer, for example, the importance of that moment when the men dressed like deer were entering the village. This is a long example to talk about what the children in the small grade school are trying to learn. They are trying to learn about place and land. And they can learn it through names and other things that we are able to teach so that these kids one more time, as my mother said, can pass the knowledge from within our community and pass it forward.
Will Brehm 33:38
So, Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Tessie Naranjo, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. It really was an honor and a pleasure to talk today. And congratulations on your latest special issue.
Tessie Naranjo 33:49
Thank you, Will.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 33:50
Urpillay sonqollay, Will. Really appreciate it and thank you so much to our authors and their families and their communities.
What does it mean to think of comparative education beyond the human? Is our field based on assumptions of individual autonomy and Western Enlightenment thinking that sees time as linear and progress as possible? Does a “posthuman future” hold new possibilities for our research? And can our field live with such dissonance?
Earlier this month, the Post Foundational Approaches to Comparative and International Education Special Interest Group of the Comparative and International Education Society organized a webinar entitled “Exploring education beyond the human” to think through some of these questions.
In this special addition of FreshEd, I’m going to replay our conversation because I think the ideas discussed push our field in new and important directions.
Citation: Zhao, Weili, Carney, Stephen & Silova, Iveta, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 178, podcast audio, October 28, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/beyondhuman/
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Controversies over school policies that impact transgender students have increasingly made headlines in the United States for the past few years. What legal protections do transgender students have in schools? And how have the Obama and Trump administrations interpreted the law in this regard?
My guest today is Suzanne Eckes, professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at Indiana University. She has written about the various legal cases involving transgender students.
Citation: Eckes, Suzanne, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 177, podcast audio, October 21, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/suzanneeckes/
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Teach For America developed an alternative teacher education model that spread not only around the United States but also across the world.
My guest today is Rolf Straubhaar, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and School Improvement at Texas State University. In his latest article in the Journal of Teacher Education, Rolf looks at the Teach For All affiliate in Brazil called Ensina! In our conversation, Rolf explores the history of TFA, the motivation of people to join the program, and how their perspectives changed over time.
Citation: Straubhaar, Rolf, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 176, podcast audio, October 14, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/rolfstraubhaar/
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