JustEd2018 conference day 1: 180 academics promoting social justice through education

JustEd 2018 conference 28

Keynote speakers Piia Seppänen and Nihad Bunar

The first day of the JustEd2018 conference was filled with interesting keynote sessions, symposia, paper and poster presentations – and above all, 180 enthousiastic participants from all over the world with one mutual goal: promoting social justice through education.

In  his keynote speech, Professor Nihad Bunar (University of Stockholm) raised questions on how to provide inclusive education opportunities for newly arrived refugee students, while sharing his own personal experiences as a newly arrived immigrant in Sweden. In  her keynote speech, Professor Piia Seppänen(University of Turku) focused on the segmenting effects of school choice policies in Finland. A vivid discussion followed, pointing out how the market mechanisms define the system and the quality of education.

Exclusion of refugee students
Professor Bunar identified forms of exclusion and inclusion of immigrant students: “Refugee-only schools or separate classes/programs create false safe havens for immigrants. Inclusion is about removing obstacles, sharing places, spaces, having support based on individual needs and being recognized for what and who you are. Newly arrived students bear experiences and a set of previous knowledge that must be recognized and taken as a starting point for their further education.
The task for researchers is to unravel discourses, policies, attitudes and practices that allow misrecognition of arbitrariness, low expectations and presence as a problem to be established as a normality in how society deals with its newest members. That is how we can contribute to promoting social justice through education for this neglected group of students”.

Segmentating trends in Finnish schools
Concerning school choice polices, Professor Seppänen highlighted current segmentation trends in urban areas in Finland: “Despite a seemingly uniform, neighborhood-based and entirely public comprehensive schooling system in Finland, a variety of research evidence from urban Finland shows that school choice and pupil selection create social distinctions and attainment differences between study groups inside comprehensive schools. Although social segregation between schools reflects social segregation in urban areas, more significant segmentation tendencies are evident between study groups or school classes once pupil selection and parental school choice policies are considered.”

“Education is a common good”
The Chair of the keynote session, Professor Joron Pihl from Oslo Metropolitan University, was highly concerned about the marketization trends in the educational field: “If profit and market mechanisms drive the development of education and the pupil is viewed only as future labor force, we forget that education is a common good. We reduce the child to a future competitor in the market. That is a reduction of the human being that we don’t share. The concept of democracy, multiplicity and diversity are basic human conditions.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Charlotta Järf is in charge of the communications and marketing activities for JustEd, The Nordic Centre of Excellence, an international research network with 14 partner universities in 8 countries. With ten years of professional experience in Communications and Marketing, and five years as a TV, radio and newspaper journalist, Charlotta has a practical set of skills in strategical communications, PR, social media, graphic design, video and content production. .

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