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19 Oct 2023
Monisha Bajaj and Janelle Scott

Global Perspectives on Racialization and Educational Inequality

In this blog, Monisha Bajaj and Janelle Scott introduce the World Yearbook of Education 2023 on “Racialization and Educational Inequality in Global Perspective”.

The World Yearbook of Education is an edited book series that each year since 1965 has chosen a theme to focus on from a global perspective. In its 58 years, the book series had never had an entire volume focused on issues of race, racialization, and anti-racism in education systems, policies, and practices—until earlier this year. The World Yearbook of Education 2023 was published with, for the first time, a focus on “Racialization and Educational Inequality in Global Perspective.” While the publication of this volume provides a small corrective to the neglect of the important issues of race and racialization in education, much work still needs to be done to center how educational realities, policies, and discourses are inflected by the racialization of different groups historically, currently, and cross-nationally. Indeed, across the chapters, we see that the racialized “afterlives” and incarnations of colonialism and empire persist in schools and societies (Hartman, 1997).

The book’s introduction, conclusion, and 15 constitutive chapters, organized in three sections, explore the intersections between racialization, education, and inequality in distinct global locations. The chapters demonstrate how distinct racial formations through the processes of colonialism, development, enslavement, resistance, and migration have influenced the manifestations of inequality in racialized ways across the globe.

Section One entitled “Racialization: Theories, Discourse, and Globalization” discusses how the foundations of the racialization process – or the making of race central in differentiation – have circulated across national borders historically and in contemporary times. Through a comparative perspective – whether comparing global discourse as mapped onto local realities or comparatively across different national contexts – the five chapters in Section One engage with definitional and conceptual perspectives from macro, meso, and micro levels. Authors Arathi Sriprakash, Leon Tikly, and Sharon Walker discuss in Chapter One the erasures of racism from international education discourses in efforts to advance global education while Roozbeh Shirazi discusses in Chapter Four the hyper-visibility of certain groups whose complexity is flattened into singular tropes through, for example, the racialization of Muslims post-9/11 across the globe. Authors in Section One also suggest forms of resistance, such as through educational marronage, as discussed by Steven Nelson in Chapter Three, as well as through disrupting the hegemonic ways that white supremacy and whiteness are globalized, as explained by Zeus Leonardo in Chapter Two.

Section Two, entitled “Coloniality, Development, and Racialization in Education,” builds on the conceptual foundations of Section One, with fine-grained national and regional investigations into differential racialization, in places as diverse as Sierra Leone, Australia, Canada, the United Sates, South Africa, India and elsewhere. The authors offer in depth analyses of colonization and its schooling legacies (e.g., Chapter 6 written by authors Krystal Strong, Rehana Odendaal, and Christiana Kallon Kelly); the internal colonization of caste in South Asia (e.g., Chapter 10 written by Gaurav Pathania and Nina Asher); and essential issues of Indigeneity (e.g., Chapter 7 written by education scholar Remy Low and Tim Soutphommasane–who in addition to being a scholar, was the former Race Discrimination Commissioner on Australia’s Human Rights Commission). Together, the chapters in Section Two further demonstrate that while there are important distinctions and contours to processes of racialization in education, they certainly and persistently manifest in schooling. It is only through careful engagement and understanding of racialization and its unequal opportunities and outcomes that interventions might be made.

Section Three, entitled “Social Movements, Anti-Racist Pedagogies, and Reparative Futures,” highlights transformative agency, strategic resistance, and social movements whether within or outside formal educational settings. Racialization processes too often subjugate and stratify those at the lower rungs of social hierarchies, such as through state violence, state disinvestment in public education through privatization, and state sponsored segregation and apartheid. Yet, subjugation is always contested and resisted. In this section, we learn about racialization and resistance in Brazil, South Africa, and the United States.  Affirmative action programs in various nations, such as Brazil, the United States and India, have served as compensatory measures demanded by social movements to address past and ongoing inequalities. The Black Brazilian movement and organizations have long demanded reforms such as affirmative action as well the introduction of curricula about Black Brazilian history.  Scholars Susanne Ress, Miriam Thangaraj, Upenyu Majee, and Teresa Speciale argue that anti-racist struggles and justice demand both redistribution and recognition, and examine international “south–south” cooperation in higher education in South Africa and Brazil, across these countries’ distinct colonial and postcolonial histories. The examples offered in this section suggest that intersectional forms of solidarity and cooperation within and across borders shape education and orient it toward its transformative potential, especially for marginalized students and their communities. The “freedom dreaming” (Kelley, 2003) and envisioning of “reparative futures” (Sriprakash et al., 2020) that seek to address injustice, violence, and their legacies are important areas of focus in these chapters, and across the entire volume.

This volume offers a call to scholars and practitioners in the field of International and Comparative Education to attend to issues of race and racialization in our work. Processes of racialization that create and sustain unequal educational, political, and economic realities must be interrogated and interrupted. The dismantling of the inequitable and unjust structures and practices that such processes sustain must be at the forefront of our work as a global educational community.

This blog post contains excerpts from the World Yearbook of Education 2023: Racialization and Educational Inequality in Global Perspective, published by Routledge and available for purchase here. The book was recently awarded the 2023 Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association.


Hartmann, H. (1993). The unhappy marriage of Marxism and feminism: Towards a more progressive union. In A. Jaggar & P. Rothenberg (Eds.), Feminist frameworks (3rd ed., pp. 191–202). McGraw-Hill.

Kelley, R.D.G. (2002) Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Beacon.

Sriprakash, A., Nally, D., Myers, K., & Ramos-Pinto, P. (2020). Learning with the past: Racism, education and reparative futures. Paper commissioned for the UNESCO Futures of Education report.


About the authors:

Monisha Bajaj is Professor of International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco. She is the editor and author of eight books and numerous articles on issues of peace, human rights, migration, and education. Dr. Bajaj has developed curriculum and teacher training materials—particularly related to human rights, racial justice, ethnic studies, and sustainability—for non-profit and national advocacy organizations as well as inter-governmental organizations, such as UNICEF and UNESCO. In 2015, she received the Ella Baker/Septima Clark Human Rights Award (2015) from Division B of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). []

Janelle Scott is a Professor and the Birgeneau Distinguished Chair in Educational Disparities at the University of California at Berkeley. She is a Fellow and President-Elect of the American Educational Research Association, a Member of the National Academy of Education, and a Trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She is the editor of School Choice and Diversity: What the Evidence Says (Teachers College Press), and with Horsford & Anderson, author of The Politics of Education in an Era of Inequality: Possibilities for Democratic Schooling (Routledge).

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