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29 Aug 2023

UKFIET Conference 2023: Education for Social and Environmental Justice: Diversity, Sustainability, Responsibility

Meet the Editors

Foundational Learning for Social and Environmental Justice. Squaring Circles?

Decolonising education and development: curricula, data and purpose

Meet the Editors

11:30am – 1:00pm UK
Tuesday, 12 September 2023

This interactive session will provide an opportunity to discuss how some of the leading journals in the field of international development position themselves.

• Moira Faul, NORRAG
• Ruth Naylor, INEE
• Stephen Heyneman, IJED

Foundational Learning for Social and Environmental Justice. Squaring Circles?

1:30pm – 3:00pm
Wednesday, 13 September 2023
Venue Room 10 Examination Schools

All presenters are contributors to NORRAG Special Issue 09, “Foundational Learning: Debates and Praxes.” NSI-09 explores the redoubled emphasis on foundational learning that emerge at the midway point to SDG2030. The special issue addresses how we think about foundational learning in ways that really make sense in 1923, and what human security entails in a world so seemingly fragile and full of perils. Research is currently underway on all of the above papers, however, as NORRAG intends to finalise and launch NSI-09 at the UKFIET conference, all research papers are sure to be complete by then.

Ideas about what is foundational in education have always resided in contested terrain; if anything, these debates are sharper in the current historical moment that is revealing itself to be crucial for the future of human societies, the earth’s biodiversity and the entire planet. At the surface, the current debate tends to polarise around those who believe foundational learning should involve only literacy and numeracy and those who believe it must involve other foundational skills as well. In reality, the debate is as complex as it is crucial: it reflects financing decisions and constraints, policy priorities and planning within education systems; it embraces many encompassing questions about the purposes of education and the nature of the social compacts we construct to deliver equity and quality in education; it is fundamentally about pedagogy and how pedagogy is understood in the world we live in now. Thus is it also fundamentally about social, economic and ecological justice.

Questions that motivate these presentations include those relating to the extent of the pivot to Foundational Numeracy and Literacy (FLN) and the opportunity costs for the other commitments under SDG4; whether FLN can only be achieved at the expense of the other SDG goals and to what extent the SDG4 goals are interdependent; how foundational skills are indispensable to quality education, and whether they should involve social, emotional as well as ecological learning; what the positive implementation experiences are on the ground that give us inspiration and hope; what the ways forward are for the education sector in a period of threatening ecological collapse – what priorities are forced, and what will its futures promise.

Addressing Diversity: NORRAG is a diverse network; it finds its strength in its assertion and current active campaign that “The South Also Knows” as well as in the equal critical partnerships it builds with like-minded actors in the Global North. The symposium presents five-out-of-six female presenters; three people of colour; two non-academic civil society presenters working, respectively, on climate change, and education for migrants and refugees; and, at least, three perspectives that present experiences of how countries in the Global South are adversely affected by the climate crises, the loss of human security and the precarities of forced migration.

• Radhika Iyengar – Earth Institute, Columbia University: Learning to be a conscious person: Bridging the gap between foundational learning, climate change and SDG 4.7.
• Michele Schweisfurth – University of Glasgow: Classroom time as a zero-sum game: who and what loses when foundational learning wins?
• Hammed Alabi – Refugee Education U.K. (REUK): Foundational learning: What does it mean for young refugees and asylum seekers in the U.K.
• Elaine Chase – UCL, London: The foundational role of critical rights literacy in democratic participation and social justice in contexts of migration, forced displacement and violent conflict.
• Stacey Alvarez – Youth Climate activist from Barbados: Climate change education for foundational learning.
• Rachel Outhred – Oxford MeasurEd: Testing the strength of our foundations: Three arguments for keeping a broad view of what matters in education measurement.
• Organiser: Hugh McLean, NORRAG Senior Advisor
• Chair: Dr Moira Faul, NORRAG Executive Director
• Discussant: Prof. Chanwoong Baek, NORRAG Academic Director

Decolonising education and development: curricula, data and purpose

1:30pm – 3:00pm
Thursday, 14 September 2023
Venue Room 7 Examination Schools
Hybrid session


Colonialism and education are closely interrelated. The role of education in colonialism is undeniable. Historically, education systems were used – and abused – in efforts to control colonies. In 2023, African children continue to be taught history of the global North[1] and tested to Northern ‘standards’, while children in the North are not systematically taught African history nor assessed against African knowledge systems. The content and practices of education have colonised minds: knowledge systems developed in the global North based on an ideal rational scientific model,[2] dominates educational thinking and practices. The dominance of Northern ‘standards’ permeates education, both internationally through unequal comparisons (such as PISA) and domestically through the reproduction of injustice and oppression within educational systems, to the detriment of other knowledge systems and the peoples who embody them.[3] Thus, the African, Asian and Latin American women and men who defend their societies and land are described in Western media as ‘environmental activists’, ignoring the more holistic conceptualisation of the environment, society and economy that informs their ontologies, epistemologies and affective systems. Rather than enabling legitimate concerns to become dominant, that which dominates has become legitimated.

We come to this work, firstly, with a sense of deep concern about the state of our planet and its many challenges. The authors’ conceptual point of departure is that dominant conceptions of development have been premised, even in what we have come to think of as ‘radical’ forms, on problematic ontological and epistemological understandings of who we are as human beings and what we should be aspiring to. In this panel, we discuss and debate how concepts and practices of decolonisation promote justice and the possibility of futures beyond the conditions of our present dominance. How they might return us to dominance’s classificatory and discursive frameworks or not. Implicitly, as we debate with each other, we grapple with the significatory and even determinative freight of our language. Our purpose, in the clamour and intensity of the arguments surrounding the discussion of development, is to clarify what we could contribute to imagining and making alternative and sustainable futures.

This panel brings together six papers with the aim of contributing to the current debate in at least three ways. Colonialism led to inequalities between countries, and between groups within countries. The purpose of decolonisation efforts (and panels such as this one) is not to induce guilt, but to better understand the politics and power dynamics of what we do and how we do it; of where and how knowledge is produced and legitimated, by whom, and with what effect. Decolonisation requires us to take seriously the power relations that shaped the current world order and continue to sustain it. Nevertheless, there are diverse appraisals how of colonial pasts continue to be entangled with our present, and what possible actions might best move us towards the futures we envisage. Decolonisation crucially addresses what we can do to allow education to live up to its potential as a transformative crucible for individuals and societies. It is difficult to justify ignoring the perpetuation of inequalities forged in the colonial era; this panel shows that it is time to collaborate to build and foster deeper reflection on how we might decolonise development and education.

Speakers & papers:

• Crain Soudien, University of Cape Town: Sustaining disruptive development possibilities in the university: a conceptual exploration
• Prachi Srivastava, University of Western Ontario: Engaging in epistemic humility to question assumptions, institutions, and knowledges
• Arathi Sriprakash, University of Bristol: Reparations in the ruins of development
• Kathryn Moeller, University of Cambridge: An intersectional, decolonial feminist framework for rethinking education and development
• Leon Tikly, University of Bristol: Discussant

• Organisers: Crain Soudien, University of Cape Town and Moira V. Faul, NORRAG
• Chair: Hugh Maclean, NORRAG

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