05 SES 13, Education Policy and Race in Europe in Times of Austerity: Recognising or Producing ‘Difference’?
There has been much reluctance among both academics and policy makers in European countries to see race as a determining factor in the education experiences of racial minorities, and many have argued that class, gender or citizenship are more relevant. In order to foreground race and race equality as an issue, researchers and practitioners in this field have responded with different approaches and analytical frameworks in the different national contexts. These include, among others, analysing racial ‘othering’, naming institutional racism, employing postcolonial theories, adapting Critical Race Theory and theories of whiteness from the US, and developing anti-racist and intercultural pedagogies. However, work on race and education continues to be marginalised in academia.
The papers in this symposium firstly argue collectively that despite the potency of post-racial discourses, race (still) matters in education, and secondly consider the interplay between race and education policy in the various national contexts. Rather than attempting to provide a comprehensive overview of education policy and race in each of the three countries, we provide a case study from each national context which interrogates educational policy in these times of austerity and asks how racial minorities are positioned by education policy, and whether it recognises or produces ‘difference’.
European countries have long histories of migration, each unique to their economic and cultural settings. The countries in our study, Britain, Germany and France, have experienced large numbers of guest workers, colonial workers, refugees, economic migrants, political exiles, students. Education policy has responded in different ways over the years to the (perceived) challenge of educating migrants and the children of migrants, including by aiming to assimilate them/us, by trying to compensate for perceived deficit, by ‘celebrating difference’. However, such approaches, which characterise education systems in all these countries, have been criticised for ultimately producing ‘difference’: the essentialisation and stereotyping of people according to (perceived) ethnic and cultural group, contributing to many minority groups continuing to under-achieve or being under-represented in more elite institutions or specific types of education and training. Young people from minority backgrounds have reacted in different ways, by achieving highly in education, by self-exclusion from the system, by explicit protest, by adopting oppositional identities.
In line with the conference theme of the past, present and future of education research, this symposium asks, where are we now? The theme of race and ‘difference’ is highly relevant to research in education, and yet remains a niche field of study. In these times of austerity, such issues are of more importance than ever: nationalist parties across Europe are on the rise, youth unemployment is unprecedentedly high across Europe, and higher among minority youth; the reduction in state welfare support mechanisms is hitting youth particularly hard; there is evidence to suggest that young people are experiencing high levels of surveillance and policing, even in education settings; education research in all three countries in recent years has identified ongoing racial discrimination; and yet there is also some evidence to suggest that in some groups and regions, young people themselves are challenging racial binaries.
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