07 SES 01 A, Portugese Research into Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Recent studies have repeatedly stressed that young immigrants in Portugal have worse school performance than nationals (e.g. Pires, 2009), a situation that has been reported in other European countries (e.g., Govaris & Kaldi, 2012) and also outside Europe (e.g., Darmody, Byrne & McGinnity, 2012). Despite this identification of the academic underperformance of young immigrants, several studies have emphasized that the families’ social condition has a significant impact on the results of immigrant pupils (cf. Darmody, Smyth, Byrne & McCinnity, 2012), namely their socioeconomic status (Nicolas, DeSilva & Rabenstein, 2009). This fact points to the classical idea in “Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction” (Bourdieu, 1977): the denunciation that equal opportunities are an illusion given that the school, instead of ameliorating the social and cultural conditions of young immigrants, reproduces conditions of inequality (e.g., Mendes & Seixas, 2003). This led us, in turn, to another classical aphorism, namely that ‘education cannot compensate for society’ (the title of a piece by Bernstein in 1970), that is, “schools fail to meet the potential of their effectiveness through lack of resources, methods, management, or parental/ community rapport” (Bernstein, 2003, pp. 105-106).
Despite the impressive amount of research recognizing processes of social reproduction in schools, Monkman and colleagues (2005) stress that “[a] recent resurgence of interest in social and cultural capital acknowledges the reproductive tendencies of schools but also looks to processes of change and equity” (Monkman, Ronald & Théramène, 2005, p. 5). In fact, the literature seems to emphasize two different perspectives: on one hand, it recognizes the capacity of schools to promote social justice but, on the other hand, it also recognizes their role in the reproduction (and even in the production) of inequalities. In this context, we can identify some recent studies that stress the importance of the school/education system in the integration of young immigrants (e.g., Bekerman & Tatar, 2012), advocating, in broad terms, the idea that “[e]ducation is one of the most important vehicles by which the integration of minorities into mainstream society can be promoted” (Bekerman & Tatar, 2012, p. 231). On the other hand, there are studies that emphasize the school as a context of discrimination and segregation (e.g., Nunn, 2011). These highlight, for instance, racism/discrimination as a major factor affecting the achievement of migrant students (e.g., Oller, Vila & Zufiaurre, 2012) and as a structural and institutional problem contributing to the dropout of young people from ethnic minorities (e.g., Carlile, 2012).
Taking into account this theoretical background, the purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions of young migrants (and non-migrants), their parents and teachers in order to discuss whether the school is a device of inclusion and social justice, or a device of segregation and discrimination that produces and reproduces inequalities. Considering qualitative and quantitative data collected in the urban areas of Lisbon and Porto (under the FP7 research project PIDOP), this paper intends to address the following research questions: What are the perceptions of young people, of their parents and teachers, about the role of school on their inclusion and citizenship? Do young people of migrant and non-migrant origin feel discriminated and excluded? Are these feelings affected by gender, age and origin? What are the motives underlying the perceptions of discrimination? In what contexts do these experiences occur? In sum, is the school perceived as a device of inclusion and social justice, or as a device of segregation and discrimination?
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