07 SES 05 JS, Joint Session NW 07 and NW 25
Paper Session Joint Session NW 07 and NW 25
At least in principle, education should be provided to all children. Most human and children’s rights treaties, like the UDHR and the UNCRC, indeed deliver extensive and explicit provisions on the right to education. Although this basic right is warranted through various human rights treaties, interpretations may vary a lot and it is only in the practices shaping this right that it can make sense and become meaningful. In this research, the Roma in Ghent are taken as an exemplary case that stretches the meaning of this right to its limits. Focusing on the right to education, various interpretations are possible. First, this right refers to the formal conditions that should be fulfilled in order to participate in the educational system. But from an intercultural educational perspective, it is necessary to broaden that interpretation. Rather than focusing on legal regulations solely, what matters here is how human and children’s rights treaties are translated and shaped into, within and as social practices. The presupposition thus is that the right to education has no unequivocal meaning but that its particular meaning is always a situated one. These meanings are not unambiguous: not only may the legal framework vary over geographical and historical contexts, but also different settings may require distinct approaches and strategies. One might mistakenly assume that this lacking clarity only refers to the question how the right to education is best to be realised or implemented in a particular setting. Rather, from an interpretative educational perspective, it also concerns the question what the right to education is, or better, how it can make sense. The presupposition of this view is that the right to education is to be realised for every individual child, which implies that it cannot have a fixed meaning. Individuals dispose of different ‘frames of reference’ which constitute the horizon against which things become meaningful. In order for the right to education to ‘make sense’, a connection between these ‘frames of reference’ and definitions in human rights treaties should be established. These policies and practices are not merely implementations of the right to education (with a supposed unequivocal meaning): they constitute this right and its particular meaning within a specific context. One way to investigate such practices would be to focus on the application of particular legal conditions (which are in themselves social practices or performative manifestations of the right to education) in specific cases. But other people—in casu law researchers—are far better placed to fulfil that task. Rather, this study focuses on educational policy and practices. More in particular, attention will be drawn to the way various social practices relate to one another and possible tensions between these. Evidently, it involves the practices children are initiated into within our educational system. It is unclear how these relate to the practices that Roma children are familiar with in their own homes. Relevant policies and initiatives with regard to these practices are also taken into account. The presupposition of these questions is that ‘making sense’ of the right to education requires that one is informed about the attribution of meanings, valuations and convictions of each of the involved actors. An intercultural educational approach that stresses recognition of differences between individuals and groups, requires that the latter should be mapped, weighted and discussed to finally come to conclusions on how to shape this right within policy and practice.
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