07 SES 09 B, Promoting Social Justice in Higher Education
In spite of the efforts to achieve the inclusion of Roma People in Europe, the situation of this community is still visibly alarming in the whole continent. In the case of Spain, for instance, where are living more than one million of Roma, only 1% of them arrive to the university, while almost 35% of the rest of the population have a university degree (Damonti & Arza, 2014). This inequality gap also exists in compulsory education. Only 30% of Roma students get a secondary education degree, while for non-Roma students this rate is greater than 60% (Ministry of Health, Social Policy and Equity, 2014). The causes of this educational gap are multiple: the segregation of Roma students in low-educational level classrooms, the drastic reduction of their curriculum, the stereotypes and prejudices against Roma students and their families, as well as numerous educational practices based on occurrences and not on the recommendations of the scientific community (Santiago & Maya, 2012).
However, the Successful Educational Actions (SEAs) approach (Flecha, 2015) is demonstrating that the educational and social exclusion of Roma People can be overcome. For instance, in schools with a high concentration of Roma students, and after the implementation of these SEAs, significant progresses are observed. Some of these are: the reduction of absenteeism; the improvement of educational performance and coexistence; the improvement of family participation; the increment of the number of students who complete secondary education successfully; and the improvement of academic skills and employability of families, among others (Flecha & Soler, 2013; Girbés- Peco, Macías-Aranda, & Álvarez-Cifuentes, 2015; Valls & Kyriakides, 2013).
Some of these SEAs are interactive groups, extending learning time, dialogic gatherings, family education, and decisive and evaluative participation of families and other community members. In particular, family education is based on the family involvement in learning activities, not only in the children’s activities, but also in activities focused on their own academic improvement. According to the literature review, improvement of the educational level of everyone who interacts with children has a positive impact on the children learning process (Flecha & Soler, 2013; García, Girbés, & Gómez, 2015; Díez, Gatt & Racionero, 2011). Besides, improving the educational level of families and other community’s members can also have a positive impact in their own social inclusion, for instance by bettering their employability and their labour options (Flecha, 2015; Girbés, Macías, & Álvarez, 2015). In this sense, the SEA family education is specifically contributing to increase the educational level of Roma families and their social opportunities (Flecha & Soler, 2013; Girbés-Peco, Macías-Aranda, & Álvarez-Cifuentes, 2015; Sordé-Martí & Macías-Aranda, 2017).
Taking into account this situation, the Integrated Plan for the Roma in Catalonia (IPRP), coordinated by the Catalan Government, is implementing SEAs, and especially the SEA family education. In this sense, since 2012, the IPRP is developing the GAU25, a preparation course for Roma to overcome the Official University Access Exam for people over 25 (Department of Labour. Social Affairs and Families, 2014). This course is free of charge and is being attended by Roma who are coming from the most vulnerable neighbourhoods of all Catalonia. In Spain, people over 25 can access to the university passing an exam. The candidates may be 25 years old during the year in which the exam will be held. The exam is organized once a year. Once approved the access exam, the qualification obtained is indefinitely valid to access to the university, and passing the exam is equivalent (in labour and educational terms) to have a Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate.
This paper is based on one case study carried out under the H2020 Project SOLIDUS (2015-2018) “Solidarity in European societies: empowerment, social justice and citizenship”, and other case study analysed under another research finished in 2017. Both case studies have been done in the same scenario: the GAU25, which is being developed in the IPRP (Department of Labour. Social Affairs and Families - Catalonia). One of the premises of both researches has been to adopt a more responsible methodological approach towards society, conducting research with society and not only for society (in the line of the new paradigm of responsible research adopted by the European Commission), involving the participation of the public and various stakeholders with the ultimate goal to contribute largely and more closely to the societal challenges of our time. In this regard, the Communicative Methodology (Gomez, Puigvert & Flecha, 2011) plays a relevant role in the overall development of the projects and particularly in the conducting of the fieldwork. This methodology has been recommended by the EU for its potential impact in research with vulnerable groups (The European Union Spanish Presidency, 2010), and engage Roma in all phases of the research, which has been traditionally excluded from research participation (Puigvert, Christou, & Holford, 2012). Communicative Methodology is used to examine social and educational phenomena and detect those components that generate exclusion and those that are helping to overcome this inequality situation. This methodology is based on an intersubjective dialogue and an equal relationship between the research team and the participants (Gómez, Puigvert, & Flecha, 2011). Besides, Roma People is still claiming a research approach that includes their voices and their real needs (Macías & Redondo, 2012). The data collection techniques used for this paper were: 2 documentary analysis, 8 standardized open-ended interviews, 12 communicative daily life stories and 4 communicative observations, and 1 communicative focus group.
In terms of impact, the GAU25 is achieving significant improvements. The first social impact that should be highlighted is that the attendance to the courses has progressively increased during the five editions, from the 6 initial students regularly attending the course (19 enrolled) in the 2011-12 to 21 people regularly attending the course in the current 2015-16. This point overcomes the stereotype on Roma people that points that Roma educational failure is due to their lack of interest in education. This increment dismantles that prejudice. Secondly, other social impact is that, until now, the University Access Exam has been successfully passed by 15 Roma people. All of them are currently enrolled in different university degrees in Economics, Sociology, Politics, Education, Law and Psychology. Thirdly, all participants who have children confirm that their participation in the course has improved their children’s education results (by reducing absenteeism, the homework gets done, they are even more motivated....). Besides, the expectations of the participants regarding education have changed so much due to their involvement in the preparation course. The course is clearly improving their self-concept and their expectations. Fourthly, the course is highly appreciated because not only helps to prepare and enrol in the university, but it is also useful for other social areas such as health, to develop a labour curriculum, to increase the knowledge regarding public resources, etc. Finally, the course is also having an impact on the social context to those who combine work and study. They are showing great motivation level. This attitude has caused an impact in the immediate environment (e.g. co-workers) to break stereotypes against Roma people, because the course has been carried out at a government building. It also disregards prejudices and stereotypes thanks to the interaction with a diversity of Roma people profiles.
Damonti, P., & Arza, J. (2014). Social Exclusion of Roma People: A gap that persists and increse. Madrid: Foessa. Department of Labour. Social Affairs and Families. (2014). Integrated Plan for Roma People in Catalonia (2014-2016). Barcelona: Catalan Government. Díez, J., Gatt, S., & Racionero, S. (2011). Placing Immigrant and Minority Family and Community Members at the School's Centre: the role of community participation. European Journal of Education, 46(2), 184-196. Flecha, A. (2012). Family education improves student's academic performance: Contributions from European research. REMIE Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, 2(3), 301-321. Flecha, R. (2015). Successful Educational Actions for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe. (R. Flecha, Ed.). Springer. Flecha, R., & Soler, M. (2013). Turning difficulties into possibilities: engaging Roma families and students in school through dialogic learning. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(4), 451–465. García, R., Girbés, S. & Gómez, G. (2015). Promoting Children's Academic Performance and Social Inclusion in Marginalized Settings: Family and Community Participation in Interactive Groups and Dialogic Literary Gatherings. In L.D. Hill & F. J. Levine (Ed.), World Education Research Yearbook 2015. New York: Routledge. Girbés-Peco, S., Macías-Aranda, F., & Álvarez-Cifuentes, P. (2015). From a Ghetto School to a Learning Community: A Case Study on the Overcoming of Poverty through a Successful Education. RIMCIS - International and Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Sciences, 4(1), 88–116. Gómez, A., Puigvert, L., & Flecha, R. (2011). Critical communicative methodology: Informing real social transformation through research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(3), 235–245. Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equity. (2014). National Strategy for Roma Inclusion in Spain 2012-2020. Madrid: Ministerio de Sanidad. Servicios Sociales e Igualdad. Puigvert, L., Christou, M., & Holford, J. (2012). Critical communicative methodology: Including vulnerable voices in research through dialogue. Cambridge Journal of Education, 42(4), 513–526. Santiago, C., & Maya, O. (2012). Segregación escolar del alumnado gitano en España. Córdoba: KAMIRA & Fundación Mario Maya. Sordé-Martí, T., & Macías-Aranda, F. (2017). Making Roma Rights a Reality at the Local Level: A Spanish Case Study. In J. Bhabha, A. Mirga, & M. Matache (Eds.), Realizing The European Union Spanish Presidency. (2010). Conclusions “Science against Poverty” Conference. La Granja, 8-9 April 2010. Brussels: European Union. Valls, R., & Kyriakides, L. (2013). The power of Interactive Groups: how diversity of adults volunteering in classroom groups can promote inclusion and success for children of vulnerable minority ethnic populations. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(1), 17–33.
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