23 SES 04 C, Education and Inclusion
This paper is part of an ongoing research study on Greek language literacy policies and their implications for students’ knowledge and learning, in lower secondary education (student age 12-15). The research study is carried out in the inner city of Athens, where, as in other national urban settings (e.g. Lipman, 2015), public schools are called to include many vulnerable groups of students (from low socio-economic backgrounds, migrants, refugees etc), as a result of processes of urban restructuring and parental school choice. Schools are also under great pressure by policies of austerity, disinvestment in public education and new forms of educational governance (e.g. competition between schools, intrusion of private agents in the public sector) (Sifakakis, et al., 2016; Traianou, 2013). Under these challenging conditions, appropriate Greek language teaching and learning becomes a key prerequisite for students’ inclusion and successful school performance.
Impoving the literacy skills of disadvandaged groups is a high priority in EU’s and OECD’s social and educational agenda. In official documents, literacy is regarded as crucial for social integration and cohesion in the current conditions shaped by globalization, fiscal crisis and migrant and also as a means for producing skilled human capital and strengthening national competitiveness and growth flows (European Commission, 2012; OECD, 2010). As critical scholars argue, supranational agents, and especially the OECD, diffuse “travelling policies” on literacy through international testings, creating a global curricular and cultural “isomorphism” (Sellar & Lingard, 2014).
Since the 2000s, global policies on literacy have been recontextulised in the Greek educational context, through two curricular reforms for compulsory education. The new curricula introduce changes related to interdisciplinarity, critical literacy and the development of general communication skills, deemed appropriate to everyday life and to contemporary knowledge-based societies (Koustourakis, 2007; Pedagogic Institute, 2011).
In this paper, we embrace critical scholars’ arguments that policy enactments are complex and multi-layered processes of recontextualisation, translation and interpretation (Ball et al., 2012), which have what Ball (1993:16) calls “first and second order effects”: “changes in practice/stuctures” and the “impact of these changes on patterns of social access…and justice”. In order to examine how the Greek language curricular policies affect pedagogic practices and students’ access in specific schools, we revisit conceptualisations of “school context”. We understand “school context” as a nexus of interactive and complex practices and discourses, through which different forms of knowledge are distributed to different groups of students, shaping different pedagogic identities and subjectivities.
Our approach draws mainly on Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic discourse, which describes a set of rules and principles of power and control relations. These rules and principles regulate the selection, organisation, distribution and evaluation of school knowledge (Bernstein, 2000) and form different “relations to and within education” for different student groups (Moore, 2013: 60). Deploying Bernstein’s theoretical concepts, researchers have illuminated processes of classroom interactions and literacy practices which create social hierarchies in knowing, excluding specific groups of students and increasing inequalities (Moss, in press; Singh, 2001). In our work, we also utilise analytical tools from Foucault-inspired perspectives, in order to explore the reciprocal constitutions of power techniques and forms of knowledge, which shape educational professionals’ and students’ subjectivities, at diverse educational spaces. Our paper addresses the following research questions:
1. Through which pedagogic practices are language literacy policies enacted in specific school contexts?
2. To what extent do specific school contexts affect language literacy practices?
3. Which effects do language literacy practices have on students’ relationship to knowledge, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds?
The empirical research is being carried out throughout the school year 2017-2018 in five public lower secondary schools in the inner city of Athens, with high rates of students with disadvantaged backgrounds. Four sources of data will be produced by mainly qualitative research techniques and tools: 1. Semi-structured interviews with the headmasters of the schools, agents of the local educational authorities and subject school counselors specialising in Greek language teaching, in order to collect data on schools’ contexts and general language literacy practices. 2.Questionnaires, addressed to all teachers of the schools participating in the research, in order to identify different dimensions of schools’ contexts. 3. Students’ written texts, assessed by class teachers, and, 4. Regular meetings with Greek language teachers and in-depth semi-structured interviews with them, at different moments of the research, in order to explicate the evaluative criteria they use, and to explore implications of their pedagogic practices for equity, justice and inclusion. The data on which this paper is based was produced by regular meetings and semi-structured interviews with school principals and Greek langauge teachers. The data is analysed using discourse analysis techniques grounded in Bernstein’s and Foucault’s theory. Bernstein’s distinction between “vertical and horizontal discourses” (Bersntein, 2000; Moore, 2013), is used as an analytical tool, in order to explore students’ social positioning in the discourse articulated by the curriculum in the local context. Bernstein’s fundamental concepts of “classification and framing” are also deployed as analytical devices, in order to describe the “how” of pedagogic practice at the microlevel of the classroom, both instructionally and regulatively (Bernstein, 2000). Classification is uesd to explore intra-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and academic and non-academic relations, whose boundaries, by being stronger or weaker, shape different pedagogic identities. “Framing” refers to hierarchical rules regulating communicative relations between teachers and students and among students. Furthermore, Bernstein’s distinction between “competence and performance” models, and within the latter the descriptions of “singulars”, “regions” and “generic” modes is utilised, to identify possible transformations in the Greek language curricular policy, and to examine their effects on students’ engagement with knowledge. Finally, combining Bernstein’s framework for discourse analysis with ideas drawn from governmentality studies in education, we seek to examine how new forms of educational governance affect practices of policy translation in specific school contexts, which in turn become an “active process of becoming a self” (Foucault, 1991), for teachers and students.
An initial insight of this on-going research study is that school contexts in the inner city of Athens are being rapidly restructured, under the prevailing social and economic circumstances: migrant and refugee populations’ settlements, poverty, informal practices of parental school choice and policies of austerity. These conditions put pressure on schools to manage “inclusion policies” with very little support from the government. School contexts are being also reshaped through new forms of educational governance and privatisation: competition between schools for attracting Greek midde class students, intrusion of private actors in public education, offering extra-curriculum activities and remedial education. As argued elsewhere (Sifakakis et al., 2016), these changes reflecting shifts in educational governance globally are already visible in their effects on everyday educational practice in Greek schools. We expect that by exploring further such transformations in the context of this study processes of inclusion and exclusion through classroom and school practices will be illuminated. Concerning specific literacy practices, our research so far indicates that teachers tend to enact curricular policies less often through negotiation and more through resistance. Although curriculum is based on principles of interdisciplinarity and experience-based learning, most teachers preserve strong classifications, traditional in the Greek curriculum, between language teaching and other school subjects and between school knowledge and everyday life. We would say that teachers are oriented towards transmitting what Bernstein (2000) calls “vertical discourses”. However, given students’ diversity, the gap between school knowledge and students’ everyday life appears to prevent students from engaging with learning. Moreover, teachers’ strong control over the sequencing and pacing of curricular knowledge, implicit evaluation criteria and strong framing over communicative relations might not help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to produce legitimate school “texts” (Morais et al., 2004). As a result, the instructional and hierarchical rules of the pedagogic discourse may intensify educational inequalities.
Ball, S. J. (1993). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 13(2), 1-17. Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., & Braun, A. (2012). How Schools Do Policy: Policy Enactments in Secondary Schools. New York: Routledge. Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. Theory, research, critique (Rev.ed.) New York: Rowman & Littlefield. European Commission (2012). EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy. Final Report. Foucault, M., (1991). Governmentality. In: G. Burchell, C. Gordon, & P. Miller (Eds). The Foucault effect. Studies in governmentality (pp. 87–104). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Koustourakis, G. (2007). The new educational policy for the reform of the curriculum and the change of school knowledge in the case of Greek compulsory education. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 17(1-2), 131-146. Lipman, P. (2015).Capitalizing on crisis: venture philanthropy’s colonial project to remake urban education. Critical Studies in Education, 56(2), 241-258 Moore, R. (2013). Basil Bernstein. The thinker and the field. London: Routledge. Morais, A., Neves, I., & Pires, D. (2004). The what and the how of teaching and learning. Going deeper into sociological analysis and intervention. In J. Muller, B., Davies, & A. Morais (Εds). Reading Bernstein, Researching Bernstein (pp. 75-90). RoutledgeFalmer: New York. Moss, G. (in press). Reframing the discourse. Ethnography, Bernstein and the distribution of reading attainment by gender. European Educational Research Journal, Special Issue. ΟΕCD. (2010). Overcoming school failure: Policies that work. Paris: OECD. Pedagogic Institute. (2011). The curriculum for Language and Literature Teaching in Gymnasium (in Greek). Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2014). New literacisation, curricular isomorphism and the OECD's PISA. In M. Hamilton, B. Maddox, & C. Addey (Eds). Literacy as Numbers: Researching the Politics and Practices of International Literacy Assessment (pp. 17-31). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sifakakis P., Tsatsaroni, A., Sarakinioti, A., & Kourou, M. (2016). Governance and Knowledge Transformations in Educational Administration: Greek Responses to Global Policies. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 48(1), 35-67. Singh, P. (2001). Speaking about cultural difference and school disadvantage. An interview study of Samoan paraprofessionals in designated disadvantaged secondary schools in Australia. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 22(3), 317-337. Traianou, A. (2013). Greek Education Reform: resistance and despair. In K. Jones (Ed). Education in Europe: The Politics of Austerity (pp. 86-112). London: Radicaled.
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