07 SES 14 B, The Access to University of Vulnerable Groups
This paper presents a community-based adult education school working for social justice since 1978. It aims at exploring the main features of a program for vulnerable adults to access higher education and its organizational and leadership approach based on critical pedagogy. The positive role of the community to foster educational equal opportunities for marginalized populations has been widely studied (Hidalgo, Epstein & Siu, 2002). By engaging in community-based projects and critical pedagogies many systematically underserved populations have challenged theories about social reproduction. In our case, Freire’s contributions on dialogue and revolutionary leadership (Freire, 1970) have been a fundamental aspect for creating a democratic school to empower vulnerable adults to engage in processes of personal and social transformation to access higher education (Flecha, 2000). A ten-year longitudinal case study (2007-2017) has been conducted in La Verneda Sant-Martí (Sánchez, 1990) in Spain. Documentary analysis, classroom observations and in-depth interviews were conducted in several spaces of the school by the researchers, who were also volunteering there. Data collection includes 10 in-depth interviews with participants over 25 years old (26 - 55 years) who have successfully enrolled at the university after participating in the program, 2 interviews with educators who coordinated the program, and the analysis of the school data registered about the impact of the program. The program has engaged 200 participants who completed the course and applied for the exam to access university. Among those, 75% passed the exam to access university and study an undergraduate degree. Three categories emerged and included the main features of the program, as follows: a) Democratic organization: every adult over 25 years can access the program regardless their previous educational background; it is free, the schedule is designed along with the participants. b) Dialogic leadership. Educators and leaders work together with the community and promote actions oriented towards transformation through dialogue and equitable participation c) Solidarity-based classrooms. Pedagogical approach is based on supportive relationships, high expectations and egalitarian dialogue among participants. Interactive groups exemplify this approach. Results showed the possibilities of public education to support equal educational opportunities for vulnerable adults who had ever dreamt to access higher education. This study contributes to the existing knowledge on widening participation and sheds light on how this dream can be achieved by vulnerable adults who went beyond the acquisition of basic skills and made the leap to the university.
Flecha, R (2000). Sharing Words. Theory and Practice of Dialogic Learning. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. Hidalgo, N. M, Epstein, J. K. & Siu, S. (2002) Research on families, schools, and communities. A multicultural perspective, in: J.A. Banks & C.A. Banks (Eds) Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. New York: Macmillan. Sánchez Aroca, M. (1999). La Verneda Sant Martí: A school where people dare to dream. Harvard Educational Review, 69(3), 320-335.
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