04 SES 01 A, Inclusion And Adult Learning: Vulnerabilities, Participation And 'Self-Building'
We shall approach academic failure from the perspective that whether however we do so, more restrictive or not (Enguita, M., Mena, L. and Rivière, J., 2010), camouflaged with euphemisms such as areas of vulnerability or (Escudero, 2005) or at-risk students (Fortin, Marcotte, Potvin and Royer, 2006), or not, what is certain is that each year many students drop out of the Spanish education system (the dropout rate for the last academic year was 19% (European Commission, 2018)).
In light of this situation, and due to the desire in recent decades to make education more universal (UNESCO, 2014), various alternatives to secondary schools have arisen. In Spain, there are education centers for adults known as EPA (Educación Para Adultos- Education for Adults). These mainly offer a secondary-school level education, both at the compulsory-level and baccalaureate level. In this case, our research focused on one such institution: the Río Lérez EPA in the city of Pontevedra, Galicia.
This paper, based on the aforementioned research, is within the framework of a national project, Innovation Networks for Educational and Social Inclusion (*1)(RIIES is the Spanish acronym); this is composed of various subprojects in different parts of Spain. One of these is in the Río Lérez center, where a working group composed of various educational agents was created in order to study the center with regards to academic failure. This group, which was named by its members as Against All Odds ( a clear nod to the dangerous stigma attached to academic failure (Na,2016)) led to joint reflection, the creation and implementation of a questionnaire and the establishment of a discussion group, all of which provided the data on which the study is based; moments of individual ethnographic research via participant observations and interviews also helped to enrich this process.
Many topics were analyzed and addressed over the almost two-year period the project was in existence. Nonetheless, there is a specific aspect which requires rigorous dissection and which this paper covers, the difficulties which a center such as Río Lérez faces; these can be appreciated from two different, although interrelated, ambits to be examined below, that of the students and that of the teachers.
In terms of students, the main obstacle is related to their previous academic paths, marked in every case by academic failure; this, according to authors such as Carabaña (2001), can be objective (not obtaining a diploma) or subjective (not performing at the highest level possible). The issue is the high level of absenteeism, a good indicator for academic abandonment (Enguita, M., Mena, L. and Rivière, J., 2010), despite matriculation at a center such as the one in the study being optional. Furthermore, and although student testimonies related to academic failure focus on personal responsibility and negative school experiences, a conjunction of factors which comprise a habitus (Bourdieu, 2002) is found in most them; this can be as a result of their families and/or social circles not being complementary to formal capitalist education.
With regards to teachers, they must deal with students who are generally not academically-included and their academic paths, which feed backs into unfavorable working conditions. Among the problems they have experienced include impossible curricula, disruptive classroom behavior, the lack of institutional support, obsolete facilities, a lack of materials, and a constantly changing teaching staff. These problems are not exclusive to a center for adults; they are similar to a great degree to those found at other ages; there are, however, decisive nuances which make these difficulties unique to EPAs.
National Plan Research Project, directed by A. Parilla (University of Vigo), financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitivity (EDU2015-68617 C4-1-R).
This research falls within the paradigm of inclusive research (Nind, 2014), being based on the creation and functioning of a pluralistic working group based out of Río Lérez. This group is comprised of teachers, students, center administrators, and external research, which shapes a varied landscape underpinning the formation of its members (Von Unger, 2012), and horizontal development which ensures that the individuals involved have a voice, being both the actors and subjects of the research. After several joint debate sessions, the group, Against All Odds, decided to firstly create and give a questionnaire to the students at the EPA about their previous and current academic paths. This was the starting point to learn about the difficulties facing the students, allowing for an in-depth examination through formally interviewing a dozen of them and informally interviewing many more. Furthermore, the research perspective is expanded via an ethnographic approach via participant observation obtained from day-to-day participation at the center over a period of an academic year and a half. The continued presence at Río Lérez also made contact with the teaching staff possible; their perspectives were collected via formal and informal interviews and the creation of discussion groups. Both current teachers and previous ones participated in these groups. All the information was made available to all members of the working group and analyzed in a collaborative fashion, with the aim of advancing the premises of participatory research-action (Parrilla, Susinos y Gallego, 2014) and obtaining a theoretical axis on which to base future actions at the center. Furthermore, the analysis (which consisted of a descriptive analysis of the questionnaire via SPSS and an analysis of the canonical material via categories defined a priori for the other techniques) was completed with a second comparison phase, in which only the external researchers associated with the University of Vigo participated.
Many students from the center go on with their studies (mainly professional training) or use their diploma to find employment. Nonetheless, the omnipresence of academic failure is part of what defines the center. This is home to many problems, seen both in its students and teachers; this fact was verified starting at the first observation or initial conservation with its actors. These are expressed as manifestations of deeper problems which oblige students and teachers to reexamine their perspectives. There was the continuation and, on occasion, the rectification of previously negative student trajectories, for reasons which often escape the school and whose origins are found in the socioeconomic structure. This was revealed to by the main predictor upon arriving at the center, a factor equal to others, such as being aware of the importance of having a diploma when looking for employment. This showed another issue facing the center; the fact that it was formed to provide diplomas to the surplus from ordinary schools and not as a center of knowledge and learning. For their part, from the perspective of the teachers it is necessary to transcend the immediate difficulties in order to focus on the devaluation of the collective arising from the pauperization of their conditions by administrations more concerned about manipulating academic-failure statistics than studying their root causes. In conclusion, the EPA is shown to be an environment in which the contradictions of the educational system are made apparent, the problems hindering students combining with the difficulties inherent to teaching, seasoned with the casuistries unique to this type of center. A place in which the implementation of palliative projects such as Against All Odds are necessary and where problems detected via joint participation of the groups involved must be addressed.
Bourdieu, P. (2002). Campo de poder, campo intelectual. Itinerario de un concepto. Tucumán: Montressor. Carabaña, J. (2001). De por qué los profesores no pueden reducir la desigualdad social de resultados escolares. TEMPORA, 4, 37-61. Enguita, M., Mena, L. y Rivière, J. (2010). School Failure and Dropouts in Spain. Barcelona: La Caixa Foundation. Escudero, J.M. (2005). Fracaso escolar, exclusión educativa. ¿De qué se excluye y cómo?. Profesorado, revista de currículum y formación del profesorado, 1(1), 1-24. European Comission (2018). European Semester Thematic Factsheet Early School Leavers [archivo PDF]. Recuperado de: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/european-semester_thematic-factsheet_early-school-leavers_en_0.pdf Fortin, L., Marcotte, D., Potvin, P. y Royer, E. (2006). Typology of students at risk of dropping out of school: Description by personal, family and school factors. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 21(4), 363-383. Na, C. (2016). The Consequences of School Dropout among Serious Adolescent Offenders: More Offending? More Arrest? Both?. Journal of Research in Crime and Deliquency, 54(1), 78-110. Nind, M. (2014). What is inclusive research? Londres: Bloomsbury Academic. Parrilla, A., Susinos, T. y Gallego, C. (2014). Landscapes of Inclusion: three Research Contributions to a Theory Of Inclusive Practice. European Conference on Educational Research, Porto, 2014. UNESCO (2014). UNESCO Education Strategy [archivo PDF]. Recuperado de: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000231288 Von Unger, (2012). Partizipative Gesundheitsforschung: Wer partizipiert woran?.Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung: Qualitative Social Research,13(1), Art. 7
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