04 SES 03 A, Life In Remote Learning: The Challenges Of COVID To Inclusion
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on education ‘upending the lives of children and families’ (UNICEF 2020a) and creating extreme exclusion for those already disadvantaged. UNICEF (2020b) has described the further widening of gap between those who had already been left behind and others as ‘double jeopardy’. At the same time, the pandemic has ‘shone a light’ (Global Partnership for Education, 2020) on existing inequalities and offered opportunities to rethink education and to identify mechanisms to support and enhance accessibility. The realisation of ‘strong and unified inclusive education systems’ (ECER Network 04 Call) will be made possible through better understanding of exclusion, always a ‘constant companion of inclusion’ (ECER Network 04 Call). This chapter will review government’s decision-making and advice to schools, parents and students during the pandemic in the UK and Sweden. The chapter will also draw on the findings of a study, Diversifying Inclusion and Growth: Inspiring Technologies for Accessible Learning (Digital) in the time of Coronavirus. The extreme nature of the educational exclusion generated by the pandemic, and its consequences for young people, parents and teachers will be considered.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the capacity within Governments to respond extremely rapidly with often quite significant policy changes. The UK’s initial response to the pandemic was to close all schools, but to allow children of key workers and those deemed ‘vulnerable’ (although not necessarily because of disabilities) to continue to attend school.
Extensive government guidance was issued to schools to support their reopening six months after closure, advising carefully planned social distance measures, for example keeping children in year group ‘bubbles,’ and cleaning regimes (GOV.UK 2020). Thereafter, it was down to schools to modify their behaviour and discipline policies to establish new codes of (socially distanced) behaviour and sanctions for breaches of these codes. Significant differences of approach to reopening across the UK (where education is devolved) has drawn the attention of opposition politicians seeking political capital from these policy decisions. Whilst the schools were closed significant efforts were directed to supporting children’s learning at home. Our research will investigate whether technology-based approaches to learning were any more or less inclusive than classroom teaching.
In Sweden, the Government’s decision not to close all schools was in line with its approach to the management of the pandemic that has been considered among the ‘light handed’ in the world (STAT, 2020). The Government also took the view that closing schools was not an effective measure for controlling the virus (Government Offices of Sweden 2020). It did, however, move to online teaching in upper secondary schools. The Swedish government determined that there has been little need for any policy changes in Swedish education in response to the pandemic, but scientists have meanwhile bemoaned the fact that Sweden has missed a ‘rare opportunity’ for studying COVID-19 in schools (Science 2020). The ‘perfect natural environment’ (Science 2020) for studying transmission could, scientist say, have provided valuable learning for others but acknowledged that ‘you can’t find what you don’t look for’ (Science 2020).
Government statements in both the UK and Sweden will be examined as contemporary instances of bio-power and biopolitics (Foucault, 2003; 2008; 2009; Nealon, 2008), whereby the management of security, crisis, risk and danger is undertaken in order ‘to prevent contact between the sick and the healthy’ (Foucault, 2009, p. 62). The extent to which these decisions generated exclusion will be considered.
Government decisions will be accessed through parliamentary statements, press briefings and official guidance to schools from the UK’s Department for Education and the Swedish Ministry for Education and Research. The review will focus on decisions on school closures, who may attend school, designations of ‘vulnerable’ students, arrangements for learning at home and assessment and examinations. Drawing upon Foucault’s concepts, the paper follows the workings of state’s biopolitics - intended as a regulatory set of classifications, measurements and judgements of the whole population that the state, through its politics wields as a form of management on living beings (Peters, 2007) - and biopower, as the disciplinary microtechniques to manage, shape and make education subjects productive (Ball, 2012) in such extra-ordinary times. The DIGITAL project will offer some points of comparison and contextualisation from the above review of national level decision-making in the UK and Sweden through its global review of countries’ and schools’ responses to the pandemic Drawing upon a set of digital ethnographic methods (Ball and Junemann, 2012; Landri, 2013) including interviews with teachers and parents, digital platforms analysis and observation, it will provide insights into innovative and inclusive responses. Some preliminary findings from case studies of schools that will be identified through the global review will also be offered. The inclusiveness of school’s responses will be evaluated in relation to pedagogic value; children’s learning; teacher and parental satisfaction, inclusion and accessibility and social interactions and relations.
This paper provides a direct response to the request set out in the Network 04 Call for papers that ‘explore experiences, policies and practices associated with developing inclusive practice during uncertain and contradictory times.’ The COVID-19 pandemic has, without doubt, had far reaching effects and has created uncertain and contradictory times, forcing us to behave differently in the world and requiring schools, and the teachers and students in them, to function in new and unfamiliar ways. The paper, by documenting the extreme exclusion generated, perhaps unintentionally, by the UK and Swedish governments will help to draw attention to new avenues for renewing a commitment to inclusive education. The DIGITAL project will offer instances of responses to the pandemic that may demonstrate new and innovative ways of being inclusive.
Ball, S. J.; Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, new governance and education. Bristol: Polity Press. Ball, S. J. (2012) Foucault, Power and Education. London New York: RoutledgeFoucault, M. (2003) Society must be defended: Lectures at the College de France, 1975-1976. New York: Picador. Foucault, M. (2008) The birth of biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978 Foucault, M, (2009) Security, territory, population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 61-62 Global Partnership for Education (2020) Inclusive education in a post-covid world: New report from humanity and inclusion. https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/inclusive-education-post-covid-world-new-report-humanity-inclusion Government Offices of Sweden (2020): Minister for education on Swedish decision not to close down schools. Retrieved on 14 August 2020 from: https://www.government.se/articles/2020/06/minister-for-education-on-the-swedish-decision-to-not-close-down-schools/ GOV.UK (2020): Guidance for school (coronavirus). Retrieved on 14 August 2020 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-for-schools-coronavirus-covid-19 Landri, P. (2013) Mobilising ethnographers investigating technologised learning, Ethnography and Education, 8:2, 239-254, DOI: 10.1080/17457823.2013.792512 Nealon, J, (2008) Foucault beyond Foucault: Power and its intensifications since 1984. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Peters, M A (2007) Foucault, biopolitics and the birth of neoliberalism, Critical Studies in Education, 48 (2), 165-178, DOI: 10.1080/17508480701494218 Science (2020): How Sweden wasted a ‘rare opportunity’ to study coronavirus in schools. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/how-sweden-wasted-rare-opportunity-study-coronavirus-schoolsSennett, R. (2006) The culture of the new capitalism. New Haven, US/London: Yale University Press. STAT (2020) The U.S. is the accidental Sweden, which could make the fall ‘catastrophic’ for Covid-19. Retrieved on 17 August from: https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/15/covid19-accidental-sweden-fall-could-be-catastrophic/ UNICEF (2020) COVID-19 resources for policymakers and front-line workers https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19-resources-policymakers-front-line-workers UNICEF (2020) Don’t let children be the hidden victims of COVID-19 pandemic https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/dont-let-children-be-hidden-victims-covid-19-pandemic
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