25 SES 02 A, Participation to Connect Members of the School Community
This contribution considers participation as a phenomenon that shapes school culture and focuses with its analyses of one school on the meso level. Forming a counteragent to social exclusion, participation can be seen a way to connect people within schools, not only students and teachers but also providing a basis for an inclusive culture among students. There are many examples where school climate is marked by social exclusion which reduces the rights of students to experience human dignity and a safe, non-violent school environment as described in Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989). In a broad understanding social exclusion focuses on the relationship between individuals or groups and mainstream society. Individuals or groups are “socially ‘excluded’ when they lack effective participation in key activities or benefits of the society in which they live” (Razer et al., 2013, p. 1152). The work of Peters and Besley (2014) in which they refer to Foucault highlights the constructive nature of exclusion creating “human beings as subjects or non-subjects, as human or something less than human, as abnormal” (Peters & Besley, 2014, p. 101). Participation, on the contrary, highlights the importance of negotiating all needs and interests. It includes the consideration of all perspectives, including those of the non-dominant groups. Diversity of students should be seen and responded to in an appropriate way, providing “a strategy and process involving the transformation of schools to cater for all children” (Peters & Besley, 2014, p. 109). Enhancing participation can therefore be conceived as a conscious process of school improvement that reduces hierarchical power differences – between teachers and students but also among peers, allowing them to connect in non-hierarchical ways. The empirical qualitative data that is presented stems from a school that displays a high degree of exclusive practice. We selected and compared relevant passages from interviews and group discussions representing different perspectives (teacher / student). The analyses of teachers’ beliefs reveal how their understanding of participation - playing generally a minor role in this school - aligns with the exclusive culture. The reconstructive analysis shows that the exclusive practice marks everyday life and describes mechanisms contributing to the fact that it becomes an accepted practice.
Peters, M. A., & Besley, T. A. C. (2014). Social Exclusion/Inclusion: Foucault’s analytics of exclusion, the political ecology of social inclusion and the legitimation of inclusive education. Open Review of Educational Research, 1(1), 99–115. Razer, M., Friedman, V. J., & Warshofsky, B. (2013). Schools as agents of social exclusion and inclusion. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 17(11), 1152–1170. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), (1989). https://www.unicef.org.uk/what-we-do/un-convention-child-rights/ Accessed 10 January 2021.
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