14 SES 06 B, Local Organisations/Authorities and Networking in Education
The paper focuses the involvement of local authorities in the promotion of school achievement in Portugal. More concretely, it is centered in the analysis of their perspectives in the confrontation with school drop-out and underachievement. These are central issues in the contemporary Portuguese context of new skills and roles that local authorities as political institutions must develop. In the light of perspectives based on social justice, citizenship and social rights, school drop-out and underachievement that attain mainly specific social groups gain a particular dimension. The social right to education is a powerful reminder to policies and social practices of the need to find ways of changing processes of school marginalization and exclusion. Within the framework of more enlarged forms of citizenship and social justice (Arnot 2009; Bernstein 1996; Young 2000; Araújo 2008; Sousa 2007), these problems need to be questioned and framed in conceptual as well as pragmatic ways. Stoer & Araujo (2000) have underlined that local authorities are also called upon around the question of schooling for all, in a context where children and young people were leaving school in greater numbers (Portela & Gerry 2002). It is our perspective that, besides the analyses produced by the social and cultural reproduction theorists of the 1970-80 (e.g. Bourdieu 1970), and of the cultural production theorists of the late 1970 & 1980s (Willis 1977), the involvement of local authorities and their perspectives and actions regarding school success is needed. It appeals to the importance of creating networks between different entities, including non-official ones, for tackling educational problems. Several international reports also emphasize these networks shared by other European countries, such as England, Holland or Finland as well as by USA or Brazil. Projects of community education and local development underline also the importance of the above articulation to promote school achievement (Gereluk 2006; West-Burnham et al 2007;Loureiro & Cristovão 2010). Although some perspectives see the emphasis put on this relationship as a confirmation that knowledge is escaping from school locating itself in different contexts and places, other perspectives, such as stressed by Barroso (2005), analyze the shortcomings and dangers of a local “micro-regulation” too much compromised with different interests of the stakeholders and the difficult negotiations demanded to satisfy strategies and rationalities of those who “occupy” common and interdependent territories. Still others interpret this new emphasis on the relationship of the school with the community as open to new forms of identity construction, to knowledge and sociabilities coming from non-formal contexts. This is the perspective adopted here: to understand the new logics of action concerning the role of local agencies facing the multifaceted problem that school failure encompasses and the array of problems that plague urban, rural and suburban areas as a consequence of the rates of student dropouts (Ball et al 2000).
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