This week marks the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly. High on the agenda will be discussions about the progress the world has made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000. Discussions will also likely focus on the vision for a post-2015 global development framework.
The UN Secretary General’s report to the 68th session asserts that a post-2015 framework must address “the full range of human aspirations and needs” and “ensure a life of dignity for all.” Accordingly, one major challenge for setting the post-2015 development agenda for education is ensuring that the new education goal and targets establish a vision of what education should imply for the lives of ordinary people over the next 15–20 year horizon.
Shall this new vision promote skills for employability without simultaneously developing skills for active citizenship? Shall this new vision continue to hold numeracy and literacy as the minimum standards of basic education? Or can the world community forge a new vision that includes equitable access for all to the highest quality inputs and consistent investment in improving teaching and learning processes to achieve a range of outcomes that have meaning to those gaining them? Can this new vision also facilitate learners’ participation in decision-making at all levels in society?
Some of the aims of critical educators and critical education are embodied in these last two questions. Often, because of the challenging nature of strengthening teaching and learning processes and facilitating learners’ full participation and voice, educators do this work alone or in small groups. It is therefore important to amplify these stories wherever they may be found. Projecting the voices and stories of these practitioners and activists can promote solidarity, break down prejudice and provide possibilities for larger scale policy change informed from the bottom up.
We at the Open Society Education Support Program are pleased to share seven such stories of practitioners and activists working in a variety of geographical contexts with students, youth, and adults to promote progressive social change. These voices are highlighted in the most recent special issue of the open-access journal Current Issues in Comparative Education, guest-edited by our staff.
The theme for this special issue, “Education for Social Change and Transformation: Case Studies of Critical Praxis,” draws attention to the failure of current post-2015 debates to critically examine the local, national, and global society for which we are educating people and the role of education in bringing about change in society. These case studies illustrate different understandings of how education can be used to promote progressive social change, and they signal that progressive social change can look different in different contexts.
The issue includes the following:
- “Theatre-Arts Pedagogy for Social Justice,” by Anne Hickling-Hudson, analyzes the socio-educational significance of a theater arts approach to learning for young adults from less-privileged communities in Jamaica.
- “Promoting Change within the Constraints of Conflict,” by Karen Ross, explores the approach to transformative education utilized by Sadaka Reut, a binational civil society organization in Israel that works with Jewish and Palestinian youth.
- “Promoting Civic Engagement in Schools in Non-Democratic Settings,” by Maryam Abolfazli and Maryam Alemi, analyzes the Online School of Civic Education, which facilitates the exchange of ideas among teachers in Iran to change their classroom practices and encourage students’ active learning, reflection, and critical thinking on topics in civic education.
- “Teacher Education for Social Change,” by Scott Ritchie, Neporcha Cone, Sohyun An, and Patricia Bullock, describes the authors’ efforts, as university faculty in the southeastern United States, teaching to a cohort of primary school teacher-education students. They designed the class sessions, readings, and field experiences of their four courses to emphasize social justice dimensions of teaching rather than just focusing on skills and strategies.
- “Re-framing, Re-imagining, and Re-tooling Curricula from the Grassroots,” by Isaura B. Pulido, Gabriel Alejandro Cortez, Ann Aviles de Bradley, Anton Miglietta, and David Stovall, explores the collaborative processes of the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce to produce curricula that more adeptly capture the cultural, economic, and political realities of students who attend the city’s public schools.
- “Education Community Dialogue towards Building a Policy Agenda for Adult Education,” by Tatiana Lotierzo Hirano, Giovanna Modé Magalhães, Camilla Croso, Laura Giannecchini, and Fabíola Munhoz, describes the authors’ experience with “Amplifying Voices,” an initiative that documents the stories, voices, and concerns of students involved in adult education programs in a range of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. These concerns, as well as program and policy advice, are shared with policy makers and other stakeholders at various public events.
- “Chilean Student Movements,” by Cristián Bellei and Cristian Cabalin, examines two recent mobilizations initiated by students in Chile—the 2006 “Penguin Revolution,” led by secondary school students, and the 2011 “Chilean Winter,” led by university students—that challenged the neoliberal education policies of that country.
Delivering on the promise of “a life of dignity for all” demands that the key principles of initiatives such as these highlighted above be used to inform the development of a post-2015 framework for education.