Educating for a common collective : pedagogies of sharing and caring
AbstractAbstract Declaring an ‘educational arms race’ with India and China, President Obama warned his country against ‘unilateral disarmament’ with budget cuts, because ‘countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.’ Militaristic jingoism leads to new terms such as ‘out-think’ and ‘out-educate’, reflecting a crassly competitive commodification of knowledge. This is contrary to the spirit of transformative education, which looks at education to reduce inequalities, to ensure sustainable development and to address social justice for all through collective action. Despite the Jomtien World Declaration on ‘Education For All’ with an ‘expanded vision’ - for the empowerment of children, youth and adults – national curricular aims have been changing to facilitate rather than interrogate the global neo-liberal agenda. An EFA review (Amadio et al, 2005) of the trends in national aims between the 1980s and 2000s shows, on the one hand, an increased call for ‘expanding human capabilities and choices’, but also notes that the aim of education to help individuals to transform society - a notion expressed in several country statements of the 1980s – now lies abandoned, in favor of ‘facilitating successful adaptation to an ever-changing world’. The Gandhian transformative model of Basic Education as part of the anti-colonial freedom struggle in India, developed ‘education for life, through life’ using a productive craft - weaving, carpentry, agriculture, or pottery, etc - as the medium of interdisciplinary hands-on learning. It also served to culturally interrogate the traditional caste system which stigmatized the low-castes and their vocations. However, in the global economy of knowledge, education has been increasingly used for selection and reproduction of inequalities, through managerial discourses of standards, choice and efficiency. The hierarchies of ‘academic’ vs ‘vocational’ knowledge or ‘brain vs body’ skills have become more sharply drawn, to further marginalise the disadvantaged majority, especially in the contexts of developing countries (Rampal, 2010). This paper presents socio-cultural perspectives on critical education (Apple et al, 2009), to show how alternate models of schooling can address diverse life-worlds within processes of knowledge construction, to help shape the envisioned ‘creative common collective’ of sharing and caring. The Concept Note of the South-South Forum on Sustainability stresses that ‘vicious competition has become an obsolete and fatal paradigm’, and that a new search needs to be made to invoke creative cooperation and sharing ‘to overcome capitalism along with its adjunct destructive modernization’. What role can education play in nurturing such creative cooperation as the new paradigm for humanity? How can children, especially the majority from rural poor families, bring their collectivistic voice and agency to counter the urban hegemony of individualistic competition that currently dominates the culture of school (Rampal, 2008)? How can different knowledges find ‘official’ place in education, and how can the collective agency of learners be engaged to make meaning, with high expectations from all? How can ‘productive learning and assessment’ be supported rather than the debilitating standardised testing regimes being increasingly imposed on schools in the name of ‘quality control’? Recent attempts in India under the National Curriculum Framework (NCERT, 2005) have sought to redesign primary schooling, through an interdisciplinary approach to address often contested issues of food and hunger, subsistence agriculture and exploitation of forests, etc. from a critical perspective of social justice (Rampal, 2007, 2012). Drawing upon the ‘common science’ curriculum that challenged the hegemony of the elites in nineteenth century England (Hodson and Prophet, 1983), the ‘productive pedagogies of difference’ (Hayes and Lingard, 2006) of the Queensland school reform in Australia, or the Cuban system of ‘state generated social capital’ (Carnoy et al, 2007), the paper describes models of education redesigned to ensure equity for all within a cooperative ‘culture of success’. The paper substantiates these with recent studies that have shown that children studying together in mixed socio-economic and ability groups perform much better, through curricula that build on collective action, among peers and larger communities of learning. In fact, countries that enforce a ‘moral imperative’ to protect children from the excesses of economic inequality with a focus on educational quality achieve higher levels of achievement and also greater levels of social cohesion (Green et al, 2006). Moreover, it has been seen that states can generate a potent form of social capital in promoting educational achievement and humanistic values that can benefit those who have the least cultural capital and the most difficulty in acquiring and accumulating social capital on their own (Carnoy et al, 2007).