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Educating Students with Refugee and Asylum Seeker Experiences

Maura Sellars

Educating Students with Refugee and Asylum Seeker Experiences

A Commitment to Humanity

Verlag Barbara Budrich
Opladen • Berlin • Toronto 2020

[vi] Acknowledgements

Thanks and gratitude to Lisa Turnbull, who has encouraged this work and supported me throughout its completion. Thanks also to Amber Hughes for her patience, practicality and philosophical suggestions. This book would not be the same without the inspiration of your trust, your reading and your appreciation.

[vii] Foreword

John Fischetti

There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world.

40 million of our fellow Earthlings are internally displaced, 25.4 million more are refugees and 3.1 million are asylum seekers. (https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html)

The number of refugees is the same population as the whole of Australia or the whole city of Shanghai. The diaspora facing the planet is shocking, made worse by war, famine, disease and political environments that marginalize the most vulnerable.

In this book Maura takes on these issues straight away: Chapter 1: Many students are disadvantaged by the impact of neoliberal policies and purposes on education, but it may be students with refugee experiences who have the greatest need for educational experiences which exemplify pedagogical love and care and respect what it is to be human. The task of teachers and others who would engage in this teaching with love and care is made increasingly difficult by the standardization and quantification of their work. Accompanied by the stresses and pressures of the need to continually improve their productivity and demonstrate their efficiency, the notion of teaching as an act of love and caring may appear to many to be almost impossible. However, the negligence of authentic scholarship and the proliferation of values that erode society, community and sense of self to profit the privileged few may easily be considered as immoral acts against humanity.

And, again in Chapter 8: Education in these contexts has looked backwards, not forwards, and, as such, is totally unprepared for the impact of authentic multiculturalism in which traditional and modern, diverse ways of knowing and doing are honoured and respected as legitimate epistemologies. It steadfastly ignores philosophies and knowledge which bring hope to the urgent task of educating students to cope with inevitable tensions of a ‘multi- perspectival world’ characterised by change, ‘contradiction, [viii] chaos and complexity ‘ (Gidley, 2016 p. 112), which, while important all students, is urgent and critical for students with refugee and asylum seeker experiences whose ontologies already mirror the change ‘contradiction, chaos and complexity’ of ‘the multi -perspectival world’ of which Gidley writes and which reflects the ‘Postformal world’ of Sardar (2010).

Although the following story is a bit of an urban legend, it may make a connection as to how to frame the education opportunity for students with refugee and asylum seeker experiences in Westernized status quo school systems. During the early days of personal computers most companies incorporated memory chips that were made in Japan. An American computer company issued a request in their contract for a large order of memory chips that asked the company to ensure for quality control of 90%--that is that 90% of the chips would work. The company that filled the request was confused by that stipulation and sent two boxes of chips to the US to complete the order. One box contained 100% working chips and a second box of 10% of the first order contained defective chips. The computer chip manufacturer’s assumption was that they would always achieve 99.99% effectiveness in all of its products, not assume a predetermined number that just wouldn’t work. Their only solution to satisfy the order was to deliberately ship defective chips separate from the ones that worked. Most Western schools operate on a philosophy of education that assists some of their students some of the time. For those vulnerable learners, this predetermined failure rate places anyone of difference, particularly learners with refugee and asylum seeker experiences, most at risk. The system assumes first language mastery, active parent engagement, access to resources to support learning and cultural capacity to know such things as holiday customs and certain “basics” only known to people from the region. Add to that the post traumatic nature of the refugee experience, particularly those from awful wars and famine, it is no wonder that Maura proposes a whole new vision for refugee education. It is a compelling history and call to action. It is important work for all of us in education. And given the world’s current strife, will only be more important from here.

Professor John Fischetti

Pro Vice Chancellor

Faculty of Education and Arts

University of Newcastle, Australia

John is a global expert in school transformation, teacher education, and leadership for learning for all.

[ix] Introduction

This writing has been an incredible personal journey. Compelled by the need to write about an issue which is critical to a global audience, I do not seek to speak for the millions of refuge and asylum seekers who are compelled to place their children and young people in education systems that are increasingly inappropriate learning environments for many children and youth from multiple backgrounds and life experiences, including those with refugee and asylum seeker experiences. I write to open the dialogue, to focus the hearts and minds of everyone involved in education, to the stark realities that are so much part of everyday lives in westernized societies to be accepted without critical reflection and without attention to what it is to be human and humane. I hope, that as this book is read, that the readers can place the children and young people in their lives in the situation that faces the students who compelled me to write this work, and that they can place themselves in these communities. I also hope that some positive action, some constructive discourse and some restorative engagement can be prompted in educational contexts to create an increased sense of belonging, compassion and hope for all these students and their new futures.

Table of Contents




Chapter One: Power, Politics, People and Pedagogy

Chapter Two: Power: Discourses of Power

Chapter Three: Politics: Neoliberalism and Education

Chapter Four: People: Refugee status, Trauma and Loss

Chapter Five: People: Compassion and Beloning

Chapter Six: People: Schools as Safe Spaces

Chapter Seven: People: The School and Leadeship

Chapter Eight: Pedagogy: Ways of Knowing and Doing

Chapter Nine: Pedagogy: Educating for Global Competence


[1] Chapter One: Power, Politics, People and Pedagogy


The world is currently disrupted by famine, war, violence, and the predatory actions of people against each other. At the time of writing, nearly 66 million people, the largest number in history, are displaced from their homes and urgently in need of assistance from those who are more fortunate. Fifty five percent of these come from just three countries; Syria (5.5 million), Afghanistan (2.5 million) and South Sudan (1.4 million) https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html). Almost three million of this number are temporarily placed in Turkey, one and a half million in Pakistan, almost one million in both Lebanon and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and eight hundred thousand in Ethiopia. There are twenty- two and a half million refugees. Over half of this number are under 18 years of age, all of whom have experienced atrocities associated with their refugee status. Refugees are those individuals who must flee their own countries for fear of prosecution as the result of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a specific social group (see https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html). Despite their many differences, these individuals have several characteristics in common. These include an overwhelming sense of loss, emotional if not physical trauma and suffering, and the desperate journey to escape the familiar contexts in which they were previously domiciled. The details of these flights vary considerably. The impact on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing is universal, only varying in degree.

Davidson, Murray, and Schweitzer (2008), found that refugee experiences result in poorer general health; poorer mental health including increased somatisation and dissociation; increased levels of psychological distress including susceptibility to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression; impairments in cognitive function; low perceptions of educational achievement and career aspirations; a lack of family cohesion and reduced feelings of belonging (in Sellars & Murphy, 2017:2).

These statistics, although confrontational, are hardly surprising. Many people are detained in rudimentary camps with few or no amenities, overcrowding and little chance of improving their circumstances independently. Although relief agencies [2] and other groups often attempt to provide some educational experiences for youth, the lack of resources and transitory nature of these sites and their occupants make consistent, skilled support impossible. Education, if it exists for some youth at all, is invariably interrupted. The focus of this writing does not include the difficulties of educational provision for children and adults in such camps as it may be fraught with other contextual complications.

Several countries act as hosts to these camps and detention centres on a temporary basis, whilst other countries agree to accept an agreed quota of individuals in various categories each year. The latter include ‘first world’ countries; democratic, industrialized, capitalist countries which often have similar economic interests (see https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/third_world_countries.htm). Less than half of the displaced population is hosted by these countries. Seventeen percent are in Europe, sixteen percent in The Americas and eleven percent in Asia and the Pacific. It is in these locations that young people who are of appropriate age, are most likely to be compelled to participate in mandatory, mass education. Mass education universally is characterised by three core elements;

‘.. is institutionally chartered to be universal, standardized and rationalized….institutionalized at a very general collective level…is institutionally chartered to conduct the socialization of the individual as the central social unit…’ (Boli, Ramirez, & Meyer, 1985: 148-149).

It is these contexts and their students with refugee experiences that are the focus of this work.

Mass Education in a Neoliberal Paradigm

The establishment of school systems and mandatory attendance for children and young people between certain ages is not new, nor is it confined to first world countries. Similar systems have been established in most parts of the world, differing only in the detail of how they are administered (Boli et al., 1985). As society changed in response to advancements in industry, technology, the economy and world affairs, so did the nature and characteristics of education (Tait, 2013). Currently, educational policies in capitalist countries are heavily influenced by the ideologies of various versions of neo liberal economic policies. The neo liberal policies of the 1980s, although differing in the detail, resulted in the break from the Keynesian post war policies which had led to the development of systems such as Swedish social democracy and the welfare provisions in the UK (Steger & Roy, [3] 2010) . The government controlled all the flow of money in and out of the country and high taxes on the wealthy and large corporate companies were used to pay for increased social services and higher wages for workers. Neoliberalist principles championed by Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the USA focused on a very different paradigm indeed. The common foundations of all neoliberal policies that were implemented during that period were Deregulation, Liberalism and Privatization. During the 1990s Blair in the UK and Clinton in the USA, followed by many of their trading partners, took a more moderate approach and attempted to balance this free trade model (liberalism) with more sensitivity towards the community concerns and social responsibilities that were the results of the policies in the previous decade. Global financial crisis and the establishment of the World Trade Organisation have had some impact on the nature of neoliberalism in the twenty-first century, but the cornerstone of the ideology, free trade, remains (Steger & Roy, 2010), as does the impact of this economic rationalism (Pusey, 1991) on education.

Neoliberalism has redefined education itself in the twenty-first century. In its quest to create new markets where none previously existed and to expand the existing markets, neoliberalism has had a critical impact on educational policies and practices (Connell, 2013a; Ross, 2017) and shows little sign of abating (Wilkins, 2017). Once fully established, these market reforms began to exercise power in every sphere of public life, including schools and what is understood as educational reform. These were implemented mainly as the result of the privatization of many previously owed goods and services, the open trade agreements and the reconfiguration of workforce conditions; which changed not only the ways in which people worked in terms of casual, contract and part time employment, but also the opportunities for lowly paid trade occupations where wages paid by first world countries could not compete with that paid by other countries. The effect of this was increasingly felt by the working classes. Education became aligned increasingly with an industrial model, with the introduction of measurable outcomes and high levels of accountability, much of which is reminiscent of Foucault’s panopticon theory of surveillance and monitoring (Foucault, 1977, 1979). Substantially increased funding for private schools, including religious systemic schools and independent schools, not only took much of the responsibility for educating specific groups of students away from public education systems, but led to increasing privatization of a mandatory public service as parents at distinct levels of socio economic status increasingly took advantage of a widening range of school choice. Providing society with choice is a cornerstone of neoliberal ideology and, as with other areas of public life, the promotion of school choice has been embraced by individuals who may benefit most from the neoliberal perspective of education (Angus, 2015).

[4] However beneficial the notion of school choice appears to be on the surface, in this economic political model, school choice can serve to disrupt education and minimize the potential of all students to achieve at school. Based on economic principles, not on educational philosophies and accompanying theory, neoliberalist education stresses high levels of individualism, compliance for schools and students to attain outcomes that are benchmarked by neoliberal agenda which promote hegemonic values and market this as an acceptable and appropriate world view (Angus, 2015; Connell, 2013a, 2013b; Ross, 2017; Steger & Roy, 2010). As a result, poor student performance is considered to be the responsibility of individual schools and the product of economy driven political decision which have increasingly permeated educational systems. In response, many parents who have sufficient knowledge of how systems are being managed and have adequate income to choose, become concerned that their children achieve these benchmarks and perform well at school. In order to ensure this outcome, parents who are fiscally secure are increasingly seeking out the best schools in public systems and competing for places in schools in the private sector (Angus, 2015; Connell, 2013b). Market policies ensure, that even in school choice, parents become consumers. Neoliberal educational policies not only eliminate alternative educational views but classify society increasingly on cultural and economic capital [5] (Bourdieu, 1986b, 1990; Bourdieu, Passeron, & Saint Martin, 1994). Students are classified, not on merit but on inherited status. Consequently, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds invariably attend public schools in their own socioeconomic settings. As will be discussed later, choice of school impacts heavily on individuals’ sense of identity (Angus, 2015) .

The Purpose of Education in a Neoliberal Paradigm

In congruence with educational policies which are developed according to economic principles, the purpose of education is reconceptualised to reflect these values and processes. The neoliberal ideology has a very distinct understanding of the purpose of schooling. Students are regarded as ‘human capital’ and are educated to have the skills and attitudes of a productive workforce (Gary, 2016). This is in contrast to previous sociological theories of schools as institutions for the reproduction of society, for example Bourdieu’s understanding of purpose of education (Bourdieu, 1986b, 1990; Bourdieu et al., 1994), and the use of institutional regulation, monitoring and conditioning to produce a subservient, passive society as in Foucault’ theory of the Panopticon (Foucault, 1977, 1979). This is not to dismiss these theories as irrelevant to the neoliberal purpose of education, as has been indicated previously, the notion of capital is critical to the neoliberal educational endeavour, and Foucault’s understanding of schools as institutions under regular surveillance and monitoring remain major themes in education dominated by neoliberal economic policies. Currently, there is considerable discussion about Bourdieu’s notions of capital, most specifically the understanding of social capital (see, for example, Putnam, 2002; Putnam & Goss, 2002) and Foucault’s Panopticism (Ball, 2012, 2013; Hope, 2013) and their relevance to the contemporary purpose of education. Both philosophies are discussed later in more detail as they are important in the interpretation of the neoliberal purpose of education and to the lived realities of students with refugee experiences in school systems of countries where this is the dominant political paradigm.

Productivity is foundational to the neoliberal notion of education. People have become increasingly productive through time as the result of the changing of society, increased technological advances, more powerful energy sources and more efficient production processes (Zhao, 2012). However, increased productivity is not a world- wide phenomenon. In the context of first world countries, it has produced better living conditions, better health options and longer working lives, and decreased opportunities for employment in many traditional occupations. Zhao (2012:66), discusses ‘creating jobs, not finding jobs’ as a perspective from which to view the future. This is entirely congruent with the neoliberal agenda of expanding existing markets and creating new ones, however, not entirely realistic given the limited curriculum, prescriptive pedagogies and ever increasing permeation of competition in neoliberal education systems which dominate first world countries (Ross, 2017) . A positive view of this paradigm is that education was created for the role that it now plays in preparing individuals by training them in languages and skills of society and then sorting them out into appropriate roles in that context. A more critical view is that the power that is exercised in this sorting process is dominated by those groups who are privileged in society, and that education is used as a tool to reinforce and reproduce the advantages of these groups only, to the exclusion of those who are not members (Connell, 2013a).

An equally important, but less discussed feature of neoliberal education philosophy in both its vision and purpose of education is the way in which it reduces the wholeness and complexity of human life to simply that of workers (Gary, 2016). Human beings are distinguished from other life forms by their capacities for reflection, exploration and investigation and other meaningful forms of leisure that [6] are not just the state of not working, but that are rich non-work experiences that fulfil a deeply held human need and provide opportunities to develop another way of viewing the world. Gary (2016) particularly highlights that education in the neoliberal ideology not only lends itself to individuals increasingly identifying themselves in terms of work, but dehumanizes individuals. He argues that not only does it collapse what it is to be human into producers and consumers, but encourages people to live at a superficial level, that which is not to do with reason and intellectual activity, but is ‘operating below the cognitive- reasoning register’; operating at the level of consumer desire. The most critical feature that Gary (2106) brings to the discussion about the neoliberal educational paradigm is that of quality of schooling. He states, ‘the cerebral emphasis of modern schooling…is poorly equipped to guide us into an alternative way of being’. To engage with ‘an alternative way of being’, he recommends radical pedagogy, including a change of habitus (Bourdieu, 1986a). This assessment of the lack of scholarship in neoliberal educational frameworks is echoed by Ross (2017) who states ‘when education is forced into the marketplace, the marketplace of ideas shuts down’. It is into this educational paradigm that students with refugee experiences are placed when being accepted into the so called ‘developed’ countries which embrace neoliberal ideology in any of its diverse manifestations.

Other Perspectives in the Purpose of Education

The neoliberal paradigm has not always dominated education. It is currently dominant because the economy is dominating neoliberal governments and not vice versa (Steger & Roy, 2010). Historically, there have been many theoretical perspectives on the purposes of education which reflect the changing nature of society and perceived needs. Dewey (1938) for example, observed that the primary purpose of education was not to prepare students for the future, but to help them live practically and sensibly in their own environments at that time, meaning that education was life at that time and to provide students, in an orderly manner, with the skills they needed to join society. These skills included a critical and enquiring mind and was articulated as ‘social efficiency’. He was a very strong advocate of learning as experience and believed that the quality of the experiencer was paramount to learning. Quality learning experiences were those that combined theory and practice. Much later, Adler (1982) brought together major themes which had [7] influenced education for some time. He presented three main objectives of education; to develop students as citizens, to promote individual holistic development and to prepare young people for work. Over a decade later, again in recognition of the changing nature of society, deMarrais and LeCompte (1995) indicated four main purposes of education; intellectual development of students, especially in literacy and numeracy, economic purposes, that is for reasons of employment, the development of social and moral responsibilities and, interestingly, a fourth purpose which had not previously garnered much public attention; education for political purposes, including the assimilation of migrant students. The degree to which this is possible is debatable, given the hegemonic principles upon which current neoliberal education systems are administered, monitored and evaluated.

There is hope, however. ‘There are many things that can be done to mitigate the deleterious effects that neoliberalism has on education in North America and beyond’ (Ross, 2017:4). While it is not possible for those directly involved in educational contexts to entirely transform the hegemonic foundations of these education systems, it is possible to develop attitudes and strategies that serve to empower all students for whom schooling is a disempowering experience, the most vulnerable of which are students with refugee experiences. One of the most basic and most human of the ‘things’ that can be done to ‘mitigate’ the impact of neoliberal policies on education is to recognize what it is to be human and to understand educating students as the ‘whole child’.

The purpose of the first mass education system established in Prussia in the 18th century was holistic education which focused on the process of supporting increasingly mature levels of both cultural and personal growth (Gidley, 2016). Influenced by German and Swiss educational systems, it was an integrative initiative in that it focussed on the development of whole person. Sadly, this notion of education was eroded by the industrialized, more factory style model whose sole purpose was to provide workers for the immense factories that resulted from the British Industrial Revolution. Several independent, alternative models of education developed early in the twentieth century and reflected the educational ideals of people such as Montessori, Steiner and Dewey. Gidley (2016:135) speculated that all these educators were ‘tapping into an important zeitgeist’ or spirit of the times that was reacting against the utilitarian focus of contemporary mass education. While these theories had many individual characteristics, they also had many common features, including an emphasis on imagination and creativity, practical engagement, spirituality and many attributes of Postformal reasoning (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1993), which will later be discussed in detail, but which essentially involve four pedagogical principles or values. These are love, life, wisdom and voice, much of which was absent from utilitarian agendas in education.

[8] The next significant challenges to conventional, mass educational thinking came in the late 1960s and 1970s and reflected a new consciousness of the need to question the policies and practices of mainstream schooling amidst the background of youth protests and dissent around the issue of the involvement of capitalist countries in the Vietnam war. It was a period of alternative education, characterized by several new perspectives on how learning may be best achieved. Neill’s Summerhill School (Neill, 1960),which advocated free schooling where adults supported learning but did not plan anything for the students to learn, the students determined this themselves, was one comment on the rigidity of the regular classrooms. Holt's (1964, 1970) critique of the school system and support of home schooling was another. Illich (1975) advocated strongly that schooling in economy based countries simply served to corrupt and institutionalize society and that, in order to deinstitutionalise society, education needed radical reform.

Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. (Illich, 1975:9)

In place of tightly kept regimes and frameworks, he suggested networks of learners who could connect and provide genuine opportunities for each individual to engage with others for the purposes of learning, sharing and caring. It was also the period in which critical pedagogy was brought to public prominence as Freire (1970) highlighted the political nature of teaching and learning, perceiving that no educational process was neutral and advocating teacher awareness of their professional life as a series of political actions. Freire (1970) also focused on education for the poor, deploring the ‘banking’ model of education which not only led to the reproduction of unjust society, but which did not allow the underprivileged opportunities to engage in educational discourses that provided them with opportunities to improve their situation. Whilst all these ‘alternative’ educational ideas were highly critical of the traditional industrial model of schooling, it is in the work of Illich and Freire that notions of ‘care’ in educational interactions articulated for over half a century. Nearly half a century later, reforms in educational politics, policies and practices have been scant, despite decades of academic writing. These discourses included considerable attention being paid to the role of the teacher (see, for example, Poulou, 2005; Warner, 2006), the importance of school climate (see, for example, Cohen, 2006; Coladarci, 1992; Cotton, 1996; Loukas & Robinson, 2004), child care (see, for example, Fanning & Veale, 2004; Gerhardt, 2015), teaching as an act [9] of caring (see, for example, Darder, 2009) and a philosophy of care (Noddings, 2012; 2005) being articulated as means by which students can be positively socialised into the constructs of tolerance, kindness and reciprocal, caring relationships.

Love and Care in Education

Darder (2009, 2017) in her discussion of the work and friendship that she shared with Freire, provided a definition of that surpasses the commonly held assumptions of the concept of love. She states,

…is a political and radicalized form of love that is never about absolute consensus, or unconditional acceptance, or unceasing words of sweetness or endless streams of hugs and kisses. Instead it is a love that I experienced as unconstructed, rooted in a committed willingness to struggle persistently with purpose in our life and to intimately connect that purpose with what he called our ‘true vocation’ – to be human. (Darder, 2009:567)

Freirean philosophy demonstrated the ways in which the political, economic and social backgrounds of people served to explain the current social and economic inequity in the world. It illustrated how discrimination, injustice and capitalist agendas, such as those expressed in neo liberal influences in education, dehumanize people so that they have reduced capacity to act humanely in regards to themselves, others and the environment. His notion of teaching for love included tolerance and acceptance of diversity, of opposing perspectives and contrary views. Teaching as an act of love for Freire was not about being well meaning and inducting students into an acceptance of the social and moral inequities of traditional schooling. It was about teachers having a deep understanding of the negative impact of these educational systems on the students’ capacities to develop the skills, confidence and competencies that were required for them to transform their worlds. To teach with love demanded that educators at all levels of school engage with issues of social justice and give marginalised students a voice in the educational context of privilege and hegemony.

Many of these themes are echoed in moral teaching from an ethic of care (Noddings, 2005, 2012) . This philosophy of teaching lacks the radical, political perspective of Freirean thinking, but it resonates the message of what it is to be human in the treatment of others in educational contexts. Noddings (2012) reflects on the importance of the human disposition to care and be cared for. Eschewing [10] long, rational debates about the importance of care, Noddings posits that, as humans in the world, people have some experience of being cared for, and as such, can recognise and have the potential to engage with acts of caring for others. For Freirean scholars, Noddings’ perceptions of this capacity for love of self, others and the world may be significantly diminished by the dehumanizing influences of poverty, discrimination and disempowerment; but the individuals for whom this philosophy is most critical are those who have not been discriminated against and are not battling poverty and disempowerment to the degree to which the people championed by Freire and the other critical pedagogues have. This is simply because to qualify to teach in schools in first world countries, it is necessary to engage with the characteristics of neoliberal influences in education. To become teachers, individuals have to successfully participate in the standardization, the competitive component, the dialogue and discourses of the privileged. The degree to which they personally invest in the systemic disadvantage of certain groups of students depends on their capacities to demonstrate moral leadership and reflect on their practice, critically evaluating it, both in terms of self-interest and their potential for service to others.

Noddings (2005, 2012) relied heavily on the very essence of what it is to be human to develop a powerful perspective from which professional decisions could be made, accountability criteria and professional responsibilities mediated and inclusive practices evolved. Her philosophy demands that the most caring and nurturing learning environment for students is a basic right for students and a professional priority for educators. Schools which embrace an ethic of care as a leadership principle do not confine their caring to the students themselves but evidence it in the ways the staff interact with each other and with the wider school and local communities. It was not dependent on rules and regulations for effective implementation, but rather gave precedence to the needs of individual students in their particular contexts. The purpose of educating from an ethic of care is to bring about effective, nurturing solutions for students which acknowledge their unique situations, issues and concerns. From this philosophical perspective, an ethic of care requires more than superficiality. It demands commitment to the lived reality of what education could be. The four constituent actions of an ethic of care are the demonstrated actions of caring relationships. Noddings termed this ‘modelling’. It is lived praxis. As always, effective communication is critical in the development of trusting, caring relationships. Dialogue in the ethic of care facilitates deeper understanding of the perspectives and concerns of others, promotes caring and empowering solutions and allows for an analysis of the patterns of behaviours and responses that impact on the students, their caregivers and the wider community. [11] The strength of dialogue as articulated in this philosophy is both the acknowledgment of ‘humanness’ of all the participants and the dignity of difference and diversity.

Dialogue is also important to distinguish between the authenticity of the ethic of care and the virtue ethic. In this context the virtue ethic is the enactment of the choice to take decisions that are assessed by the teachers and educational systems as ‘good’ for the students. This frequently relates to practices and procedures which students dislike, are inappropriate for them as individuals or are simply a somewhat blind adherence to the status quo. Much of this notion relates to Freire’s concerns for the role of teachers to show leadership in issues of social injustice and systemic unfairness. The underlying motivations for employing a virtue ethic may be dissimilar, but the outcomes are very similar in that students are disheartened, disempowered and frequently disengaged from their learning. Dialogue places students themselves in the discussion in the ethic of care. This dialogue helps teachers get to know their students better, develop a commonly interpreted framework for interactions and helps teachers assess how effective their caring has been. It is also the means by which different perspectives can be discussed and examined for rigour, different ways of knowing and doing can be explored and the channels through which students can examine issues that impact in their own lives and affect their beliefs, values, dispositions and attitudes.

The mutuality of the relationships of care that are foundational to this philosophy reiterate the Freirean mandate that people must empower themselves and participate actively in the process of transformation. In this instance, the cared for must also contribute to the acts of caring by becoming carers. This reciprocal dynamic may be the key to successfully building school community with shared values and respect for others. The contribution of the students in these caring educational environments supports the development of informed, caring and dignified communication with others and becomes part of the modelling principle, the lived acts of responding to being human and the capacities of humans to develop empathy, tolerance and respect; foundational attitudes and attributes of teaching for love and for care. Caring is not just to be read about, discussed or subtly mandated as part of a hidden curriculum (Giroux & Penna, 1979), it is practiced as collaborative, not competitive, learning. It is a daily, ongoing commitment to explicit, strategic pedagogical approaches for engaging students with each other in positive and mutually supportive interactions. The notion of practicing this dedication to caring for others also involved acts of care in the wider school community that had the potential to change lives for the better. In this manner, students were empowered, both by their altruistic acts of caring and by the responses they receive as a result. Noddings views this aspect of the ethic of care as a component of moral education [12] which was not associated with the theories of moral development explored by the cognitive developmentalists (see, for example, Kohlberg, 1975). This concept of practice has the potential to be particularly powerful in empowering students. Education that empowers has capacity to transform.

The remaining principle of the ethics of care is confirmation. The ethic of care remains the only theory of moral education to include a principle such as this. It is best understood as the acts of affirming the best in someone by working with them to help them grow in the ways that they are striving for, in the ways that they value, and in the ways that are important to them. Confirming supports the educational notion of high expectations for all students, in which every learner is considered capable of expanding on their relative strengths. For this principle of confirmation to be authentic, it must be valued by both the teachers confirming the achievements and the students whose competencies are being valued and enriched. This process is often facilitated by the dialogue that enables teachers to get to know their students’ goals and aspirations. In the action of confirming someone, it is important that the affirmation be intended to support the development of the student in becoming the best person they could possibly be. The continuity of dialogue and caring interactions that allow this trust to develop are an essential part of this process as establishing, developing, and maintaining the caring relationships. This is because the development of the trusting interactions and dialogue that enable true confirmation, takes time. This process may involve the continual practice of checking, assessing and evaluating values and goals. The trusting dialogues developed as part of this process may require critical reflection (Sellars, 2017) of decisions made by both students and teachers, the rationales that underpinned them and the alternative dialogues that could have been considered to support the students’ striving to become the best humans they could become, empowered by their capacities to care.

Postformal Education

Gidley (2016) in her exploration of the political, socio- cultural, economic and historical impacts on educational theory and practices, returned to the notion of pedagogical love as the first of her core pedagogical values for her Postformal education framework, designed to effect radial change in the ways in which educational practice is conceived and conducted. She strongly stated that, ‘this is the time to [13] think deeply, feel intensely and have the courage to act’ (Gidley, 2016:189). She recognised what is apparent on an everyday basis to many students in schools, that pedagogical love is the most important of the many characteristics that are absent in many current educational contexts. Asserting the central role of love in all spirituality and notions of caring, Gidley denounced the purposes and practices of current neoliberal education as damaging and promoting of ‘callous values’ (2016:190); a perspective explored earlier in this chapter. She cites the inevitable consequences of socializing young people into society without any recourse to love and care. Prominent amongst these consequences are the issues of mental health and the associated lack of belonging, connectedness and community, all of which are already significant concerns ...

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