Inclusive Education: ‘From West to the Rest’ – about the need of getting aware of Knowledge (In-)Equity & Open Science

As a lucky scholarship holder of the current scholarship program on Open Science (sponsored by Wikimedia – for more information see below) I got the opportunity to ignite the participants of this years digital Open Science Barcamp on 16th February. I’d like to share the content of my Ignition Talk on the topic “Inclusive Education: ‘From West to the Rest’ (Grech 2011, 88) – about the need of getting aware of Knowledge (In-)Equity & Open Science” with you in this Blogpost and wish you an informative reading!
If you are interested in the slides, see below for Kruschick, F. (2021).
#OsciBar #OpenSciFellows

The concepts of Inclusion and Inclusive Education are popular ones on the international and ‘global’ level. Shaped by guidelines like the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or Agenda 2030 we get the impression that the question of Inclusion and Inclusive Education is a global movement.

Inclusion: A global movement

“Transforming our world [by building] peaceful, just and inclusive societies” Agenda 2030 is saying and furthermore Aiming to “a just equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.” (UN-DESA. Sustainable Development) “Living independently and being included in the community” (UN-DESA. CRPD) that’s where the UN-CRPD is heading to. Everyone is in this together, whether it is the question on a sustainable, global development, or the human rights based approach we have with the UN-CRPD. We are in this together and need to get it done, that is what we use to think hearing the Voices of those guidelines.

Inclusive Education: an important movement!

Hearing Greta Thunbergs words “Our house is on fire” by looking at Agenda 2030s vision we may think: Hey, what a nice idea, let’s better do it or our future will look like a burning house. Thousands of different and important challenges, whether it is the climate change, social inequality, conflicts, hunger or the resulting migration flows want to be noticed and ‘solved’ for a ‘just equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.’ So how do we manage to do it all? The answer is short: through inclusive education. The concept of inclusive education is not only important in this human rights based approach aiming to full and effective participation for persons with disabilities, it is a major factor of success when we look at all the global challenges we have to face. We only can do it by having an inclusive attitude towards our fellow citizens on this planet.
So that is the important point we have to keep in mind: Inclusive Education can only be achieved through Inclusive Education. That’s why SDG 4 of Agenda 2030, where it is said the following: 

“Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development […]” (UN-DESA. Sustainable Development. SDG 4)

and Article 24 of the UN-CRPD, where it is said the following: 

“Article 24: Education
1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education.With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis ofequal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education systemat all levels and life long learning directed to: (a) The full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamentalfreedoms and human diversity; (b) The development by persons with disabilities of their personality, talentsand creativity, as well as their mental and physical abilities, to their fullestpotential; (c) Enabling persons with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society.” (UN-DESA. CRPD. Articel 24)

are seen as essential criteria on our way to a future for all. We definitely need Inclusive Education or we don’t even need to start!

Inclusive Education: A global movement?

So, Inclusive Education is important for a bunch of reasons, but what we forget or what we are not able to see is that this concept arose from experiences being made by the educational system of the Global North. (Werning et al. 2016, 9) We or the global North – I really don’t like those stigmatizing black and white complementarities but it’s in this case describing those outdated somehow old-fashioned dynamics the best – have made lots of different experiences with and in an educational system that was and is embedded in our socioeconomic, political and historical life. And what we are thinking about education itself or inclusive education is strongly associated with our experiences, reforms and decision which have been made in this very special context. In our socioeconomic, political and historic unique context. A context that we often describe as industrialized, developed, rich and so on.

Well, considering this point now ask yourself: are we able to take this concept of inclusive education and take it for granted for everybody else in this world? I admit that thinking about this question is tough because ‘we’ are experiencing ourselves within a data-based society in which we attained many different achievements and results showing us, that inclusive education is worth it. The concept is doing good, so why not give it to others that seemingly need help?

Its not about inclusive education itself as a problematizing aspect, its about the power dynamics in which we claim power for ourselves by saying: here we go. Take our concept of inclusive education. We made quite good experiences with it and we want to help you to achieve the same. I, as the developed, rich and industrialized part claim the sovereignty of interpretation and tell you, as the developing, poor, Third world part what you have to do to achieve my standard. This is expressed very simplified and overdrewn and you hopefully hear the postcolonial perspective we need out of it.

Inclusive Education: A global agenda & a problem

So what we are approaching now is the following: by looking underneath the sparkling inclusive education movement surface, we begin to recognize that this global agenda implies many aspects and dynamics we better problematize when we are aiming towards an equitable, inclusive and sustainable future with and for all.

What we are going to recognize is that the concept of inclusive education can be seen under different perspectives: For example…

  • Inclusive Education as a (de-)colonization project (Muthukrishna & Engelbrecht 2018),
  • Inclusive Education as a globalization product (Artiles & Dyson 2005)
  • Inclusive Education can be seen as a form of (‘western’) cultural imperialism (Haskell 1998)
  • Or inclusive education in a nutshell: “From west to the Rest” (Grech 2011, 88) which means that we are dominating the power dynamics in which we are all living.

So, We definitely have a problem with our global understanding of inclusive education because there is no such global understanding. Inclusion is handled as a ‘slippery concept’ (Booth 1995) varying from context to context and Disability is also seen as a construct that is varying from context to context (Singal 2013). Each and every single context shaped by socioeconomic, political and historical experiences and dynamics is carrying its own understanding of disability, in- or exclusion and the content and structures of education – we only have to perceive them!

Inclusive Education: A global movement & its knowledge inequity problem

What we are currently seeing is that this seemingly global movement is bringing up the question of knowledge inequity. By contextualizing our ‘western’ concept of inclusive education in Power Dynamics we can easily see where this journey will end – in knowledge as well as in social inequity. So, by systematically ignoring the fact that other concepts and experiences regarding to inclusive education exist, we are widening this inequity, as well as we are perpetuating our dominating power in these dynamics. And lets be honest: Who would want to give up their power voluntarily?

Besides we can imagine that this knowledge inequity is also reproduced by scientific research by not thinking about one’s own privileges and its contextualization into power dynamics. We are thinking in our prefabricated concepts, structures and theories that are too often insisting on our approved point of view. We simply reproduce knowledge inequity because we are used to think in a certain manner – a manner we need to break out of and that’s the point where we get back to my PhD project and my Fellowship.

Even if I’m able to argue that my PhD project is important for different reasons (it is & it still is even though it seems contradictory to do research on inclusive education in Ghana while critizing this western concept), I felt uneasy about certain aspects when it comes to realization.

  1. The first point is going into a field, collecting data, take it back to Germany and then publish my insights in German.
    I’m criticizing inequity under a postcolonial perspective and then take my stuff and say goodbye? No way! #OpenAccess
  2. The second point is having my prefabricated plan in my head including prefabricated focus, methods, theories and so on.
    I’m critizicing global knowledge inequity under a postcolonial perspective and taking my plan for granted without hearing to the voices and dynamics in the field? Not in my project, please. #OpenMethodology
  3. The third point is taking my data, analyze and discuss it with my german collegues and then protect them in my home country.
    I’m critizicing knowledge inequity under a postcolonial perspective not giving anybody else the opportunity to work with my data? What is possibly containing stereotypes, clichés, discrimination or anything that I might have understood wrong? Nobody of those I possibly understood in a wrong manner is ever having the possibility to say ‘hey, you are wrong’ or ‘hey, I don’t want to see me described like this’. Nor do anybody have the chance to continue the ideas I have started with. What a loss. #OpenData

Lucky me, I got the opportunity to deepen my thoughts about concerns in my Fellowship and got lots of useful and interesting insights on what is going on in this Open Science Community, which was a totally new one for me four months ago. And even today I feel like I have just started to understand the wide range of potential of the network, tools, platforms and so on. So when it comes to my plan in this Fellowship I really like to present my project to others, talk about it and open it up to a project what embraces every single idea and offer facing this very important aspect of knowledge inequity in scientific research.

Since we want to gain insights and knowledge as scientific researchers helping us to understand better, we should not forget to think about potential perpetuated inequity and exclusion while going through your research project you chose to do.

Short summary: Inclusive Education: what do we have?

  1. We have a global movement shaped by different guidelines like Agenda 2030 and UN-CRPD
  2. We have an important movement because we seriously need inclusive education
  3. We see this very important concept of inclusive education embedded in Power Dynamics which is dominated by the Global North, whose concept of inclusive education is shared on a global scale
  4. We have a problem with this ‘global’ agenda on different levels …
  5. … and this problem is leading to Knowledge Inequity, …
  6. What we ought to face with the idea of Open Science!

Discover & avoiding the bad – doing good

What we always should keep in mind is that we all live in power dynamics that are influencing our perceptions about what seems to be right and wrong having impact on knowledge equity or knowledge inequity. Questions like ‘Who is how benefitting from my project or my focus and who is not?’ ‘Who is leading through theoretical discourses and why?’ ‘Whose voices are being heard and whose are staying silent and why?’ can lead you through the jungle of power dynamics and Inequities. Remember yourself: Who is left behind & why? #LeaveNoOneBehind

I hope it is getting clear that we really need to get aware of Knowledge Inequity and how we should try to cope with these important questions. We really need to constantly establish the fact of Knowledge Inequity in our research projects by thinking this aspect together with the idea of Open Science. Thinking about the vision of an equitable, inclusive and sustainable future proclaimed by Agenda 2030 this seems to be the one and only direction in which we are aiming to reduce the gap of Inequities that is getting bigger and bigger.

Open Questions

What I would like to end with are questions I cant get out of my head. For example:

  • Is Open Science automatically leading to Knowledge Equity?
  • How are we deciding what is meant to be equitable? Especially: Who is deciding this – thinking about the power dynamics we talked about earlier.
  • Why is not everyone actually working with Open Science criteria?
  • How can I use the position in my project to re-direct knowledge with Open Science criteria the best?
  • Last but not least: What the hell is going here? To always be sure I do not take too much for granted and am still able to wonder about everydays awkwardness. Goffman would be happy! #StayCurious

 

Literature

ARTILES, A. J., & DYSON, A. (2005): Inclusive education in the globalization age: The promise of comparative cultural historical analysis. In D. Mitchell (Ed.), Contextualizing inclusive education (pp. 37-62). London: Routledge. •

BOOTH, T. (1995): Mapping inclusion and exclusion: Concepts for All? In: C. Clark, A. Dyson & A. Millward (Eds.) Towards Inclusive Schools? (pp. 96-108). London: David Fulton.

KRUSCHICK, F. (2021): Inclusive Education: ‘From West to the Rest’ (Grech 2011, 88) – About the need of getting aware of Knowledge (In-)Equity & Open Science. Presented at the Open Science Barcamp, online-based: Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4552659

GRECH, SH. (2011): Recolonising debates or perpetuated coloniality? Decentring the spaces of disability, development and community in the global South. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15:1, 87-100. Last access: 12.02.2021 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2010.496198

HASKELL, S. H. (1998): Inclusive Schooling: The contemporary cultural imperialism of western ideologies. Paper presented to the Second International Exhibition and Congress on Rehabilitation, 29-31 March 1998, Dubai, United Arab Emirated.

MEEKOSHA, H. (2008): Contextualizing disability: developing southern/ global theory. Keynote paper given to 4th. Biennial Disability Studies Conference, Lancaster.

MUTHUKRISHNA, N. & ENGELBRECHT, P. (2018): Decolonising inclusive education in lower income, Southern African educational contexts. South African Journal of Education, 38 (4). Last access 12.02.2021 https://doi.org/10.15700/saje.v38n4a1701

SINGAL, N. (2013): Disability, poverty and education. London: Routledge.

UN. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Sustainable Development. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Last access: 09.02.2021 https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda

UN. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol. Last access: 09.02.2021 https://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf

WERNING, R. et al. (2016): Introduction. In: Dies. (Hg.): Keeping the promise? Contextualizing Inclusive Education in Developing Countries. Bad Heilbrunn: Verlag Julius Klinkhardt.

Wikimedia. Fellowship Freies Wissen. Last access: 22.02.2021
https://www.wikimedia.de/projects/fellow-programm-freies-wissen/


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