Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Education in multicultural societies
Migration, communication and collaboration across national borders bring important challenges and opportunities for school development, among them, growing ethnic and linguistic diversity among teachers and students in different school contexts. In the Nordic countries, schools witness increasing diversity in terms of ethnic origins, languages, religions, sexual orientations as well as social class of staff and students. Research in various societies and schools in the past decades has repeatedly shown that many so-called immigrants and children of immigrant backgrounds are marginalized and generally not succeeding well in schools at different levels of the education systems (Brooker, 2002; Coard, 2005; Drew & Demack, 1998; Gundara, 2000; Hernandez, 2004; Nieto, 2010; Rumbaut & Portes, 2001). In other words, they are said to be neither thriving socially as individuals nor are they academically successful. This has been an incentive for the extensive writing in recent decades on school development, curricula, pedagogy, leadership in schools, teacher education and other subjects related to multicultural school contexts and education. In the Nordic countries, recent research has indicated that equality in education is questioned and separation and marginalization of certain groups of immigrant students is manifested. A broad view of education as multicultural and inclusive has neither been officially established nor realised in these countries, although schools are responsible for providing high quality education for all their students according to law in the Nordic countries (Holm & Londen, 2010; Horst & Gitz-Johansen, 2010; Jónsdóttir & Ragnarsdóttir, 2010; Von Brömssen & Rodell Olgaç, 2010). Wlodkowski & Ginsberg (1995) maintain that any educational system that ignores the history and perspective of its learners or does not attempt to adjust its teaching practices to benefit all its learners contributes to inequality of opportunity.
The conference is the culmination of the NordForsk funded project in the Education for tomorrow programme: Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Success Stories from Immigrant Students and School Communities in Four Nordic Countries (2013-2015). The justification for this project can be found in the mismatch between shared fundamental values in the Nordic countries, such as democracy, social justice and inclusion, which are frequently stated in educational policy documents and the reality in many schools in these countries. We might argue that these fundamental values are only illusions, as educational research has revealed inequalities and marginalisation of students in many schools in the Nordic countries. With the project we pursue a new discourse regarding multiculturalism and inclusion and rethink the approach to schooling in our countries. In the project we explore success stories from immigrant students and schools in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Altogether 27 schools at preschool, compulsory and secondary levels participated in the project. Participants included leaders, teachers, students and parents.
The conference aims to bring together academics, students, teachers and policy makers to discuss and debate their research and practices (e.g. development projects) in education. The conference invites abstracts for individual papers, roundtables, symposia and posters within the following strands. Abstracts on related topics and on diversity and multicultural education more generally are also welcome. Although the focus of the conference is on Nordic countries, international scholars and practitioners are very welcome to send in an abstract. The conference should also be a site for sharing ´real´ practices between different geographical spaces.