Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Please note that all times are shown in the time zone of the conference. The current conference time is: 8th Feb 2023, 12:53:02am WET

Session Overview
PSG. 23.3: Administration, Diversity and Equal Treatment
Wednesday, 07/Sept/2022:
4:30pm - 6:30pm

Session Chair: Prof. Anna SIMONATI, University of Trento
Session Chair: Prof. Esther HAPPACHER, University of Innsbruck
Location: TEJO

TEJO Room ISCSP - Rua Almerindo Lessa, Pólo Universitário da Ajuda, 1300-663 Lisboa


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Inclusion and factors of diversity in the schools

Stefania BARONCELLI, Monica Rosini, Orsolya Farkas

Free University of Bolzano, Italy

This working paper aims to analyse the concept of inclusion as applied in schools, identifying the sources of greatest discrimination on the basis of constitutional and European legislation and case law. In our school system, the principle and practice of inclusion are equally referred to all pupils, no one excluded, even if there is a special focus on personal and social situations that cause learning difficulties; personal and social situations include disabilities, specific learning disorders, special educational needs, socio-cultural, family and linguistic disadvantages, particular legal statuses (of foreign immigrant and refugee minors), health conditions. Finally, the impact of online education on discrimination will be discussed.

Students with migrant backgrounds: diversity and equal treatment in Italian schools

Orsolya Farkas, Stefania BARONCELLI, Monica Rosini

Free University of Bolzano, Italy

In Italy, just as in many other European countries, the presence of migrant people has become a characterizing feature of the society. These people can have very different life stories, but what accumulates them is that they might have to face disadvantages while taking efforts to integrate into the local society. This certainly applies to young people as well. For them, the principal place of interaction with the host society is in schools. Schools constitute the main context of their integration as well, since educational institutions have the task to prepare young people for their adulthood, in terms of conveying scientific knowledge and, throughout the transmission of soft skills, to enable them to become active citizens and to fully participate in the social, economic and political life of the county. Therefore, the question what arises is if Italian schools are fully equipped with the necessary legal instruments and policy tools not only to protect from discrimination, but also to promote substantial equality of students who might face disadvantages because of their migrant backgrounds. A further issue to be explored is to what extent diversity is valued as a resource for the whole school community.

Today an average of 10% of Italian students attending mandatory schools have migrant backgrounds. However, students with migrant backgrounds have lower achievements than their native peers and they are represented in a much higher proportion among early schools-leavers and among NEETs, those who are neither in education, employment or training. In relation to early school-leavers (18-24 years old), 32,30% of students with non-Italian citizenship are concerned, compared to 11,30% of native students. Similarly, though to a smaller degree, a higher share of non-Italian young people are among NEETs than natives: 31,90% against 20,90%.

There are multiple factors behind this phenomenon, but it is worthwhile to scrutinize what is the role schools play, more precisely how the normative framework and the policy initiatives are able to address the situation, which are the positive features and critical areas; and what kind of developments should take place.

As the paper will explain it, the Italian legislator has devoted particular attention to students with special needs in education. The regulatory framework is divided into various categories according to the type of needs. Students with migrant backgrounds are protected within the category of “Students with linguistic, cultural and socio-economic disadvantage” and can benefit from various actions tailored to their needs. However, most of the actions are based on the initiatives of schools within their discretional power and they are rarely enforceable.

The underlying concept for Italian schools in this context has been developed in the guidelines of the Ministry for Education (2014) as a “model of integration in an inclusive school”. This concept describes integration which subscribes to the pupils the requirement of the acquisition of language and other knowledge in the field of civic education. These requirements are placed in the wider context of an inclusive school which is ready to implement changes and adjustments according to the needs of all learners in order to ensure full participation and the development of the potential of every student.

However, the paper identifies various gaps in the implementation of the constitutional principle stating that “schools are open to everyone” (art. 34 Italian Constitution) and suggests taking more efforts to guarantee substantial equality. One area relates to language knowledge: Every student with cultural and linguistic disadvantage should have access to a course of Italian as second language until reaching the level of proficiency. A second area focuses on reach-out of newly arrived and vulnerable students: a reference person or tutor should support and accompany the student from welcoming him/her until the choice of upper secondary school to avoid drop-out. And last, it seems to be advisable to counterbalance the exclusive power of teachers to activate a personalized study plan designed for the needs of a specific student in order to address his/her disadvantage.

The suggested changes would require a systematic reform of the legal framework inspired by the principle of an inclusive school open to each and every student. Otherwise, it will not be possible to eradicate the inequalities deriving from the initial social and cultural disparities.

Digital school, infrastructure inequalities and inclusion

Annarita IACOPINO, Loredana GIANI

European University of Rome, Italy

Talking about inclusive systems means adopting a conceptual paradigm that necessarily moves away, and it could not be otherwise, from a sphere of investigation limited to the single reality considered, that of schools, in favour of a necessarily broader vision in which inclusion becomes a tool for the realisation of the more general objective of cohesion. That same economic and, above all, social cohesion, which stands as a founding element of the very sustainability of which multiple declinations are heard from many quarters.

It is, therefore, a matter of an overall vision, a relationship of necessary logical presupposition that sees inclusion as a tool with (necessarily) also organisational value, for the realisation of the other two objectives (cohesion and sustainability), according to a substantial meaning that has, however, struggled to assert itself in the context of ordinary legislation.

School inclusion, which represents only one of the declinations in which inclusion itself can be understood, is based on the recognition of the relevance of the full participation in (school) life of "all" individuals, configuring itself as a process that presupposes the valorisation of individual differences and the facilitation of social participation and learning; a process in which the school, part of a broader organisation, becomes a fundamental actor in the elimination of the barriers that stand between the individual and the exercise of his or her fundamental right to education.

The aim of this contribution is to analyse the role of the "digital school" in the process of inclusion and the impact of the digital divide on access to the exercise of the right to education, with particular reference to students with Special Educational Needs.

Fraom Spaces of Selection to Learning Spaces of Democracy. Builing a fair Educational System

Alexandra WEISS

University of Innsbruck, Austria

The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes educational systems as spaces of selection and exclusion. 40 years after publishing his work “The Illusion of Equal Opportunities” together with Jean Claude Passeron, problems within the educational system haven’t chanced much. Thinking about universities and their historical evolution, we have to face the fact that we operate within a very exclusive area perpetuating implicit and explicit exclusions. At their basis, universities are dominantly male, middle-class and white. Today, of course, formal exclusions of specific groups from the educational system do not exist any more. However, many people cannot find their way into these institutions. People with working class background or migration background for example, have never been getting equal access to higher education although they have never been formally excluded. And if we take a look at higher positions at universities, the gender bias still exists. The main reason for this regrettable fact is our understanding of what equal opportunity means and the policy of equal opportunity.

As it is practised, equal opportunity policy is not suitable for eliminating social inequality within the educational system. On the contrary, it reproduces the given social order. The main issue is – until today and not only in this area – the difference between formal and real equality. Therefore Bourdieu and Passeron talk about three illusions our educational system is based on.

The first problem is that the educational system does not produce a hierarchy of educational effort; rather, it reproduces the social hierarchy of our society. Secondly, the function of the educational system is not producing differences with regards to efforts and expertise; it legitimates and perpetuates a given social order. And thirdly: in spite of this, most people think that the educational system is neutral and objective and that its primary function is education and training. As Bourdieu and Passeron point out, the reason for this “paradoxical faith” is that for most people social advancement by education is the only chance in a system which represents itself as meritocratic.

Since 2015, the European Union has been trying to organize the educational system and access to universities in a fairer way. Within the framework of the Bologna-Process it came to a resolution about the “Social Dimension in Higher Education”. Every member state is asked to develop a national strategy to improve social equality in higher education. In addition, every university designs strategies for managing diversity and improving access to the university for all social groups.

This contribution will present (1), the main results of critical educational sociology and elite research and explore the question, whether empirical research in Austria confirms their results. In a second step (2), efforts of the Austrian government by anchoring social dimensions in higher education will be discussed. And in a third step (3), ideas and suggestions for realising equal opportunities in higher education are introduced and interrogated in regard to their efficiency.

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