Schooling in Contexts Marked by Disadvantage and the Inner Workings of Children’s Pedagogic Rights

Year: 2019

Author: Exley, Beryl

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This year marks three decades since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” (UNCRC). This human rights treaty, at its broadest, sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children aged up to 18 years of age. In its simplified form, Article 28 makes specific reference to education, noting “Children have the right to an education. Discipline in schools should respect children’s human dignity. Primary education should be free. Wealthier countries should help poorer countries achieve this”. Again, in a simplified form, Article 29 also makes reference to education, noting “Education should develop each child’s personality and talents to the full. It should encourage children to respect their parents, their cultures and other cultures.” In this research project, I delve further into the notion of children’s rights and extend its offerings to explore the “Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians” which proclaims the following two goals: “the promotion of equity and excellence in Australian schools” and that “all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens”. This research examines how one schooling system in Australia orientates to curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation. This research traces these system-wide policies through two cycles of recontextualisation, firstly at the level of school administration, and secondly at the level of the classroom teacher, to better understand how individual children in contexts marked by disadvantage experience curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation in school. In doing so, I draw on Bernstein’s (2000) heuristic of pedagogic rights and develop an analytical framework for exploring the child’s right to individual enhancement, social inclusion and political participation whilst engaged in institutional learning. The significance of this work is the investigation of the constitution of and the internal workings of these rights as they play out in two school sites within the same capital city in Australia. Both sites serve children living and learning in communities marked by multiple forms of disadvantage. Two core findings emerged from this research. First, in one context, the pedagogic rights of individual enhancement dominated the right to social inclusion and political participation. Second, in the other context, the right to individual enhancement and social inclusion dominated the right to political participation.