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New Social Compact

Ensuring Inclusion and Integration through Intercultural Education

Swaleha Sindhi Ph.D.

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India has undergone significant social, cultural, demographic and economic change since the year 1991, with the adoption of new economic policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. Until that stage, the population was heterogeneous, to a limited extent. But after the LPG policy the migration patterns changed in India.

There has been a significant increase in migration to urban areas along with transnational movements, both among males and females. The new destination for them in the process of migration presents the state of transition of the cultures of migrated people. The benefit of migration is the opportunities to develop into both a multi-lingual and intercultural society, (only if the process of integration in host countries works efficiently and the policies change periodically). Thus new set of Diaspora population profile presents us with both new opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges and opportunity is to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the cultural heritage unique to each different group whilst at the same time realising that this is contributing to a shared collective awareness of Indian identity, which is constantly evolving. Migrants in India, represent some 200 nationalities, and a heterogeneous group. They have different cultures, languages and levels of education. A minority may not have received a basic education prior to arriving in India, whilst the majority are highly educated, many to post- graduate level. Some may not be working in jobs commensurate with their qualifications and experience. There is need of heterogeneity approaches which see continued cultural difference and highlight local cultural autonomy, cultural resistance to homogenization, cultural clashes and polarization and distinct subjective experiences of globalization. (Robinson, 2007). Thus, in a world that is experiencing rapid changes education has a major role to play in promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence, through programmes that encourage dialogue between students of different cultures, beliefs and religions. Education can make an important and meaningful contribution to sustainable and tolerant societies.

Intercultural Education

Interculturality is a dynamic concept and refers to evolving relations between cultural groups. It has been defined as “the existence and equitable interaction of diverse cultures and the possibility of generating shared cultural expressions through dialogue and mutual respect. Interculturality presupposes multiculturalism and results from ‘intercultural’ exchange and dialogue on the local, regional, national or international level. As a minimum, intercultural education requires majorities to learn about the minorities and their cultural and traditions while minorities must similarly learn about other minorities in the same society as well as about the majorities. (Eide, 1999). Intercultural education, according to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA, 2006), sensitises the learner to the idea that humans have naturally developed a range of different ways of life, customs and worldviews, and that this breadth of human life enriches all. It is education, which promotes equality and human rights, challenges unfair discrimination, and promotes the values upon which equality is built. Thus, Intercultural Education Strategy aims to ensure that all students experience an education that respects the diversity of values, beliefs, languages and traditions in Indian society and is conducted in a spirit of partnership. Therefore, schools can play a role in the development of an intercultural society when they are assisted with ensuring that inclusion and integration within an intercultural learning environment become the norm. Intercultural education in schools cannot be just a simple ‘add on’ to the regular curriculum. It needs to concern the learning environment as a whole, as well as other dimensions of educational processes, such as school life and decision making, teacher education and capacity building, curricula, languages of instruction, pedagogy, teaching learning materials etc. This can be done through the inclusion of multiple perspectives and voices. The development of inclusive curricula that contain learning about the languages, histories and cultures of non-dominant groups in society is one important example.

Existing Scenario in India

Fundamental values underlying Intercultural education are respect for human rights and rule of law, intercultural values, and openness to world democracy. In India there already exist diversity in cultures and tradition. Indians are subconsciously more aware about other cultures and this awareness subtly contributes to an understanding about other’s viewpoint. Indians have by default an implicit compassion for other cultures. Indian schools deal with students from different cultures. Their backgrounds differ in terms of parent’s education, religion, socio economic status, household and family norm, also they differ in values and attitudes, lifestyles, abilities/disabilities, and ethnicity, in case of urban schools even nationality. Ethnicity or nationality is therefore only one of the factors that make our classrooms diverse and thus influences our student’s culture. But in the existing Indian scenario the contemporary education is at a crossroads and facing multiple challenges related to equity, equality and quality, there is a need to evolve multi-pronged, context-specific strategies for addressing the needs of children from diverse backgrounds.

Time and again government policies attempt to address issues related to equity, equality and quality concerns in education. The National Policy on Education, 1968 and the National Policy on Education, 1986 addresses these issues. Both these policies laid special emphasis on removal of disparity and equalize educational opportunity by attending to the specific needs of those who had so far been denied equality. These policies lay special stress upon making education a vehicle of social transformation and empowerment. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 is another attempt of government to make primary education for all mandatory. To give effect to the recommendations of commissions, policy initiatives and legal provisions have been made by central and state agencies and civil society to provide education to all irrespective of gender, caste, class, faith and location. A plethora of schools run by different agencies, i.e. government, government aided, private and those managed by minority institutions, provide access to children from diverse backgrounds. Several national schemes such as the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), 1994, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), 2001 and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), 2010 have worked towards fulfilling the unfinished agenda of education for all at different levels. SSA also developed and implemented innovative training model, for primary school teachers in the tribal areas of Orissa. The model focused on attitudinal training of teachers and their sensitization to tribal language, culture and knowledge systems

Various innovative experiments in school reforms have been taken up by civil society organizations as well as in the government sector in different parts of the country. These experiments have attempted curriculum design, development of teaching-learning methods and materials, and teacher development with child-centered inclusive perspectives. These have shown encouraging results in terms of the learning achievement of children from diverse backgrounds. Indian schools can transform total school environment with the help of pedagogy that aims at achieving equity and equal educational opportunities for all of the nation’s children, including socio-economically disadvantaged and ethnic minorities in the micro cultures. The Activity Based Learning methodology introduced in response to the poor learning levels amongst children and uninteresting classroom processes is a step towards creating inclusive classrooms. The most notable feature of the reform is its focus on changing classrooms, in terms of methodology, the role of teachers, classroom organization and classroom environment as a whole. Although many efforts are made towards making diverse classroom interesting there is a need for preparation of text books, supplementary materials and bridge courses in the mother tongue of the learners for better comprehension of subject. In addition, multilingualism and bilingual approaches needs to be explored. Equity pedagogy also requires teacher to develop an understanding of the different learning styles students develop from their own cultural upbringing so that educators can employ alternative instructional strategies to help all students learn the key concepts, principles, facts, and generalizations in the various content areas and academic disciplines. To be able to do this, teachers will need to develop pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions that allow them to adapt alternative teaching methods or modify instructional strategies in culturally diverse classrooms. School and classroom climates must also be changed so that academic success is achievable by students from all cultural groups. Therefore, dealing with intercultural education requires adequate understanding of the demographics of the students, culture, and race in popular culture, and development of social action skills. It also emphasizes the clearing up of myths and stereotypes associated with gender, age, and the various races and ethnic groups by stressing basic human similarities (Nieto, 1996). Apart from this, Intercultural education promotes developing an awareness of discrimination such as cultural racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

Conclusion

There have been many demographic changes in India in recent years. The educational policies and programs therefore are reviewed in light of contemporary circumstances. The development of an intercultural education strategy acknowledged these demographic changes, which are reflected in the education system. But alongside the adequate development of learners’ intercultural competence can’t be achieved exclusively through policies and programs. Without teachers’ sensitiveness and understanding of the diverse student community in the classroom students’ progress cannot be achieved. It is clear that professional growth commitment and motivation of teachers is essential. Thus, through the combined effort from institutions and education agencies, teachers can fulfil their responsibilities with a greater confidence. The Schools must create congenial classroom environment that address the emotional make-up of children and encourage them to voice their opinions and feelings without fear of being intimidated. The creation of such an atmosphere would go a long way in strengthening the bonds between teachers, children and the school. Integration of context specific technology in classroom processes and multiple activities conducted in schools would help in skill development of children from diverse origins for self-reliance.

Dr.Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. Dr. Sindhi is a frequent columnist on related topics, too. She is the Vice President of Indian Ocean Comparative Education Society (IOCES). Contact: swaleha sindhi[at]gmail.com

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New Social Compact

Joker &the Pathology of Violence

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image: Warner Bros

JOKER, director Todd Phillips and renowned actor Joaquin Phoenix’s new take on an infamous comic book villain, will hit the big screen this weekend.  It has garnered prestigious awards (such as the Golden Lion), laudatory critic reviews & is expected to attract hordes of eager moviegoers.  However, JOKER has also inspired ominous think-pieces from publications such as The Atlantic and Vox.  Additionally, the US military and the NYPD have expressed concern that the film could inspire violence.

These detractors of JOKER are arguing that the film glorifies “incel violence” and is thus likely to inspire acts as incel violence.  This logic has been used ad nauseam to condemn everything from comic books, to video games, to martial arts, to Marilyn Manson to hip-hop.  No credible study has proven that art that portrays violence causes real-world violence.  Some people may point out that extreme outliers, like white-supremacist music, could cause violence.  However, it would be more logical to argue the opposite: people who compose and listen to white-supremacist music were already enmeshed in a violent ideology.  Likewise, genocidal propaganda tends not to focus on explicitly glorifying violence for violence’s sake, but in portraying groups of people as sub-human (Tutsis being compared to roaches, Jews being portrayed as greedy and treasonous, etc.).  It’s thus a process of long, gradated inculcation.  As Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels realized, there’s no reverse-Ludovico Technique that can magically turn people into killing machines by quickly showing them a two-hour film.

Now, it is true that a few violent criminals have cited works of art as inspiration for their actions.  This is statistically inevitable, but insignificant.  There are bound to be a few outliers who have bizarre interpretations on art, just as there are a few people who have been inspired to commit acts of terrorism based on personal interpretations of religion or politics.  It’s no more logical to suggest that we ban violent video games or art because of mass shootings than to suggest we ban Buddhism because of Aum Shinrikyo’s gas attack on the Tokyo subway, or that we should ban Irish patriotism because of the IRA.  Furthermore, some violent lunatics have been inspired by works of art, such as John Lennon’s killer citing Catcher in the Rye, that aren’t even violent in nature.  Clearly, the people who commit mass killings are incredibly unhinged individuals who are in a violent frame of mind, regardless of what media they consume.  Likewise, 99.99% of people who play FPS games or who watch slasher flicks aren’t going to go on a shooting rampage or create a torture dungeon in their basement.

To return things to JOKER itself, the film in no way “glorifies” violence.  For starters, half of the violence is inflicted on the main character (the “incel hero”); there are two scenes where The Joker gets jumped mercilessly and a third scene where he gets sucker-punched in the face.  The violent acts that The Joker himself commits are portrayed in a very gruesome manner (in one scene with The Joker and a neighbor of his, the violence isn’t even shown, but is merely implied).  When The Joker bashes someone’s head in or shoots someone point-blank, there are no crass jokes, inspirational music or voiceovers quoting The Art of War. The plotline doesn’t imply any justification for the killings.  When someone gets killed in the film, audience-goers don’t hoot and holler like they would in a screening of a zombie film or a Nazi-revenge flick like Inglorious Basterds.  Rather, there is an awkward pall of silence in the theater at the nihilistic spectacle.

JOKER makes it very clear that the title character’s violence is motivated by nothing but his utter insanity.  The Joker descends into a killing machine after being released from an asylum and after he stops taking seven different psych meds (which weren’t helping him much, anyway).  When being interviewed, he admits that he isn’t compelled by any ideology whatsoever.  Rather, The Joker literally views the act of killing as a joke. 

Nor does The Joker gain any tangible reward for his violence; he gets fired from his job, arrested, hit by an ambulance and committed to an asylum as a direct result of his actions. Joaquin Phoenix’s character gets a thrill from the media coverage that his killings elicit (and a standing ovation from fellow thugs in the film’s penultimate scene), but that not’s a real reward, but rather a feeling that many real-life killers in fact get when they are portrayed in the news.  For instance, the as-yet unidentified Zodiac Killer literally played games with Bay Area news outlets, sending them letters that boasted about his kills, contained cryptic puzzles and threatened to blow up a school bus if he didn’t receive even more media attention.  Many other serial killers who were apprehended were found to have hoarded newspaper clippings that documented their crimes.  Similarly, coverage of a mass shooting often inspires “copycat mass shootings”.  The takeaway from this is that the media should be careful about inadvertently turning stories about mass shootings and terror attacks into personal biographies of the killer.  When covering these kinds of attacks, some news outlets, like The Young Turks and The David Pakman Show, deliberately choose to blur the killers’ faces and avoid naming them, so as not to give the killers the attention that they wanted to garner and to avoid inspiring other violently-deranged individuals who crave attention.

The fact that JOKER doesn’t merely portray the villain as an Evil-Incarnate caricature doesn’t mean that it is therefore glorifying violence.  The audience is meant to sympathize with The Joker when he get jumped without warning or when he talks about the crippling depression that he has felt for literally his entire life.  There are scenes showing The Joker comforting his mother and entertaining sick children.  The mere fact that The Joker is portrayed as a full human being, good traits and bad traits, doesn’t mean the film is justifying how he releases his violent rage.  No human is evil 100% of the time: there is no villain who tortures hamsters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is only by studying the causes of violent criminals’ various motivations that we can ever hope to ebb the tide of violence.  Most violent criminals have suffered from childhood abuse, childhood poverty, a missing parental figure, bullying and/or mental illness (The Joker had to deal with all five of these traumas).  By empathizing with these plights, we can create programs (drug treatment programs, stamping out bullying in school, removing children from abusive households, etc.) that can reduce violent crime.

It’s not comfortable to acknowledge that history’s most evil people had humanity or that societal norms (like persecuting people, tolerating child abuse or underfunding mental illness and addiction treatment programs) can fuel violence.  It’s evident that Todd Phillips, through his direction and screenplay, and Joaquin Phoenix, through his tortured portrayal of The Joker, meant to give us a glimpse into the mind of a demented killer, not so we can sympathize with the protagonist’s brutal violence, but so we can sympathize with the myriad factors that drove the protagonist to criminal insanity.  The nearly uniform media portrayals of mentally-ill individuals as Pure Evil only serves to misinform the public and to scare those suffering from mental disorders from seeking help.  Hopefully, the discussions being generated by JOKER will encourage people to learn more about complex diseases like schizophrenia and to be more proactive in reaching out to loved ones who are displaying signs of mental anguish.

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New Social Compact

Women outnumber men in higher education but gender stereotyped subject choices persist

MD Staff

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Education is essential to achieving gender equality. From the earliest schooling to the highest levels of post-graduate study, education influences the opportunities that can shape people’s lives.

This is why education and training of women is one of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, while target 4.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for the elimination of gender disparities in education by 2030.

In the UNECE region girls tend to outperform boys in terms of learning outcomes in schools, and women outnumber men in tertiary education (university level and beyond) in almost all countries of the region.

Women remain in the minority, however, as students of stereotypically “masculine” subjects such as ICT and engineering, although in recent years they have begun slowly gaining ground.

Tertiary level graduates

In 39 out of the 47 UNECE countries with data, more than 55 per cent of tertiary graduates are women. Iceland has the highest share, with 66 per cent women.  Seven countries are close to gender parity, with the share of women ranging from 48 to 55 per cent, and only in Uzbekistan are women in a clear minority, with 38 per cent of tertiary graduates.

After decades of increase in women’s participation in higher education, women substantially outnumbered men among tertiary level graduates in most countries by 2012. Since then, women’s share has declined in 32 out of the 47 countries with data. Whilst in Azerbaijan and Turkey fewer than half of tertiary graduates were women in 2012, more women have entered tertiary education in these countries since and the 2017 data already show gender parity there. 

Subject choices of women and men

The subjects studied at tertiary level by women and men can reflect stereotypes of “masculine” and “feminine” subject areas. Some subjects may be preferred by potential employers and may affect occupational segregation once graduates enter the labour market. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction (EMC) are two broad groups of subjects where male students have historically predominated.

Women remain a minority among ICT students in the UNECE region, with percentages ranging from 11 in Belgium to 33 in Greece. The four countries with the largest share of women among ICT students are all in the Balkan region. Among students of EMC, the share of women is somewhat higher, but still falls far short of parity, ranging from 14 per cent in Georgia to 44 per cent in North Macedonia.

In both of these subject groups, the recent trend shows small gains for women in some countries but reductions in others. Overall, progress towards gender equality in these two typically male-dominated subject areas is uneven and slow.

UNECE Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting

Progress in achieving gender equality in education will be one of the areas in focus at the upcoming Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region, with a particular emphasis on how women and girls can enter currently male-dominated fields.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action) is the most ambitious road map for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. In 2020, it will be 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action outlined how to overcome the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life. 

The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October 2019) will take stock of where the UNECE region stands on keeping the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. Bringing together government representatives and key stakeholders from the UNECE region, the meeting will tackle a number of obstacles that keep girls and women from realizing their full potential. UNECE is joining forces with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia to deliver a two-day multi-stakeholder meeting to exchange concrete policies to accelerate the realization of gender equality. The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9 to 20 March 2020.

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New Social Compact

Call for Action from Leaders and Business on Violence against Women

Newsroom

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Spiralling levels of violence against women in Africa require immediate action from governments and businesses, including tangible measures to create safe spaces, experts from across the continent told the World Economic Forum on Africa today.

Protesters in South Africa have taken to the streets and social media to demand action, following the rape and murder of a Cape Town university student who was attacked in a post office. Uyinene Mrwetyana was just the latest of many victims of brutal assaults in a region where approximately 45% of women and girls over 14 years have experienced physical or sexual violence.

“I’m dumbfounded by the idea that we can continue with business as usual,” said Namhla Mniki-Mangaliso, Director of African Monitor, who urged technology companies to take a lead in delivering solutions. “It would take a click of a finger for a tech company to say we are going to deploy a software that can assist us with an emergency response system for poor women in South Africa free of charge.”

The potential for technology to help in the fightback highlights the need for businesses to think creatively, given that cyberbullying can also contribute to discrimination in the first place. Mniki-Mangaliso said the wider business community should also step up to the plate by backing a gender-based fund to address the deep-rooted problems behind the rising tide of physical and sexual assaults.

Hafsat Abiola-Costello, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women in Africa Initiative, said Africa could learn from China, where decisive action was taken to ban harmful practices like foot binding and polygamy. African governments, by contrast, too often fail to enforce bans on polygamy or genital mutilation, thereby reinforcing a culture of discrimination against women that becomes embedded from childhood.

The failure to protect women is not just a moral issue; it also comes with a high economic cost. “Who drives African communities? It’s our women. Our women can drive Africa’s development, if given the chance, if protected, if their rights are respected,” Abiola-Costello said. “Africa missed the first industrial revolution, we missed the second, we missed the third. If we don’t address this issue, we will miss the fourth.”

Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, who spearheaded the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Nigeria and is a fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy, said calls for women to help drive African development will simply ring hollow if violence is not addressed. “The world lacks the moral pedestal to stand on to ask girls to aspire if we cannot have the back of those who are vulnerable,” she said.

With 16,000 deaths due violence against in women every year in South Africa alone, Akudo Anyanwu, Associate Dean at Johns Hopkins University, said: “Our presidents and the leaders in government need to come out and take a position. We need to have our leaders come out and call crimes a crime.”

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