Inclusion and Exclusion: Education Research Conference in Bolzano

About 3000 education researchers met in the inspiring and beautiful capital of South Tirol, Bolzano in Italy for the annual ECER Conference (European Conference on Educational Research). Regardless the name, education research around the topic was presented from all over the world. The organiser, EERA (European Educational Research Association) has a specialised network on communities, families and schooling in educational research, focusing on the topics of  school-family-community links, parental and familial involvement in schools. Several interesting presentations were dealing with school-family relations, parental involvement, parental engagement and the role of family and community in inclusion as well as exclusion.

Parents International was not only present at the event, but also had an official governance meeting with the current and future president of EERA on our collaboration so far and in the future. We pursue to collaborate for defining a basic 21st century skills set and the responsibilities in delivering it, as well as on parenting support for good 21st century parenting.

The topics covered by this specialised network at the conference were incredibly wide from pre-school to secondary school and vocational education, from migrant education to majority demand, from STEM to reading literacy, but most of them were focusing on family involvement in schools to improve learning and incluiosion for the most disadvantaged children and youth. Most of the research presented was done in a local or maximum national contect, but examples were shown from a variety of countries not only from Europe, but also from other continents. Some research presented, for example on school participation in Israel or Finland, are good ground for further thinking and collaboration.

The aim was to provide a forum for developing and exchanging knowledge in educational research focused on reducing educational and social exclusion in schools and communities through family involvement. Contributions focused on the study of theories, policies and practices that foster educational opportunity for the most disadvantaged children and youth. They were focusing on research-based knowledge to reduce the socio-educative exclusion affecting the most disadvantaged children and youth and studies that show a positive impact of family involvement on academic, social and emotional development of the most disadvantaged students.

According to the network “the international scientific community has already advanced the knowledge about how to improve students’ academic results at primary schools incorporating the family into the learning process. However, it is still to be learnt about how to break the cycle of educational inequalities among traditionally excluded students (Gadsden, Davis & Artiles, 2009). Some of the causes, manifestations and consequences of such inequality on excluded populations’ daily lives have been pointed out (Sen, 2000; Flecha & Soler, 2013).

Darling-Hammond (1996) discussed access to quality education as being at the heart of inequality, while others report on the reality of life disparities around many other issues in social contexts (FIFCFS, 1999). The development of capacities that guarantee educational excellence for all children is capital too to reduce social inequalities and strengthen social cohesion. Despite the effort of many critical educators to transform difficulties into possibilities (Freire, 1997), immigrant children, ethnic minorities and those living in poverty are beaten by segregation, taught with low expectations placed on them, and experience disengagement and school failure (Delpit, 1995; Oakes, 1985).

Those inequalities find their expression in schools in Europe and worldwide, but it is time to move beyond causes and shed light upon effective solutions. It is therefore necessary to shed light upon those actions implemented already in schools worldwide that have provided evidence to support equity, overcoming social problems and obtaining the best educational results for all (Zimmer, 2003; Brunello & Checchi, 2007, Ladson Billings, 1994; Orfield, 2001).”

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