Education Talks: Inclusion through the lens of myths and actions

Inclusive schools are not a fact of life yet. Many hazardous educational myths still persist, alienating students and their families – but, on the bright side, educational actions are constantly setting the bar higher. To hear more about this subject, we interviewed Teresa Sordé Martí, Serra Húnter Associate Professor of Sociology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and board member of the European Toolkit for Schools.

How do educational myths influence children's schooling?

We all know that there are enduring and persisting inequalities throughout Europe. We’ve seen it in the stats and we always know who is more likely to drop out. That’s something that we know. If you look at the statistics and the way that we collect statistics, we see a clear correlation. Those children whose families do not have a high educational level or who are from low SES backgrounds, from disadvantaged backgrounds, tend to drop out more than the other families. This is a reality. The problem is that sometimes this correlation has been confused for a causation – so, blaming the families as if it was their fault that their children are failing. And this has been a disastrous educational myth that has been really well spread out among many teachers, many policymakers, many schools – even many families have internalised this.

But when they are exposed to family education programmes and they start to learn and to promote cultural and educational interactions with the children, these children whose families are of disadvantaged backgrounds are succeeding. Because they start to talk about the book that they are reading in the dialogic literary gathering, for instance. And we’ve seen these in our research. So family education is a way to break down this closed circle of inequality and this educational myth that is damning thousands and thousands of students around Europe to fail.

What kind of actions are available for schools to become more inclusive?

Examples of these successful educational actions are for instance the Interactive Groups. This is a way of grouping your students within a classroom by small, heterogeneous groups, and each of these groups is facilitated by a person. The function of this person is to facilitate the interactions among the students. So, in order to move to the other small group, they have to make sure that all the students finish the assigned tasks. And this is a way to multiply by four or five the instrumental learning that the students are acquiring, and also to improve the living together. Because if I have problems with Mustafa, but I see that Mustafa is helping me to resolve a mathematical problem, then I see Mustafa in a new light. So it’s also a way to improve the living together and the school climate.

It’s also a way to bring in the community, because these persons who are facilitating the Interactive Groups can be illiterate mothers. Actually, there are illiterate Roma mothers entering the classroom and volunteering in the Interactive Groups and facilitating these small groups. This is just an example of these successful educational actions, and there are many other examples of actions and interventions that are working. You'll find them in the European Toolkit for Schools: it’s a repository of very well-selected practices and actions and resources that are supported by the scientific community in terms of having shown that they are effective in preventing school failure.

How can schools implement these actions?

The decision of a school, of a learning community to start implementing the successful educational actions is a bottom-up process. So that means that each school has its own story. So sometimes it’s a teacher who has read, who has been trained and researched and has discovered the successful educational actions. Other people through the European Toolkit for Schools can also start to implement them. There are also Erasmus+ projects promoting the extension of the successful educational actions. Or, for instance, in Latin America, it has been private enterprise that has taken them as one of their social projects and is spreading them in eight countries of Latin America.