Every day, everywhere in the world, the educational adventure is being recreated by devoted teachers who are eager to help children, youth and adults to get educated even in the most adverse conditions. In universities, a lot of professors have spent a great deal of their professional lives trying to serve students with research and teaching, seeking the improvement of school systems and engaging in passionate public debates about educational policies.
Thus, the role of the researcher in education is not disconnected from practical education.
Somehow, the educational researcher is a kind of lawyer for an educational system of quality and relevance in the lives of people. In this way, they seek to expand the frontiers of knowledge considering it could be made a powerful democratic mean for social change.
But historically the workings of schooling and its relationships with politics have justified and reproduced social inequalities. Actually, the impacts of globalization on the public education systems have caused several situations of social exclusion. As Carlos Alberto Torres affirms, a number of elements intervene to produce this outcome, including school tracking, racist behavior, elite networking, disciplinary sanctions, lack of relevance of subject matter for people’s life, inefficient resource allocation and lack of efficacy of schooling as measured in dropout and repetition rates or irrelevant pro forma learning.
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Traditional schooling usually reproduces, for instance, classist and patriarchal relationships. This is result of the authoritarianism of administrators and political projects, but also of the authoritarianism of knowledge production, distribution, exchange and consumption.
Therefore, educational research has several analytical challenges to focus on.
The first challenge refers to the fact that schooling and knowledge has commodified social relations. Even in the radical camp there is a prevailing culture of consumption. Consequently, there is, for example, a cottage industry of Paulo Freire’s. There is a large number of intellectuals, many of whom previously were advocating social transformation, that now act as a new class of managers and defend the dominant social order. These new intellectual managers cut across all races, ethnicities, sexual dispositions, genders, religions, and the like.
The second challenge is the result of the information technology revolution and its impacts on the education. Schooling is losing ground as part and parcel of socialization devices compared to the mass media. The schools are losing relevance; the written word is losing relevance facing the hidden curriculum of the mass media. There is a growing sense of fragmentation and isolation in terms of social relationships and relationships of learning and knowledge. There is a kind of solipsism, which may in the end, result in political apathy, nihilism, and social disorganization. There is an increased power of unconventional relationships taking over everyday among people. There is, finally, a breakdown in family relationships, in the connections between youth culture and adult cultures, in the connections between teachers and pupils, in the structured mechanisms of social controls, in the rule of the law, and in community intimacy.
In several ways, the lack of relevance of schooling is being augmented with the phenomena of globalization. The dialectics of the global and local show that school, rather than being a space for emancipation, is a space for control and social reproduction. The dynamics of the global are demolishing the dynamics of local control of educational establishments.
Last but not least, the third analytical challenge is related to a reality in developing actually. In short, schooling has been more valuable as a park lot for children and youth, helping their parents forget about taking care of them for few hours. Schools resemble more boarding warehouses than learning places. They have lost the edge as state instruments acting in place of parents helping children and youth to socialize in morality, and cultivate disciplines of spirit and the body.
One consequence of restricting the debate about school to just pedagogical issues is that there has not sufficient attention paid by education theorists to the development of a more rigorous set of analytical categories that might enable us to make sense of the profound changes which characterize education actually. Consequently, this has tended to result in hyperbole and crude argument about impacts of globalization on education. Usually, globalization is shown as a unicausal mechanism and a process without a subject. But this is not true. Globalization is the outcome of a process that involves economic and political actors with real interests. So, the educational research can’t analyze the contemporary school phenomena without taking this into account. Otherwise it will be just reproducing new forms of ideological control.
Ivonaldo Leite is a sociologist, Ph.D from the University of Porto, Portugal and a professor at the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil.