Annual summer institute seeks to dismantle the barriers to education

This year’s Faculty of Education Summer Institute will explore the theme “Dismantling the Barriers to Education”. The annual event which will be held at York University’s Keele campus Aug. 21 and 22, is produced in partnership with the Réseau de Savoir sur l’Équité / Equity Knowledge Network (RSEKN).

The two-day conference will bring together educators, community partners, youth, parents, researchers, policy-makers, teacher candidates and other stakeholders to question, challenge and discuss many of the long-held educational beliefs, policies and practices that have become embedded and normalised in educational landscapes.

Two guiding questions will lead discussions for the conference. Day one will explore “What is the past and present history of colonial education in Canada?” and “What long-held educational beliefs, policies and practices serve as barriers to access, opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous, racialized and marginalized students?” Day two will examine “How might we dismantle these barriers and create the conditions for the transformation of systems that produce and reproduce these barriers in the first place?”

“These guiding questions will allow us to critically assess how dominant beliefs, policies and practices have historically created barriers to students access, engagement, achievement and well-being, and how those barriers are perpetuated today,” said Faculty of Education assistant professor Vidya Shah. “This is the canon in education, which has served to uphold power and privilege for students with dominant identities, often at the expense of students with racialized and marginalized identities.”

Building on the theme of FESI 2018 “Realities in data: Who counts … What counts … Who’s counting?”, this year’s conference will explore some of the political and ideological underpinnings of inequities in student experiences and realities across race, social class, faith/religion/spirituality, gender and sexuality and other social identities.

An example of one such inequity in student experiences can be seen in the recent media coverage that professor and current Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora received about school boards rethinking teaching To Kill A Mockingbird and other texts that use the 'N' word. Students interviewed by James for a research study in 2018 said that the ‘N’ word stereotypes them as ‘bad news,” that it presents them as the kinds of people to “stay away from,” and as such they’re hurt, offended and angered by its use. (read the article)

“These are the types of barriers that need to be assessed in relation to historical and contemporary contexts and the cultural backgrounds of the students engaging with them,” said James.

Educators will have an opportunity to reflect on this and how curriculum, teaching and learning perpetuate stereotypes, biases and assumptions about racialized, marginalized and Indigenous students and how some voices are consistently and historically ignored, silenced and omitted in our curriculum, classrooms, schools and communities.

Keynote panelists, workshop presenters and conference attendees will share examples of effective programming and practices that have been used to dismantle dominant narratives of schooling. They will also explore how to promote and encourage collaboration and movement building in the current political climate, reflecting on how systems and ideologies influence leadership practices, budget decisions, policies, student programming, inclusive hiring and promotion, professional learning and other structures.

Rania El Mugammar

This year’s keynote speaker is anti-oppression and liberation educator Rania El Mugammar who will explore the intersections of anti-black racism and Islamaphobia in a Canadian context. A multidisciplinary performer, speaker and published writer, Rania's work explores themes of identity, womanhood, Blackness, flight, exile, migration, belonging, gender, sexuality and beyond.

Other activities include workshops and a keynote panel that will address:

  • How have historical contexts of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy and other systems of oppression informed contemporary barriers to education for all students?
  • What long-held educational beliefs, policies and practices serve as barriers to access, opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous, Black, other racialized and marginalized students?

For more information, visit fesi.blog.yorku.ca.