Preventing radicalisation(s) at the classroom. Training of teachers to promote understanding in diversity
The University of Porto, through a researchers team from the Centre for Research and Intervention in Education of the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, integrates an European project named «Xeno-Tolerance: Supporting VET teachers and trainers to prevent radicalisations». The project main goal is to equip/train teachers to prevent radicalisation among learners, as «first liners» professionals who contact directly with young people in marginalisation, with the support from theoretical tools and practical resources to work at the levels of prevention, detection and/or reaction towards attitudes of discrimination and xenophobia, which can lead to radicalisation.
The concept of radicalisation started to have prominence in public texts about terrorism, in the turn of the year 2005 (Hörnqvist & Flyghed, 2012: 319), and «is usually understood as a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social or religious ideals and aspiration that reject or undermine the status quo”» (Wilner & Dubouloz, 2009 cit inSieckelinck, Kaulingfreks & De Winter, 2015: 330).
Considering Portuguese social, and cultural, reality the radicalisation concept is here assumed as being related with the construction of personal identity, which might be influenced by vulnerable contexts that potentiate the exclusion of fragile social and economic groups. That is why we want to pose the following question: «Can we think that radicalisation is an election of the society we live? (Hörnqvist & Flyghed, 2012: 320).
In the other hand we also believe that is important to consider, under the school context, the acknowledgement and awareness about diversity, and how is important to understand different cultural meanings (Cortesão & Cuale, 2011).
Is under this framework of ideas that this research is located. It constitutes an empirical clipping from the Xeno Tolerance project, supported by data that we collect about the vision of a group of teachers who work on the front line, with students who are at the end of that line in terms of their educational trajectory. We assumed that the needs pointed out by teachers could be seen as factors that can conduct to radicalisations processes in its wider conceptualisation, that is why was important to hear from them.
Specifically, the objetives of this reserche are: i) to to identify the difficulties teachers face in their daily work; as well as ii) to characterize ways to overcome those difficulties according to the hard publics they work with; and iii) to identify strategies focusing on how they organise a pedagogical and alternative answer to these considered marginalised students. We believe that this constitutes a new possibility of reconciliation of students with the school through adapted pedagogical models of vocational/professional education, as the key for their “lifelong learning” (Misra, 2011) as well as a strategy to build with them a personal, safe and respectful way of live. In this way we believe it will be also possible, through school, to prevent the risk of these students fall in radicalisation paths.
 See also Gad (2012); Githens-Mazer (2012); San; Sieckelinck & Winter (2013); Sewell e Hulusi (2016); Kundnani (2016).
According to the objectives of this project, we undertook an academic research with a school cluster of Porto city, North of Portugal. Were made 15 interviews to teachers and trainers who intervene with students with fragile school trajectories, who come from vulnerable social contexts where the matters of social exclusion and xenophobia are present.
The Portuguese teachers and school staff that are working with us under this research teach an adapted curriculum model for students with learning difficulties given their range of social and economic problems. This adapted curriculum is under the political measure PIEF* and there is also another project with the Ministry of Education for an adapted school curriculum, locally managed, and called «Arco Maior»**. The school cluster where these adapted classes fit in, is nationally recognised as a school with multicultural positive actions, and because of that it won an «Intercultural Stamp».
These teachers/school staff were, in a second moment, heard in a «focus group» situation what allowed the confrontation of different point of view, expressed individually during the interviews.
The interviews were transcribed and analysed by content analysis (Bardin, 1979, Amado, 2013, Morgado, 2012). We proceeded with an analysis of speeches from teachers, under a set of categories that allowed the detection of the felt needs from the Portuguese teachers, according to their school experience.
The main categories identified in teachers’ discourses were “experience in work with vulnerable groups of students”, “experience to teach for classes with students from different cultural backgrounds”, «identification of situations of discrimination/xenophobia” (mainlyto to objective i: identification of difficulties); «initiatives/projects that the school develops to fight discrimination”, «training experience from teachers in matters of discrimination” as well as teachers vision about “flexible management of curriculum” (to objectives ii and iii, related with ways and strategies to overcome the identified difficulties).
*PIEF – [PT] Programa Integrado de Educação e Fomação: [ENG] Integrated Programme of Education and Training. It is a political measure to promote inclusion at the school level, that includes an adapted curriculum when all other regular educational option were carried out. More information in: http://www.dge.mec.pt/programa-integrado-de-educacao-e-formacao.
**Arco Maior project is a pedagogical response to young people at risk, in order to include them in the education system, through an adapted model of school. More information available in: http://arcomaior.pt/.
The results from the interviews point that teachers recognise the naturalisation of discrimination in the school context, which is a factor that can lead to radicalisation, especially when this reality crosses with vulnerable social and poor contexts.
Regarding the identification of needs (objective i), the most important and relevant matters to work at the prevention level with students, are Gender and Sexuality, especially in what concerns to homosexuality, the Refugees Crisis, Discrimination by the skin colour, where we can include other problematic as Racism and Xenophobia, especially to gipsy people. However, these pre-conceptions seem to reveal some lack of information or are a result from family or peers influence.
According to these interviews, there is a connection between poverty and cultural minorities and between these and other «vulnerability factors» as: parents with problems with justice, drugs abuse, alcohol, unemployment, violent behaviour, bad nutrition, and also some of these problem combined.
Regarding to research objectives ii and iii, teachers mentioned some activities undertook by the school, as important initiatives to sensitise young people to handle with some existent issues in their lives, as violence for example. Teachers said that in some classes is possible to connect a few social problematic with the lessons, which is a positive strategy to engage students, especially because sometimes they cannot do it at home. Also, training is seen as important to teachers, but they recognised that what is most crucial is to have experience and support in teaching to these vulnerable publics.
With the support from the identified needs from teachers and trainers, under a second phase of this project, we aim to develop and validate pedagogical resources that can support teachers to work on discrimination and xenophobia issues, in order to teachers make a contribution at the classroom level to prevent radicalisations.
- Amado, J. (2013). Manual de Investigação Qualitativa em Educação [Manual for Qualitative Research in Education]. Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra
- Bardin, L. (1979). Análise de Conteúdo [Content Analysis]. Lisboa: Edições 70
- Cortesão, L. & Cuale, J. (2011). ‘School does not teach burying the dead’: the complexity of cultural dialogue. Pedagogy, Culture & Society. 19 (1), 119-131
- Hörnqvist & Flyghed (2012). Exclusion or culture? The rise and the ambiguity of the radicalisation debate. Critical Studies on Terrorism. 5 (3), 319-334
- Leite, C.; Fernandes, P. & Silva, S. (2013). The place of citizenship in the portuguese education system: perspectives of teachers from a TEIP school. Educação. 36 (1), 35-43
- Misra, P. (2011). VET teachers in Europe: policies, practices and challenges. Journal of Vocational Education and Training. 63 (1), 27-45
- Morgado, J. (2012). O Estudo de Caso em Investigação em Educação [The case-study in Research in Education]. Santo Tirso: De Facto Editores
- Sieckelinck, S.; Kaulingfreks, F. & De Winter, M. (2015). Neither Villains Nor Victims: Towards an Educational Perspective on Radicalisation. British Journal of Educational Studies. 63 (3), 329-343