Why do indigenous, travelling and nomadic groups tend to leave school early? To what extent are external factors to blame for their under-achievement? Can the same be said for such groups globally?
In the first of our new series of author interviews, Rosarii Griffin, editor of Education in Indigenous, Nomadic and Travelling Communities, introduces us to the educational issues surrounding some of the most marginalised groups in society. The book takes a comparative approach, from the Roma people in Europe to indigenous groups in Malaysia to the Amazonian Indians of Latin America.
We asked Rosarii Griffin, who is Director of the Centre for Global Development through Education at Immaculate College in Ireland, to share with us her experience of research and writing.
What particular areas of education interest you and why?
I am interested in education for global development.
I believe that education is one of the core ‘humanitarian response’ pillars (Brock, 2014) to the eradication of poverty. Education, as Sinclair said (2007), gives people hope, hope for a brighter future, hope that they can sustain themselves and their families; hope of finding better employment, using their own gifts and talents to progress themselves, their families and their communities. My particular interest is in teacher education, education for social justice, gender education, special needs education, adult education, and teaching and learning (especially making education and learning more engaging and stimulating for students). More recently, I have become interested in e-learning, as I believe this has huge potential to bridge the global poverty divide through access to free and open repositories of information and knowledge.
You recently published Education in Indigenous, Nomadic and Travelling Communities with Bloomsbury. How would you describe your book in one sentence?
The book explores the reality of education and its relevance for indigenous, nomadic and travelling communities, and I would hope that it might force us to think of new paradigms vis-à-vis the mode, delivery and relevance of education so that it benefits all communities of people, not just the settled majority.
When did you start researching for this book?
I became interested in these particular groups of people in 2011 as my background is in ‘international and comparative education’ and oft marginalised communities such as some of those mentioned in the book are core to my research interest. I enjoy learning about difference rather than homogeneity as such groups are often more interesting and innovative in ways beyond our imagination. Such groups force me to think outside the box, and appreciate the diversity of human existence. I think we have a lot to learn from minority and marginalised groups.
Which part of writing your book have you enjoyed most?
I enjoyed writing the introductory chapter with my colleague Dr Piaras MacÉinrí. He is well known and highly respected in the field, and I enjoyed the lively and interesting debates we had when discussing social concepts and constructs around notions of ‘minority groups, ‘integration’ and the influence of the political background that form the backdrop to policy formation and opinion-making, including racial and ethnic tensions. However, as it is an edited book, all the credit must go to the individual authors of each of the chapters. They did a fantastic job and were very cooperative with all the demands around style, content and meeting strict deadlines. The book is a credit to each and every contributor, for their generosity in sharing their expert knowledge with the wider public.
How did you celebrate finishing your book?
We will be launching the book in September 2014 at a ‘Crisis, Mobility and New Forms of Migration’ conference held here in University College Cork, Ireland.
Any tips for people reading the book?
All the chapters are very informative, interesting and engaging, particularly learning about the different approaches to education (or lack thereof) for indigenous, traveling and nomadic groups. Go to the index for specific discussions. The table of contents clearly indicates the groups and places under discussion in each chapter.
Where will your research go from here?
Currently, I am interested in the notion of ‘capacity building for sustainable global development’. I think my next venture will be investigating how this might be achieved in the higher education sector in the global south. This work will build on this book and previous volumes that I edited.
If you could have dinner with one educationalist, living or dead, who would it be?
Paulo Freire – although he died in 1997, he was a living legend especially vis-à-vis developing a pedagogy for the poor and oppressed. He was a real champion for those living on the margins. His legacy is still as relevant as ever today. Of living educationalists, I would like to dine with Sir Ken Robinson. I like his outlook on education, especially in relation to creativity. I would disagree with him though, as I feel ‘critical skills’ are more important than creativity, although I do concede that creativity is a hugely important, if an under-appreciated and an under-nurtured aspect of our educational systems, especially within educational provision for adolescents and adults.
If you became Secretary of State for Education/ Secretary of Education for the day, what would you do first?
I would work from the margins into the core. I would start by prioritising those with special education needs. Core groups in society will always be able to look after themselves, as they have a strong voice and supportive lobby groups. I worry about those without a voice or literacy and numeracy skills to defend themselves in a world where literacy and numeracy are the fulcrum around which all else rotates. A society is only as good as its weakest link.
Education in Indigenous, Nomadic and Travelling Communities was published by Bloomsbury Academic in June 2014 in the UK and will be available worldwide by September 2014 (please check www.bloomsbury.com for availability in your area).