Beyond Social Inclusion, Towards Educational Justice To Come: Touching, Growing, Bonding With/In/Around Artmaking In Early Years Settings

Vacková, Petra (2022). Beyond Social Inclusion, Towards Educational Justice To Come: Touching, Growing, Bonding With/In/Around Artmaking In Early Years Settings. PhD thesis The Open University.



Educational inequalities are on the rise. A growing body of literature shows that inclusive education driven by social inclusion agenda has been inefficient and, in some cases, even completely unsuccessful in tackling inequalities in education across Europe. Nevertheless, social inclusion is becoming a global phenomenon and has been adopted as a dominant approach to tackling educational inequalities, especially in countries of the global north. The arts have been positioned as a tool central to this effort and an easy-fix solution to deeply engrained societal and educational problems. A reductive and narrow approach to educational justice developed around neoliberal agendas, however, limits the possibilities of the arts and education for educational justice.

The aim of this study is to think differently about social inclusion and exclusion and the role of artmaking in relation to educational justice. The study provides an expanded, anti-anthropocentric inquiry into processes of social inclusion and exclusion around artmaking activities. It develops a ‘response-able’ and affirmative research practice to think together with children, adults, and their material surroundings about what the various encounters in and around artmaking in their settings do beyond inclusion and exclusion. And lastly, it engages posthumanist and new materialist theories and concepts to propose alternative possibilities for building towards fair and just educational futures.

Drawing on six-months of ethnographic fieldwork, this study argues that it is time to stop equating a narrow set of neoliberal targets to educational justice and instead turn towards building quality, responsible and responsive, learning relationships that generate collective, new, and ethical educational practices fundamental to addressing educational injustices. The study is an invitation to imagine what educational settings could be like if processes enacted in and around artmaking activities were understood as collective processes of touching, growing, and bonding during which encounters among children, adults, objects, and place become life-sustaining moments that work towards just educational futures to come.

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