Full article (PDF): EGR06 00 Editorial

“This book is the first book, previously ignored, but its aspect is hidden [today] to those who see; the thinker. Large was the display, the history of when everything had been measured; the angles of the sky, of the Earth, the cornering, its measure, the measure of the lines, in the sky, on the Earth, in the four angles, of the four corners, as it was said by the Framers, the Shapers, the Mothers, the Fathers of life, of creation, the givers of breath, the givers of heart, the birth givers, the thinkers. Light of the tribes, light of the sons, light of the progeny, Thinkers and Wise Men, [about] all that is in the sky, on the Earth, in the lakes and the sea. This is the first account of how everything was in limbo, everything still, everything unmoving, everything calm, everything quiet, everything empty, in the sky, on the Earth. This is the first history, the first description.”

(Popol Vuh, or the Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People, Ch. 2)

You have in your hands the first monographic issue of this journal. The IV Conference on Development Education, organised by Hegoa at the end of November 2014 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, presented the perfect occasion for this issue. Although the scope of this event might appear too national for the broad international context of this journal, its mission is most certainly supranational from a range of perspectives; its attendees, its promoters… with a special focus on Latin American. For readers who are not familiar with the background of this event, the first Conference was held in 1990 and the second in 1996 under the title: “From cross-curricular studies to Global Education”. The third was held ten years later under the title: “Education for change to face the challenges of globalisation (2006)” and the fourth, the one we are focusing on here, came about eight year later: “Changing education to change the world… Through emancipatory educational action! (2014)”[1]. In addition, this last Conference was preceded by various meetings (Cordoba, 2008; Alburquerque, 2010; Barcelona, 2013) that were recommended at the previous Conference in preparation for the 2014 event.

Over time, this Conference seems to have become a national benchmark and, as such, we feel it offers the ideal opportunity to review and reflect on the concept of Development Education (DE) from the perspective of an event with such a solid background. We also thought the amount of time between the first and the last conference marked a significant milestone. It has been nearly 25 years since the first of these conferences invited us to take a critical look at the evolution of DE over the years from such a significant viewpoint.

It is important to stress that this issue also takes a critical approach –in the best sense of the word– but does not seek merely to criticise. We deeply value to efforts of our colleagues at Hegoa and of the groups that form part of its various organisational committees (some of them from our own Editorial Board). Part of this issue simply presents some of the talks or reflections of people at the event; while other sections include interviews with other attendees or articles written by participants about their own experiences at the Conference.

The first article is an example of the latter. It was the only talk, in the classical sense, given at the Conference and was presented by the Argentinean popular educator, Isabel Rauber. The talk she gave and the article here are as similar yet as different as an excellent film adaptation of a classic book. Different languages, different contexts, different approaches and one shared passion brought together around the emotive topic of “pedagogies of hope”. Given the diversity of our readership, some of them might be shocked by the approaches or references presented in this issue… but perhaps we can all rally around the same undeniable point; that the education and learning practices we develop should serve as the foundations on which to build the hopes of peoples and societies.

Perhaps the best thing about Rauber’s work is that it approaches the topic from a Latin American perspective, drawing on the region’s illuminating and long-suffering experience. In addition, it promotes a bottom-up approach, creating a circular dynamic that sweeps away any trace of colonialism that could threaten this process. For Rauber, pedagogies of hope “are all those which nurture and encourage collective consciousness and creativity, those which are built and strengthened from confidence in the epistemological, political and cultural vitality of the people, with goodwill and faith that it is possible to change the world; opening it up to justice, equality, coexistence based on solidarity in diversity, complementarity, harmony, peace and happiness”. This approach is, without doubt, very similar to “education for solidarity and global development”, which is one of the key research interests of this journal. We recommend rereading this article various times, summarising the main points, discussing it with others… to savour its key concerns and proposals about education of genuine quality.

If we recommend rereading the first article, forming a clear summary or a map of ideas, with the second article we suggest you “go fish”.  This text, which we would describe as a patchwork, weaves a rich tapestry of contributions from different attendees and their experiences at the Conference. We suggest you dip in and out of the article, seeking out thought-provoking ideas, points of similarity, threads of argument, unexpected combinations… in relation to DE and its many links with education in general. This article presents a selection of texts from the reports of the eight working groups formed during the Conference. The texts were chosen according to a single criterion: to provoke interest among readers from a pedagogical perspective. If you pick up on a thread and it catches your interest we recommend tracing it back through the full text of the reports, available on the event website. Each one is different and their richness stems from this diversity.

The third article comprises four interviews with attendees who, in general, played a significant role at the Conference, whether as round-table speakers or work-line promoters. These are people with a strong background in the field and who have a great deal to say and to share. From our research-based perspective, we ask them a range of questions about their learning processes as global citizens with an unyielding commitment to social change. It is interesting how answers in this field are always fragmentary –logical, since we are not dealing with straightforward cases of A+B=C– yet we see little reflection on this very everyday and long-standing fact. A certain lack of metacognitive processes can be seen in the models of learning that have made us who we are today –and under which we continue developing–. In relation to all this, these interviews give us an insight into how the Conference addressed the need to branch out from the usual territories of DE and to look for other means, other contexts, through which to reflect Isabel Rauber’s idea of epistemological diversity. To do this, we look to the voices of our interviewees: Jaume Martínez Bonafé, Jettro Pettit, Esther Vivas and José Emiliano Ibáñez. This time we recommend a more lineal reading, yet still seeking out connections, common elements and points of similarity… read and enjoy!

Below, we have chosen 4 articles in which the authors focus on reviewing both the Conference itself and the current situation and perspectives of Development Education. Some of them have adopted a utopian literary approach; that is, posing the question “what would be the ideal situation we could hope to achieve at a hypothetical V Conference? These authors write from the year 2020 or 2025, conjuring up an image of the future including different perspectives based on majority subjectivities. We greatly value this work from Edualter, Iztiar Gandarias, Incyde and Colectivo VillaQuién. These texts offer elements that, once again, challenge our own understanding and help us to rethink DE and education in general, in terms of their different approaches, possibilities and expectations. As suggested by Incyde, this is about, among other options, “creating new meanings”.

In the review section, we discuss two publications directly and indirectly related to the Conference. The first is, of course, the collection of 42 papers from the Conference, which can be viewed online. An extensive commentary could probably be written for each individual paper. There are too many for a comprehensive review, so our author has picked a selection of papers on pedagogical processes, research, creativity, innovation… aspects that best match the overall focus of this journal. However, we suggest you take a look through this publication in the same way that we did; browse through the list of contents and dip into the sections that jump out and say “read me”. We also recommend having a look at other sections that are completely different from your own approach and understanding: you might come away with a new perspective that you would never have imagined.

In the second review, we look at an already classic yet recently published volume. This work deals with what is probably the most urgent (in our opinion) of all the key lines addressed at the Conference: Analysis of Processes. A few years ago, one of the champions of this line, Oscar Jara, put down in writing the ideas he had already developed and had been putting into practice for some time. And with the good fortune of having all that experience available in print, we take a look through the key aspects of “La Sistematización de Experiencias. Práctica y Teoría para otros mundos posibles” (2012, Alforja y otras ediciones).

As an extra treat, this issue also includes a “guest speech”, which was given a few weeks before the Conference and that we believe has both rather little and quite a lot to do with the event. In our minds, spirituality and religion are components of our societies that should be criticised like all others. However, at the same time, we recognised that they often play an important role in driving through positive social change. The meeting at which this speech was given is an example of this work and the approach taken by Pope Francis could be that of any other leading figure in the field of building global collectives. We feel that its clarity and call to action from the bottom up are perfectly in tune with the work of the Conference and it speaks to us of how people in action give true meaning to the word “congresus”. Jorge Bergoglio gives a clear explanation of how this meeting can have a broad-reaching impact through the application of this approach:

“At this meeting of cultures, made possible by those who have been excluded from society, the whole does not overshadow the individual parts. This brings to mind the figure of a polyhedron; a geometrical shape with many different faces. The polyhedron reflects the fusion of different factions which preserve their individual nature while forming part of the whole. Nothing is dissolved, nothing is destroyed and nothing dominates, everything is integrated. Today we are also looking for that synthesis between the local and the global. I know you work day after day in your immediate and tangible surroundings, in your region, your neighbourhood or your workplace; however, I also invite you to continue seeking out a broader perspective so our dreams can soar higher and encompass the whole.”

With these elements, we can form an, albeit partial, idea of what the IV Conference was all about. However, our critical and evaluative eye leaves us with a number of doubts or suggestions for improvements that are listed below in no particular order:

- The first is about the polyhedron mentioned above. Obviously, the meetings are attended by those who want to be there; but this does not take away from the fact that some voices from the field of Education for Change are clearly missing.  As such, in our opinion, this polyhedron is missing some important sides at the Conference. There is no simple answer, but we do know it is possible to look for solutions, with patience and creativity, to ensure that such absences do not occur. These missing voices include men and women, geographical areas, trends and approaches.

- Given our primary vocation, we especially notice a lack of educators from all fields and a lack of reflection on suitable pedagogical processes, their definition and implementation. Without being a completely negative observation, we see a lot of philosophy and little reflection on teaching in recent approaches to DE. As a point in favour, this philosophy does appear to be sensitive and highly realistic, but the transition between theory and practice (the realisation of these pedagogies of hope) is still fragile and a long way from fully developing its significant possibilities. We could also say that as in the past, with the “good-intentions” trap (initiatives destined to work because they are based on good intentions), today there is a similar danger of falling into a “principles” trap (initiatives destined to work because they are based on good principles or are for a good cause). However, none of the above can be excluded. We can also be guilty of a certain “technicalism” (initiatives destined to work because they have good techniques or processes) or of many other “isms”. The implementation of the pedagogies discussed here is not based on efficiency or on any “base line”, but rather on a learning-based approach and the consequences this will have. As such, the presence of educators who put these teaching methods into practice on a daily basis –getting it right and making mistakes– is absolutely essential.

- The third, in truth like all these suggestions, is about the way we understand and value a Conference of this magnitude (and especially with the frequency with which it is held). Perhaps at a meeting that is held nearly every 10 years, the work should, from the very beginning, include a review of the current situation, its evolution and practice. This was done by asking an across-the-board question to members of the working groups during these sessions, but surely greater importance should be given to this line of work and it should have a more significant weight within the Conference. It is possible that everything is link in from the previous meetings, but this is difficult to see for those who only attended the latest session.

- This review of the current situation should include the search not only for the most suitable physical spaces and processes, but also the mental and temporal ones; in addition to forming a clear idea of the mission of the meeting (that we fear had repercussions at the end of the Conference). This is a complex matter given its diversity, among other factors, but that perhaps needs to move beyond its own temporal limits (before and after) so the sector, the broader DE sector (not only at a technical level), can consider the questions and alternatives that are on the table. This could be a means of including and connecting with general learning concerns, as a way for societies to learn to be inclusive (and to analyse and question what being inclusive really means). As Bergoglio says, people excluded from society, as the driving force behind their own empowerment, will have a great deal to say about this.

- Lastly, the work of promoters in the different lines of work and the use of the applied methodologies –as mentioned in the interview with Pettit– should be reassessed in light of the limited space and timeframe of this meeting. However, it might be quite a challenge to break away from this topic-based perception (although they are known as lines of work) and to move toward other approaches. Along these lines of rethinking DE, we feel it is time for good questions, as opposed to topics, and that this should be reflected in planning and proposal making, in our humble opinion.

These are our suggestions for improvements and learning practices that we would like to see put into action. Once again, we want to congratulate the team and organisational committees for their hard work in all its forms: physical, creative, participatory and active promotion of this initiative. I hope this will be the first of many monographic issues on similar broad-reaching events, which aspire to change and improve our current and future worlds from an educational perspective. And finally, I hope we all continue to grow through research.

 


[1] More information available at: http://www.congresoed.org/iv-congreso-de-educacion-para-el-desarrollo/antecedentes/