Marginalizing of Students Despite Official Preventive Efforts

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:18 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Gunilla HOLM , Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland
Marginalizing of students despite official preventive efforts

Finland has a reputation of providing a good and just education for all students independent of ability and background. However, even in this kind of educational system there are students who are marginalized. We focus here on the relationship between laws and official documents regarding issues concerning social justice issues and, on the other hand, discriminatory practices. We lean on a discourse analysis of the rhetorical policy level including the national curriculum. This analysis is compared to empirical findings about students’ experiences regarding social justice issues.

There are some remarkable socio-cultural differences in Finnish schools. For example, the gender differences in literacy are the largest in Finland of all the OECD countries.  Childhood poverty is increasing in Finland and the gap between the poor and the wealthy is increasing. This has serious implications for teachers and teaching, but in our study we found that teacher education students do not consider social class important for their future work.

In Finland the Roma children have not done very well in school. The national curriculum is very supportive of Roma children but the reality is different. The indigenous Sami population is also doing less well that the majority Finnish students. Students with immigrant background are a risk group with regard to bullying and discrimination.

The group most vulnerable in school is the students with disabilities or long-term illnesses. Of this group about two-thirds have found themselves treated in hostile ways or excluded from the group.

Hence, even in a system that at the policy level officially strive for equality and equity, the daily life in school can be unfair for certain groups of students. This unfairness and marginalization can have long-term consequences for students’ welfare and achievement.