Sub-theme 8. Opportunities and challenges of digital commons
Commoning our Education: Possibilities and Pathways towards an Education for All
‘Education is a means of knowledge about ourselves’, writes the famous Kenyan Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1981: 94). Quality education is often seen as a way out of precarity, and is one of the key pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (United Nations, n.d.), as well as in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Globally, children and young people are told that if they do well in school, they are much more likely to ‘make it’ in life. Yet, education too is starting to fall more and more into the hands of a market-driven logic. Lately, under the influence of (mostly) Euro-American ideas of (educational) technology, different new concepts, such as gamification and open source have been introduced. This panel invites papers that reflect on how education can be ‘commoned’, and can become a resource for all young people, from all socio-economic backgrounds, disentangled from commercial logics, and especially how alternative forms of knowledge transfer, such as storytelling or community networks can enrich more formal forms of education, and inspire young people’s pathways towards a better future. The panel especially seeks papers that scrutinize how such educational initiatives are unpacked in very local, contextualized day-to-day lived realities in non-western societies.
1. The building by teachers of their own pedagogical material, a way to promote pedagogical commons
Lille University, France
This communication is based on the case of the project Je Fabrique mon matériel pédagogique within the Francophonie. The aim of this project is to help teachers to easily create the pedagogical material that they need or building materials that have been already made by someone else, beyond market-driven logic. Indeed, understanding educational resources as common resources is an opportunity to give everyone the means to do, to experiment, but also to be in a mutual aid logic by going beyond the competitive thinking of the market.
The project also finds its roots in the maker spirit (i.e. the Maker Faire, a gathering of makers and educators that was co-founded by Dale Dougherty in 2006) and the commons-based peer production (Kostakis et al., 2018; Kostakis & Papachristou, 2014). All these resources are available as pedagogical commons on an online platform (https://fabriqueedu.tierslieuxedu.org/).
Between the 29th of October 2022 and the 5th of November 2022, we were in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) in order to animate a dedicated workshop with thirty teachers from all the country and with makers from height other Africans countries. Through interviews from teachers and makers and with the examples of what has been made during this week, we did a research work. In this work, we explore, what is educational commons, and how educational commons can be a way to answer day-to-day needs from teachers and students in the Ivory Coast and contribute to transforming education.
2. Sustainable Knowledge Technologies and the Commons, a view from Nairobi.
KU Leuven, Belgium
This paper explores how to build sustainable knowledge infrastructures, in what I call unsustainable environments. The paper focuses on educational technology, and technology that facilitates learning practices, both formal and informal. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork on the creation of (educational) technologies in Nairobi, Kenya, I scrutinize ongoing practices of technology creation whereby development is driven by private actors, and embedded in a capitalist logic, and look at alternatives for knowledge production and dissemination. The paper asks how technologies can be truly owned by communities, as opposed to being top-down, or merely participatory. It wants to explore alternative pathways of valuing ‘local’ knowledge and think about what a truly sustainable learning practice could/would look like.
3. Be the change! Lessons from Gandhian Education for Today.
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India
One of the key elements of Gandhi’s vision of a good society a.ka. ‘Swaraj’ is the idea of ‘Sarvodaya’– wellbeing for all. While Gandhi did not explicitly use the word ‘ecology’ in his times his vision of a good society encompassed living well with one another and nature. He formulated ‘ Nai Talim’ literally translated as ‘New Education’ as an education for all that would propel this vision of Swaraj.
Nai Talim was centered around productive work – work that was hands -on or manual, contextual , had potential to draw out academic linkages, and directly contributed to the well being of the child’s community.
Given the multifaceted crises of our times, Gandhi’s ideas of Swaraj and its underpinning education are increasingly relevant. What then can we learn from the legacy of Gandhian Education as teachers today; especially if we are invested in developing young adults into active change makers for a resilient future ?
This paper discusses a few ideas from a Gandhian perspective that highlight the education needed for preserving the commons- their management, conservation, and care . This includes ensuring access to safe, nutritious, and healthy food, water and air; practicing the 4Rs (reduce–reuse–recycle–regenerate) in school spaces; and evolving eco-friendly technologies. The paper will also showcase a few examples where such an education is in practice in India and the world.
4. “Out of my country”: envisioning life through language learning language in Burundi
KU Leuven, Belgium
Language learning as a measure of current success and future potential in a globalised world has garnered many attentions. While existing literatures usually focus on English or other “imperial language”, this article focuses on Chinese learning in Burundi. By joining Burundian students’ daily routines of learning Chinese, I remain sensitive on how they envision a future life as well as “China” through language courses and cultural activities in Confucius Institute, the only institute teaching Chinese in Burundi. I argue that the resulting multiplicity of social life, job imagination, and possibility of transnational mobility entangles with China’s unique image in African and global stage—for Burundian students, China is a country full of businessmen making fortune in Africa, also a country with plenty of job opportunities. Their experience of learning Chinese conjugates with social media and foster a strong desired life image in relation with “China”, either looking for a job in Chinese factories in neighboring countries or in China mainland. Confucius Institute plays an important role in cultivating such desire. I pinpoint the activities of Confucius Institute and narrate the intersection between its propaganda of cultural circulation and its practices in attracting students. I indicate how Confucius Institute imbues teaching Chinese with a significance that go beyond meanings of language learning and cultural circulation: it also cultivates the social value of individuals and reshape social mobility paths of individuals.