(Re) Building Education: What Can Other Countries Tell Us?

(Re) Building Education: What Can Other Countries Tell Us?

James Spillane Spillane wants to know: How do other cultures define equity? Justice? And what can we learn from them? Northwestern University’s James Spillane received a $70,700 Spencer Foundation grant to study how other countries are rebuilding their education systems following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around the world, the pandemic exacerbated injustices in schools based on race, ethnicity, and class. Some scholars, including Spillane and his School of Education and Social Policy colleague professor Megan Bang, have argued that disruption is a golden opportunity to reimagine public education for all students.

Building on his recent report for Brookings, which examined how students develop in different education systems, Spillane is gathering 20 scholars with diverse international backgrounds to develop a new framework of equitable education from a global perspective.

The conference will bring together two groups of scholars that don’t normally intersect: Those who study equity issues and ways to support anti-racist and decolonized spaces in education with researchers who study systems improvement and educational change.

In addition to questioning how equity and justice are defined across different cultures and education systems, the workgroup will consider how global events such as climate changes or migration affect a person’s perspective. They’ll also assess how some countries are rebuilding infrastructure to give children fair access to quality teaching and learning.

“The challenge is that education systems are working within the structural arrangements that created and reproduced inequities and injustice in the first place,” said Spillane, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change. “We can use our imagination by comparing systems from across the world.”

The conference, which will be held online from May to June, will be organized by Spillane, along with Donald Peurach of the University of Michigan; Vicki Park of San Diego State University; and Amanda Datnow of University of California, San Diego. Afterwards, organizers will meet in person to write up their findings.

Though countries vary widely in their political, social, and cultural histories, “we know that systems across continents are working to address the holistic needs of multilingual students and students with special needs, though their understandings and approaches likely differ,” Spillane said.

They also expect that systems around the globe are dealing with access to quality teaching and learning for immigrants and refugee students, though how they define and respond to these issues will vary.

“By systematically comparing systems that are trying to build more equitable opportunities for children to learn and develop, our work will imagine new ways of building more equitable educational systems for all children."

By SESP News
Last Modified: 5/1/23