Second ISA Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1-4 August 2012

Research Committee on
Sociology of Education, RC04

  on-line programme

Main theme

The promotion of social justice and democratization in education: Assessments of structural opportunities and barriers


Programme Coordinators

RC04 Liaison in Argentina
Eduardo Langer, Asociación Argentina de Sociologia and Universidad Nacional de San Martín,

Volunteer at the venue
Yanina Penna,


All Forum participants (presenters, chairs, discussants, etc.) need to pay the early registration fee by April 10, 2012, in order to be included in the programme. If not registered, their names will not appear in the Programme or Abstracts Book.


provisional as of March 15, 2012, in alphabetical order


Academic capitalism: Transformation of justice or democracy development?

Academic capitalism became a rather economically profitable source for many developed countries. The world educational market has turned into a global fight among national educational systems. For example the European Union, trying to unify national systems within the limits of uniform European educational space, builds a justice formula as a guarantee of that education in any EU country corresponds to world-class requirements and facilitates the mobility of students and teachers. In Russia, justice was perceived as equal educational access guaranteed by the state at all levels, and democracy– as guaranteeing equal quality of teaching in all educational institutions irrespective of their locale and the class characteristics of the pupils.

Bologna process is generated in some measure by academic capitalism in opposition to the American education system. It seeks to gain leadership in the world educational marketplace. The Bologna process creates social pressures on national educational to systems that raise issues of `justice´ and `democracy.´ Within the limits of the declared theme it would be desirable to discuss such questions as:


Academic choices and barriers on the transition to tertiary education: Issues of social justice

One of the side-effects of the massification of Higher education was the transformation of the role of Higher education as a determinant of class. Simply gaining access to Higher education is an important but not a sufficient criterion of social success any more. The highest level of academic qualification is still important but not a sufficient determinant of social success in the sense that educational stratification is not only vertical but also horizontal. It has been claimed that educational choices, such as the field of study and the actual university of study, can be very important.

The particular manner with which families as well as other actors influence the structuring of educational opportunities and decision making (i.e. choices) can be directly related to issues of class, gender, religion and ethnicity. For example, in many fields of study men or upper class students almost monopolize more prestigious and elite departments compared with women or lower class students who are overrepresented in fields such as humanities and social sciences.

Moreover, retention– as well as admission– is related to various forms of capital, fiscal as well as cultural and social. However, choices and barriers can be very different from country to country, and are related to the specific rules and regulations governing university access, and retention policies. All in all, a session dedicated to the numerous choices people make on their transition to tertiary education, and the barriers they face, will be very useful, especially in a neo-liberal context of fiscal austerity.


As the world turns: Higher education for democratic participation or status quo elitism?

In today’s increasingly diverse and global marketplace, knowledge is power. Higher education changes individuals and nations. In societies around the world, despite rhetoric of equity, higher education continues to be the exclusive preserve of dominant minority elites. Durable inequality, rooted in historical, social, cultural and economic circumstances, map national patterns of inequality on to the faces and spaces of universities. Generally the more powerful are most prominent on university campuses.

Paradoxically, higher education can also be a vehicle for social mobility, national development and social change. Expanded higher education in the 20th century increased economic status, influence and power for dominated individuals and nations. Despite progress universities still mirror and serve the interests of dominant elites. Privileged student’s access coveted pathways to the nation’s most prestigious leadership and economic opportunities.

This session interrogates how traditional university hierarchy relates to 21st century needs, terms and contexts which demand a new order. We invite authors to examine higher education’s engagement with social justice and democratization from multiple perspectives- theoretical, critical, and empirical.

Essays and studies should rigorously assess, re- imagine and re- formulate higher education. What challenges are posed by social justice and democratization? Indicate best practices for: increased participation of excluded groups; elimination of achievement gaps; improved community service and more equitable delivery of higher and tertiary education to diverse students. Is higher education truly a democratic institution?


Education: A catalyst for human development, sustainable equity and enduring redress. What does it mean for developing and under-developed countries in the global 21st century?


Higher education policies to promote retention and graduation

One equal opportunity pillar adopted in several countries was the expansion in the total supply of places in higher education. Although this approach has allowed students from different social classes and cultural capital backgrounds to access this level, inequality still persists in terms of their ability to obtain a degree. Moreover, students from lower socioeconomic classes are overrepresented in institutions showing low levels of public expenditure per student and a scarce professionalization of the academic staff and research careers.

Cultural and economic capital barriers are reflected in high levels of non-completion rates and students that remain in the system without graduating for a number of years. The goal of this session is to discuss the international experiences of institutional and public policies to promote both retention and graduation, especially for lower-income groups and excluded populations worldwide. It focuses on those policies that affect higher education institutions, rather than the individual student, in order to promote institutional commitment to the goal of equality of outcome.


Justice in schools and civic education

This session will focus on the role of schools in the internalization of civic values and attitudes, especially democratic values and social orientations. We contend that (a) school experience is a meaningful venue through which students´ attitudes, values and beliefs are shaped and reflected in their short-and long-term behavior, and (b) a sense of distributive and procedural justice in school may contribute to the development of greater sense of trust, a more democratic orientation and behavior, and a more positive attitudes toward social welfare.

We call for theoretical and empirical papers dealing with issues such as: The dimensions of a just school and their social and attitudinal antecedents and consequences at both individual and group level; the role of school in shaping perceptions of social justice in the wider society; teachers` behavior that effect students` sense of justice in school; school structural factors affecting individual and group sense of justice; the relationship between school structure, school experiences, sense of justice in school, and democratic attitude. Comparative studies in this respect are very welcomed.


Leisure education: Social justice in life-long learning. Part I

Joint session of RC04 Sociology of Education and RC13 Sociology of Leisure [host committee]
The concept of Lifelong Learning (LLL) is connected both with the emancipation of the citizen from the confinements created by a lack of training in these special skills demanded by the new economic activities, as well as with the social cohesion. Such learning occurs both in the context of leisure activities and work-related training. In various documents –for example those produced in the aftermath of the declaration of the so-called ‘Lisbon Strategy’ in 2000 for the EU countries— the LLL was defined as every learning activity that takes place throughout one’s own life and aims at the improvement of knowledge, skills and abilities, within a framework of personal development and of personal engagement in the labor market.

However, many critics argue that one core dimension of the life-long learning strategies so far implemented is the increasing cultivation of the idea of ‘personal responsibility’ for any future ‘investment’ that a person may wish to make in order to improve her/his negotiating power in a highly competitive labor market. Amidst the global financial crisis and increasing ‘downsizing’ of the Welfare State, what kind of barriers and inequalities in access to LLL do exist, in what ways are those manifested, how adult learners perceive their potentials and future educational and occupational prospects within this framework of opportunities?

Papers in this session should focus particularly on the interconnection between leisure and lifelong learning.


Leisure education: Social justice in life-long learning. Part II

Joint session of RC04 Sociology of Education and RC13 Sociology of Leisure [host committee]


Leisure education: Social justice in life-long learning. Part III

Joint session of RC04 Sociology of Education and RC13 Sociology of Leisure [host committee]


Opportunities and barriers to educational access and equity in developed nations: Issues of race, ethnicity and immigration on schooling in a globalizing world

Much of the content of UNESCO’s Millennium Development Goals addressed the closing of the economic and educational gaps among populations in developing nations and to ensure basic literacy and numeracy among all peoples. These are laudable goals. However, in the developed nations the gaps are less often between literacy and illiteracy, but rather in terms of access to skills that facilitate successful competition in a globalizing world. Racial and ethnic minority populations in many developed nation lag behind their majority group counterparts in essential skills that can lead to a middle-class life style. In many instances, even despite the advent of school accountability systems, minority students are more likely to experience the digital divide, attend lower-performing schools, experience academic failure, and drop out of school when compared with majority students. Additionally, immigration from developing nations has resulted in greater challenges to the schools in many developed nations. New and emerging minorities bring additional educational problems that tax the capacity of the schools to meet their needs. Some developed nations have discussed restricting further immigration and this may serve to adversely affect the educational opportunities of the new immigrants already in host countries. The proposed session would examine access and equity in obtaining quality educational opportunities in developed nations, including the effect of barriers to educational quality experienced by racial and ethnic minorities and new immigrant populations in developed nations. Special attention should be paid to the issue of how social changes in a nation (both inside and outside of education) affect educational policies and the likelihood of democratization of education.


RC04 Business Meeting


RC04 Sociology of Education Round Table Session: Issues of democracy and justice in education

Round Table Social justice and participation: The role of higher education. Part I

Joint session of RC04 Sociology of Education and RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management [host committee]
The purpose of the session is to continue the debate and exchange started during the conference jointly organized by RC4 and RC10 in 2011 on the issue. Papers are invited that consider ways in which higher education plays a role in facilitating social justice and democratic participation, and ways in which hurdles in access to higher education and inequalities may hinder social justice and participation. Papers may consider issues of higher education, social justice, and participation in particular regions or countries, as well as make cross-cultural comparisons.


Round Table Social justice and participation: The role of higher education. Part II

Joint session of RC04 Sociology of Education and RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management [host committee]


Round Table Social justice and participation: The role of higher education. Part III

Joint session of RC04 Sociology of Education and RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management [host committee]


Social compromise in higher education for social cohesion

The spectacular development of higher education coexists with high levels of exclusion, poverty, inequality, and insufficient development in education that limit the opportunities of people to progress in life, weaken the social fabric, and reduce the impact of the advances attained in the betterment of the population’s material conditions. The basic imbalances in equality tend to accentuate the selective character of the universities and other HEI and produce undesirable effects in the redistribution of knowledge that are progressively more necessary for carrying out responsible citizenship.

The present challenge will be to find integration strategies that respect the local values and rescue them, so that the different formulas of institutions are able to dialogue with people who reflect on these measures without imposing exogenous models, thus allowing definition of priorities to recover their rich history so as to transform educative policies that contribute to a more equal society and to discovering paths for the integration which, based on rigorous social research, propose new kinds of linkage with the society from which they are generated.


Social distinctions and gender patterns in higher education and opportunities and barriers on the labor market

Is increasing individualization in late modernity related to the issues of gender equality, possibilities and barriers created and institutionalised within higher education? Are there any signs of change in the contemporary strongly gender-divided higher education system? It is a paradox that in spite of policies of social justice and democracy in many countries, traditional gender patterns in higher education are still strong. In spite of increasing individualization and no restrictions in choice, the students still choose traditional gender set paths: female dominate, care sciences and male the technique and engineering sciences.

Eventually the product of higher education, white collar workers, will enter/affect the labour market, reproducing gender patters, affirming it as mainstream. The 2007 University Reform, based on the Bologna process (and similar), aims to promote student’s employability. This fact opens up for many questions to discuss. Is there a risk that breaking traditional gender and class patterns becomes harder within higher education as well as on the labour market as these two fields become increasingly closer connected? Is it possible and appropriate to actively try to influence students’ choice of education?  


Social inequalities and secondary education: Theories, methods and research findings

In this session, papers will examine how social inequalities- such as social class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.- interplay with young people’s educational and social participation in state and private secondary schools.

Papers will alternatively present theoretical analyses, methodological approaches, or research findings.

The first type of papers will offer theoretical reflections on how social and educational inequalities in secondary schooling have been or could be studied. These papers will offer theoretical insights that would foster debates around the nature and scope of these complex relationships.

The methodological papers will focus on how research on these issues has been carried out. The focus of these contributions should revolve around the challenges, limits and possibilities of different methodological approaches to study social and educational inequalities at secondary school level.

Finally, the third strand of papers will present research results, whether from qualitative and/or quantitative perspectives.


The democratic schooling: Limits, possibilities, and consequences, and national agendas in a globalizing world

Papers in this session will combine two themes: limits and possibilities of democratic schooling within a society and the structural impacts of globalization-driven population mobility on the likelihood of democratic schooling.

There is disagreement as to whether education can ever be a totally democratic process. However there are expectations that at least some aspects of the school, and of the behaviors of those within it (such as principals and teachers), can be democratic, and that these will have positive consequences for teacher morale and productivity, and for student engagement and academic performance. Potential papers might include studies of democratic (or less democratic) practices in school administration, curriculum, or teaching practices and their outcomes. Furthermore, papers may address the relationship between the level of democratic school environment on specific issues such as teacher stress or burnout, or student misbehavior. Papers should try to discuss the potential policy implications of their findings.

National agendas for democratic schooling increasingly respond to globalising processes. The movements of people and ideas make borders and boundaries appear more porous at the same time that nation states re-imagine themselves in their uniqueness and separateness. Many nations are embracing change and education is the vehicle through which this change is being shaped and realised. Other nations seek to reassert a sense of stability and risk reduction in the face of change and the challenges this presents. These ‘openings and closings’ reveal the structural opportunities and barriers to democratization processes in education. In this session we aim to explore the ways in which processes of globalisation impact on nation states across a diverse range of contexts and how these relate to conceptions of social justice and citizenship education.


The policies for tertiary education: Does diversification mean democratization?

Latin American countries developed policies to expand and diversify tertiary education and in many cases they succeeded. The session would discuss this expansion and diversification and the social tensions and disputes involved both in the accession of poor and low middle class people to university and in the value associated to different kind of diplomas.-


The role of professional ethics in promoting social compromise. Part I


The role of professional ethics in promoting social compromise. Part II


Twenty years of educational democratization in Taiwan: Forms and consequences

Since the lift of martial law in 1987, calls for democratization had swept through Taiwan, and the field of education was no exception. The government adopted the ‘educational democratization’ propaganda from grassroots groups in early 1990s and has made it one of the priority guidelines for policymaking ever since then. Unfortunately enough, the concept of educational democratization was never fully discussed before it was put into practice.

As a result, it could speak for almost everything. For example, some radical nationalists took it as promoting local studies curriculum, while most liberalists equated it to promoting student rights, and still some of communitarians considered it as promoting multicultural education. For the past score, these ‘democratic’ reforms have brought consequences, structurally and culturally, with good and bad results. There were indeed related researches, but those with theoretical focus on social justice were found lacking in systematicness. In view of this, it is relevant to call for discussions on this topic at the moment.




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International Sociological Association
November 2012