Social Justice in Education – Ideas and Comments

On the first lecture we discussed our own definitions of social justice. In our group everyone had experienced issues regarding social justice in the education system. This was rather expected – it is, after all, the topic of the course. However, something was not expected: majority of these experiences were within University! Quite shocking.

Segregation based on language, educational background or ethnicity came up. What we found especially worrying, and to some degree interesting too, was the fact that discrimination was initiated by professors, and not by students. A practical example: multilingual university courses are divided into workgroups based on mother tongue. We felt that such a choice should be made by students and by no means by professors. The vast majority of Swedish-speaking Finns can communicate in Finnish and could maybe see the workgroups as a good learning opportunity. The same goes for Finnish-speaking Finns.

Further on, we found that professors often set unjust prejudices against students based on their educational background. The experience discussed was about minor studies done in a different university. There a professor made a clear distinction between students from different majors. Stereotypes were mentioned as facts, but based only on the professor’s previous personal experience without any knowledge on the students in question or their ways of studying. However, we think that such distinction should not be made at all. Instead, everyone should be treated equally, without preconceptions initiated by professors.

Lastly, discrimination based on ethnicity can happen camouflaged in “positive” encouragement. Should students from different ethnic backgrounds be treated exactly the same as students from the “majority”? In the experience we discussed, a pupil was demanded on participating on a PE class just as the others did. Just that it was a skiing class, and the pupil in question had probably never even seen snow before. Here a question is raised: is absolute inclusion always fair? Would it be discrimination against majority to allow alternatives? Or would it be discrimination against minorities to demand for absolute uniformity?

//Group C

Bilingual university?

The first assignment was to discuss diversity in education and specifically our personal experiences in school.  We started discussing the “us and them”- grouping between the Finnish and the Swedish speakers in the educational field.  This got us thinking about the bilinguality of the University of Helsinki. On paper the masters program for general and adult education is bilingual. When you look at he curriculum there are a lot more courses offered in Finnish; Swedish speaking students are not only expected but also have to take some courses in Finnish in order to graduate on time. The Finnish speaking student on the other hand can graduate in time without taking any courses in Swedish. In addition to this we have also noticed that the information is lacking or not available in Swedish. As an experiment we checked all the signs on our way from the classroom to the cafeteria. About half of the signs didn´t have any information in Swedish. It occurred to us that the newer signs were only in Finnish and in English. Vad har hänt?

As there were only three of us present at the first lecture the Finnish speaker was the minority of the group. This is very unusual. This led us to discuss how we automatically continued the discussion in Finnish , even though the majority speaks Swedish as their mother tongue. Maybe we all should notice that the norm to speak Finnish is so strong, that even in a case like this where all of us are used to speak both languages we chose to speak Finnish.  Vad har hänt?

Group J

Jessica, Katri & Tobina