Same, same but different?


Based on a discussion during the lecture on the 26th of September.

Race is a difficult subject and talk about race can easily be misunderstood. There is historical discourse embedded with the colours of our skin. The baggage discourse gives to different races, is not only the one from today, but also the long history of colonization, slavery etc. There was an interesting conversation during our class on what it means to be racially different.

This discourse has power to define what it means to be different. As the conversation during the class proved, a person from any background can feel threatened, afraid or left out being the only different person in a particular space. Still, a white person will never have to think about his or her skin colour affecting their education, social security, physical security or any other kind of security. As Zeus Leonardo (2009) suggests, white people do not think about belonging to a racial group because the discourse of race has not affected any of their life choices. After all, only a white person will experience being taken as a king, just for being different – for being white.

Our lecturer suggested, that there is no such thing as reversed racism. This point of view takes into account the cultural and historical baggage embedded with the word racism. But thinking of racism, it is simply explained as the discrimination or lowering of a group of people because of their difference. Following this explanation, it can be used to describe the discrimination of a white person.

However, when talking about racism, the concept itself does bare with it some historical meaning. I find that talking about reversed racism actually even strengthens the idea of white hegemony. The idea of reversed racism would seem to suggest, that racism, the discrimination of differences, can not affect the white, because white is the norm. For this we would have to have a new concept, reversed racism, to talk about the relatively rare situations where a white person is being discriminated because of their race. Hence, I agree with the lecturer, that there is no such thing as reversed racism. But racism, as defined above, that can possibly come across the life of a white person, maybe. This is an interesting subject and depends greatly on what meanings and cultural and historical baggage a person associates to the word racism. Maybe this is the reason racism is used in a  large variety of ways.

After all, like my foreing friend once wisely told me, we are all “same, same, but different”.


Pinja Fernström (writer) , Julia Korhonen, Anna Majava, Lena Kunnert, Lisa Bennet

Still hidden stereotypes?

The article “Academic work on a back burner: habituating Students in the upper-secondary school towards marginality and a life in the precariat” published by Marianne Dovemark & Dennis Beach in 2015 deals with data from the Individual Programme (IP) for Upper-secondary Pupils in Sweden. Swedish pupils are usually separated into University Preparation Programmes and Vocational Programmes. If they do not fulfil in the requirements of these programmes, they become part of the IP. That is done because students are constructed and labelled as having theoretical or practical skills. According to these skills, the teachers put different demands on students. This seems quite against the basic idea of the Swedish education act which postulates equal access to education (regardless of geographical and socioeconomic background). Reasons for participating in the IP are often related to the circumstances in early childhood. Some other reasons are learning and motivational difficulties, illness and poor relationships to teachers. The authors found out that there is a gender imbalance in the IP-Group as less then 30% of the pupils were female.


Could this observation confirm that there still is a hidden stereotype that boys  have predominantly practical skills? As a consequence, they would be more often assigned to the IP than girls. The authors conclude that the impact of IPs do not reflect the official aim of helping students to qualify for a national programme. The reader gets the impression that the IP is in fact a “rest- category”, which includes all the pupils who do not fit in other programmes. Groups with lower educational level can be systematically disadvantaged by slower learning environments, which leaves them behind of those children who have higher skills and are in upper groups. In combination with learning difficulties and less support from home there is the big danger that the pupils get stucked in this programme and loose motivation. It should be a main task of the teachers to motivate and to show them their possibilities and that it is not impossible to reach their goals.


Lena Kunert (writer), Julia Korhonen, Anna Majava, Pinja Fernström, Lisa Bennet

Language as a main factor for injustice at school?

Based on a group discussion on the 12.9. lecture on social class, language and related readings. Our group is Ronja Nordlin, Maike Hohmann, Evelien De Vos and Rebecca Pape (writer).

Some countries have started to realize the concept of social justice in education and use it to give children from different social backgrounds the opportunity to achieve anything they want. They offer schools and studies for free and give financial support to families with lower income. But does that really help to close the gap between rich and poor families? Does that really create equal possibilities for children to perform well at school or get a good job later?

Our group discussed this together with the fact, that language plays a big role in our education system. Being able to express yourself in an adequate manner, joining conversations and writing decent texts is taken for granted when teachers mark a student’s performance. But what, if pupils do not have a specific level in a certain language?

There are two groups which often suffer from inequality at school due to language difficulties.

First, there are children, whose parents immigrated or who came to a new country themselves. It is often difficult for them to perform well at school in a language which is not their mother tongue. In some cases, they may even be regarded as bad students or less intelligent, only because they can’t express themselves as they would like to. Being a native speaker can be a big advantage, since school performance influences pupils‘ future careers a lot.

This is one of the reasons, why Professor Orfelia Garcia introduced translanguaging, which is basically the use of several languages at the same time. In the context of school it means that classes should be held in the children‘s language and that pupils are allowed to speak whatever language they prefer speaking. Garcia used a translanguaging class in the US as an example, where children read a text in Spanish and then discuss it in English or vice versa. There, they are also allowed to take notes or tell a story in their mother tongue. To help the others understand somebody’s language, they can use dictionaries or pictures to translate it. According to Garcia, by this means the children’s languages are equally important and everybody has the same possibilities to perform well. Furthermore, the pupils get interested in the unknown language and would possibly learn it as well.

However, to implement translanguaging at school would take a lot of time and work and I’m not sure, whether native speaker would actually be open to do it due to the fact, that speaking in our own mother tongue will always be the preferred and easiest way to communicate.

In Garcia’s article you can find more information:

García, O., and Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging: Language,Bilingualism and Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. doi: 10.1057/9781137385765.

The second group, who also may not have the equal possibilities at school, are children from the lower social class. Berliner (2003) points out in his work that neighbourhood and family play a major role on school performance. Health care, holiday activities and hobbies have a big influence on school archievement, but if it is not available, it can be a big disadvantage for the children. Furthermore, previous research concluded that families from a lower social class use a limited amount of productive vocabularies in interaction with their children (Hoff, 2003). As language use is of high importance at school, these differences in vocabulary knowledge may cause difficulties to some pupils because of their social background. They will need to develop their language skills elsewhere. Thus, it is hard to speak about equality and justice in the classroom and should be taken more into account in the future.

Our discussion shows that language skills can be considered to be one of the main factors that influence school performance. Therefore, we are convinced that, although the countries in nothern and central Europe are on a good way to offer equal opportunities, there is still a lot to improve.



Berliner, D. (2013). Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth. Teachers College Record, 116: 1-26

Hoff, E. (2003). The Specificity of Environmental Influence: Socioeconomic Status Affects Early Vocabulary Development Via Maternal Speech. Child Development, 74: 1368–1378. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00612

Garcia, O. (2009). Retrieved from, 26.09.2017

Racism in schools and kindergardens

Group: Lotta Laurikainen(writer), Petra Nurmi, Kyllikki Kosunen, Hiroe Ryosho

Out of a second lecture’s articles we were discussing mostly about Van Ausdale’s article about small children. We were thinking that in a way small children are ”colorblind”, and they imitate adults on how to act in different kind of situations. We think that a child is rarely born with different kind of expectations and prejudice are arisen when the child realizes how others behave. That shows in one example in the article where a girl thinks that all black bunnies are males and the white ones are females, because her own father is black and mother white.

Children also understand very well each other’s different background and can communicate well together. That is visible also in a situation where two children can have good conversation even when they don’t have a common language. Some children in the article were really mean towards others and that is also challenging situation for the teacher. We think that this kind of situation is quite rare here in Finland, because school children in the article were having so many various ethnical and racial backgrounds unlike here. That type of situation is clearly more demanding for the teacher because in addition to all other difficulties teachers are facing during the day, they need to pay attention to possible racial issues.

In Dovemark’s article main idea is to illustrate that Swedish students are seen as the most ”elite”, and all the other student groups are compared to them. Problem in that kind of situation is that people are categorized straight according to their culture, not by the individual. A problem on some cultures having conflict with each other because similar conflicts had occurred in their home country was raised in the article. It is a challenge to treat all students in the same way despite the culture influence. Especially teachers with longer teaching experience were having prejudice on students with different cultural background.

Articles clearly proved that there is still a lot of racism around us. We think though that the situation is somewhat different here in Finland because here is not yet that much immigrants. This will change in the future and issues with racism might probably increase in schools. Even though there is no clear signs of racism in the current Finnish school system, we do have some problems due to immigration. A solution should be found for that, because at the moment immigrants’ children can lag two years in elementary school, which leads to problems in work life and increased inequality.

12.09 social class and social justice

25.9.2017 Kyllikki Kosunen

Groupdiscussion with Lotta Laurikainen, Petra Nurmi and Hiroe Ryosho


Social class and social justice

Common opinion is, that generally there´s all well in Finland. Of course our society works better than those in many other countries, but things are slowly going to worse direction in many ways. We hold on traditional way to think, that we have deep equality in Finland and for example children have quite same possibilities to grow and educate, but that is not the whole truth. Of course our society functions better than those in many other countries, but things are slowly going to worse direction in many ways. There are already a lot of worthy research information, which point, that current politic increases inequality, which causes before long many serious social problems, as there are examples all over the world. We discussed, why the powers that be don´t take it seriously? Or if some do, why the others go to the opposite direction with unconcern for facts. The saddest thing is the influence to children, who´s supposed to built their future and life with elements, society gives them. We also mentioned, that discussion about social problems in Finland includes usually comparison to problems in other countries, where grievance are absolutely worse than those, we have. Of course, if you compare for example the situation with poor people in Finland to the same in USA, which doesn´t have similar social security as we have, you finally come to the conclution, that actually poor people are doing quite well in Finland. But that takes the point aside, that we should do  something (and we can!)  in order to make our society more equal.

When we discussed about Rothstein´s article, we were surprised the fact, how even speaking and used words effects on children´s vocabulary. So we joked, that now, when one gets children,   spoken words are count every day to make sure, that there are enough speaking with certain style, which makes one´s child brilliant and succesfull. Luckily I have raised my child without knowing that, what a pressure it would have been….However, whether I used developmental words or not without knowing, my daughter became quite good citizen. So, just relax.

About article of Dovemark and Beach we brought up the issue of forcing. Where is the limit, you should or could force child to study? If one has learning problems, the way to operate is necessary support and help. But if it´s question of will, the problem is more complicated. Social debate about education, argues whether children should just have fun at shool in other to prosper there or should teachers also demand some work. The big question is, what do we want from the kid? Can we just leave the future to child´s own hand? However, the fact is, that without inconvenience, which working for something might cause, one achieves nothing in life. If we adults don´t give that message to child enough seriously, it´s the same as we don´t simply care.


Social class and social justice + language

Students of Sweden have freedom to choose their secondary schools options. In generally this sounds good but it is not that simple. The policy allowed the students to evade of academic work and school staff also encourage students to choose easy study options and activities which leads them away from academic side. After compulsory school students can choose a program, which prepares them for university or a vocational program that includes a practical program. However some students are not eligible for those programs and therefore they can or must choose an introductory program. (Dovemark & Beach. 2014, 583-584.)


It sounds good that we have many options for students how don’t have access to upper secondary place but in reality this last option includes many worse side effects. Teachers don’t push students to study or to try harder. The teaching includes mainly daily routines for example tasks like cooking and cleaning. Students can choose by themselves what they want to do and usually they choose the easy option (basic task like cooking). Also sometimes when they want to do some tasks that encourage academic work they can’t because they have to cook. (Dovemark & Beach. 2014, 590.)


Rothstein talks about the achievement gap issue and points out how family affects children. For example parent’s job shows their children what kind of position is good in job life (Rothstein.2004, 40). We can also think about the teachers who work in those introductory program schools systems and think what kind of effects their attitudes cause for the students. Weak school career can cause millions of frustrated youth, criminalized people, abuse of women etc. (Dovemark & Beach. 2014, 592).


Education is a big issue and we should make it better but we can’t change it only through individual. If we really want to change it, we need changes also on the state level. Only that way we can achieve for example Rothstein’s ideal situation that raises of schools quality of instruction. (Rothstein.2004, 42). Also Berliner points out that educational policy cannot only do the big changes or it is very difficult. But if economic and social policies take part also the effects can be much better. Besides some problems are not causes by the school system. For example effects from results of income inequality creates problems. It is typical that children who are born into the lower social classes will not make it to higher classes. Only 9 % of low-income children get succeed in getting a college degree in USA. (Berliner. 2013, 1-2.)


Some others examples about effectiveness of school: ”teachers only account for a portion of the ”school” effect, and the school effect itself is only modest in its impact on achievement.” ”Out-of-school variables account for about 60% of the variance that can be accounted for in student achievement.”(Berliner. 2013, 5.) The issues that have the most effect for school career are neighborhood, family and school poverty rates (Berliner. 2013, 10). These examples concern about wealth wear system of American but we can’t completely ignore those things in Finland either.


However we shouldn´t ignore the support of individuals. Ofelia Garcia´s spoke about translanguaging and how teachers act in classroom situations. Teachers accept many languages in classroom and teachers try to support this learning process by using different kind of methods. Everybody tries to understand each other and own background is a part of studying. Atmosphere is comfortable and students can learn at their own time. As I said before we need bigger actors to do bigger changes in education policies but if we like we can try to do something for example to strengthen justice among our own pupils by using those thoughts that includes translanguaging teaching.


Heikkinen, Helminen, Lehtinen, Lindevall & Neovius.



  • Dovemark and Beach: Academic work on a back-bruner: habituating students in the upper-secondary school towards marginality and a life in the precariat. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 2014, 19, 6, 583-594.
  • Rothstein: The achievement gap. Educational Leadership, 2004, 62(3) pp. 40-43.
  • Berliner, D. (2013). Effects of inequality and poverty vs teachers and schooling on America´s youth. Teachers College Record, 115, 12.
  • Ofelia Garcia: Translanguaging. Http://

12.9. Social class and social justice

Group: Heidi (writer), Tomas, Lucy, Tero & Sara

Hello! Here are some of our comments about the articles. First about the Dovemark & Beach article we thought that the IP programme did not work that great as it was planned. The students own interests were not taken into account based on the view that they don`t fit the “standard” to pursue academic path. Instead they had to do manual work because it was seen more suitable for them considering that these students are “low-ability” learners. These students were labeled to be “low-ability” learners and this can be seen as one outcome of the predominant discourses in the field of education that maintain the social hierarchies. Discourses are powerful because they shape social reality and conceptions about people and at the same time they define the limits of agency for people. According to these discourses you have to fulfill certain standards to be considered suitable for academic career (middle-class language, habitus, skills) and this places students to different positions. It seems like the IP programme was just maintaining the same old situation for these students and not giving them chance to pursue the path they wanted resulting to limited agency. On the other hand it is interesting that academic skills are always emphasized and considered to be something more valuable than manual labour as if it would not be something worth pursuing.

About the Rothstein article we noticed that social class has significant effect to equality in education. School reforms do not solve the situation because the problems go beyond that. This is because social class defines what kind of starting point children have when they go to school because the differences in income and family background effects the quality of life. For example there is health problems and lack of certain skills when it comes to lower classes. These problems are complex and it requires long-term work to make change. However it is interesting that middle-class child-rearing is seen as something better compared to working- class and this article also presented it in negative light as if it would always be deficiency.  The message is that you can`t be successful in life if you have been raised as working-class. I think that this kind of thinking reflects the society`s values what is seen as desirable and this creates hierarchies between social classes which in turn shapes the social reality and discourses in it. Also the schools have been built around this middle-class ideal and that is why it favors some students over the others.

Berliners article stated that inequality in wealth in the USA is the reason why schools can`t do much for the current situation. Education does not solve the problems because the welfare of the children is not in good state. The real solution to this would be to reduce inequality in income by getting people to decent jobs so that they can take care of their families. Finally about the translanguagin that it is useful tool in education because students can make sense of things in the language they find suitable for themselves. It can also improve the equality of teaching when the students can learn with their own native language without having to adapt completely to the majority language. On the other hand it can also be confusing when languages are mixed together and what are the effects of translanguaging to the actual language.

“Everything is well in Finland.”

Based on a group discussion on the 12.9. lecture on social class and related readings. Our group is Liisa Arponen, Tytti Luuri, Anniina Tan and Jenni Matilainen (writer of this first post).


“We don’t have social class differences. Or at least we don’t have major issues with social class differences.”

“Our welfare system works like a charm.”

“The same possibilities are offered to everyone regardless of their social background.”

The social discussion that we are used to in Finland often sounds like this, although these examples are quite strongly stereotyped. We had a group discussion on the topic of social class and its effects on learning after the lesson on the 12th of September. When we read Rothstein’s article “The Achievement Gap: A Broader Picture” (2004) we all thought that the phenomena of differences in social class and problems they cause to learning weren’t really similar to those we have experienced here in Finland. Instead, it was quite clear to us that the article was written about problems in the US. We seldom think about health problems playing a significant role in children’s learning in Finland. Here we have a healthcare system that makes sure children receive help if needed. Children in Finland don’t have to be distracted in school by impaired vision or untreated asthma and they are able to concentrate more on learning. As Rothstein argues, homelessness or unsure housing cause stress in many levels, which can hinder children’s learning in school. Homelessness isn’t really a big problem in Finland either, so it may sound that all is well and every child gets equal learning possibilities here.

Yes, it’s true that our healthcare system takes care of children’s impaired vision or asthma, and that children have homes to go to after school. When these big and more noticeable problems aren’t common in a society, does it make us blind to the existing signs of inequality in our own country? And more importantly, if we think we don’t have these kinds of problems with social differences in learning, can the problems we have escalate in silence until they become big and noticeable? Although our children don’t have to be in school hungry or they probably don’t have to think about where they’ll sleep at night, they have big differences in their backgrounds, their families and cultural and social capital. As Rothstein points out, these issues influence learning, too. The way a child is brought up can have a significant effect on the way he/she learns.

We discussed that in Finland the inequality in school isn’t necessarily caused by differences in families’ income, but more by the differences in children’s cultural capital. Some children have families that are committed to taking them to hobbies, theatre, library or travel abroad with them. They read to their children and ask questions to guide them to self-reflect when solving problems. These families build up their children’s cultural and social capital from the early years, but for others this is not the case. Families’ ability to provide these experiences to their children varies due to different values and attitudes their parents have and due to economic or time resources.

It’s interesting that the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about supporting the growth of child’s cultural and social capital, is the financial resources needed. We discussed in the group that although some of the activities, traveling for example, require money, there are lot of things you can do with your children that don’t cost a dime and still add to their cultural and social capital. Also there are upper-class families that have the financial resources but lack the time because of long hours at work. Children with higher income families don’t necessarily have better possibilities to learn and to succeed in school. The more important aspect is the social support that the parents and family can provide for the child in terms of learning and school. This is an issue that can’t be solved in schools.

We were wondering, what kind of actions could be taken in a society to alleviate the differences in learning that are caused by children’s differences in cultural and social capital? Could Internet and social media be helpful in meeting these challenges? Please, share your thoughts.

12.9. Social class and social justice

Group: Krista, Karoliina, Katariina, Wilhelmina and Hanna, writer of this post

“Freedom of choice” in education 

The articles our group read had some very interesting points and they offered different aspects to the discussion about social class in education. The themes of the articles were about educational choices, inequalities, differentiation and social hierarchy. Social justice in education is linked closely to social class. Peoples’ backgrounds affect their educational paths and choices they can make to achieve their educational goals. Even though choices in education are considered the same for all the students it is established in the articles and the discussion in class that this is not always the case.

What was particularly interesting and was shown in every article was the climate of the educational policy nowadays – students are considered as responsible of their own choices and it is assumed that they can have an impact on their educational paths and social status. They are seen as autonomous self-regulating actors in the field of education and society. There can be some risks in this kind of thinking: if the youngster doesn’t care about his or her future no one will. Also, as Dovemark and Beach (2015) point out in their article, if students have troubles in school and are regarded as “low-ability learners” there are not many choices for them. They argue that teachers have different kind of expectations and demands on students from different backgrounds. Students get labelled by their social status and that effects on how teachers understand their educational needs and capabilities. Low-ability learners are pushed to vocational careers as they are regarded as non-academic and lack the kind of qualities that are needed in academic world.

Berliner (2013) points out that misleading ideas about one’s ability to rise in social class hierarchy from lower classes to higher ones through education are particularly harmful when it comes to making political decisions in the field of education. He states that school reforms are not the solution to the educational problems – the problems arise from the inequalities of the society. Therefore, it is important to talk about the real issues and not to cover them under concepts such as individualization and freedom of choice. It seems that society is attempting to shift the responsibility to the individual by stating that choices are the same to all the people. It is up to the student what kind of educational choices he or she makes and how that impacts on the future. This responsibility can be very overwhelming to young people.

So, what can be done to the issue here? For example, as Berliner (2013) suggests, improving teachers’ skills, finding individualistic ways to teach different kind of learners, smaller groups in schools and tutoring could be ways to increase the impact of students’ social class in school.  However, he continues that these kinds of improvements are not enough as the biggest reason to inequalities is the income gap. Changing that would demand more powerful actions and changes in society. Until then, smaller steps to better education that were mentioned before can have some impact on the issue. In Finland, where the differences between incomes and inequalities in education may not be that big of an issue yet, it is important to see that this can change in the future. And what is also important is to talk about social class and inequalities in society and not to pretend that they do not exist. When we can see the problems, we can do something about them.

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