Lifelong Learning Programme

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The marks of poverty on children and youth: the risk that arises between expectations and schooling
Silva, Ana Paula Ferreira; Pereira, Luísa Alvares e Correia, José Alberto
Universidade Católica de São Paulo
São Paulo, 2008
Web Article
Identification of students’ at risk
This web article proposes to discuss the inconsistency and superficial approach to the concept of “at risk situation” in connection to poor children and youth. It presents the origins and implications of using the concept in the social sciences as well as in the media that often correlate need of education and downscaling of poverty. The author uses etnography to describe the reality of three young people who live in conditions of extreme poverty and how they relate to school. The aim is to analyse some of the limitations and marks that such a concept entails for those who are thus signalled and to question the most direct implications in how those young people are treated just because they are inadvertantly called by the school “students at risk’ and presumed at risk of failing and of not fitting into school.
According to the author there is an evolution of the concept of risk that used to be closely linked to the field of biology and now occupies the field of the social sciences. This shift from one field to the other generated new meanings that depend on how it is used and how it is understood in specific social contexts.
By probing Brazilian reality in detail, the author argues that the greater the poverty of a family, the nearer to situations at risk they will come. Thus, education and sometimes schooling play fundamental roles in fighting poverty and consequently fighting off ‘situations of risk’. That direct and almost unquestionable relation renders schools the space where poor children and youth can be ‘rescued’ from their living conditions.
The web article also contains extensive quotes from documents issued by institutions who provide help relief for poor populations as well as references to books and magazines and journals articles on the correlation between school/education and fighting off poverty.
The concept of risk is far from clear in everyday practice, although it has to be reocgnised that the scientific community has made great efforts to study and define the concept. The concept of risk that used to refer to only a few dimensions of life was gradually expanded to other areas of human living, since these are increasingly more susceptible to adversities, to insecurity and to uncertainty.
On the other hand, poverty constitutes a major obstacle to the promotion of children’s rights or satisfying their most basic needs. Comparative statistics on Portugal and the world highlight children to be the human group with the highest poverty rates.
Thus this web article is important for all who work in educational contexts because it calls attention to how to address the issue of ‘students at risk’ when it is closely linked to contexts of poverty. The school that supposedly will ‘rescue’ these students cannot be a school that gives priority to content learning, but a school that addresses the issues addressed are those that touch the core of social living: a space of voluntary work and good will, a space that prepares for technical work, that controls who comes to school, monitors progress at school, and prepares for participation in sports and cultural activities. The school should be a space open to diverse forms of education and meet each student’s needs and skills and not foreground learning preset academic content.
The web article also calls attention to the fact that deeming a student ‘at risk’ cannot constitute an excuse for its lack of success. Pedagogical teams should not put the blame on personal and social (outside school) reasons and consider themselves exempt from responsibility. To follow a student ‘at risk’ must entail a search for all possible ways to guarantee that she or he is not misled. It is true that tools and procedures may not cover all means to solve social inequality problems. These are indeed bigger than the school and the school system. However, the important thing is not to give up on the student and not to match him or her against an ideal student or an ideal school. School must become an individualised space.
Name of Compiler
Catarina Louro
Name of Institution
Instituto Politécnico de Castelo Branco
Role in the institution
Junior Researcher

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.