21 September 2022

Prof. Magdalena Ślusarczyk: “Nowadays it is not easy to talk about universal values, because we live in a world of their pluralism”

Author: Anna Godek-Biniasz

Analysis

Interviews

Professor, we are really grateful for this opportunity to talk to you. For us, Holistic Think Tank, it is really important to validate the ideas we promote. Dynamic changes in the world, including global access to information or migration movements, make us consult experts like you to be able to better adopt the recent scientific achievements in the broadly understood field of education for the complex approach to changes in schooling.

Going to questions: what values should the school teach? Can we select a set of universal values that should be taught at schools across the globe?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: Nowadays it is not easy to talk about universal values, because we live in a world of their pluralism. If I was to choose values that I feel have such importance, it would definitely be respected for every person, regardless of individual convictions, respect for dignity of every person, including non-adults, understanding of others or at least trying to achieve such understanding.

Do you think that children at the school age should have influence on the contents that are taught at school? Why? If so, in what fields and to what extent?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: I think that it would be beneficial to define contents from the framework perspective and then to allow this framework (either a curriculum or even something bigger) to become more detailed thanks to not only teachers, but also children. The area doesn’t matter; it is about providing space to offer subjects (e.g. by developing projects) and have space and time to be able to focus on them, to make children feel the driving force, to make them feel co-responsible.

Is it possible to create a model of school education that would be adequate for children from different environments? Is it possible to create a model of school education resistant to social inequalities or cultural differences?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: I don’t like the word “resistant”. I support inclusive education, but the one understood not only as programmes for specific groups, but also work on creating a school as a place where everybody will feel good and have their needs satisfied. This means going in the direction of an individualized approach towards students, but with consideration of their activity, participation and empowerment.

As a result of the pandemic, in many places in the world schools were closed which made it impossible for children and teachers to use school facilities. Which elements of the school infrastructure do you think are the most important in education and upbringing?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: Diverse school space – not only classrooms, but also space for having fun, spending time, separate places for rest or group work, as well as places whose arrangement depends on students. There are also educational aids that help touch upon the subject, try out different things, do something on your own. Also, computers/ laptops and an IT network of good quality that would be available also to students to let them work with it on a daily basis.

What aspects of education have undergone the toughest try as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of the changes that affected the education during the pandemic?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: I think the pandemic has disturbed many convictions about education. For some, it was an assumption it is necessary to work face to face; we have been working in a different way for almost a year; there are some who say it would be good to keep this mode of studying at least to some extent. Another challenge is the disturbed cooperation between the school and parents; many parents feel more reluctant to cooperate than before, as they feel that teachers did not teach in a proper way and many things were shifted to parents. The pandemic has also shown that it is necessary to think how to use recent technologies at school in a proper manner; in remote education, some teachers have broadened their skills; it would be good to take some of these good practices to presential education. The pandemic also constituted another factor to increase educational inequalities; some children had proper devices, support in learning, and care, while others were deprived of these to a significant extent; parents could not or did not know how to support them properly and the school was not taking any measures in this respect. This is about children from disadvantaged circles, but also, for instance, the ones who are migrants.

Holistic Think Tank has set an objective to introduce the Interdisciplinary Subject whose aim is to meet the educational needs and refer to a number of key competencies. Do you think that there is a need to introduce a systemic change in education? Is there a possibility to introduce it thanks to the new subject?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: As I don’t know the details of the subject, it is difficult for me to answer this question. On the one hand, we can see the need to support the competencies that are currently important and the interdisciplinary work, on the other hand, if it is to be a new subject, it will be another burden in an already heavy curriculum. But if it is, in some way, to combine the subjects and integrate the taught contents, then why not?

If you had a possibility to introduce any specific changes in the education system in Poland and in the world, what would they be? What would you start from?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: I would opt for departing from the division into subjects for the benefit of working in blocks, integrating contents, project work; these are the changes that have already occurred in some systems, and they require redesigning of the model of work, but they seem to match the today’s world far better.

How would you assess the parent’s role in their children’s education?

Prof. M. Ślusarczyk: Parents have a very big influence on their children’s education; first and foremost: within the behaviours shaped from the early childhood, e.g. focus on knowledge acquisition, discovering the world, but also ensuring financial resources, care and support in the education process or influence on the selection of the school (or e.g. homeschooling).

Professor, thank you very much for sharing your perspective on education.

Interviewer: Anna Godek – Biniasz


prof. UJ, dr hab. Magdalena Ślusarczyk – lecturer at the Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University (Kraków, Poland). Since 2019, a member of the Committee on Migration Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Committee on Demographic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In her research, she combines migration and education issues. She concentrates on the analysis of the situation of transnational families. For years, she has been managing international (Erasmus+, Norway Grants, Horizon 2020) and domestic projects (OPUS). She eagerly cooperates with social entities (the City of Kraków) and answers such questions as what are the current most important debates regarding changes in education in Poland and abroad, whether all children have equal chances at school, what tools will help build quality at school?