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Discussion Paper/WGA 12  Part I
Posted:
Dec 21, 1999 10:43 AM



***************************************************** Sent at the request of Professors Keitel (Germany) and Kninjik (Brazil) (Part II will follow shortly) ******************************************************** ICME9 IN JAPAN 2000  see http://www.ma.kagu.sut.ac.jp/~icme9/
Working Group in Action (WGA 12): "Social and political aspects of mathematics education"
Chief Organisers of WGA 12: Christine Keitel (Germany) and Gelsa Kninjik ( Brazil)
Associate Organisers of WGA 12: Marilyn Frankenstein (USA), Hanako Senuma (Japan), Renuka Vithal (RSA) (in cooperation with Alan Bishop (AUS) and Leone Burton (UK))
DISCUSSION PAPER FOR WGA 12:
(Questions and issues proposed to be dealt with in the contributions and discussed in the Working Group in Action)
Today, it is generally acknowledged that mathematics education has a strong social and political dimension. It is not only the reality of classroom practice which has to respect political goals and cope with different social settings, but mathematics education research and development are also influenced by social aspects and political decisions. However, in 1988, it was a novel idea that an ICME congress should devote a whole day to a special program addressing social and political issues in the context of mathematics education. The large number of contributors for this day  90 from over 40 countries spread all over the world  indicated an increasing awareness of the relations between education in general as an universal human right and mathematics eduction in particular. The title of the Fifth Day Special Program at ICME VI , "Mathematics education and society", represented an intent to investigate the interrrelationship between mathematics education, eduational policies and social /cultural conditions in a broad sense. It was accepted for the first time as a legitimate challenge, a matter of worldwide consciousness and recognition. One important focus was on analysing conditions and causes for the restricted teaching and learning opportunities for pupils of certain minority groups defined by gender, class, and ethnicity in industrialized countries, as well as the majority of the young people growing up in the nonindustrialized "Third World". The community of mathematics educators agreed to search for the means to overcome eurocentrism and cultural oppression in mathematical teaching and learning, and in the design of curricula, learning materials and learning evnvironments, to adopt critical and multicultural perspectives which will allow meaningful mathematics learning to be related to social experiences and social needs.
The outcome of this 5th day special program was more an agenda for future activities than a balanced account of achievements and limitations of mathematics education under present social and political conditions. However, the message could be disseminated and partly implemented as a necessary complement of future activities within ICME and other conferences of mathematics educators, and later meetings and publications followed up what had been started there: in 1990, the first conference on "Political dimensions of mathematics education" was organised in London and followed by others in Southafrica 1993 and Norway 1995, and by the international conference on "Mathematics Education and Society" at the University of Nottingham in 1998. In addition, special components of social and political issues had been explicitly dealt with in working groups and topic groups of ICME VII in Quebec 1992 and ICME VIII in Sevilla 1996, and also in the plenary and regular lectures of ICME a great number of the selected speakers addressed social and political issues.
The Working Group in Action 12 "Social and political aspects of mathematics education" at ICME IX in Japan aims to continue this development. We want explicitly to address and analyse new (and old) policies concerning mathematics education in various parts of our world. What are the policies which care for providing the essential and appropriate teaching and learning opportunities which ensure access to all levels of institutionalised schooling in the elementary, secondary and tertiary sector of education as well as nonacademic adult education; which search for appropriate social measures and conditions for creating and carefully establishing practices guided by principles of social justice and equity. We do hope to come out with an interesting discussion which would stimulate us not only individually, but also might create some teams who decide to work together for the next ICME X and plan to present some joint projects that they had done in the meantime!
In what follows we try to raise some questions and ideas for subthemes which might guide (y)our design of papers to be presented and discussions to be set up during the sessions. We would like to ask everybody to address which subtheme or questions s/he wants to pursue and how the submitted paper and work within the Working Group in Action would contribute to an overall group goal to be decided at the sessions. Please feel free but challenged by our proposals and ideas!
(A) MATHEMATICS EDUCATION IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE ?!
(1) Challenges and perils of internationalisation and globalisation:
 how can communities with different political systems and social conditions search for productive ways to learn from each other? how to decrease the dominance of Western culture on the development of mathematics education in a worldwide context?  what happens to cultural and social diversity by globalisation?  does internationalisation of mathematics education and globalisation equally respect the equity and autonomy of the partners in exchange and cooperation? what is the impact of competition among and within mathematics education institutions?  international comparisons of mathematics education: the winning and losing in rankings, for what and whose interests?  do international comparisons help or hinder improvement or development of effective teachinglearning methods in specific social and political settings?  search for comparability of institutions, qualifications and degrees: what does it mean to ask for common outcomes in mathematics learning?  what is the role and influence of international organisations like ICME, IOWME, PME; CIEAEM, ICTMA, Ethnomathematics, Criticalmathematics and others: whose ends do they serve and who does decide about? can these ends be changed? should there be more regional groupings? would that make the political situations for marginalised people better or worse?
(2) The promises and pitfalls of information technology: sociopolitical realities and fictions
 politics behind the dissemination of new technologies: economic or social interests?  how do new technologies actually support the managing of information and communication by students, the creating and using distance education and virtual school and universitites, new differentiation of content and organisation, change the role and interplay of students, teachers and multimedia means by widespread use of technology?  how do technologies enrich cooperation and communication across societies and cultures, respecting the frame of equity and equality, even when restricting communication to one single language?  how can the development and spread of new information technologies really give better access to mathematical knowledge for all?  how can technology really empower people to cope with problems of knowledge production, distribution, and appropriate use?  if the level of understanding of the social implications of the work of mathematicians and scientists has deteriorated as they become only elements in a segmented hierarchical systemlike bureaucracy, how can lack of control be overcome?  how could mathematics education help to recognize and counteract the fact that there are today unprecedented risks of technological applications in the civil and military field on the bases of models and simulations void of theoretical comprehension and insensitive to the limits of validity of existing empirical knowledge?  if we have to acknowledge that technology brought into the Third World mostly disempowers people and continues their exploitation, what can be done by mathematics education? what does it mean to educate for knowing "what to do" instead of "how to do it" in mathematics? how could mathematics education emphasise the development of more judgement and wisdom than of particular skills?
(3) Contradictory demands and measures for new qualities of mathematics teaching, learning, and mathematics education research
 how to deal with the political measures of setting common standards, either by tests, world examinations or by benchmarking? do we really need "worldstandards" and what is the benefit and for whom? who will be the winner and losers if performancebased criteria and methods for distribution of resources for teaching and research including new (academic) division of labour, development of involvement and corporate identity are generally applied?  to create and apply new methods for organisation and assessment of teaching and learning like modularisation, diversity of access and multiple exit points, does this already generate new values of teaching and improved attitudes towards teaching and learning? do we have evidence that standards improve the learning of mathematics and what is their impact on social and cultural conditions of learning? Which and what kind of mathematics is referred to in those standards? How do standards match the social images of mathematics, and the social expectations and values of the use(rs) of mathematics?
(B) POLITICS OF MATHEMATICS EDUCATION: MATHEMATICS FOR ALL?!
(1) Social and political views about mathematics education
 how to create marketing strategies for mathematics education (students, teachers, employers, sponsors) successfully, how to improve allocation of funds, public resources and private sponsoring?  in mathematics education there are ideological notions like those of "mathematical ability", "individual differences" and the "gifted pupil"; most often these are collective constructions, based on racist, sexist and classist convictions, but can those constructions be used sensibly and for what purposes?  the perception of excellence or high achievement in mathematics, is it different in different cultures, societies and communities, perhaps depending on class, gender and ethnicity? does it include a social awareness and political responsibility? what are different strategies to counteract conflicts, lack of justice and equal treatment in teaching and learning mathematics in the classroom? what are the influences of changing social environments on the attitudes towards mathematics, and on the performance expectations of teachers and parents?  there are different ways to create social carriers and barriers in mathematics education: changing interests for turning of the examination screw?  what is the influence of the different roles of teachers and the differences in their social recognition on their perception of teaching? how to introduce continuous evaluation of teaching and learning outcomes, experiences, and attitudes by developing new methods for assessment of quality including selfevaluation, peer reviews and external quality control and autonomy, selfregulation and organisational learning against political interference?
(2) Poverty, violence and disruption and mathematics education
 does poverty signify the same in different countries and is it caught by 'working class'problems?  how do we think about the teaching and learning of mathematics within deeply rural and poverty striken contexts like those which dominate in Africa and some parts of Asia?  violence and mathematics education: Given the vast number of communities entering into, being engaged in, or recovering from different degrees and forms of violence, can mathematics education contribute or say anything to these problems? The range of these aspect reaches from the impact of wars to the levels of violence girls experience within schools and mathematics classrooms and rituals and problems of corporal punishment which in some countries still is widespread, especially among mathematics teachers when children fail to learn: how do researchers refer to these aspects and how is general practice in mathematics education is influenced by this? the notion of violence is also tied to the aspect of disruption and its impact mathematics education, as in situations of violence and/or poverty continuity cannot be assumed: how do we respect these problems when developing theories about mathematics education? how to develop deeper theoretical understanding in these aspects (poverty, violence, disruption/discontinuity) so that practice can be informed, assisted and changed? how do we deal with these four aspects in theory, policy, practice and research, in particular: how to develop the means for researching the many ideas in the themes in ways that help us to connect them to each other in more coherent and explicit ways?
(C) POLITICS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE IN RELATION TO GENDER, CLASS, RACE, ETHNICITY
(1) Changing social and political demands for mathematics education: Political goals for social justice and equity in mathematics education revisited:
who benefits from and whose interests are served by mathematics education? who defines the social demands of the economy and on which basis of information and analysis? which are the changing needs of the labour market in terms of qualifications in mathematics? what can we report about the regional/global economic impact of mathematics education?  how to overcome the discrepancies between economic demands and social or pedagogical needs: should mathematics education be considered as part of general education or as a professional/ vocational (further) education for the few?  what is the relationship between social needs relative to a society as a collective body and individual interests in changing social settings for education?  who defines qualifications provided by mathematics education? If we recognize the fact that mathematics, by its social use and technological development, has become more implicit and invisible although more widespread as social and material technology, is this reflected in explicit mathematics teaching?  do we want a core curriculum across societies and cultures and who decides, academics or users of mathematics or others?  how to design mathematics education as continuing education which offers necessary responses to global, regional and local social needs? how to realise politics for social justice in relation to gender, class, ethnicity? how can teachers on all levels of the educational system minimize disadvantages arising from gender, class, ethnicity, and increase opportunities to learn?
(2) Mathematics education and democracy:
 how to regain social recognition of mathematics education as a social task and a public service?  how to develop public involvement and participation for mathematics education?  in many countries, nonformal and nonacademic adult education is a strong force for democratisation and change, how to support those activities?  the politics of national and international financial support for research in mathematics education: who defines criteria for quality, importance and relevance of research, who declares what is seen as mainstream research, innovative or marginal research?  addressing the silence: what about the opportunities to publish and publizise own ideas?  how could mathematics education promote accountability and give full scope to democratic imagination to establish new forms of social contracts, communications, and discourse?  how to control decisions based on mathematical modelling? how competently to understand, judge, and actively counteract the replacement of democratic political decisions by mathematicotechnological expertocracy?  how to empower people to think critically and in critical attitudes?  how to gain systemic change which is not restricted to just formalised structural change, but occurs on the level of meaning and culture, of social justice commitments? Are some agents for change such as parents, peer groups, employers or other more influential? should that influence be counterbalanced? Are there particular problems experienced by poor and nonindustrialised countries? how to build up democratic competencies, but avoiding cultural imperialism? *************************************************************
Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 629014610 USA Fax: (618) 4534244 Phone: (618) 4534241 (office) (618) 4578903 (home) Email: jbecker@siu.edu
mailto://jbecker@siu.edu



