I know what you did last summer: are destination conferences a problem?
Year in and year out, academics send themselves halfway across the world to attend conferences. In an age in which flying for leisure is fast becoming a taboo, are such ...
Year in and year out, academics send themselves halfway across the world to attend conferences. In an age in which flying for leisure is fast becoming a taboo, are such ...
Social cash transfers are becoming more popular, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. But what happens when the government does not support these programmes? Roeland Hemsteede shows that in ...
Despite fierce debate among scholars regarding the age at which children are ready to enter preschool, the issue remains contentious. This article based on an empirical footing argues that earlier preschool entry is better for children living in developing countries like India, as it can help to ‘level the playing field.’
ENTRY AGE: A LONG-DEBATED ISSUE
There is considerable debate regarding the age at which children are ready to enter preschool. However, scholars seem not to have been able to reach any conclusion regarding the link between children’s development and schooling age. There are two principal views on this issue that shape the age-of-entry debate both at the policy and practice level: First, entry with maturity, and, second, entry followed by maturity.
The first view is a maturational point of view that expects the child to be mature and ready for school. Reaching only a specific age does not ensure that a child is ready for school, nor does it guarantee a specific level of development. The conventional wisdom is that older children are more likely to have the necessary skills and maturity to succeed in school and therefore learn more in each grade (Cmic & Lamberty 1994; Krauerz 2005; Graue & DiPema 2000). Therefore, advocates of maturational view propose a delay in entrance to kindergarten for a child who is not ready, and such delay gives the child an extra year to become developmentally ready. This trend was described by the phrase “graying of kindergarten” (Bracey 1989), which is recently known as “redshirting” (Katz, 2000).
On the other hand, people holding the alternative view believe that the only determining factor for entry into kindergarten should be chronological age. This entry criterion is exogenous and less susceptible to cultural or social biases (Brent et al. 1996; Kagan, 1990; Stipek 2002). Besides, development is uneven and multidimensional, and thus, a threshold cannot be identified, as children’s level of development varies across different dimensions and children are not likely to achieve the level considered important for school success in all domains at the same time (Stipek 2002: 4).
Yet, very little is known in the context of developing countries, and whether the variation in the age of entry in preschool has any impact on children’s later development is still an open question. The authors took the initiative to explore the same debate in the Indian context. As children from developing countries like India face several challenges from the very beginning, therefore, it is utterly significant to examine whether early entry in preschool provides them with an edge.
DOES AGE OF ENTRY MATTER?
The answer in this context is yes, it matters, and it is evident form the study that the age of entry into preschool is utterly significant for children’s later development. Empirical evidence indicates that early entry into preschool may help children to acquire better cognitive and socio-emotional skills. The study has also found significant variation in children’s development depending on their socioeconomic background viz. parents’ level of education, their ethnic origin, etc. Considering the socioeconomic and cultural background of Indian society (as reflected within the household and parents characteristics), the results suggest that early entry into preschool has significant effects both on social and cognitive development of the child at least after a one-year completion of primary education. Therefore, the study advocates in favour of early preschool entry which has been referred by the authors as ‘Green-Shirting’.
Considering children from developing countries, where various forms of inequalities are already present, several differences may exist between children of lower socio-economic status and those of higher socio-economic status even before they enter preschool. Therefore, it is particularly necessary to provide children with a strong foundation from the very beginning so that these early disadvantages can be tackled.
Early childhood education and care provisions can be important intervention for children’s development. For example, the publicly provided preschool education in India, known as the ‘Anganwadi Centre’, which is the predominant type of preschool in India, represents an important and an effective initiative in ensuring both the social and cognitive development of children in the later stage of their life. Early entry into preschool and therefore, longer preschool experiences, can help to ‘level the field.’
This blog article is part of a series related to the Development Dialogue 2018 Conference that was recently held at the ISS.
About the authors:
Dr. Saikat Ghosh has recently received his doctorate from the University of Bamberg, Germany. His research interest centres on poverty, education, inequality, and social policy analysis with particular focus on developing countries. Formerly, he has worked for the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS), Germany, and UNU-WIDER, Helsinki. He also served the Government of West Bengal, India for six years between 2007 to 2013.
Dr. Subhasish Dey is an Associate Lecturer at the Economics Department of University of York, UK. He is an applied microecometrician working in the field of development and political economy. He completed his PhD in Economics from University of Manchester in 2016. His research interests include social protection programme, impact evaluation of social policies, electoral politics, affirmative action and routine immunisation. He served government of West Bengal for five years between 2003 and 2008 in education and Panchyat and rural development departments.
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In a gripping account of his witnessing of the gross human rights violations inflicted on others, Khaled Mansour asks why aid workers are becoming apathetic toward the crimes against humanity that are still occurring today. He shows how genuine change is made possible by a group of aid workers that are countering worrying trends in the humanitarian sector by means of a global movement called United Against InHumanity. This post is based on his keynote address for the 5th conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association that took place at the ISS on 27 August 2018.
Fifteen years ago, I survived the attack against the UN headquarters in Iraq, but the explosion killed 22 of my colleagues, also demolishing a personal barrier that I have had for years. This barrier ostensibly had helped me to cope with the scenes of abject poverty and degradation; violent deaths and inexplicable violence; and the looming menace that I have had to live close to for years.
For months, I stood at the brink of an abyss of dark and bloody recollections. Memories came flooding back: a flattened refugee camp in Jenin; small tombs for children that had died of malnourishment in Hirat; stories of torture inflicted on political prisoners or suspects from Syria to Pakistan, to name but a few.
I no longer try to forget these scenes. The barrier that I had erected between myself and even harsher and more frequent atrocities in areas of conflict is gone. And for that I am grateful. Like many people who engage in humanitarian aid and the defense of human rights in situations of conflict, I have had to grapple with occasional attacks of depression and waves of sadness, but I see them as signs of a shared humanity and a healthy vulnerability.
They are also a call for resistance through writing, teaching, volunteering and, most important, working with others to defend the dignity and rights of people in conflict. It is a call for action to build and rebuild what our common humanity means and how we can work together to protect it.
The growing apathy of aid workers
However, there is a dominant sense among critics of the humanitarian aid system that the old has disintegrated while the new is not yet born, as Grasmsci said almost a century ago.
There is also a shocking indifference in global and regional centers of power as to the fate of hundreds of millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are decimated in conflicts. Over the past few years, millions have been killed, maimed or forced to flee their homes because of such horrific violence. Civilians are suffering in what has become normalised military operations in Syria, Yemen, the Gaza Strip and many other places. The Assad forces have used indiscriminate barrel bombs and chemical weapons against civilians, while the Israeli and the Saudi forces simply disregard the concept of military advantage as they bomb densely populated areas or vital infrastructure installations, killing and harming far more civilians than members of the Houthi or Hamas militias. Armed non-state actors, ISIS for example, have also committed their share of spectacular atrocities.
Compliance with the laws of war and holding violators to account are becoming increasingly difficult tasks. The refugee law is not faring much better. The EU deterrence measures against possible refugees are an abomination that resulted in thousands of people seeking asylum drowning at sea.
This is fueling cynicism among aid workers as well as recipients. Aid agencies are reportedly jockeying for a bigger slice of the USD930 million promised by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to the gigantic aid operation in Yemen. These two countries have led a merciless war against Yemeni Houthi militias, killing as many as 20,000 civilians. Starvation and blocking essential humanitarian supplies as a war tactic has been regularly used in Syria since 2012, predominantly by the regime, while aid agencies simply acquiesced as the authorities rejected one request after another to access besieged areas. And now, we face the criminalisation of both asylum seekers and those who help them in western countries.
These are disturbing trends.
What is more disturbing is how human empathy is eroding. With an unprecedented rise in populism, rights (legal and otherwise) are increasingly limited to citizens and then not even to all of them. Within societies from the US to India, more demagogue chauvinists advocate that all humans were not equal and that not all cultures can peacefully co-exist. They are not the majority yet, but their influence is mushrooming.
A need for greater political will
There is a glaring absence of political will at the state and intrastate levels. The cosmopolitan values that are at the root of much of the humanitarian and human rights movements seem to be in retreat. This absence of political will was very evident in the ICRC’s failure to introduce a new mechanism for compliance with the Geneva conventions in 2015, or in the miniscule outcome of the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, or the failure of the Refugee Summit in New York after two years of work to produce any real change to the grim reality.
So, to quote another Marxist, who was maybe luckier than Gramsci, what is to be done?
There is a large body of literature and policy studies that deconstruct the current aid system. There is a ton of policy papers and many think tanks that have ideas to reform/fix or change the humanitarian enterprise.
But what seems to be missing is sustained popular pressure to force a genuine change or quicken the pace of reform. There is a clear need for a movement of people to struggle alongside those who are affected in conflicts in order to ensure their rights to protection and basic needs.
United Against InHumanity: reason for optimism?
This is why a group of former and current aid workers, researchers, and activists have come together last year and started working to build such a global movement to produce action-oriented knowledge, engage in policy advocacy and, most important, organise and play an active political role against atrocities and the rising inhumanity in conflicts around the world.
United Against InHumanity (UAI) is still emerging, propelled by the outcome of extensive consultations with diverse groups and potential stakeholders in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and Europe since late 2017 to turn a common feeling of indignation into a repertoire of impactful actions.
The overall purpose of UAI is to initiate and facilitate joint action by civil society at global, regional and national levels to challenge warring parties, their sponsors, governments and relevant international organisations in order to reverse the normalisation of indiscriminate warfare and the erosion of the right to asylum.
This is a tall order! But it is probably our only way to effectively stand against unbridled and murderous acts of inhumanity in conflicts instead of building barriers that we falsely think could save us.
About the author:
Khaled Mansour is a member of the emerging movement United against Inhumanity. He is a senior fellow at the Arab Reform Initiative. For the past 30 years he has been a writer in addition to working in aid, peacekeeping and human rights organisations around the world.
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The ISS next week hosts a conference organised by INFAR on “Human Rights Inside and Outside”, with a special focus on the Rule of Law and human rights. These two concepts are core normative ideas for law, yet their intrinsic value and application is contested. This blog details the conference proceedings and briefly describes the conference theme and the main questions participants will seek to answer. It also serves as an invitation for interested parties to attend the conference.
On 31 May and 1 June 2018, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) will host a conference titled “Human Rights Inside and Outside”. This conference is being organised in the framework of the Integrating Normative and Functional Approaches to the Rule of Law and Human Rights (INFAR) Research Excellence Initiative, a 5-year (2015-2020) joint project of the Erasmus School of Law and the ISS of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Over one and a half days conference participants will gather to discuss the application of the Rule of Law (RoL) and human rights norms in relation to civic participation, contested constitutionalism, and corporate responsibility.
What is the conference about?
The Rule of Law (RoL) and human rights are core normative ideas for law, yet their intrinsic value and application is contested. Some have even argued that the human rights movement is on a regressive path, frequently leaving the most vulnerable without voice, ignoring economic considerations, and lacking prospects of securing access to justice.
International and supranational organisations today are dedicated to the promotion of the RoL and human rights, but they face problems in how to progress towards these purposes. The European Union (EU) finds that its new member states are unable to deliver on the RoL commitments made when they joined the EU. The United Nations struggles with RoL and human rights in post-conflict states, for instance when the UN takes on the role of government, as in Kosovo, and in transnational trade contexts, where the UN tries to provide guidelines for how business actors should take responsibility for human rights protection.
Part of the difficulty in realising and critiquing RoL and human rights interventions emanates from the divergence of views among actors regarding their overall meaning and purpose. The RoL and human rights are well-known legal and also political and economic concepts, as law and development scholars note. However, the content of these concepts is a contested subject. Policymakers, regulatory agencies and private actors tend to take a functionalist approach in which the RoL and human rights are viewed as instruments for stimulating economic growth or political stability. On the other hand, courts and most other legal actors view the RoL and human rights as intrinsically valuable norms, but fail to address the circumstances that lead to (dis)function. That is, they fail to realise how the application of RoL and human rights is contingent upon and vulnerable to economic and political struggles, and how battles over these norms are won and lost for economic and political expediency.
INFAR’s interest in RoL and human rights
A core assumption of the INFAR project is that it is not enough to shine light on the conceptual tensions and dilemmas of RoL and human rights arising through processes of globalisation and financialisation, such as in adjudications involving trade law and human rights. The global issues of inequality and political exclusion do not have a quick fix, but a fruitful approach towards them could be investigating the specific social settings where fallouts from the broader conceptual tensions and dilemmas are registered: the human consequences for people and groups and a fuller appreciation of which actors and what norms affected individuals must compete with. Micro ethnographic and other socio-legal studies within public and private settings that examine different forms of struggle against plural forms of expropriation and exclusion can tell us much about the success and deficits within a specific context.
Through these studies we find out more about the RoL and human rights elements that are frequently undermined by increasing economic inequality or political exclusion, and the processes surrounding and facilitating such outcomes. Such context-specific studies enable us to appreciate that both answers and obstacles to human rights and RoL questions are not controlled by the state and can involve private actors who bring their own understandings of what RoL and human rights mean within their operations.
Against this background, the conference will explore what RoL and human rights norms are invoked in different settings, involving constitutional courts, corporations, governments and regulators; how those rights interact with the political and economic purposes and incentives of those actors; and why the realisation of rights can involve innovative or adverse results. Accordingly, we will study how the substantive meaning of the RoL and human rights differs depending on circumstances.
We will explicitly examine the role of private actors in RoL and human rights conversations:
How might strategic litigation efforts assist in achieving social justice for Roma travelers under consistent threat of forced eviction?
How can legal guarantees for public participation be operationalised in private settings?
And how can human rights based constitutions remain a meaningful framework in divided societies?
When considering these questions we keep the people whose rights are at stake at the forefront of our discussions, while recognising the dangers of doing so from an epistemic standpoint.
The first session on citizenship and discrimination will focus on the global, European and Dutch responses to Roma rights, with papers from Julia Sardelić, Claire Loven and Leonie Huijbers, Helen Hintjens and Kristin Henrard. On the topic of contested constitutionalism we hear from Jeff Handmaker and Wil Hout, Otto Spijkers and Sanele Sibanda. On corporate social responsibility, Liesbeth Enneking discusses global value chains, Nicola Jägers, the Sustainable Development Goals, Peter Knorringa and Samer Abdelnour speak on global standards for sustainability, and Rachel Adams presents on transparency and human rights. On human rights and mining, Anneloes Hoff will present ethnographic research on the practical application of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, Kinnari Bhatt discusses an unusual example of private contracting between a concessionaire and an Aboriginal group, and Jackie Dugard presents on the constitutional rights to property and equitable access to South Africa’s mineral resources.
After an exciting roundtable debate and Q&A on how human rights can be strategically mobilised for political and social change, the conference closes with a Keynote Address by South African Sociology of Law Professor Jonathan Klaaren of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
All are welcome! Register for the event here. A conference programme can be found at the same link.
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