Enabling spaces in education research: an agenda for impactful, collective evidence to support all to be first among un-equals
Single case studies are prolific in South African education research. I equate the abundance of case studies to the urgency for evidence to transform the highly unequal landscape of education opportunities. In contrast however, stand-alone case study evidence does not offer much impact in building an evidence-based body of knowledge for education interventions. I posit an alternative for education research in the absence of collective studies, and propose for education researchers to collaborate in order to be deliberate in building a collective body of knowledge on circumstances that enable positive education outcomes given a postcolonial context, such as South Africa. I use an egalitarian political philosophy position to posit the notion of schools as enabling spaces, so as to counter a dis-enabling disaster perspective and promote dialogue on evidence of that which supports positive learning and development, given high structural disparity. I show that, as with studies in which I participated, many studies exist locally to generate evidence on education responses given adversity. However, insights thus derived are fragmented, regional and mostly single case studies using multiple conceptualisations, measures and indicators. I argue that an intentional education research agenda to coordinate inquiries could inform design, conceptualisation, measurement, comparative value and data sharing. An enabling schools research agenda could intentionally guide inquiry into that which supports education, where chronic poverty renders society as characteristically less equal.
Keywords: barriers to education; buffers in education; egalitarian political philosophy; equality of opportunity; global South education; high risk schools; poverty and education; protective resources; resilience; risk factors