Transforming Unjust Structures The Capability Approach

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Equality, Capability and Human Rights

Because children differ in their abilities to convert means into valuable opportunities or outcomes, simply focusing on the means does not necessarily lead to capability development. Thus, the CCCs' support for the children should aim to create favourable educational opportunities that directly affect their capability improvement. Creating these opportunities entails inspiring poor children to dream about their futures and gain a sense of achievement.

These children tend to focus on what they know to be attainable because they have learned not to desire and not to be ambitious and to resign themselves to under-achievement Kelly ; Saito This tendency reflects the problem of adaptive preferences by which poor children's preferences are adapted to their deprived circumstances Khader ; Sen , ; Teschl and Comim Most children at the CCCs, when asked what they would like to do if they could choose, preferred to spend their time playing computer games Lee et al. This conveys that the poor children who attend CCCs likely have limited freedom to aspire, which makes it necessary to create the conditions under which these children can develop the capacity to aspire Appadurai ; Bok ; Hart ; Smith Appadurai conceives this capacity to aspire as the capacity to navigate life and reframes the notion of aspiration as a collective cultural capacity rather than an individual motivational trait.

This capacity can be better developed with concrete experiences, opportunities and resources to draw on when navigating pathways toward desired outcomes Smith The children at CCCs might have less-developed capacities to realise their aspirations owing to their having fewer experiences and opportunities Bok In order for the children to develop aspirations for life, their families, community members, and other persons whom they encounter in their daily lives must have experience navigating pathways toward imagined and valued outcomes Appadurai ; Bok Poor Korean children who attend CCCs, according to Sen's notions of functionings and capabilities, may have certain functionings such as having a place to go after school, being able to attend classes, and having meals provided, but their capability set, which denotes their real opportunities to achieve the valuable functionings, is quite limited Jung and Kim Having the capability to lead lives that they value presumes that they have options or alternative functionings that they desire to achieve.

Korean children who attend CCCs, however, do not have this freedom to aspire but instead passively receive welfare services Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs When fostering children's capability for life, it is important to address the structural and personal conditions that affect their choices and to understand what they value.

For Sen , , these structural and personal conditions work as conversion factors that influence how children's aspirations are realised. This recognition of these factors entails attention not only to personal but also socio-structural elements in helping children to enhance their capabilities.

Agency is another important element to consider in our attempts to enhance children's capability for life. The notion of agency is associated with the "ability to pursue goals one values and has reason to value" Alkire , 2. Fostering agency among children at the CCCs depends on developing in them reflective abilities to choose valuable functionings and expanding their choices of values and goals beyond their limited adapted preferences Sen Thus, attempts to foster agency entail both educational support to help the children develop the reflective ability to choose what they have reason to value, and local and structural construction of favourable social and institutional conditions to encourage in these children the freedom to conceive and achieve the valued choices.

It is important, in our attempts to foster agency, to hold the perspective that the children who participate in CCCs have substantive aspirations, know what is valuable to them, and are capable of pursuing aims and making choices about their aspirations, even under deprived circumstances. In adopting the CA, this study is interested in expanding the capability space of the children who participate in the CCC, which encompasses fostering agency and activating the necessary internal and external conversion factors.

This adoption goes beyond generating well-being indicators or assessing the levels of conversion factors Frediani ; Zimmermann For this purpose, this study strives to develop practically effective, transformative educational actions that actually help children to improve their capabilities. One church-run CCC was selected for this study; it was located in a rural fishing area, and it supervised 20 elementary and 13 secondary school students. Ten of the 33 students were female: nine elementary and one secondary.

Most of these children were from deprived families and were being raised by grandparents, single parents, or relatives, and some lived on their own with no adults in their lives. These children were looked after at the centre until late in the evening, participating in after-school activities and learning programmes.

The CA application in this study was oriented to create local community context-bounded, effective socio-educational conditions and processes that could expand capacities not only among the children who attended the centre but also at the centre itself and in the local community. This CA application embraces pragmatic, dialogic interaction-embodied methodology, by which not only agency but also personal and contextual conversion factors are activated.

Conversion factors and agency can be triggered with a critical understanding of which capabilities are vital for the children not only at particular moments in their lives but in their future lives as well and understanding what actions are necessary to foster effective conversion and agency. This study seeks to understand what is ultimately important for children in order to uncover the vital capabilities that they should develop.

Most children at the CCC appeared to have no desire to improve their lives; they appeared to have very little expectation that their future lives would be better. When asked what they aspired to become and what they would like to do, they did not know how to answer. Some children were even annoyed when they were asked questions concerning their dreams about life. Children are unlikely to make an effort to learn when they perceive that their possibilities in life are limited. In many ways, aspiration for a better life is deeply connected to a commitment to learning.

Transforming Unjust Structures : The Capability Approach

Inspiring children to encounter or experience this tie between learning and life, therefore, is crucial in increasing their awareness that there is more to see, feel, experience, and learn about life. This inspiration is expected to help the children understand that many possibilities are still open for them.

Furthermore, this awareness will urge children to make serious efforts to improve their capabilities to learn for life. Effective conversion and improving capability entail developing both personal and local-contextual elements. In terms of the personal elements, two factors are emphasised: inspiring children to have aspirations for life in order to stimulate their desire and commitment to learn and facilitating the children's capacities to learn, which is related to developing their reflective abilities.

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Developing these personal elements concerns enhancing children's actual freedom to learn, which involves nurturing them to be able to pursue learning and facilitating their abilities to convert resources to achieve their desired ends. With respect to the local-contextual elements, this study aims to transform the provision-based, deficiency approach of the CCC's welfare service into a community-based, dialogical interaction-oriented, collaborative one.

The fact that most children at this centre are from deprived families and do not live with both parents causes centre staff and community participants to focus their efforts on helping to fill the children's perceived deficiencies. Rather than attempting to understand the children's hopes and to help them develop the capacity to aspire, the centre's efforts to help the children are focused on which welfare services to offer them.

This approach is problematic for both staff and the children. The staff and community participants are often frustrated and disappointed that the children take others' help for granted.

The children are often annoyed by receiving pre-determined assistance that has no direct connection to what the children feel they need. The main problem of a deficiency approach is that it is not oriented toward enhancing children's capabilities but instead contributes to perpetuating their vulnerability Nam This approach needs to be transformed so that the children can be truly helped to overcome their vulnerability and to expand their possibilities for life successfully. Shifting from a deficiency approach embraces cultivating community-based, communicative partnerships among all participants.

Transforming Unjust Structures: The Capability Approach - Google книги

It develops and organises community-based, dialogically interactive, life-enriching learning processes and activities. Fostering and facilitating children to improve their capabilities cannot be accomplished solely by the local CCC but require community-based collaboration. To collaborate successfully, all participants - not just the children, but staff, community participants including the research team members, instructors, and parents - need to expand their capacity to learn and work together as a community.

Dialogic interactions among the participants are emphasised and practised to improve the capacity to work together. These community-based, dialogically-interactive, life-enriching learning efforts encompass exploring transformative actions and also involve putting these actions into practice.

Critical Communicative Methodology CCM is used to explore and devise transformative educational actions to foster capability enhancement. The choice of CCM is rooted in the orientation and commitment that this methodology espouses. CCM aims to understand and analyse critically social reality for the purposes of overcoming inequality and transforming unjust societies. It assumes a critical communicative perspective on reality and is grounded "where knowledge is understood as being constructed through interaction and dialogue" Puigvert, Christou and Holford , In this sense, CCM is distinguished from traditional research in which the researchers are the only ones who interpret the social realities.

CCM, instead, is based on "a dual perspective which accounts for both the system expert's scientific knowledge and the lifeworld subject's knowledge from the common sense " Flecha and Soler , This perspective of CCM embraces including actors' reflections and interpretations and emphasises incorporating these reflections into dialogue in order to generate critical understandings and analysis about social realities. This methodology, owing to its emphasis on dialogical interpretations and reflections between the actors and the theories or the previous scientific research, helps to identify both inhibiting elements that perpetuate social inequality and transformative elements that transform social inequality Flecha ; Flecha and Soler ; Puigvert, Christou and Holford The dialogic interactions and reflections that were employed in this study, moreover, contributed to examining the starting points to scaffold transformative actions and to identifying the necessary actions for building and extending the children's zone of proximal development toward capabilities for life Rusznyak and Walton ; Vygotsky The total number of participants in this study was Thirteen persons were from the local community: the four CCC staff, three parents, and six community volunteers.

There were 10 instructors at the centre, eight persons on the research team including lifelong education professors and graduate students , and 33 students, 20 from elementary and 13 from secondary schools. For the data collection and analysis, the study used communicative workshops and meeting materials for adults and children, communicative focus-group interviews with children and adult participants, teaching and supervising notes, audiovisual materials about the students' learning activities, and the students' reflection notes and worksheets.

Using CCM was beneficial not only for gathering, sharing, and comparing the participants' reflections and interpretations with the theories and previous studies regarding children's social realities but also to analyse and examine what actions were required to transform effectively the children's realities.


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As an attempt to ensure credibility and relevance, this study organised critical communicative processes and activities for the participants to examine our different points of view and interpretations with regard to effective practice. Four CCC staff, six community volunteers, three parents, and the research team held workshops every two weeks to share our supervising notes, which consisted of our observations and interpretations about children's learning.

Ten instructors and the research team held workshops and seminars every month to share our interpretations and reflections about the effectiveness of the education activities. The children in each class, using their reflection notes and worksheets, had space for review and reflection and shared their interpretations and reflections about their learning. These communicative workshops, meetings, and seminars were transcribed and coded according to the category of participants staff-S, instructors-I, volunteers-V, parents-P, and children-C.

The use of CCM in this study aimed to identify transformative education processes and actions that could enhance the children's capabilities. This search for transformative actions was initiated by examining what kept the children from overcoming their vulnerability and what should be done to transform these barriers.

For this purpose, the participants were divided into two groups, adults and children. The two groups met separately for dialogic interactions at first, and then mixed participants met for additional dialogic interpretations. The adult participants were involved in helping and supporting the children, and they struggled to find more effective methods to do so.

The dialogic interactions among the adults were based on the following concerns: what they hoped the children could develop with their help; when they felt difficulty or joy while helping the children; what they thought were the most serious challenges to helping the children; and what they considered were better ways to help the children. These dialogic interactions, which encompassed their experiences, reflections, and interpretations with regard to these questions, helped to give the adult participants a more critical understanding and analysis of how the current deficiency-based, service-provision practices have actually intensified the children's dependency and perpetuated their vulnerability.

This critical understanding triggered the adults to have additional discussions regarding alternative approaches to helping the children. In the search for an alternative approach through dialogue, I introduced the adults to Dewey's theory, especially his concept of experience and growth, and to Sen's capability approach.

Dewey's theory of experience helped the adults to understand that the children were also capable of growing and, furthermore, that their capabilities could be enhanced with their exposure to appropriate qualitative experiences. With Sen's approach, the adults could recognise that the support for the children should be oriented toward fostering capability improvement.

Because of these dialogic interactions and reflections, the adults achieved critical understanding about the children's social realities. The dialogic interactions with the children's group were focused on understanding their hopes, dreams, and expectations for themselves and their lives. This understanding was expected to help in identifying the actions necessary to support the children in developing capabilities for life. This attempt to understand was based on the following concerns: what the children would like to become; what they liked doing; what was most important in their lives; when they felt good about themselves; how they felt about being at school and at the CCC; their expectations about their futures, etc.

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We had these interactions by dividing the children into two groups, elementary and secondary school pupils. To our disappointment, the children were not eager to talk about these matters; they seemed to be uninterested and absentminded. Faced with this unexpected response, the research team discussed why the children could not or did not communicate in order to determine the next course of action.


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  8. We chose to have another interaction, but using a different form of dialogue through which the children could communicate with more comfort and eagerness.