UCD School of Education Professor Dympna Devine Delivers and Invited Lecture on Migration and Education

Dympna Devine picture

Professor Dympna Devine gave an invited lecture at a conference of leading international experts in the field of migration and education, organised by the Royal Swedish Academic of Sciences, in Stockholm from May 17th to 19th. Migration is undoubtedly a hot topic internationally, but debates rarely focus on the impact and experience of migration in education. Yet education policy and practice has a profound impact on the positioning of migrant children, and their families, in the settlement society. Professor Devine's paper explores the centrality of education to processes of identity shaping and meaning making, not only for migrant children, but for the entire school community through the everyday interactions with peers, teachers, school principals and parents. This is not a neutral process, however, but is embedded in dynamics of power and tensions between ‘preservation’ and ‘transformation’ in the educational ‘field’. She argues that it is how children are valued in schools that sets the context within which in/equalities between different groups of children in wider society emerge. This is a complex process, influencing present well-being as well as future life-chances. She explores the tensions and dilemmas in the ‘valuing’ of migrant children, a group who epitomize dilemmas around reputation and risk, value and being valued in an increasingly competitively structured global education and labour market. For teachers in schools, these tensions play out in questions over who, what and how to ‘value’ in their pedagogies as they struggle in an intensified and performance driven environment. For migrant children, their capacity to negotiate tensions over mis/recognition and in/visibility in school, is significantly mediated not only by access to resources by the family (including wider kinship networks) but also by the degree of ‘unsettling’ which occurs in new experiences of identity making. How they negotiate this is an important factor shaping their family’s wider integration into the settlement society.


Professor Devine's paper draws on mainly ethnographic research conducted over the past fifteen years in newly multi ethnic, mainly white, schools. It raises fundamental questions about values and power in education and rights and equalities in migrant children’s experiences of learning. It argues for an orientation to pedagogy that is radical and strategic, careful and nurturing, valuing the grain of ethnic and cultural influences in children’s lives. In its absence, being valued differently can involve reproducing inter-generational patterns of poverty and exclusion that naturalizes under-achievement to deficiencies in culture and identity.