Education For Social Justice in Times of Austerity

Crosbie, Veronica Elizabeth; Boni, Alejandra; Lopez Fogues, Aurora; Freeman, Barbara (2014). 'Education For Social Justice in Times of Austerity' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Paper 1

People first: Rethinking educational policies in times of crisis using the capability approach

Alejandra Boni, INGENIO, Universitat Politècnica de València

Begoña Arias, independent researcher

Within the Spanish public education sector there is a deep concern and unease that is resulting in a number of acts of protest: demonstrations, sit-ins in educational establishments, rallies, strikes, etc. - which have been occurring on a more or less regular basis for several months. The reasons for this widespread unease and anxiety have their roots, firstly, in the successive budget cuts in education that have been introduced since 2010 and, secondly, in the political and legislative measures that are being taken. In this paper we wish to analyse the changes that are occurring and the consequences of each one of them using the capabilities approach to human development. This approach allows us to put people at the centre and evince, in a critical way, the unfair consequences of the educational policies that are being adopted, and possible alternatives to them founded on a different model of development.


McCowan, T. and E. Unterhalter. (2013) Education, Citizenship and Deliberative Democracy: Sen's Capability Perspective' in Education for Civic and Political Participation. A Critical Approach, Hedtke, R. And  T. Zimenkova (eds), Routledge: New York and London, pp. 135-144.


Sen, A. (1999a) Development as Freedom. New York: Knopf.


Sen, A. (1999b) Democracy as a Universal Value. Journal of Democracy. 10 (3), 3-17.


Keywords: Spain, education, policies, capabilities, human development, economic crises

Paper 2

Boom and deep social crisis in Spain: the role of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in youth perspectives

Aurora Lopez Fogues, School of Education, Nottingham, UK


The soaring numbers of youth unemployment has put the spotlight on VET as the remedy and, at the same time, reason for the lack of opportunities among young people in Spain. This rise in VET interest responds to a broader skills-growth strategy, which contrasts with some of the critiques raised by academia and civil society to move beyond economic models. Consequently this paper locates itself in between this paradoxical situation. On one hand, there is evidence of a growing interest in VET at national and international levels which talks solely in economic terms (i.e. employability discourse); and on the other, there is a debate about growth and its pervasive effects on education and well-being that finds its echo in the classrooms, streets and the workplace. In my paper, I examine both bodies of literature and present empirical research based on semi-structured interviews carried out between 2010 and 2012 with practitioners, students and employers. The research argues that, even though the economic and productivity discourse is present, the human capital theory on which the skills-growth model is based is largely acknowledged to be insufficient. In contrast, I present the Capability Approach (CA) and the 'faces of oppression' of Iris Marion Young (1990) as a main framework that allows us to acknowledge the economic relevance of VET but also to look beyond it and acknowledge structural barriers attached to its growth-based model development in Spain.

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Misztal, B.A., 2011. The challenges of vulnerability: in search of strategies for a less vulnerable social life. Hounmills, Basingstoke ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Sen, A. 2009. Idea of Justice. London, New York: Penguin Books.


Young, I. M. 1990. Justice and the Politics of Difference. New Jersey, Princeton University Press.


Keywords: VET, crisis, employability, capability, oppression


Paper 3


Building the Capabilities of Female Entrepreneurs in Developing Economies

Barbara Freeman, Ed.D., UC Berkeley Visiting Scholar, Graduate School of Education
William Haworth, M.B.A., International Finance Corporation (IFC), Chief Strategist Global Financial Markets

 We are developing a cross-sector social innovation to drive economic development and the creation of millions of 'good jobs' in emerging markets. Globally, 300 million small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) are responsible for more than two-thirds of the jobs created. Most SMEs, however, fail to obtain the finance or advisory support they require to scale their businesses because they do not have sufficient collateral. This SME funding and capabilities gap is especially problematic for women-owned firms. We are developing a vehicle designed to provide long-term patient capital to 300,000 SMEs, which is integrated with ongoing personalized and flexible learning options for entrepreneurs, who often have little time, and may face other constraints and/or have limited formal education. We are formatively studying our target population (across countries, cultures) as we iteratively develop this solution. In this paper, we share our research findings with a focus on capabilities assessment and development and strategic partnerships.



Sen, A. K. (1992). Inequality reexamined. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shinozaki, S. (2014). Capital market financing for SMEs: A growing need in emerging Asia. Retrieved from:  

Walker, M., & Unterhalter, E. (2007). The capability approach. In M. Walker & E. Unterhalter (Eds.), Amartya Sen's capability approach and social justice in education (pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Palgrave McMillan.


Keywords: capabilities assessments, financial inclusion, entrepreneurial mentoring

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