A Culture Of Learning For All

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By Genevieve Broadley

Setting the Scene

Where do I begin? It all happened so quickly, and I feel like I don’t know what to do. My boyfriend and I have been dating for some time now, in fact it will be two years later this month. We met during frosh week, and now we’re almost half way done our undergraduate. Crazy how time flies! But, I guess a lot of things can change over two years, and crazy doesn’t even begin to describe it. I found out that I was pregnant two weeks ago, so I guess that puts me close to two months… I live with a bunch of girlfriends in our student house, and they all told me they would support me in my decision. My boyfriend told me the same thing. I guess what has been bothering me the most, is that I don’t really feel like I have a decision to make in the first place. Decisions can only be made when choices are present, but right now, I feel trapped. How am I going to finish my program with a new baby? I would have to move. I would have to take time off (is that even allowed?). I don’t have the money. What about daycare? Would my student benefits cover my child? Will I have to finish my classes online? Is there a support group on my campus? In my two years here so far, I have never seen a pregnant woman on campus. Will I stand out? Be ridiculed or gossiped about? What do I do?

The Canadian Context

This is just one of the many stories of a pregnant student trying to survive in the postsecondary setting. As Canadians we take pride in our cultural mosaic, our inclusivity, and the availability of resources and care we provide to the members of our society. Nevertheless, we cannot take this for granted. If we stop and ask ourselves who isn’t included and which pieces don’t fit into our mosaic, I think we would realize that universities are often not an inclusive space for pregnant and parenting students (Bierling, Cassidy, & Carter, 1994). According to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, at the University of Saskatchewan, one of the major issues in lifelong learning is the question of how to create a culture of learning for all. Postsecondary institutions must strive to be a culture of learning for all by providing access to learning for the less advantaged (CHSS, 2007). A study conducted in 2010 by the deVeber Institute investigated resources for pregnant and parenting students on university campuses in Canada (Bonomi, 2010). They found that only one Canadian university (University of Toronto) offered a Family Care Office, or central location from which students and their families can find resources and support through their education (Frances, 2016).

One of the most common resources provided at Canadian universities is flexible class times such as evening and weekend classes and distance studies options, at 91% and 76% of Canadian universities respectively (Bonomi, 2010). These were considered to be some of the most helpful options for pregnant and parenting students. Another very important resource for families is childcare. Brock University is one of 51 of Canadian Universities, out of 86 total, to offer a daycare on campus (Bonomi, 2010). The Rosalind Blauer Centre for Childcare offers their services to students, faculty, and staff of Brock University as well as to the community at large, with a priority given to students (Rosalind, 2010). Currently the daycare here at Brock has a waitlist of 1 year to 18 months, and the cost to enroll an infant is $245.07 per week (Rosalind, 2010). The centre is open Monday to Friday, from 7:30 in the morning to 6 at night (Rosalind, 2010). Despite these very long hours, students may struggle to find babysitters or childcare providers for evening or weekend classes. Negotiating class schedules and securing childcare are tip of the iceberg. Becoming a new parent can be challenging enough to navigate, without trying to decipher your school’s administrative policies, and build your own network of support. A central family care office would be an excellent asset to any school wishing to create an inclusive culture of learning for all (Frances, 2016).

Choice

The rhetoric surrounding “choice” in North America emphasizes a woman’s right to choose, but choices have seldom been provided for those who want to pursue family life and their education (Bierling et al. 1994). The 21st century woman is more likely than ever before to attend postsecondary school, and often females are outnumbering males in the university setting (Frenette & Klarka, 2007). The need for family-friendly campuses will only become greater as Canada opens its doors to immigrant and refugee families who are required to upgrade licensing or re-certify themselves in order to become professionals in the Canadian context (Houle & Yssaad, 2010; CIC, 2015).

Without critically assessing why we do not already have a vested interest in pregnant and parenting students, and why we are not striving to make education more accessible to students with families, we cannot move forward. If resources cannot be provided to support families on campus, pregnant and parenting students will be left behind during a challenging time. So why should we care? Family life is important. Often family is even referred to as a microcosm of society (Ugal & Orim, 2009). If families are the foundation on which society is built, then our educational institutions must do everything in their power to buttress this foundation and reinforce it. Education can not be viewed as incompatible with family life, but rather a means of enriching it; ensuring that the society of our future is built on a strong foundation.

References

Bierling, G., Cassidy, E., & Carter, E. (1994). Agency and maternal perceptions on the         decision to parent. UFL Proceedings 1994. 290-308.

Bonomi, G. (2010). Resources for pregnant women, single mothers, and parenting    students on university campuses in Canada. The deVeber Institute of Bioethics and Social         Research. http://www.deveber.org/blog/2010/10/14/resources-pregnant-women-single-  mothers-and-parenting-students-university-campuses-c

CHSS – Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences (2007). Issues in lifelong learning.        University of Saskatchewan (May 26- June 2).

CIC: The refugee system in Canada. The Government of Canada. Nov.24 2015             http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/canada.asp

Francis, K. (n.d.). University of Toronto, Family Care Office. Retrieved March 9, 2016. http://www.familycare.utoronto.ca

Frenette, M., & Klarka Z. (2007). Why are most university students women? Evidence based on      academic performance, study habits and parental influences. Analytical Studies Branch  Research Paper Series. Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 11F0019MIE – No. 303.

Houle, R., & Yssaad, L. (2010). Recognition of newcomer’s foreign credentials and work    experience. Perspectives – Statistics Canada, 75(01), 18-33.

Rosalind Blauer Center for Child Care (2010). Enrolment and costs/ waitlist. Retrieved March 10, 2016. https://www.brocku.ca/childcare

Ugal, D., & Orim, P. (2009). Family as a microcosm of the larger society: Implications for    societal development. Social Science Research Network, (6) 12, 1-11.          http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1518894

 

 

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6 thoughts on “A Culture Of Learning For All

  1. Ryan Morreale

    Interesting perspective especially how the greater society would ‘view’ you as deviant because you physically look different and the stigmas and stereotypes would be endless. Now keep imagining being different, both –different in a physical manner and non-visible manner. Being a minority as an example. – what are people thinking, what do they know about you – your perspective, your world view – and your local view of society?

    Makes me think of walking around in public (on a school campus – or in the downtown core of a large international city) with the words – I was sexually abused, I have autism, I have AIDS, I am homeless, I am a sexual minority and I am black, written all over my body and clothes in deep bold RED. Stand out? I’d say yes. People however, wouldn’t really know my story – or know how I got where I am today, nor would they know specifics about me….it is similar to – lets say Facebook. People may create their own understanding of me via images and social constructions however, knowing me –not personally, nor engaging in dialogue with me – you all know NOTHING about me or my story! This is the same for a pregnant girl as she ponders and navigates her path of PSE.

    You bring up a thought-provoking idea when it comes to availability of day care in PSE…especially when there is a year waiting list. What if I was a professor at the school –am I on a different wait-list or the same list as students? Who should get priority – the staff or student? I really enjoy your comments about family life and how PSE should be enriching family life – making sure the greater community and the larger society is built with a strong foundation which is inclusive of family development and growth! This blog makes me think about a book:

    Côté, J. E., & Allahar, A. L. (2011). Lowering higher education: The rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.

    Reflecting on my reading of this book and somewhere in the book– somewhere –I have to look through my notes, discusses issues with hours allocated for staff in Universities and students taking a PhD program regarding how many hours per week they work…and comparing to the cost of not having time with family. We are overworking professors and PhD – and I will say even higher education learner candidates to create a workplace culture of not enriching family life – and not making sure the greater community and the larger society is built with a strong foundation which is inclusive of family development and growth!

    Great read and blog Genevieve! This idea would make a fruitful, rigorous narrative story based on educational mind mapping, and knowledge mapping. Keep up the awesome stuff!

  2. Wow, really great insight Ryan! I’m always nervous talking about this issue because because it seems (to me) to be surrounded by a veil of ignorance – “if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist”. It’s almost as though PSE is of the mind that if we support pregnant women and parenting students on campus we are encouraging them? And, that if we encourage family life on campus we somehow detract from the intellectual capacity of the university as an institution. If we think critically we can come to see how outsiders (those who do not fit the “norm” established by society) pose a threat to the elite by challenging the dominant theme and stepping outside the frame that we are intended to live our lives. Race, power, class and gender are all fluid and cannot be discussed in isolation.
    In this critical paradigm, graduate students are taught to learn how various forms of oppression are fed to us as common sense, and blend in with the status quo. In my opinion, these structures of power and hegemony are taking place in our own backyard. The elite have framed parenting to be a personal problem, not a social responsibility. As long as we believe that others peoples burdens, problems, or struggles are not “our problem”, we cannot live in a democratic society. We were never meant to live in this world alone, and support begets community. The reason why I believe that this issue of pregnant and parenting students is so important is because without resources, women and men are backed into a corner. They can either pursue PSE or they can have a family. I do not believe that this kind of decision is a fair to impose in any society that calls itself a democracy.
    The truth is, that when we do not provide options for women and families on campus, we are sending a clear message. If you choose to have this child, you better be accountable. Government funded abortions allow the elite to wash their hands of social responsibility, and make women and men who choose life look irresponsible when they can’t do it all on their own. In my opinion, this is oppression of the darkest kind. Not only have we restricted options for parenting families and newcomers to our country, but we keep them down, so that they cannot be part of the postsecondary dialogue.
    Ryan, you are definitely correct in assuming that a whole bunch of stigma comes with unplanned pregnancy. Stigma and social exclusion have never led us to a better place as a society. By effectively “othering” people who choose differently than the norm, we place value on our way of life over theirs. This is exactly the kind of oppression that we read about in our textbooks, but somehow escapes our notice here at school.

  3. Awesome post Genevieve! What an interesting barrier to bring to light. I decided to do some research into this after reading your post, because I had never really put much thought into the subject. I know several women who have returned to school after having children, but it is often when their children are teens or young adults by the time they return. I found an excellent literature review (from England, but touches on a lot of the same themes as your post).

    Lyonette, C., Atfield, G., Behle, H., & Gambin L. (2015) Tracking student mothers’ higher education participation and early career outcomes over time: initial choices and aspirations, HE
    experiences and career destinations Institute for Employment Research. Institute for Employment Research. University of Warwick: Coventry.
    http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/lyonette_et_al_2015_nuffield_lr.pdf

    Another resource I thought might be helpful is the Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) training offered by the Government of Canada as an appropriate research method to employ for this research. The methodology focuses on breaking down aggregated data into group focused metrics to find deeper insights into groups, particularly items that intersect, such as gender & higher education, or pregnancy & access to education. A full training module is provided through the Status of Women Committee page at http://swc-cfc.gc.ca/gba-acs/course-cours/eng/mod00/mod00_01_01.html

  4. Thank you Chris. I am so grateful for your insights and resources. This is a topic that we can forget to think about if it is not directly affecting us. I am glad that you felt the significance of his barrier was brought to light in my post.

  5. Thank you Nicola. Now we just need to start establishing Family Care Offices at Canadian Universities. U of T has provided a model. Their example is groundbreaking in our country, and has set the bar (in my opinion) of what each university should strive towards. Check out their website, I think you will be very impressed.

    http://www.familycare.utoronto.ca

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