Between July 1- 5, the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Porto (FPCEUP) co-organised and hosted the EERA Summer School (EERASS) 2024. The annual event aimed at Ph.D students and researchers, brought together around 70 participants of 27 nationalities, in addition to 18 tutors from 4 countries. Conferences, workshops and networking events were part of the programme, which also recognised the traces of African culture in Porto through an African Tour around the city.

Decolonizing the University

With the motto “Educational Research in Europe: Decolonize, Democratize and Develop. Legacies and futurities”, EERASS 2024 took place in the same year as the 50th Anniversary of the Carnation Revolution. After 48 years of dictatorship, the 3 F’s (Fado, Football and Fátima) were confronted with the 3 D’s: Decolonize, Democratize and Develop. Currently, with the idea of Democracy threatened by the rise of populist parties and the concept of Development in an evolutionary spiral that aims to be sustainable, Decolonization remains a focus of debate, both in Academia and in the public sphere, crossing several domains. In fact, what does it mean to decolonize Art, Language, Health, Education?

Dalila Pinto Coelho, Ph.D from FPCEUP and Integrated Member of the Centre for Educational Research and Intervention (CIIE), participated in the EERASS both as a tutor and a speaker. She worked with participants who were, in many cases, dealing with the issue of Decolonization for the first time, particularly Decolonization in Higher Education, which is the researcher’s new object of study. Highlighting the importance of recognizing the nature and colonial legacy of the institutions from the “Global North”, she recalls that “Universities are entirely based upon the belief that some knowledge is more valid than others” and that “this knowledge still predominantly comes from Western and male authors”.

In recent years, thought, several researchers and Collectives gradually focused on the topic. Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures is one of those groups – and it is based on their contributions that one can anticipate some possible scenarios regarding decolonizing practices.

“There is the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion scenario, which is already being implemented in many North American and European universities. In Portugal we have some practices pointing towards the same direction, but they still seem to me to be dispersed and with less visibility than in other contexts. Still, if the efforts that are already in place are combined with a decolonial perspective, small windows of change may emerge”, predicts Dalila Pinto Coelho.

“A second scenario”, she continues, “refers to the creation of radically different alternatives that are promoted by people who are directly affected by exclusions. A third scenario advocates a sort of “Hacking” to the system, which claims the gradual introduction of decolonial practices while aiming at a larger horizon and assuming that institutions are not meant to remain as they are. A fourth scenario, “Hospicing”, argues that it is necessary to provide “palliative” care for Modern institutions. There is a great level of disruption in all of this, not only at an institutional level but also at a personal, emotional, and relational level”.

Dalila Pinto Coelho is beginning a new project called “Decolonising Higher Education and envisioning the Education dimension: towards a comprehensive view”, along with FPCEUP’s professors and researchers Joana Rios, Pedro P. Ferreira, Isabel Menezes and João Caramelo. It will provide the empirical collection of data on how Higher Education institutions are effectively positioning themselves and reacting to the real implementation of more inclusive practices and more diverse knowledge. “For now, the information available is mainly in English, which already says a lot about it. The Knowledge publishing Machine has its own biases: it tends to leave out non-dominant languages and countries from the South”.

Decolonizing the Future

Decolonizing Education in Portugal also implies questioning the endorsement of the Luso-Tropicalismo, whose main features were presented in another EERASS conference by Psychologist and Researcher Joaquim Pires Valentim (University of Coimbra). A dominant trend during Portugal’s Estado Novo, Luso-Tropicalismo didn’t vanish with the democratization process, nor with Portugal’s integration into the European project. Currently, Valentim is focusing his analysis on four main areas: manuals; public space (such as street names and statues); museums and cultural products related to the colonial past.

Other speakers included Professor Vanessa Andreotti (Member of the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures collective) and Professor Tanu Biswas (University of Stavanger), who discussed the importance of considering the (non) place of children (and other people to whom similar features are attributed) in the necessary changes regarding the decolonization of education.

In order to decolonize the Future, one must first deconstruct the Past and accept the challenges of a transgenerational commitment. “The small attempts that each of us make are not for our generation; just like previous generations fought for achievements that we are now benefiting from”, recalls Sofia Pinto Coelho. “I am motivated by a deep conviction that all of this must be pursued with a great level of self-vigilance and self-reflexivity. It is easy to believe that we are on the right side of History, but we are all within a system. Decolonizing higher education also means creating space for new alternatives, which will enable greater social justice.”

EERASS 2024 was co-organised by the European Educational Research Association, CIIE (FPCEUP), CEAD (University of Algarve), CIEd (University of Minho) and CIDTFF (University of Aveiro), with the support of SPCE – Sociedade Portuguesa de Ciências da Educação.