Focus on Greece

It’s so heartening to have such a diverse student population at UCL and to find out what wondrous things they do in their own countries.   The International Education LibGuide’s March Student/Country Focus features Maria Chalari from Greece. Below is just a taster….

Ya sas!

My name is Maria Chalari, and I am from Greece. I am a recent graduate of the UCL Institute of Education of the department of Education, Practice and Society. I completed my doctorate thesis in the Spring of 2016 under the supervision of Stephen Ball, and in August 2016 I was awarded the degree of Doctor in Education in the field of Sociology of Education. 

My research project aimed to explore how teachers experience the socio-economic crisis in Greece and the new challenges that stem from it; to discuss the purpose of education and the role it should play in preparing young people for this social, cultural and economic transition; to learn more about how we can build on the strengths of the present education system in order to create a system better suited to the current major societal changes and the challenging circumstances.

Throughout my study, I attempted to examine the consequences of the crisis at the time of the research, while also exploring the possibilities of a better world beyond the crisis. I also endeavoured to send a positive message, by helping educators understand the issues of teaching and learning and the purpose of education, and by encouraging them to think of practical and hopeful strategies for shaping alternative and better futures….

You can read more about Maria Chalari and education in Greece on the International Student/Country Focus page here.

You might also sample Maria’s suggested resource that can be found in the UCL IOE Library here:

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Genius, obsession and new beginnings- take a look at our new DVDs.

The lives of two brilliant mathematicians from India and the USA, a teenager’s determination for a better life through literacy, a newly unemployed man who enrols in a college to try and start a new life, a stifled Oxford academic’s obsession with a female student and a the adventures of a group of boys at a Victorian boarding school are among the subjects covered by DVDs recently added to the Library’s Education in Literature Collection. There are also films from Iran, Brazil and Italy.infinity

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016) stars Dev Patel as Srinavasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) a shipping clerk from Madras whose passion for mathematics leads him to write a letter to G.H.Hardy (Jeremy Irons) a mathematics professor at Trinity College, Cambridge. Hardy brings Ramanujan to Cambridge, in 1913 to further his work in mathematics. Despite his support Ramanujan has to fight against the challenges of prejudice and racism.

The mathematician portrayed in A Beautiful Mind (2001) by Russell Crowe is John Forbes Nash Jr. (1928-2015). He made fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry and the study of partial differential equations. His brilliance was hampered by his long battle against paranoid schizophrenia. The film is directed by Ron Howard.

Precious (2009) directed by Lee Daniels, is a life-affirming story of an abused African-American teenager in 1980s Harlem whose life start to improve when she is offered a place at an alternative school. There Clareece ‘Precious’ Jones finds a mentor who helps her to overcome her illiteracy.

In Accident (1967) Stephen (Dirk Bogarde) is a middle-aged professor stifled by his marriage and his life as an Oxford academic. He becomes obsessed with his beautiful student Anna. His rivals for her affections are her young fiancé William (Michael York) and a more successful fellow academic Charley (Stanley Baker). The film is directed by Joseph Losey from a screenplay by playwright Harold Pinter.

Stalky & Co, is a six part BBC TV (1982) series set in the late 1890’s and based on the novel of the same name by Rudyard Kipling. It is set in a private boy’s school and recounts the adventures of Stalky (Robert Adie), McTurk (Robert Burbage) and Beetle (David Parfitt). The character of Beetle is said to be based on Kipling himself and Stalky & Co on his experiences as a pupil at the United Services College at Bideford, Devon. Be warned that sometimes these schoolboy’s attitudes and adventures feature revenge, hatred, violence and passion. There are copies of the novel in the Education in Literature Collection and in the Curriculum Collection.

The eponymous hero of Larry Crowne (2011) played by Tom Hanks loses his long-standing job and enrols in his local college to learn new skills.crowne He finds support from new friends and also develops a crush on his teacher (Julia Roberts). Tom Hanks also directs the film.

Talented violinist Laerte (Lazaro Ramos) fails to gain a place in the renowned Sao Paulo Symphonic Orchestra. Instead he has to teach music in a public school in Heliopolis, the biggest and most violent slum of Brazil. Gradually Laerte is able to gain the community’s trust through the transforming power of music. The Violin Teacher (Tudo que aprendemos juntos), directed by Sergio Machado, was the winner of the Best Brazilian Feature Film at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival 2015. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Blackboards (2000) is an unusual film from Iran whose director is a young woman Samira Makhmalbaf. In the film a group of itinerate teachers wander the countryside near the border with Iraq looking for students.blackboards They carry their blackboards with them and find many uses for them- as a cover from gunfire, shelter from the weather or even as a stretcher. The teachers are eager to impart knowledge but find very few students. In Kurdish with English subtitles. It won the Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival 2000.

Notte prima degli esami (Night before the exams) (2006) is an Italian teen comedy film about the adventures of Luca and his friends as they prepare for the esami di maturita (the Italian high school final exam). It is set in Rome during 1989 and features music by Europe, Duran Duran, Cecchetto and other popular 1980s bands.

The Education in Literature Collection contains novels ,plays, autobiographies ,poetry and DVDs which explores the educational experience at all levels and from the perspective of both pupil and teacher from many countries. The collection is shelved at the back of the Library Teaching Room on the 4th Floor of the UCL IOE Newsam Library and Archives.

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Focus on India

Some of our students do wondrous things when they are here in London, so it’s no surprise that they continue their amazing work when then go home.

One such student is Deepa Idnani, who was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship for her Doctoral work at the UCL Institute of Education in 2015-16.


Deepa is presently working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Education, SPM College, University of Delhi, India, and in 2017, she published Right to Education and Schooling.


You can find this new title in the IOE Library and you can find out more about Deepa and other IOE students on the Student/Country Focus pages in the International LibGuide.

We welcome many more students to add their education experiences to these pages that highlight the rich diversity at UCL IOE. If you’re interested in sharing  your experiences,  please out the form here.

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Are Bhutan and Vanuatu world leaders? Thoughts for the International Day of Happiness

Happiness is a word with an intense golden glow and surely one of the main goals of each one of us every day of our lives; but it seems an elusive thing, difficult to define or measure or pursue systematically or collectively. Yet it is gaining ground as a concept in social sciences and in politics.

In 2012, the United Nations unanimously adopted the International Day of Happiness on March, 20.  Resolution 66/281 urges members to integrate “happiness and well-being” into public policies and to balance economic growth with social justice and sustainability.

The pursuit of maximum production and capital has tentatively been replaced by more holistic aims. One factor is equality: if there is a considerable national income, how is it distributed? Another factor is health: if life expectancy is very high and rising, how many years are actually spent in good health? Some development indexes try to weigh literacy and education. Then there is the environment: we have finally noticed that unchecked development will destroy the space where it takes place.

Also since 2012, the UN publishes the World Happiness Report, with rankings for 156 countries and a focus on inequality in the latest update of 2016. Not only has socio-economic inequality increased: ‘happiness inequality’ is on the rise within countries, within regions, and across the globe. This ranking uses surveys on subjective well-being and studies on ethics and religions but claims to be a more precise indicator of social inequality.

The Human Development Index establishes a formula from income, education and life span. The usual suspects in Northern Europe and Central Europe and East Asia get very high ratings, together with the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Note that in the ‘inequality-adjusted’ HDI, the Nordic countries become the team at the top, while South Korea drops from position 17 to 32 and the US is in freefall from position 8 to 28!

The Happy Planet Index comes to a very different conclusion: The tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu made it to the top of the world in the first round, with Costa Rica and other Caribbean countries of modest means runners-up and holding the flag since. The lowest rankings of well-being are clustered in Africa and extend, bizarrely, to Russia and the United States of America. This is due to the ‘ecological footprint’ of the nation’s lifestyle. ‘Happy Planet’ refers to happy, healthy people as well as a happy, healthy planet.



Map showing countries shaded by their position in the Happy Planet Index (2006). The highest-ranked countries are bright green; the lowest are brown. — Source: By Super cyclist at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The German Parliament set up the Commission ‘Growth, Prosperity, Quality of Life’, which in 2011 came up with ten development indicators across economic, social and environmental areas: among them national debt, personal freedom, and greenhouse gases. I think this is an approach to be watched and worked on!

A few years ago, the UK Government established the What Works Centre in order to look into and promote well-being. Some of the focus areas are adult learning and culture. Recent research papers examine the link between music and dementia and discuss how ‘life-satisfaction’ can be measured and compared.

This movement was apparently started by another tiny nation, Bhutan in Central Asia, quite cut off amidst the Himalayas in the 1970s. When a journalist asked the King about their Gross Domestic Product, he replied that the Bhutanese have different aims – and went on to have Gross National Happiness (GNH) enshrined in the law.

The Newsam Library at the UCL Institute of Education has just bought two new books on the matter (downstairs at 549.8). Schuelka, Maxwell and colleagues (2016) and Robles (2016) describe how Bhutan moved, within half a century, from a traditional monastic education to a secular system with international outlook, while preserving the cultural heritage and upholding Buddhist values. The concept of ‘happiness’ encompasses equality and kindness.

I gather that in Asia, collective happiness is not the sum of individual satisfaction, but an equilibrium, the maximum space for everyone to find development and contentment. The editors of the UN’s World Happiness Report 2016 draw a similar conclusion: the more equally distributed happiness is in a country, the happier its inhabitants are overall.

For the International Day of Happiness 2017, you could think about these matters as a teacher, perhaps with your pupils or students, or as a researcher. Have there been surveys of life-satisfaction and well-being in your country? Do recent policies on economic expansion explicitly take social equality and mobility, or the educational achievement, or the healthy life span into account?

For a philosophical background, you could turn to Bertrand Russell’s Conquest of Happiness, in several copies at UCL Main Library, or to Hermann Hesse’s musings on Happiness (Glück), available in German at Senate House Library.

François Lelord offers a mixture of entertaining narrative and popular philosophy in his Hector novels, available in French at the French Institute and in English at the public libraries around UCL, which belong to Camden Council. The hero flees – like the author did – the Western ‘wellness’ industry of gyms, pills, and psychoanalysis in order to look for true contentment with Eskimos and, incidentally or not, monks in the Himalayas.

Sunlit veranda of coffee-house with cups on round table and flower pots on rails.

The IOE Library also holds a critical documentary on Bhutan’s claims to the best recipe for satisfaction: Bhutan tourism, TV and happiness.

Our Curriculum Resources section offers introductions into philosophy for children at classmark 100. Teaching and learning materials on happiness are located at 152.4 and those on health and well-being in general from 300 onwards.

For very young children, there are picture books exploring the aims of life. Have a look at The jar of happiness and Augustus and his smile. Older children will be intrigued by the illustrated tales The seeds of peace and The keeper of wisdom.

My own version of happiness would be a place in the sun, quite literally: a seat in a coffee-house in a sunny country, with the leisure to immerse myself in… social history!

‘Nid’cigogne’ café in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2012.

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The Angela W. Little Collection of Education in Sri Lanka

In keeping with the theme of international education research at the UCL Institute of Education Library, this post highlights the acquisition of a new collection in our Special Collections – the Angela W. Little Collection of education in Sri Lanka. The collection was deposited in the Library during the Summer of 2016. We asked Professor Emerita Little to write about her work in Sri Lanka and how she came to collect the materials which are now in the Newsam Library and accessible to researchers working in this area.

Angela W Little, Professor Emerita

Professor Angela W. Little

My interest in education and society in Sri Lanka began in 1975 when, as a member of a comparative education research team based at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, I had an opportunity to visit schools and villages in the remote district of Moneragala as well as in the capital, Colombo. At that time I was exploring the causes and consequences of ‘examination backwash’ on the quality of teaching and learning in schools. This was motivated by concerns to understand the causes of the widespread youth insurrection just a few years earlier that had come close to toppling the government. The insurrection was borne of the frustration among educated youth unable to find the government jobs that their education and qualifications had led them to expect.   The very high unemployment rate among this group intensified the competition between students in schools and universities for examination success and qualifications that gave access to jobs and higher education.  It also meant that examination syllabi largely determined the quality of teaching and learning and led to an emphasis on rote learning and a narrow focus on that which could be examined. This resulted in what was termed by Ronald Dore ‘Diploma Disease’ (1976, 1996).  Historically, government jobs were allocated through educational qualifications and merit based interviews. By the mid-1970s political affiliations were gradually becoming an additional prerequisite. Thus it became important (especially for an ‘outsider’ researcher) to understand not only the nexus between the education system, the examination/qualification system and youth aspirations – but also that between the labour market, the occupational structure, income distribution and the political system. And that nexus needed to be understood historically as well as contemporaneously. The writings of J E Jayasuriya and Swarna Jayaweera, both Institute of Education alumni, and K H M Sumathipala, were particularly helpful in understanding the history of education in Sri Lanka.

Alongside this work on society, economy and pedagogy I undertook research of a more social-psychological nature – on the attributions that children of different ages make for academic success and failure. This work was rooted in a very new but rapidly developing theory of ‘attribution’, and the more established child development theory of Piaget, personal construct theory of Bannister, Kelly and Salmon and cross cultural psychology.  It was a new area of research in Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, I was able to draw on Sri Lankan writings on Buddhist psychology and philosophy, on research on child development by Kotalawala and others, and selected anthropological works. Related work on student motivation with Chandra Gunawardene, S Rupasinghe and Ariya de Silva explored secondary school students perceptions of the value of learning and education.


Children learn under the shade of a tree

During the 1980s my attention shifted to social disadvantage and disparities in the access to education of different ethnic groups, classes and gender. This involved a change in emphasis from urban to rural, from majority to minority social groups, from the school to labour market transition to the home to school transition and from classroom pedagogy and examination pass rates to differential rates of enrolment, repetition and dropout and the reasons for them. My interest in social disadvantage was fuelled by an opportunity to work as a development worker-cum-researcher with development organisations such as SIDA, UNICEF and GTZ who, during the 1980s were working to promote educational opportunity among rural disadvantaged communities. It was enriched by writings on social disparity by S B Ekanayake, Swarna Wijetunge and K D Ariyadasa among others. I developed a special interest in the development of educational opportunity among communities residing in the tea and rubber plantations and drew on writings by G Gnanamuttu, K. Jayawardene, S Sandarasegaram, Sunil Bastian, P P Mannikam and Rachel Kurian. Involvement in the planning and implementation of education programmes in the plantations provided insights often out of reach to the non-participant researcher. It highlighted the daily political realities of project and programme implementation, and the intersection of interests between government departments, development agencies, individual politicians and educational leaders. All of these were reflected in the daily realities of teachers endeavouring to improve the quality of teaching and learning.


Mother engages in a literacy exercise while daughter looks on

From the mid-1990s I became extensively involved in the work of education planning teams designing provincial and national plans for primary education. This close collaboration with government officials, the veteran educator, Kamala Peiris and school teachers kept my work grounded in the opportunities for and resistances to innovation at the ground level. Many of these plans are included in the collection and draw on education planning writings by Sri Lankan authors such as Jinapala Alles, E L Wijemanne, George Wijesuriya, D Guneratne, S Malawarrachchi and Muthu Sivagnanam.


Schoolboy delivers class registers

Between 2000 and 2005 I embarked on new comparative education research programmes on the reciprocal relations between globalisation and education, with Siri Hettige at the University of Colombo and colleagues from the Institute of Education (notably, Jane Evans, Andy Green, Moses Oketch, Ed Vickers). In some ways this brought me full circle to my 1970s interests in relations between labour markets, qualifications and education. However, by now the process of economic globalisation had intensified, with all that implied for the movement of young persons into globalised as well as national and local labour markets, the attraction and currency of foreign qualifications as well as national qualifications and participation in globalised education as well as national programmes. In keeping with my 1980s interests in social disadvantage this research involved tracing the distribution of opportunities and challenges posed by globalisation for male and female youth from different social and ethnic groups.  From 2006, and as part of the CREATE research consortium (, I explored the realm of policy formulation and the broader political, social and economic imperatives that had ushered in policy change in policies on basic education over time. Here my primary research was enriched by writings on policy by Eric de Silva, M D D Pieris, G B Gunawardene,  and M U Sedere, among others.  Finally, from around 2010, I was privileged to be invited to join a World Bank team working in collaboration with the National and Provincial Ministries and Departments of Education in the delivery of a long term programme for transforming the quality of primary and secondary education and to lead teams evaluating the delivery of education programmes sponsored by the government, UNICEF and AusAID. The World Bank writings of Harsha Aturupane were particularly helpful

So what does the collection consist of and how did I assemble it? The collection includes writings by Sri Lankan and foreign authors and offers a wealth of information about the Sri Lankan education system, culture, economy and society. It is organised around six themes

  1. Education in Sri Lanka
  2. Primary Education Project Plans and Evaluations
  3. Socio-economic and Political Development in Sri Lanka
  4. Statistics: Education, Socio-economic and Demographic
  5. Journal Issues and pamphlets covering Education, Socio-economic and Political developments (not otherwise kept by UCL/IOE library)
  6. Published bibliographies

Continue reading

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Music education in feature films

Music’s place on the school curriculum can be uncertain. However it is a subject which can inspire strong passions in teachers and pupils. This is portrayed in several DVDs in the Education in Literature Collection.

Music of the Heart (1999) is based on the true story of a violin teacher Roberta Guaspari (played by Meryl Streep) who develops a high school music program in East Harlem. After several years of hard won success the program is threatened by budgetary cuts. A fund raising concert is eventually organised at Carnegie Hall. The program is known as Opus 118 and is still running today. Surprisingly the director is Wes Craven who is better known for his Horror films.

Choral rather than orchestral music is the subject of The Choir (2015). Stet is from a small Texas town and when his mother dies his father sends him back East to board at the the-choirNational Boychoir Academy. At first Stet finds it difficult to fit in at the prestigious school. But then he is mentored by the demanding Choir Master Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman) who recognises his singing talent. The film features the choral music of Handel, Tallis and Britten.

Although a much older film, It’s Great to be Young (1956) is still of interest.  Mr Dingle (John Mills) is passionate about the school jazz band because he wants his students to enjoy life through music. Mr Frome, the new Headmaster of Angel Hill School, would prefer him to concentrate on his duties as a history teacher. It is also a pleasant change that the teenagers in this film are not portrayed as delinquents as they were in other contemporary films (Cosh Boy, 1952). It’s Great to be Young was one of Britain’s first teenage musicals and was very popular during the 1950s. John Mills is dubbed by the jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttleton.

Music also features in a more recent British film, Hunky Dory ( 2012 ) in which a feisty high school drama teacher, Viv (Minnie Driver) strives to get her reluctant pupils to stage a Rock musical based on the ‘The Tempest’.hunky-dory The film is set during the long, hot summer of 1976 and Viv has to battle the lure of the local Lido .Features music by David Bowie, The Beach Boys, ELO and The Velvet Underground.

A different musical tradition is the focus of Drumline (2002). Devon Miles, a young, gifted hip hop drummer from Harlem gains a music scholarship to the fictional Atlanta A & T University.drumline He becomes part of their prestigious marching band. Devon learns that he cannot rely on raw talent alone to reach the top.   The film’s college is based on North Carolina A & T State University and its Blue and Gold Marching Machine band’s drumline Cold Steel.

In the 2004 French film The Chorus (Les Choristes) it is 1948 when unemployed music teacher Clement Mathieu starts work as a proctor in a correctional boarding school for minors. He is shocked by the boys’ repressive regime and sets out to change their lives by acquainting them with the magic and power of music.

Despite its exuberant musical numbers Fame (1980) realistically portrays the ups and downs faced by pupils at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts.

The Curriculum Resources Collection on Level 4 (Shelf Mark 780 onwards) contains many excellent materials about learning and teaching music. Of course there are books about the pedagogy of music in the Main Collection on Level 5 of the Library.

Free, on-line resources are available from a variety of sources including

English Folk Dance and Song Society

Music for Youth (useful for many other subjects as well).





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January 2017 Country/Student Focus: Italy

The January Country Focus is Italy provided by Frances Peruzzo in the International Education LibGuide.

Ciao a tutti!


My name is Francesca Peruzzo, and Italy is my country of origin. I am currently doing my PhD at the UCL Institute of Education in the department of Education, Practice and Society and my project focuses on Italian higher education disability policy and practices.

By using Foucauldian tools to research the practices that produce disability in the mundane academic routine, my ultimate aim is to show how, eventually, we are made out of what we do, and not a result of categorisations and labels!

Coming to London to pursue my PhD, I spent my entire educational journey in Italy except for one year on a university Erasmus programme in Spain – magical………………….

If that has whetted your appetite, you can read the rest of Francesca’s focus on education in Italy here.

Why not share your own experiences and contribute to our monthly focus? You can start by by filling in the form here.  Let’s find out how global UCL really is.

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