Education: A spanner in the works; a tool in breaking the cycle of offending

Adeela Ahmed Shafi

image asI started my PhD this year. The topic is one of many that have interested me for some time, became more closely defined doing my MEd here at the GSoE and went on to be crystallised from something you might consider quite unrelated.

I did a unit on Education Policy in a Global Context as part of my Masters in the Psychology of Education pathway and whilst reading around the unit and doing the assignment, it dawned on me how Western politicians, researchers and charities often make big claims about the role of education in terms of transformation of a society and the opening of opportunities and so on.  I agree with the claims.  As a country we spend masses on International Aid and many of the projects focus on education.  I myself have raised funds to build a school in rural area of Pakistan believing this same thing. It took 6 years to do but my belief in it kept me going.
imageIt puzzled me then that why is it when we have kids in prison that we do not seize the opportunity of doing the same for them.  Why are we not able to give them the opportunities that we believe education can provide when they are in ‘custody’ and in a controlled environment 24hrs a day for a set period?  Agreed that when they come out they return to the same environment which makes them vulnerable to re-offending, however, should true education not provide them with the ‘light’ to take control and have the agency to resist the pressures and offer an alternative way?

1Hence, I thought that is what I want to do a PhD on.  I want to explore the educational experiences of kids in prison, I want to see what can be done to change the way they view themselves.  I want it to be a place which, as well as ‘punishment’, offers a chance to change through education, presents realistic opportunities for alternatives…actually prevents re-offending.

It’s a tall order I know, but its got to start somewhere and for me it is with my humble PhD on young offender learning.

Be good to get other people’s ideas on this.  Please do comment.