Politics of belonging: Promoting children's inclusion in educational settings across borders

In the time of increasing diversity, research on children’s inclusion and exclusion has become more topical than ever. In democratic societies, a crucial value basis is that every child has a right to experience belonging, to be valued equally and with respect. However, a growing body of studies shows that children's exclusion, rejection, withdrawal, bullying and victimization are major challenges in preschools and schools throughout the world.

Despite the growing interest in preventing children's exclusion and enhancing their belonging, we know too little about how belonging is realized at a grass root level in children's, parents', and educators' daily lives. Nor do we know how belonging is articulated in educational policies and embodied in educational practices. Moreover, there is a need to develop tools through which to promote children's belonging in educational practices.

This multidisciplinary research project aims to promote children's inclusion in educational settings in Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. We approach belonging as a relational, multi-dimensional, contested, and power-loaded phenomenon that is constructed in the intersection between the macro-level politics and humans’ daily lives at the micro-level. The specified objectives of the project are:

  • To deepen theoretical understanding about the politics of belonging as a complex, multi-level, dynamic, and power-loaded phenomenon in education;
  • To generate empirical knowledge about the politics of belonging in the intersection between the macro and micro levels of education in different educational settings;
  • To develop recommendations for policy and practice based on the cross-over collaboration and knowledge sharing about the politics of belonging in different educational settings and across the participating countries; and
  • To provide practical tools to support the belonging of children, educators, and parents with different backgrounds and individual needs.

The project involves groups of children with a large diversity from five different countries. The children participating in the project are between three and eight years old, they represent gender groups, different ethnical backgrounds, and children with and without special needs and disabilities. The project collaborates closely with educators, other professionals, children, and parents in early education settings and primary schools.


Siri Bjarnar. Photo: NordForsk

Siri Jørgensen Bjarnar

Senior Adviser