Profile Image

Dr Nisha Thapliyal

Lecturer

School of Education (Education)

Questioning education

Dr Nisha Thapliyal believes that students, parents and communities should have the power to participate in education reform and redress inequalities in educational opportunity and quality.

Nisha Thapliyal

Coming to Comparative and International Education from a background in social work and psychology, Nisha’s work examines and questions pedagogy, curriculum, and education policy using a theoretical framework informed by critical, antiracist, feminist, and queer theories of education.

“I am interested in questioning some of our fundamental beliefs: that formal education is always beneficial, that formal education is always empowering, that schooling in and of itself is democratic because it has to do with sharing knowledge,” Nisha states.

“In reality, history tells us that educational systems and processes are not always equitable.”

“It is apparent that there are particular kinds of knowledge and particular kinds of students that we value within modern mass education systems.”

Nisha has a specific interest in how community-based activism and social movements can contribute to strengthening public education systems and the democratisation of education policy making. She documents and analyses collective struggles for public education through the frames of human rights, social justice, peace and sustainable development.

A lecturer working with all levels of pre-service and post grad educators at the UON, Nisha is also Director International, for the School of Education and Coordinator of Staff and Students Talking About Research (SSTAR).

LEARNING TO QUESTION

It was during her childhood in India, that Nisha first became aware of inequity.

“I lived on the second floor in an apartment building and I saw a whole family grow up on the pavement opposite me,” Nisha recounts.

“I always had questions about why some people have to work so hard just to get by.”

Nisha completed both an MA (Social Work) and BA (Psychology) in India, with research focused on the discrimination and challenges negotiated by institutionalised children.

She soon felt that both psychology and social work were limited to offering too little too late, and looked instead for ways to begin to address systemic disadvantage and exclusion.

Examining more closely the experiences of ‘invisible’ children, including those with physical and cognitive disabilities, orphans, street children, those in the juvenile justice system, or isolated by geography, Nisha found a common underlying theme – a lack of access to equitable and culturally responsive education.

“These children are great survivors and I learned a lot from them,” Nisha says.

“Essentially they made me question what it is we are trying to do in schools and universities, and whether it is working and for whom.”

LEARNING FROM SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Moving to the United States for post-doctoral studies, Nisha began to investigate ways that education could be influenced from the ground up, to ensure more relevant and inclusive pedagogical practice. Nisha currently studies and works with education social movements in South Africa, India, and the United States.

Her PhD dissertation analysed the educational philosophy and critical pedagogies of the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) - the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil.

The four decades long struggle of 1.5 million Brazilian landless peasants who constitute the MST for the right to land, to education, and to sustainable development has provided hope and inspiration for grassroots social movements in South America and around the world.

The MST have critiqued mainstream education in Brazil which privileges urban and industrialised culture and excludes a diversity of rural and Indigenous perspectives and educational philosophies. They have successfully claimed the right to construct their own curriculum and pedagogy inspired by educational thinkers such as Paulo Freire and Anton Makarenko.  What makes them unique in the world of alternative education is the fact that their schools and teacher training institutes are “public” institutions and funded by the government.

“Apart from making education more culturally relevant and more responsive, these rural communities have a heritage that's rich in culture, and rich in knowledge of the natural environment, and that knowledge isn't getting lost anymore,” Nisha imparts.

“This model isn’t perfect but it is inspiring as a means of community led change.”

IN THE CLASSROOM

Understanding the experience of inequality as being created by the intersection of multiple social factors, Nisha draws on feminist, queer and antiracist educational theory to question and challenge what is valued within the education system.

Although the first woman in her family to go to university in India, Nisha acknowledged enjoying relative privilege in her country of origin, due to her education in English. Moving to America to as a multi-ethnic woman of colour who spoke English as an additional language, Nisha had her own experiences of otherness.

“As a woman in the North American academy, a woman from postcolonial India in the West, that was not my world,” she says.

“It was in women's studies' spaces in the US that I found women like me who could bridge these worlds in a way that I could understand - that's what attracted me to intersectional feminism and gender studies.”

Queer theory is particularly effective in challenging the status quo in education, because it constantly questions notions of what is ‘normal’ and the way ‘things have always been done’ and the implications for equitable and just education.

“As an educator, and particularly as a teacher of teachers, it was from feminist and queer pedagogies that my classroom tool box emerged,” Nisha states.

KNOWING WHERE YOUR STUDENTS COME FROM

Nisha confesses that she has been fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who really care about teaching, and teaching at institutions that really care about students.

The UON is renowned for training quality educators, ranked in the top 150 universities in the world for education and training. The School of Education is particularly committed to supporting students to overcome barriers to higher education, an endeavor that Nisha is excited to be part of.

Nisha is very aware of the barriers that some of her own students may be facing.

“I always start my class with a survey, so I can get to know my students and their realities before I throw 20 books at them,” she says.

The survey includes questions regarding all aspects of the pre-service teacher’s lives, from favourite food to work commitments.

“The really important questions are about how many hours they work and how many people they are responsible for caring for,” Nisha explains.

“To be a responsive educator, you can’t make any assumptions about what responsibilities people have outside of the classroom that may impact on their ability to perform. I hope my students remember this in their classrooms too,” she says.

For the same reason, Nisha is especially careful to challenge hyper romanticised ideas of rural and remote Australia, where many UON teacher education graduates may find themselves in the near future.

“School communities are not a blank canvas,” Nisha says.

“They are a rich resource with histories, roots, values, meaning, identity, visions, hopes and dreams and a great deal of knowledge to share.”

SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

So how does a global view of education seen through a critical, feminist, and queer lens translate into the practice when teaching UON education students how to teach?

Nisha teaches into all levels of competency in the School of Education, from exploring the philosophical and sociocultural foundations of education with first year pre-service teachers through to supervising Honours and PhD Theses focused on alternative conceptions of education and development.

Her courses are designed to help educators develop a social and historical context for their profession and enhance the ways in which they can contribute to a just society as teachers and global citizens.

More about Nisha's Career

Related links

Nisha Thapliyal

Questioning education

Dr Nisha Thapliyal believes that students, parents and communities should have the power to participate in education reform and redress inequalities in educatio

Read more

Career Summary

Biography

I am a Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle. I come to the field of Comparative and International Education from a background in Social Work (MA) and Psychology (BA). My interest in critical pedagogies and education for social justice grew out of my work with institutionalised children in India including street children, orphans, and so-called juvenile delinquents etc.

Both my MA and BA research thesis focused on the discrimination and challenges negotiated by institutionalised children. More specifically children with physical and cognitive disabilities as well as children labelled as juvenile delinquents. The overwhelmingly negative encounters that these children had had with the educational system stood out in stark contradiction to my own. I set out to explore these extreme inequalities in educational opportunity and quality through the work of critical educators like Paulo Freire and bell hooks. I have been journeying with critical and feminist educators ever since.

The scope of my exploration today has expanded from pedagogy and curriculum to education policy analysis and advocacy. I am particularly interested in how community-based activists and social movements can contribute to strengthening public (as in free) education systems and the democratisation of education policy making.  More broadly I am interested in human rights education, antiracist education, peace education and education for sustainable development.

Research Expertise
My scholarship is centered around social movements and the impact of globalisation on educational change. My theoretical framework is informed by critical, feminist, and queer theories of education. My PhD dissertation analysed the educational philosophy and critical pedagogies of the Movimento Sem Terra or the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil.

Since then I have studied the impact of grassroots and community-based activism on education policy in the following countries: South Africa, India, and the United States of America.

Recent and current research supervision projects include: (1) Higher education policy and nationalism in Vietnam (2) Education for ethnic minority women in Vietnam (3) Queering preservice teacher education (4) Deconstructing development and international volunteering I am interested in supervising research projects related to my research and theoretical interests (stated above) as well as in the following areas: *education and participatory democracy *gender and sexuality studies * race, ethnicity and indigenous studies * media studies *childhood studies * literacy and adult education * peace education * diversity and social justice education

Teaching Expertise
I currently teach courses on:- EDUC 6261 Comparative Education: Debates and Dilemma EDUC 4800: Global perspectives on education: Issues for Australian teachers EDUC 2103: Schooling, Identity and Society EDUC 1038: Foundations of Education My previous teaching experience has included courses on:- Comparative and International Education Education and International Development Education for All and Global Education Policy Initiatives Education Theory and Research Methods Economic, social and cultural foundations of education Education for Peace and Nonviolence Gender, Education and Development Social Movements in Education The American School

Administrative Expertise
I currently hold two administrative positions: * Director, International for the School of Education (SOE). This position supports a range of international research and teaching activities within the SOE including support for  research and teaching collaborations and quality academic experiences for our international and domestic students. To learn more, please go to -- http://www.newcastle.edu.au/about-uon/governance-and-leadership/faculties-and-schools/faculty-of-education-and-arts/school-of-education/international-profile *

As Coordinator of Staff and Students Talking About Research (SSTAR), I coordinate and deliver research training and dissemination events for the School of Education research community. Weekly SSTAR events include a combination of research seminars, theory workshops and tutorials on student-nominated topics. The SoE also holds an SSTAR Conference once a semester where students and staff share and discuss their research projects in a collegial environment. Research and supervision resources are disseminated through the Blackboard SSTAR website.


Qualifications

  • PhD (Education Policy), University of Maryland - USA
  • Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), University of Madras
  • Master of Arts (Social Work), Tata Institute of Social Sciences - Mumbai - India

Keywords

  • Alternative development sustainable livelihoods
  • Children's rights
  • Comparative Education
  • Critical media literacy
  • Critical pedagogies
  • Education Policy Analysis
  • Free public education
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Media and Education
  • Peace Education
  • Social Movements and Education
  • The Right to Education

Languages

  • Portuguese (Fluent)
  • Hindi (Fluent)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
130302 Comparative and Cross-Cultural Education 40
130308 Gender, Sexuality and Education 20
160506 Education Policy 40

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Education
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/06/2007 - 1/12/2011 Assistant Professor Colgate University, New York
Department of Educational Studies
United States
1/06/2006 - 1/05/2007 Post-Doctoral Scholar University of Maryland, College Park
School of Education
United States
Edit

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Thapliyal N, 'Privatized rights, segregated childhoods: A critical analysis of neoliberal education policy in India', Politics, Citizenship and Rights 21-37 (2016)

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016.This chapter analyzes the cultural politics of rights-based discourses for education and children in India. It is empirically gro... [more]

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016.This chapter analyzes the cultural politics of rights-based discourses for education and children in India. It is empirically grounded in sociohistorical discourses about mass education with a focus on the 2009 Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (hereafter referred to as the RTE Act). This analysis explores the disjuncture between the RTE Act and the multiplicity and diversity of contemporary Indian childhoods. In particular, it shows how dominant discourses of childhood, education, and development intersect to promote the neoliberal project of the commodification and commercialization of education. In this context, it is argued that the language of rights has been co-opted to legitimize segregated and unequal schooling and, relatedly, promote the privatization of public education. The goal of this chapter is to highlight the need for contingent explorations of children¿s experiences of schooling in order to provide complex understandings of how children make meaning about themselves as well as other children in unequal social contexts.

DOI 10.1007/978-981-4585-57-6_14

Journal article (10 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Thapliyal N, ''Let's hear how students feel ...': Representations of schooling on news television in India', Global Studies of Childhood, 5 87-99 (2015) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/2043610615573382
2014 Thapliyal N, 'The struggle for public education: Activist narratives from India', Postcolonial Directions in Education, 3 122-159 (2014) [C1]
2014 Witcel E, Thapliyal N, 'A LITTLE BIT OF MY STORY IN THE LANDLESS STRUGGLE / Um pouquinho de minha historia de luta', Postcolonial Directions in Education, 3 57-62 (2014) [C3]
2014 Thapliyal N, 'LEARNING, KNOWLEDGE AND ACTIVISM: INTRODUCTION TO THE SPECIAL ISSUE / Conhecimento e ativismo', Postcolonial Directions in Education, 3 3-17 (2014) [C6]
2014 Tarlau R, Moraes ZM, Witcel E, Thapliyal N, 'LEARNING, AND TRANSFORMATION: AN OVERVIEW OF EDUCATION WITHIN THE LANDLESS WORKERS¿ MOVEMENT IN BRAZIL/ Uma introdução ao MST', Postcolonial Directions in Education, 3 18-41 (2014) [C1]
2013 Thapliyal N, Vally S, Spreen CA, '"Until We Get Up Again to Fight": Education Rights and Participation in South Africa', COMPARATIVE EDUCATION REVIEW, 57 212-231 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.1086/669477
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 1
2013 Thapliyal N, 'Reframing the public in public education: The Landless Workers Movement (MST) and adult education in Brazil', Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies, 11 106-131 (2013) [C1]
2012 Spreen CA, Vally S, Thapliyal N, 'The limits of post-apartheid education policy: Knowledge, power and community mobilization for education rights in South Africa', World Studies in Education, 13 51-65 (2012) [C1]
2012 Thapliyal N, 'Unacknowledged rights and unmet obligations: An analysis of the 2009 Indian right to aducation act', Asia Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law, 13 65-90 (2012) [C1]
2007 Klees S, Thapliyal N, 'The Right to Education: The work of Katerina Tomasevski', Comparative Education Review, 51 497-510 (2007) [C1]
Show 7 more journal articles

Review (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Thapliyal N, 'Inhabiting 'Childhood': Children, Labour and Schooling in Postcolonial India.', JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (2016)
DOI 10.1002/jid.3134
2009 Thapliyal N, 'Book Review: The Real Cost of Prison Comix', Radical Teacher (2009) [D2]

Conference (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Thapliyal N, 'The struggle for public education: Activist narratives from India', http://www.aare.edu.au/publications-database.php/9353/the-struggle-for-public-education-activist-narratives-from-india (2014) [E3]
2013 Thapliyal N, 'Visible Rights, Invisible Children: Talking about education on TV', ANZCIES (2013)
2013 Thapliyal N, 'Stories of struggle: the place of narrative analysis in social movement research.', XV World Congress of Comparative Education Society (2013)
2013 Thapliyal N, 'The Mobile Schools of the Landless Workers Movement, Brazil', Not applicable (2013) [E3]
2013 Thapliyal N, 'Human capital is now politically fashionable: Can a rights-based education policy go wrong?', XV World Congress of Comparative Education Society (2013) [E3]
2012 Thapliyal N, ''Flowers one day, violence the next': Representations of mobile schools of the Landless Workers Movement (MST)', The 40th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (ANZCIES) (2012) [E3]
Show 3 more conferences

Other (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Thapliyal N, 'Visible Rights, Invisible Children: Talking about education on TV', 41st Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (ANZCIES). Newcastle: 41st Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and International Education Society (ANZCIES) (2013)
Edit

Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 5
Total funding $22,500

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20151 grants / $5,000

"Violent, corrupt and absent": a case study of media representations of Indian school teachers$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Nisha Thapliyal
Scheme Strategic Networks Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1500903
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20141 grants / $1,000

AARE-NZARE 2014, Brisbane Australia, 30 - 4 December 2014.$1,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Nisha Thapliyal
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1401014
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20132 grants / $6,500

Social movements for public education$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Nisha Thapliyal
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1300967
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

XV Comparative Education World Congress 24-28 June 2013$1,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Nisha Thapliyal
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1300752
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20121 grants / $10,000

How do activists represent their participation in social movements for public education? A situated study of Indian activist narratives$10,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Nisha Thapliyal
Scheme Early Career Researcher Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo G1201206
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y
Edit

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current2

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD0.65

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 PhD Crafting Queerness: Mobilised Queer in the Creative Artefacts of Brett Alexander
PhD (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
2012 PhD The Construction and Reconstruction of Vietnamese National Culture: A study of University Curriculum Policy from 1986 to Present.
PhD (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
Edit

Dr Nisha Thapliyal

Position

Lecturer
CIEGUN
School of Education
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Education

Contact Details

Email nisha.thapliyal@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 49215648
Links Research Networks
Personal webpage
Twitter

Office

Room HA 91
Building Hunter Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
Edit