University of Cambridge > > CSC Lectures on Human Development > EDUCATION & DISABILITIES FROM A CAPABILITY PERSPECTIVE


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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Flavio Comim.

The Capability and Sustainability Centre (Von Hugel Institute) at St Edmund’s College is organising two lectures given by Professor Mario Biggeri, from the University of Florence, on the topic of ‘Children and Capabilities’. Professor Biggeri is an international specialist in the field, having published many papers on children and human development. He is Associate Professor in Development Economics at the University of Florence and also one of the coordinators of the thematic group of the Human Development Capability Association on “Children’s capabilities”.


Professor Mario Biggeri, University of Florence

LECTURE 1 - CHILD POVERTY AS CAPABILITY DEPRIVATION Thursday 24 April, from 2pm to 4pm, Okinaga Room, St Edmund’s College

LECTURE 2 - EDUCATION & DISABILITIES FROM A CAPABILITY PERSPECTIVE Friday 25 April, from 2pm to 4pm, Garden Room, St Edmund’s College

FURTHER INFO In these lectures Professor Biggeri considers the capability approach (CA) as a normative framework for the analysis of children’s well-being and for relevant issues concerning children such as child poverty and child labour. If we argue that these issues can be analysed through the CA, then how to choose dimensions for children’s well-being becomes a central issue. Indeed, in our view the operationalisation of the CA passes through the identification of relevant dimensions/domains of children’s well-being.

According to this line of reasoning the objective of the first lecture is twofold. First we present possible methods for choosing dimensions of children’s well-being. Secondly, we explore the implications of using the CA in terms of theoretical definitions and categories used for empirical research on child poverty and child labour.

The first lecture explores two methods and the main options used in the literature to choose dimensions, examining the strengths and limits of each option. The results are utilised to re-think and improve the current definitions and categories used in theoretical and empirical research on child poverty and child labour. A full comparison of the overall results is beyond the scope of the lecture, but they open new perspectives also for the CA theoretical framework giving relevance to the capabilities set of a social group, exploring possible links between the CA and the human rights approach.

To illustrate some of the conceptual issues raised at the beginning of these lectures, a case study of street children in Kampala (Uganda) is explored. The methodological approach which includes an ad hoc survey carried out in Kampala will be presented. The questionnaire of the survey was conceived to implement a bottom up process whereby the children were encouraged to conceptualise and attribute value to their capabilities.

Some of the results are presented and we then analyse those of the ad hoc aspects of the survey, showing the different conceptualizations “capabilities” among street children, ex-street children (“rehabilitated”) living in institutions and a control group of children who had no “street experience”. In particular we highlight the relationship between their own “achieved functionings” and their general perception of capabilities for children in general as members of their social group. Specific sections are devoted to working activities and education and their impact on child functioning and well-being. Children were also asked to express their opinion on the most important opportunities a child should have during his childhood and adolescence and about what the government and society should do to ameliorate children’s life and in particular the conditions of street children.

Finally, the last part of the lectures considers the perceptions that children themselves hold regarding the relevance of education for their own well being. The human development of children can be regarded as ‘an expansion of capabilities’ or of ‘positive freedoms’. Capabilities, choices and conditions during childhood and adolescence crucially affect children’s position and capabilities as adults. Deficiencies in important capabilities during childhood not only reduce the well-being of those suffering from them, but may have larger societal implications. Results from field studies carried out in Italy, India and Uganda, which located children as the centre of a bottom up strategy for understanding the relevant dimensions of children’s well-being, are reported. In relation to democratic dialogue about selecting capabilities, it is argued that children are capable of understanding and contributing thoughtful opinions. The overall concern is to demonstrate what children think they should be able to do and be, i.e. their valued capabilities. It considers that an operationalization of the capability approach has to deal with the issue of defining a list of relevant capabilities, although they don’t need to have a universal character. The issue of disabilities is explored as an illustration of the general approach towards children capabilities developed during the lectures.

This talk is part of the CSC Lectures on Human Development series.

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