The Search for Explanations
On February 16th the HSE Institute for the Development of Education held a seminar. Professor James Banks gave a report on ‘Race, Ethnicity, and Education:The Search for Explanations’. You can watch a video of the event here.
James Banks is the ‘founding father'of the theory and practice of multicultural education, the Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle and a former President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA, 1997-1998).
Multicultural education studies today are one of the most important, as Isak Froumin, Academic Supervisor of the HSE Institute for the Development of Education, mentioned in his foreword. This is connected with the growth of cultural diversity throughout the world and the sharpening of the intolerance problem in the society.
And according to Professor Banks'report, one of the key problems is the gap in the achievements of students from different cultures. This is confirmed by much of the research that has been carried out in the USA and other countries.
The gap may appear in terms of academic failure by members of ethnic or national minorities and children from low-income families, as well as dropout rates during their studies etc. Thus these children have less chance of succeeding in their lives compared with those belonging to the mainstream culture.
Over the years various concepts explaining this problem have been suggested. One of the earliest is the concept of cultural deprivation:the children get less knowledge and personal skills necessary for achieving success since they live in closed communities.
The cultural differences concept argues that ethnic groups, such as Afro Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans have their own rich and diverse cultures. And to enable children from those groups to achieve academically, the teacher should use different methods and pedagogic techniques fitting the specifics of each group.
Many children, and this is mainly concerned with the children of immigrants, feel alien in the cultural environment of the school and society as a whole. The cultural environment concept suggests involving such students in the educational process, the life of the school and its events, so that they don't feel alienated.
There is another aspect of the multicultural education problem, and it is tackled by the ‘Protective Disidentification'theory:teachers need to rid themselves of prejudices, expectations and stereotypes relating to other cultures, he should expect equally high results from every child. The problem is that those children who are evaluated in terms of social stereotypes start thinking that their abilities and opportunities really are limited. Experiments prove that even high achieving students may fail the test if before its start they had to identify themselves with an ethnic or other minority.
The fifth concept draws attention to the fact that the school itself often not only does not support the provision of equal opportunities for all students, but, on the contrary, strengthens the existing inequality. So it is necessary to change the situation within schools, to make quality education more available for students regardless of their social position.
The last theory - ‘Effective School Theory'- appeared thanks to research conducted by Wilbur Brookover from the University of Michigan, in the state's schools in 1980s. He used interviews, surveys, observations of ethnic minorities and other methods.
The research showed that cultures of certain schools were oriented to achievement, and other schools'cultures were not. ‘Effective schools'are schools providing students from different cultures with equality of opportunity. The two key characteristics of such schools are the creation of a friendly, supportive environment where cultural differences are respected, and orientation to joint solving of problems.
The multicultural education theory which is the pre-eminent theory nowadays, tries to take into account all these concepts, since each of them has contributed to the solution of these problems of children's education concerning ethnic, racial and other minorities.
|Isak Froumin, Academic Supervisor of the HSE Institute for the Development of Education|
Multinational universities also face problems of multicultural education. And another intriguing question was raised during the discussion - ‘Is it possible to extrapolate the results of the school research to universities?'.
The research on the strategy of bridging the achievement gap, Professor Banks summarized, will probably be conducted in universities, but the methods for that are yet to be developed.
Maria Saltykova, for the HSE News Service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk
Video of James Banks’report on ‘Race, Ethnicity, and Education:The Search for Explanations’