07 SES 02 C, Transnational Families
The definition of an immigrant used by Statistics Iceland is an individual born outside of Iceland to parents who both have foreign backgrounds (Statistics Iceland, 2009). Children born in Iceland to immigrant parents are classified as second-generation immigrants. An additional category used by Statistics Iceland is that of persons who have one parent of foreign origin. They are labelled as persons with foreign background. In this study we take a broader view of immigrant background and include children who have one immigrant parent and one Icelandic parent. Icelandic-born children of immigrant background (including second-generation immigrant children) are often absent in policy discourse in Iceland and in discussions in wider society, due to the short history of immigration in Iceland (Garðarsdóttir and Hauksson 2011).
Factor that facilitates the success of students of immigrant background is that they are raised in the host culture and language as well as in the culture and language of their immigrant parents. The acculturation process of immigrants can take many forms, but the common belief is that immigrants slowly adopt the language and culture of the host country and the presence of the heritage language and heritage cultural identity fade away over time. However, Gogolin (2002) conducted a study for the Development of Language Education Policies in Europe which provided an opposite perspective. Research documented that the language of the majority gains importance among immigrants because it is the language of communication used in education and for social interaction in the host country (Frese, Röder & Ward, 2015). But the heritage languages of immigrants remain equally relevant and vital, particularly in today’s global environment of mobility and rapid communication media which allow people to ‘cross borders’ openly and easily. Immigrants use their heritage languages to maintain ties with members of their families and communities in their home country and elsewhere.
In addition, according to scholars in the field of multicultural education, multicultural and multilingual environments enrich students’ resources (Gogolin 2002; Nieto and Bode 2012). It has been argued by some cognitive psychologists that children’s metacognitive and metalinguistic capacities benefit from language development through cross-cultural communication (Cope and Kalantzis 1999; Cummins 2008).
Finally, positive relationships with teachers, friends, and class mates help motivate students to learn, take initiative, and feel accepted at school. Youth who experience bullying, prejudice, or feel excluded or inferior run the risk of dropping out of school (Steen-Olsen 2013; Tran 2015).
The paper presents findings concerning parents´ perspectives from interviews with parents in a project on Icelandic-born students of immigrant background: Success and challenges in social and academic attainment. The goal of the research project is to gain knowledge about second-generation immigrant students’ academic and social success and challenges as they complete compulsory school and move on to upper secondary education. It has three distinct objectives:
- To identify second-generation students’ resources and experiences, including those that benefit them and those that are obstacles to their academic and social attainment in different educational contexts.
- To assess the relevance to second-generation immigrant youth of the best practices in schools and at other learning spaces, which were identified by LSP as having assisted immigrant students in achieving their successes.
- To contribute to better understanding of second-generation immigrant youth in a small society such as Iceland, and to help further reform towards equity and inclusion in educational policy and teacher education
The paper addresses the experiences of the parents of their children´s education and their perspectives on negotiating two or more languages and cultures on a daily basis. It also addresses the transnational connection of the families and how this appears in their lives.
Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixteen immigrant parents of students in compulsory schools. The students were selected initially by purposive sampling according to the following criteria: students born in Iceland, in the final year of compulsory school, and having at least one immigrant parent. Snowball sampling was used to locate additional students who met the research criteria (Creswell, 2007). The Icelandic Data Protection Authority and the Scientific Ethics Committee of the University of Iceland were notified and permission for the research was granted from four municipalities in different parts of Iceland. Letters of invitation for participation were sent to 31 schools that were identified by the Offices of Education of the municipalities as having students who met the criteria for our research. Parents of the students were informed of the purpose of the study and the process of data collection. Likewise, both the parents and the students were assured that the collected information would be used only for the purpose of the study and that confidentiality and anonymity would be guaranteed. Approximately 40 students met the qualifications for participation and permission was received from half of the students and their parents. The participating students were from nine schools in three municipalities in different areas of Iceland and had backgrounds from four continents: Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. The semi-structured format was used to facilitate the organization of the interview content and to elicit details of experiences and perspectives of the participants (Lichtman, 2013; Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015). The data was collected from December 2016 to May 2017 during the students’ final year of compulsory school (10th grade). The length of the interviews ranged from 30 to 60 minutes and were in most cases conducted in Icelandic. The participants were given the option of using Icelandic, English or their heritage language, if it was spoken by the researchers. Hence a fair amount of code-switching between languages (translanguaging) took place in some of the interviews. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. The transcripts were repeatedly read and analysed in the original language and the data were coded and categorized according to emerging themes relevant to the research focus (Silverman, 2006). Excerpts of the interviews in Icelandic or heritage languages were then translated by the authors into English.
The interviews with the parents revealed that they worked in professions, or as skilled or unskilled workers. Most of the immigrant parents spoke Icelandic well and were integrated into the society. The majority of the families were doing well economically, but some of the families struggled to make ends meet. Some parents were active in parent councils, parent associations, and in school activities, such as chaperoning trips, participating in open houses, etc. At home, the youth were immersed in their heritage language and culture. Immigrant parents introduced their children to their homeland foods and holiday celebrations, taught them their values, traditions and religions. They inspired their children’s further interest in their heritage languages by teaching them to read and write when they were young. As they got older these children continued to develop literacy on their own by searching for reading materials online, and bringing books back from visits to their home countries. The heritage language proficiency among the youth was reinforced by communication with relatives and friends abroad and by visits to their parents’ homeland. Parents of only two youth reported that their children had more or less lost their heritage languages. Most of the parents believed the youth’s Icelandic was well established. However, some of their children and some of their teachers thought they needed more academic support. Even though all the parents wanted their children to go to upper secondary schools after compulsory schools, a few of them were deeply concerned as to whether their children would be able to complete upper secondary education. The parents reported their children had friends and were socially active. Some of the youths participated in sports and after school activities organized by the students. According to the findings, it can be concluded that the parents expressed pride in their children’s bilingual and multicultural identities.
Brinkmann, Svend, and Steinar Kvale. 2015. Interviews. Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Cope, Bill, and Mary Kalantzis. 1999. “Multicultural education: Transforming the mainstream.” In Critical Multiculturalism: Rethinking Multicultural and Antiracist Education, edited by Stephen May, 245–76. London: Falmer Press. Creswell, John W. 2007. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Cummins, Jim. 2008. “BICS and CALP: Empirical and theoretical status of the distinction.” In Literacy: Encyclopedia of Language and Education, edited by Brian V. Street and Nancy H. Hornberger, vol. 2, 71–83. New York: Springer. Frese, Carmen, Antje Röder, and Mark Ward. 2015. New Irish Families: Successes and Challenges in Heritage Language Acquisition for Second Generation Migrant Children. Dublin: Trinity College. Garðarsdóttir, Ólöf, and Guðjón Hauksson. 2011. "Ungir innflytjendur og aðrir einstaklingar með erlendan bakgrunn í íslenskum samfélagi og íslenskum skólum 1996-2011." [Young Immigrants and Persons with Immigrant Background in Icelandic Society and Icelandic Schools 1996-2011]. Netla - Online Journal on Pedagogy and Education. Special Edition – Menntakvika Conference 2011. http://netla.hi.is/menntakvika2011/020.pdf. Gogolin, Ingrid. 2002. Linguistic Diversity and New Minorities in Europe. Guide for the Development of Language Education Policies in Europe: From Linguistic Diversity to Plurilingual Education. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. https://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/Source/GogolinEN.pdf Lichtman, Marilyn. 2013. Qualitative Research in Education: A User‘s Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Nieto, Sonia, and Patty Bode. 2012. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. 6th ed. New York: Allyn and Bacon. Silverman, David. 2006. Interpreting Qualitative Data. London: Sage. Statistics Iceland. 2009. “Immigrants and persons with foreign background 1996–2008.” Report. Retrieved from https://hagstofa.is/utgafur/nanar-um-utgafu?id=54677 (accessed March 12, 2015). Steen-Olsen, Tove. 2013. "Cultural Belonging and Peer Relations Among Young People in Multi-Ethnic Norwegian Suburbs." Nordic Studies in Education 33, no. 4: 314-328. Tran, Anh-Dao. 2015. "Untapped Resources or Deficient 'Foreigners': Students of Vietnamese Background in Icelandic Upper Secondary Schools." PhD thesis, University of Iceland. http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/23419/53028/3/Anh-Dao_Tran$002c_Ph.D._dissertation_Aug_2015.pdf.
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