07 SES 11 B, Students' Diversity
Educational process within the school context creates formal as well as informal environment in which students interact and shape their experiences of everyday school life. There is a vast body of research addressing students’ perception of various aspects of school climate (Thapa, Cohen, Guffey, & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2013), for example relationships in school, safety, teaching and learning, norms and values. Apart from studies focusing on these dimensions, there is a growing number of studies looking at school climate from the perspective of multiculturalism. Various dimensions of school climate arising from this perspective can be conceptualized within domain of intergroup relations and within the educational domain i.e. school socialization (Byrd, 2017). A lot of school climate research from the perspective of intergroup interactions and cultural socialization has been conducted by assessing school racial climate including ethnicity (school ethnic climate). Frequency and quality of intergroup contact in schools can be important for students’ ethnic identity development and can also shape their perception of other ethnic groups members. Additionally, quality of these interactions is also related to students’ academic adjustment and outcomes (Voight, Hanson, O’Malley, & Adekanye, 2015). On the other side, cultural socialization happens both explicitly (through teaching), and implicitly (through school norms and values). Hence, the role of teachers in supporting ethnic and cultural diversity and pluralism is very important for students’ perception of their own as well as ethnic identity of others (Camacho, Medina, Rivas-Drake, & Jagers, 2018). Teachers support of school diversity can also reduce intergroup bias of students (Verkuyten & Thijs, 2001).
Ethnic diverse contexts provide more opportunities for students to explore and reflect on ethnicity and ethnic group membership in various situations, many of which take place in everyday school life. Previous studies indicated that ethnic heterogeneity can account for differences in students’ perception of school climate (Thijs & Verkuyten, 2014), and minority/minority interactions in schools can play an important role in the process of identity development. Aside from majority/minority status, students’ age can be another factor accounting for differences in school ethnic climate perception. There are studies indicating that middle adolescence is a period of an increased ethnic identity exploration (French, Seidman, Allen, & Aber, 2006) which can be related to the perception of ethnicity-related aspects of school climate.
The purpose of this study was to examine how primary and secondary school students perceive ethnicity-related aspects of climate in their schools: ethnicity-based conflicts in schools, cultural socialization and intergroup contact norms in relation to the multi-ethnic context they live in and their majority/minority status.
Results presented in this paper are part of a more comprehensive longitudinal study (funded by The Croatian Science Foundation) on integration processes of minority and minority children and youth in multi-ethnic contexts in Croatia. Within Croatian educational system, minority children and youth are entitled to practice their primary and secondary schooling in their mother tongue We studied four minority groups (Czechs, Hungarians, Italians and Serbs) and their majority peers in four different contexts allowing us to explore variety and complexity of minority/majority relations in children and youth. A total of 1568 pupils (average age M=15.01, SD=2.14) participated in the study (846 pupils who attend education in majority language i.e. Croatian language, and 722 pupils who attend education in their respective minority language – Czech, Italian, Hungarian and Serbian. In such a way, we have four majority-minority contexts to explore: Croatian-Czech; Croatian-Hungarian; Croatian-Serbian and Croatian-Italian. These contexts differ in their majority-minority dynamics with Croatian-Serbian context (Vukovar region) being burden with the recent 1991-1995 conflict, and Croatian-Czech context (Daruvar region) being the most peaceful with no history of conflict whatsoever between minority and majority. Interethnic conflicts in two remaining contexts dated back decades ago: in case of the Croatian-Italian context (Istria region) the conflict went back to the World War II and after it the region has been developing as the most multicultural region in Croatia. In the Croatian-Hungarian context (Baranja region) the history of conflict went back even more (before the World War I) and the region has been quite peaceful since; however, both the majority and minority suffered during the recent 1991-1995 war. This paper focuses on primary and secondary school students’ perception of two aspects of school climate: the level of ethnicity-based conflicts (as an indicator of negative intergroup interactions) and the level of cultural socialization and competence in schools (the opportunity to learn about own and other cultures). In addition, students’ perception of intergroup contact norms in schools is also examined. Potential effects of context, minority/majority status and educational level (primary and secondary schools), as well as their interactions were tested by univariate three-way ANOVA.
Results generally revealed differences between students’ perception of school ethnic climate depending on context, majority/minority status and school level, including interactions between these factors. In general, results indicate that students from the most tense Croatian-Serbian context perceive higher level of ethnicity-based conflicts in schools compared to students from other contexts. On the other side, students from the most peaceful Croatian-Czech context generally perceive school norms regarding intergroup contact more positive compared to their peers from other multi-ethnic contexts. Additionally, elementary school students estimate their cultural socialization and competence in school generally higher and also perceive more positive intergroup contact norms in schools compared to secondary school students. More detailed insight into results revealed that minority pupils from Croatian-Italian context perceive higher level of ethnicity-based conflicts in primary than in secondary schools. Further, students in Croatian-Czech context perceive the same level of cultural socialization regardless of school level, while in all other contexts ratings of primary school students tend to be higher compared to those of secondary school students. Finally, students from secondary schools in Croatian-Serbian context and Croatian-Hungarian context perceive intergroup contact norms in schools less positive compared to elementary school students in the same contexts. Obtained differences (some of which are expected) could imply possible variations in dynamics of intergroup school processes within specific multi-ethnic contexts. Additionally, the effects of the school level on the school ethnic climate can reflect potential developmental differences in ethnic identity exploration of students in primary and secondary schools. Our results contribute to the field by deepening our understanding of minority/majority interactions in schools within diverse multi-ethnic contexts. Additionally, these results can help in identifying specific areas to be addressed in order to develop more supportive intergroup school environment by taking into account particularities of each multi-ethnic context.
Byrd, C. M. (2017). The complexity of school racial climate: Reliability and validity of a new measure for secondary students. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 700-721. Camacho, T. C., Medina, M., Rivas-Drake, D., & Jagers, R. (2018). School climate and ethnic-racial identity in school: A longitudinal examination of reciprocal associations. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 28, 29-41. French, S. E., Seidman, E., Allen, L., & Aber, J. L. (2006). The development of ethnic identity during adolescence. Developmental Psychology,42, 1-10. Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of school climate research. Review of Educational Research, 83, 357-385. Thijs, J., & Verkuyten, M. (2014). School ethnic diversity and students’ interethnic relations. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 1-21. Verkuyten, M., & Thijs, J. (2001). Ethnic and gender bias among Dutch and Turkish children in late childhood: The role of social context. Infant and Child Development, 10, 203-217. Voight, A. M., Hanson, T., O’Malley, M., & Adekanye, L. (2015). The racial school climate gap: Within-school disparities in students’ experiences of safety, support, and connectedness. American Journal of Community Psychology, 56, DOI: 10.1007/s10464-015-9751-x.
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