9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Educational Structures II Building I, 2E8

Intercultural education for all? An investigation of the impact of school composition on intercultural education

In different European countries, the growing ethnic and cultural diversity has incited sociologists of education to investigate multicultural education as a means of creating equal educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds. Moreover, changes in the national educational systems are carried out to prepare children for a multicultural society. For example, in Belgium where this study is conducted, the government decided to integrate 'intercultural education' as a part of the final attainment levels and development goals. Nowadays, official documents explicitly prescribe intercultural education to be 'a task for all schools'. Therefore, theoretically all schools should provide intercultural education.

However, little is known about the amount of intercultural education in different schools. Previous ethnographic research, mainly from the USA, has pointed out that in predominantly white schools racial and ethnic diversity are taboo topics. The discourse of teachers and school staff in such 'white' schools is described as 'color-blind'. Since these studies are limited by small samples (as they are conducted in few schools) and lack to include any quantification of inter/multicultural education, we go beyond these shortcomings in our research.

The aim of our study is to investigate whether the amount of intercultural education in primary schools is linked to the social-economic and ethnic composition of the school. More specifically, we will test the relationship between the ethnic and SES school composition and the amount of intercultural education that is provided by teachers and the amount of multicultural activities as reported by school principals.

This study is based on data which were gathered from 68 schools in Flanders. Our sample consists of all school principals of these schools and 600 teachers. For teachers, a mean score of 'intercultural education' is calculated for each school by aggregating the score of provided intercultural education by individual teachers, after it is stated that the intercultural practices are shared by teachers within a school. The analysis is based on multivariate regression.

On theoretical grounds, we expect that the provided levels of intercultural education positively correlate with the amount of non-native pupils in a school and negatively correlate with the SES-composition of the student body.