Multiculturalism in Teacher Education Institutes - The Relationship between Formulated Official Policies and Grassroots Initiatives

Aug. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 42, (August, 2014), p. 47-57.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current study examined the multicultural policies advocated and the actual practices in two teacher education colleges in Israel.

The study was conducted using a qualitative paradigm.
Data were collected through analysis of documents and official college Websites, interviews with 35 academic staff members and high level officials in the colleges, and observations conducted in the public sphere.


The main findings reveal a gap between multicultural discourse and policies in two colleges, as manifested in the activity patterns of both teacher education colleges.
The two colleges demonstrate multicultural discourses of different intensity, and multicultural practices are primarily the product of personal initiatives exercised by members of the faculty.
The difference between the colleges in terms of multicultural discourse and practice is related to the difference in the colleges’ organizational structures and target populations.

In College B, which is comprised of three separate but autonomous schools that work in cooperation under one umbrella, the multicultural discourse is expressed also in the College’s official mission statement.
The college president makes sure to include multicultural elements in the mission statement and in the college’s agenda.

In contrast, in College A, the minority groups study in separate and unique programs, which means that as a unit, their authority is limited.
This organizational difference between the colleges demonstrates that the autonomy granted to the separate schools endows the minority groups with power, whereas the minority groups in the separate programs have no political power.
As a result, also the multicultural discourse in each college is of a different quality.
Thus, the power enjoyed by minority groups in College B leads to a declared multicultural discourse, which permeates and affects the various activity levels in the college, leading indirectly to multicultural activities.
In both of the colleges there was an awareness of the multiplicity of cultures, which affected people’s behavior patterns, even if this effect was not couched in a multicultural policy or framework.

The authors argue that it is both important and appropriate that the practices undertaken by teacher education colleges align with their declared worldview and educational mission.
This would also ensure that the colleges need not act in response to pressures imposed by one group or another.
In part, the lack of a multicultural policy in the teacher education colleges is due to the fact that these are public institutions and, as such, they are a reflection of Israeli society, which is characterized by relationships of mutual negation and alienation between groups of various ethnicities and nationalities.
As a result, the actual ability of the colleges to provide the necessary conditions for multiculturalism to flourish is limited at best.

The findings suggest the need for a meaningful discussion regarding the question of communal -rather than separate- public spaces and their effect on the welfare of Arab students and on the creation of a shared civic society.
To ensure that the welfare of Arab students and of students from cultural minorities coincides with the establishment of a shared and just society, a multicultural policy is in order, one that allows for a complementary interaction between separate and shared spaces.
In addition, the authors recommend that there is room for grassroots developments. Establishing the latter as part of the institution’s activities requires a broad and intricate organizational network of connections, so as to channel the potential forces into a joint effort, rather than leave these as multiple -but sporadic- endeavors.

This study also demonstrated that a balance of power among the diverse groups was a significant contributor in the creation of a multicultural policy.
Finally, the authors recommend that every teacher-education institute in any multicultural country must include the topic of multiculturalism in the curricula.

Updated: Jan. 06, 2015