Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 4, 359–376, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study seeks to determine how differences in the Slovenian and Serbian contexts are reflected in differences in the initial cultural responsiveness of student teachers with regard to Roma minority pupils and their parents in the two countries.
The participants were student teachers enrolled at Ljubljana and Belgrade in the 2009–2010 school year.
All participants were preparing to be elementary class teachers, who teach children in grades 1–4 in elementary schools in Serbia or children in grades 1–6 in elementary schools in Slovenia.
They answered on a survey. At the time of the survey, participants were at the beginning of their first year in a full-time teacher education programme.
At Ljubljana, the questionnaire was completed by 109 females and 4 males. At Belgrade, the questionnaire was completed by 135 females and 9 males.
The results indicate that most student teachers in both groups favoured educating Roma pupils in regular schools and were aware of discrimination against Roma pupils in the education system.
However, they were less aware of the poverty of the Roma people.
While the finding that more than half of the student teachers from Belgrade recognised that the Roma are the poorest social group in Serbia was encouraging, the fact that more than one-third of the student teachers had the opposite view cannot be ignored.
In addition, the results indicate that most of the student teachers agreed with the forms of cooperation that are most common in elementary schools, for example, parent meetings and individual meetings with parents.
However, whilst slightly more than half of participants agreed that humanitarian aid should be provided to Roma pupils, less than half believed that Roma parents should be invited for coffee or refreshments, and only one-quarter believed that there should be home visits to Roma families.
The differences between the two groups of participants are statistically significant for all statements.
The students from Belgrade were more favourable towards all stated forms of cooperation than were those from Ljubljana.
Almost half of the student teachers from Ljubljana, and more than a third from Belgrade, rejected the notion of inviting Roma parents for coffee or refreshments, activities expressive of an interest in spending time to engage in peaceful discourse.
Finally, the results also indicate that the majority of student teachers from both groups would enrol Roma pupils in their class if they were charged with making this decision.
However, those from Belgrade were much more confident that Roma would be in their class than were the student teachers from Ljubljana.
Roughly half from Belgrade would accept Roma pupils in their own class, a third would enrol them in their school, and approximately one-tenth would enrol them in other schools.
Such responses significantly differ from those from Ljubljana, for whom the best solution would be to enrol Roma pupils in their school.
Only 28.3% of the student teachers from Ljubljana would enrol Roma in their own classes.
A fourth option was to take Roma pupils to outdoor education/activities. Outdoor activities/education refers to a period of few days or one week that pupils spend with their teachers outside their homes and places of residence.
Only a few student teachers opted for this solution, with more opting for it in Slovenia than in Serbia.
Some implications for teacher education programmes, related to three basic strategies, seem relevant.
First, future teachers should acquire knowledge and understanding of the causes, consequences and indicators of poverty and discrimination against pupils from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Such knowledge is required so that student teachers do not falsely interpret the causes of academic underachievement among Roma or neglect them.
Second, the challenge for teacher educators is to motivate their students to inspect their own beliefs about diverse cultures, to enable them to confront their own negative attitudes and to help them face their own prejudices and stereotypes.
It is necessary to address student teachers’ tacit beliefs related to issues of pupils’ inclusion by providing them with opportunities to reflect, discuss and be challenged by feedback from colleagues and peers.
Those students with negative attitudes towards pupils from diverse backgrounds should be helped to understand the consequences of teacher attitudes for student learning.