Scholarly article on topic 'Local and Global with “A Different School”'

Local and Global with “A Different School” Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Mihaela Voinea, Toader Pălăşan

Abstract The article is focused on the impact of “A different school” national programme which is meant to rebuild the representations of school's actors about education from a constructivist perspective. It is a great occasion for promoting the diversity, the multiple perspectives and the affirmation of “local” in the context of globalization. “A different school” programme invites us (teachers and students) to exercise self-knowledge and deep knowledge of the other, an exercise in comparison and admiration, acceptance and tolerance.

Academic research paper on topic "Local and Global with “A Different School”"

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Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 76 (2013) 891 - 895

5th International Conference EDU-WORLD 2012 - Education Facing Contemporary World

Issues

The article is focused on the impact of „A different school" national programme which is meant to rebuild the representations of school's actors about education from a constructivist perspective. It is a great occasion for promoting the diversity, the multiple perspectives and the affirmation of „local" in the context of globalization. "A different school" programme invites us (teachers and students) to exercise self-knowledge and deep knowledge of the other, an exercise in comparison and admiration, acceptance and tolerance.

Keywords: "A different school", global society, pedagogy of diversity, social competences. © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the University of Pitesti, Romania

1. Introduction

We appreciate that "A different school" programme, implemented nationally in Romania by the Ministry of Education, analyzed from a constructivist perspective, meets the demands of post-modern society and the individuals' needs to adapt in a globalized society. From this perspective, "A different school" programme's opportunities for promoting diversity, multiple perspectives, for making visible the "local" features in the context of globalization. One of the pillars of education today is "learning to live together with others" [1, p.74], emphasizing the need for training and developing social skills as real "instruments of adaptation" in the current globalized society. Using this approach, we enrol among the studies done both at home and abroad, studies which show that young people today need more than ever social skills such as tolerance, empathy, cooperation, respect for difference, etc., skills practiced in the activities of "A different school" programme.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: 0040-268-416184; fax: 0040-268-416184. E-mail address: mihael.voinea@unitbv.ro.

Local and global with „A different school

Mihaela Voinea, Toader Palawan *

a,b Transilvania University of Brasov, 29, B-dul Eroilor, Brasov, 500036, Romania

Abstract

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the University of Pitesti, Romania doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.04.226

2. "A different school" programme - or a plea for a pedagogy of diversity

The cultural diversity, an important feature of post-modernism, becomes an active ingredient of our lives which needs to be more efficiently managed in school by promoting a pedagogy of diversity. As A. Nedelcu [2] shows, the term "pedagogy of cultural diversity" means generically an accumulation of response reactions and strategies for managing plurality in the educational space. For this goal to become a reality, the pedagogy of diversity must be actually felt in school life, from the curriculum, which should include elements from different cultures, to teaching, learning, and assessment which should be personalized, respecting the students' style and pace of learning, from programmes focused on the student to socially oriented programmes.

Given the students' and parents' increasing disinterest in school, teachers' demotivation to adopt instructional strategies and teaching styles that lead to change, we support the opportunity of promoting the pedagogy of diversity for the following reasons:

The interest in the pedagogy of diversity is justified by the following aspects:

• the need to make school more attractive to students. This is really a requirement of post-modern pedagogy, which, according to the constructivist principle of affective-cognitive unity, promotes a positive attitude towards learning.

• the need to put school closer to the reality of everyday life by learning through "authentic tasks", through problem solving, projects, role playing, etc..

• the need to develop the social skills so necessary in a dynamic, globalized world. The social skills can be developed by using interactive group methods and through cooperative learning.

• designing and implementing instructional strategies based on real life experiences that students have lived in different contexts.

These principles are embodied in and through the "pedagogy of diversity". Even if at a first critical analysis of the diversity in the Romanian school we seize relatively few opportunities of affirmation for a pedagogy of diversity, "A different school" programme was an opportunity to offset this weakness, raising interest in both students and teachers and local community representatives on the formative potential of teaching activities which promote intercultural dialogue, affirming personal identity by relating, understanding and cooperating with others.

If we interpret diversity as a (re)source of learning, interpretation that is found in Benett's theories on "differentiation", Bourdieu's cultural capital and in educational programmes that promote the values and principles of intercultural education, we have an additional argument which sustains the idea that "a different school" programme is an opportunity for learning through dialogue, through collaboration, together with people with different values, different cultures, with different needs. Learning the differences involves three principles [3, p.7]

• understand the distinctions between people, which require openness to what is foreign and unknown;

• cultural relativism;

• reciprocity, that means sharing, interaction and mutual trust.

These principles are reflected in what experts call "learning through dialogue".

Given the above considerations, this pedagogy of diversity appears to be one of the effective solutions to make the school more attractive to students, closer to reality and needs of students.

The pedagogy of diversity promoted through the "A different school" programme can be interpreted as a solution to the dilemma localism - globalism. It is known that the globalized society is defined by a series of paradoxical features in the view of socio-humanistic specialists. One of the paradoxes is excellently emphasized by G. Ritzer [4] in his work 'The Globalization of Nothingness', where he describes the ways in which "the nothing" (i.e. the things, deeds and people labelled according to certain standards) becomes a more and more defining part of our existence. One of the solutions for avoiding the globalization of "nothing" as Ritzer defined it is asserting the local features, instead of the global trends, that is to "act locally and think globally" as we are urged by a slogan of the European Union. This is the solution Ritzer proposes - glocalization. In "A different

school" programme there were identified such activities where actions with local specificity were performed in a new context, taking into account current developments in society and the needs and interests of students.

"A different school" program invites us to exercise self-knowledge and deep knowledge of the other, an exercise in comparison and admiration, acceptance and tolerance. School is the institution that can play a specific part in this regard: "We need an educational system that honours the principles and behaviours associated with high social intelligence and teaches young people to understand cultures and subcultures in which they have to navigate in the modern world and which emphasises the value of cooperation and avoidance of conflicts". [5, p.47].

Teachers have an important role in promoting the pedagogy of diversity. In a study about intercultural competences [6], an important conclusion was that teachers who have intercultural skills, who promote a pedagogy of diversity and have a clear system of values learn along with their students. Indeed, teachers cannot develop collaboration, cannot promote positive attitudes for change, and cannot impose acceptance and tolerance if they do not join their students in the learning experience. The students need to see that the teacher is not a "magister" who knows it all, who has all the answers etc.

The students need to see that the teacher is a real person, who has a lot of positive and negative experiences, who does not always have the right answer, who learns permanently, who collaborates with them or with other teachers.

The students need to see that the teacher is a model who is competent in the issues of the pedagogy of diversity: a teacher who is always in search of new experiences, who shares his experiences with others, who asks and creates new questions and does not wait for a single answer; a teacher who has pedagogical skills and who promotes fundamental values through his behaviour; a teacher who believes in his students and in their power to change; a teacher who promotes a pedagogy of diversity.

3. Research design

The purpose of this study was to identify the students', teachers' and parents' perceptions of "a different school" national programme; another purpose was identifying the curricular and extra-curricular activities with local/global specificity, from the point of view of the pedagogy of diversity.

The study was conducted between the 4th and the 7th of April 2012, when questionnaires were administered by the designed personnel of the Transilvania University of Brasov and by the collaborators named by the local school inspectorates of Bra^ov, Harghita and Covasna (all pertaining to the region of development number 7, Centre). The discussions with the teaching stuff, students and the focus-groups with the school principals were also part of the research methods used in this research and they took place until the end of May 2012. The research was conducted on 1500 students, 500 teachers and 500 parents. A questionnaire for students, teachers, school principals and parents was designed and applied. The study was conducted in twenty Romanian primary and secondary schools.

4. Results and Discussions

The data collected via the questionnaires were analysed from a qualitative and quantitative perspective. The quantitative analysis has shown that most students consider as positive the activities within "A different school" programme which required interaction with students from other classes/schools or other areas of the country, as were sports (34%), hiking (25%), exchanging experiences (12%). The frequency of these types of activities was higher in primary school (62%), where students were involved to a greater extent in these types of activities.

For example, most primary school students participated in activities which valued teamwork, helping and cooperation. This conclusion is also sustained by the responses to the item regarding the types of skills acquired

by students. The greatest achievement of the program, from the students' perspective, is increasing their interest for communication (55.4%), cooperation (45.66%), team spirit (56.46%) and interest for community (33.13% ).

Analyzing the ratio of activities related to rural / urban media, we noticed a polarization in terms of local and global: in rural areas we noticed activities with local specificity, whereas in urban areas there were activities with global specificity (e.g. performances in foreign languages).

Table 1. The frequency of activities in rural/urban areas

Activities Urban Rural

Activities with local specificity 23% 54%

Trips / Sports 33% 21%

Activities with parteners from the 15% 20%

community (city hall, church, other

schools)

As it can be seen from the above table, the community is reduced to the "traditional" institutions, especially in the countryside - church, city hall rather than associations, NGOs.

Data collected through conversations with students, teachers, and sprincipals offered a number of nuances to the quantitative data. Thus, primary school teachers were more open to cultivating diversity, to interactions and partnerships with other schools probably due to the nature of students' psiho-individual profile and the material resources that exist at this level of education (here are found most frequently partnerships with schools / kindergartens, exchanges of good practices between kindergartens and schools, activities with partners from the socio-economic environment or even parents). Also, most primary school pupils appreciated the activities that used teamwork, helping and cooperation. The most obvious is the case of students from special schools which together with pupils from mainstream schools worked together and created items for the holidays (Easter). Interviews with students revealed that students were willing to help, to work with students with disabilities and that this helped them understand that "they were children like us".

Another significant difference is the one related to activities with local specificity (customs and traditions) which were found mainly in rural primary schools. Primary school pupils said that one of the most enjoyable activities was that of dying Easter eggs ("A different school" programme was held before Easter, context well capitalized pedagogically by the primary school teachers). In rural areas, we also found more frequently artistic activities with local specificity (social evenings, recovery of customs, traditions translated into role play, drawings, essays, and poems).

In urban areas, especially in high-schools, activities with local specificity are fewer or integrated in a global/European context. We can mention here activities of protecting the natural environment such as "The Cleaning Month" conducted by high schools in Brasov in partnership with local organizations/associations and activities held in partnership with various local community institutions (associations, museums, nongovernmental organizations).

From the teachers' perspective these activities are considered to have a great formative impact on students (as proof we bring their enthusiasm for such activities), but they're difficult to achieve, teachers testify, because of administrative barriers or even "the lack of experience in this regard". Most teachers considered that the development of the following skills would be required: management (32%), teamwork (27%), communication (13), skills needed to promote diversity through "A different school" programme.

Conclusions

After both a quantitative and qualitative analysis, we could state that "A different school" programme would generally benefit of a positive perception. If we are to comparatively analyse the results, there is a difference

between the teachers as far as the attitude towards this programme is concerned. The teachers in primary school and kindergarten were most open to this programme, which was translated in a larger array of activities held (apart from trips and visits, they have organised contests, shows, projects, they have developed partnerships) and led to both pupils' and parents' positive perception on this program.

One of the practical implications of the study is the implementation of a programme for teachers' continuous training concerning the design, implementation and evaluation of specific activities to promote pedagogy of diversity. We believe that teacher training is required for acceptance of differences, their cultivation and the assertion of differences, knowing that many teachers are attracted by an egalitarian discourse.

We suggest that such a program be designed starting from a set of competences which can be restructured according to the demands of the pedagogy of diversity.

References

[1] Delors J. (coord.) (2000). Comoara läuntricä. Raportul cätre UNESCO al Comisiei Internationale pentru Educatie in secolul XXI. Ia§i: Polirom

[2] Nedelcu, A (2004). Inväfarea interculturalä in ¡coala. Ghidpentru formarea cadrelor didactice.Bucure§ti: Humanitas

[3] Barzea C., (2003), Interculturalitate, multiculturalitate §i educatie interculturalä, Revista de Pedagogie nr.1-6 pp.5-12.

[4] Ritzer G.,(2010). Globalizarea nimicului. Cultura consumului §i paradoxurile abundentei. Bucure§ti: Humanitas

[5] Albrecht, K. (2007) Inteligen(a socialä, Bucure§ti : Ed. Curtea - Veche

[6] Panturu S., Voinea M., (2010). Cooperative learning - a way to form intercultural competences in International conference PHOENIX. Proceedings, Brasov: Universitatea Transilvania, pp.125-130