Scholarly article on topic 'The Opinion of Teachers on the Participation of Immigrant Associations in Schools: A Qualitative Research in Spain'

The Opinion of Teachers on the Participation of Immigrant Associations in Schools: A Qualitative Research in Spain Academic research paper on "Sociology"

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{"Education Intercultural" / teachers / curriculum / "education community and educative agents."}

Abstract of research paper on Sociology, author of scientific article — Encarnación Soriano-Ayala, Antonio José González-Jiménez

Abstract This research was conducted in Spain. We used the ethnographic method and have interviewed more than 20 teachers. We wanted to know the opinion of teachers on the participation of immigrant associations in schools. The teachers say that these associations can participate in the school curriculum through parent associations, tutoring and guidance, department, transversal axes and curricular documents. They can also participate with the actors of the educational community (teachers, students and immigrants natives and immigrants and native families). For example with immigrant children, immigrant associations can design activities mediation between immigrant students and teachers, school guidance and school integration.

Academic research paper on topic "The Opinion of Teachers on the Participation of Immigrant Associations in Schools: A Qualitative Research in Spain"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 174 (2015) 4046 - 4052

INTE 2014

The opinion of teachers on the participation of immigrant associations in schools: a qualitative research in Spain.

Soriano-Ayala, Encamacióna and González-Jiménez, Antonio Joséb*

a&b University of Almería, Faculty of Education. 04007, Spain


This research was conducted in Spain. We used the ethnographic method and have interviewed more than 20 teachers. We wanted to know the opinion of teachers on the participation of immigrant associations in schools. The teachers say that these associations can participate in the school curriculum through parent associations, tutoring and guidance, department, transversal axes and curricular documents. They can also participate with the actors of the educational community (teachers, students and immigrants natives and immigrants and native families). For example with immigrant children, immigrant associations can design activities mediation between immigrant students and teachers, school guidance and school integration.

© 2015TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of the Sakarya University

Keywords: Education Intercultural; teachers; curriculum; education community and educative agents.

1. The Socio-cultural perspective of Education

Education should be understood as a collective project, within a reflexive and intentional social framework aiming at a better future for the different ethnic and cultural groups that form society. Therefore, it is urgent to broaden the concept of education currently held and to seek solutions to satisfy the educational needs of the population from different ethnic groups and cultures (Banks, 1988 and Soriano-Ayala, 2005). It has to be said that a certain

* Corresponding author. Tel.:+34 950015755 ; fax: +34 950015755 E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of the Sakarya University


resistance to change is perceived in the educational system. It has undergone reforms that have avoided social theories of great relevance, such as the Habermas' dialogical focus, to a certain extent. What is really necessary within the present context of an information society, marked by globalization and new migrating movements, is for learning to become an intrinsically social process and we agree with Vila's (2004) opinion who states that for learning to take place in schools, they should carry out their work in continuity with other educational agents. Not only that, it should be the school that plays a backbone role to become the centre of such educational agents as the family, the media, the neighbourhood, the district, associations, places for leisure, etc.

We must reflect on the impossibility of maintaining an individual school where only the teachers who favour learning and the students who learn with a mono-cultural focus exist. An educational egalitarian response must be given to the current changes occurring in society (Moom, 2011 and Mo and Lin, 2013). Schools in a plural society must open their gates to the members of the community, thus, not only is the participation of families important and necessary in this multicultural society, but also the participation of immigrants' associations in the schools of Southern Spain to achieve the school integration of children with different cultural referents .

It is, therefore, desirable that schools should become actual learning communities in multicultural contexts where a genuine correlation is established between what happens in the classroom, at home, in the neighbourhood and the information acquired through the Internet and mass communication media (Gay, 2010). Schools should cease to be monolithic and anchored in the past and start to be coherent with the reality it exists in.

2. Methodology

This qualitative research is based on the ethnographic method. Ethnography is a method of study in which a researcher lives with the subjects being studied and participates as a member of that group. Researchers use ethnographic techniques of observation and qualitative analysis to study distinctive social, cultural and ethnic groups, but these techniques also are applicable in studies of schools, various types of organizations and urban and rural communities. With these techniques, researchers produce descriptive, richly detailed studies. This investigation, we need to know the opinion of teachers about new forms of collaboration in schools. Exactly how could participate immigrant associations in schools. This research was carried out in Spain. We have interviewed over 20 teachers. The selection was made through an intentional sampling according to the following criteria: - One head teacher and one teacher from each Secondary School and Infant and Primary School located in geographical areas with the highest immigration rate in Southern Spain. There had to be at least one immigrants' association in the neighbourhood. The drafted interviews were categorized and codified to be computerized at a later stage using the programme AQUAD version 5.7. The final category template drawn inductively from the interviews is as follows:

Table 1. System of categories of the participation proposals of the Immigrant Associations in education centers.

- Intercultural activities with native parents

- Intercultural activities with immigrant parents

- Association of immigrant parents Curriculum - Tutoring activities

- Orientation department

- Cross-cutting studies

- Curriculum documents

Immigrant Students

- Welcoming activites

- Mediation between immigrant student and teachers

Educative Agents

Native Students - Acceptance of the immigrants - Understanding of other cultures - Cultural coexistence - Action proposals

- Changing of attitudes toward the educationsystem

Immigrant Families - Advising

- Mediation between the center and families

Native Families - Changing of attitudes - Encouragement of coexistence - Approaching immigrant families


- Availability of cultural resources

- Education of the other cultures

- Mediation with immigrant parents

3. Results

The most frequent obstacles presented by the teaching collective are the lack of time to search for materials and resources from the culture of the immigrant students, the lack of knowledge of the cultures coexisting in the classroom, the lack of participation and connection of immigrant parents with teachers and the lack of information regarding the personal circumstances (economic, social, family) of the immigrant pupil. In the words of a teacher:

"Teachers often do not know the other cultures and do not have the time to search for materials. It is also difficult because teachers are not familiar with the customs and culture of their pupils, which hinders their awareness. For example, I remember how in the beginning the feast of the lamb and the fact that some children would miss school during this feast came as a surprise to us, some types of behaviour seemed strange to us. Today it seems like a normal event ".

3.1 Proposals for the participation of immigrants' associations in schools according to the teachers interviewed.

The present proposals or ways of participating have been organized according to a potential participation in the curriculum and with members of the educational community.

Areas of participation within the curriculum

There are no unanimous opinions on the curriculum areas in which immigrants' associations could participate. Some proposals with regard to participation through the curriculum are as follows:

- Parents' associations. They point out that immigrants' associations could participate in these associations through the proposal of various intercultural activities or start their own immigrant parents association, which from our point of view would encourage segregation amongst the parents.

- Tutoring and Guidance Department. The teachers we interviewed indicated to us that the participation of immigrants' associations would be an invaluable instrument to propose intercultural activities to the tutors and to the Guidance Department.

- Transversal Axes. Teachers suggest that immigrants' associations could collaborate in transversal axes, specifically in Education for Peace and Friendly Coexistence designing and developing activities.

- Curricular Documents. Another possibility for the participation of these associations would be, according to the teachers, in the design of friendly coexistence commissions, within the Centre Educational Projects and Guidance Projects and in Tutorial Action.

Participation with the agents of the education community

Immigrant students

Teachers agree on a series of proposals for the participation of associations with immigrant students. These intervention proposals have been grouped in four areas:

- School guidance. They suggest that associations should collaborate in reception activities as immigrant students arrive at the beginning of term in order to explain to them how the school works.

- Mediation between immigrant students and teachers. The teachers propose that immigrants' associations should work as mediators with regard to the variety of obstacles teachers encounter in teaching immigrant students.

- School integration. Teachers suggest that immigrants' associations design activities to encourage the integration of boys and girls from immigrant families, such as:

1. Spanish language courses. One teacher specifies the following guidelines that are relevant to learning Spanish:

"Many children cannot speak Spanish when they arrive and the associations should try to help us to teach them. The sooner the child learns Spanish, the sooner he/she will be able to integrate in society and in the

school. An example would be revision lessons, Spanish lessons... Immigrants who are not enrolled in the school could come here to teach Spanish."

2. Activities to encourage self-esteem and a change in the attitude of immigrant pupils. This type of activities caught our attention due to its aims. Teachers support the idea that the activities organised and implemented by the associations would increase the self-esteem of the students and change their attitudes because they would feel that their collective is valued and can make relevant contributions to the school, that is, they would not view themselves as an ethnic minority subjected to the rulings of the autochthonous collective. The relevance of self-esteem and a change in the attitude of immigrant students is explained by a teacher along these lines:

"It is important for students to see that their culture is valued, for example, the association could come to the school and carry out some activities on their culture, then the immigrant student would see that his/her culture is valued because the local students ask about, participate and are interested in it. In fact, if we make this sector the protagonist, the predominance of the Spanish culture takes second place. It is a referent because immigrant students will realize that they are people who come to school not only to receive but also to give. Thus, they will not regard themselves as intruders who come here to take, who know nothing and just obey rules, they will see themselves as people who can make a contribution"

3. Friendly coexistence activities among the various immigrant collectives and the local students. Thus, is this type of participation based on friendly coexistence described by two teachers:

"The greater the participation of associations in schools, the higher the level of integration of immigrant students will be. Contact between "different" people is very important, it changes our stereotypes and behaviours, it also teaches us to speak well of immigrants to other people in our group.

.the participation of associations will encourage a change in the attitudes of local children to immigrants. I think that knowledge and an approach to alien cultures is a powerful tool to change attitudes. Moreover, immigrant students would also change their attitudes to Spaniards because they would see that their culture is appreciated by teachers and classmates."

4. Remedial education activities. The associations should organize remedial tuition for students with remarkable learning gaps.

Autochthonous students

Teachers agree on the idea that immigrants' associations must organize activities aimed at local students so that they come to accept immigrants as ordinary citizens, learn about their culture and customs. A friendly coexistence is encouraged as well as the knowledge of each others' cultures and a change in attitudes and prejudices can be brought about in both parties for a better relationship between them... Two teachers manifest this participation proposal in the following words:

"Of course they need to participate in schools so that the local students will look upon immigrants as ordinary people and not as aliens. An immigrant may have lived in Spain for 15 years and still be regarded as an alien; I think this is a problem that exists in the Spanish society. Associations have to collaborate so that autochthonous students can regard immigrants as people like themselves with the same feelings and not just as immigrants, that is, they should be regarded as individuals and not as immigrants... "

"Associations can participate in schools and this will make Spanish students understand their culture and respect it. This will help immigrant students to integrate to the extent in which local students understand them and regard them as closer to them. What is always repeated is that when alien students have just arrived they are all rejected and when local students get to know them, they begin to accept them. Rejection generally means lack offamiliarity"

Some of the proposals of the teachers to be put into practice by the associations with regard to local students are as follows: 1) Oral expositions by the managers of some associations to explain their life stories as immigrants, i.e., why they emigrated, the economic, the social and work characteristics in their countries, their first years in Spain.. .Teachers defend the idea that this type of activity in which an immigrant narrates the circumstances of his/her emigrating process helps to bring about a change in the attitude and prejudices of local students with regard to immigrants. 2) Activities which encourage integration and friendly coexistence amongst students from various cultural groups, local ones included. 3) Activities that explain and disseminate the main features of their culture.

The Families of Immigrant Students

According to the teachers, the participation they offer the associations with regard to immigrant families focuses on two fundamental aspects:

1. A change in the attitude of the families to the Education System. Some of the tasks established by the collective to achieve this objective are the following:

- To explain to parents how important it is for their children to finish their mandatory studies, and it their case, to continue studying.

- To inform parents of those aspects related to the education that their children are receiving.

- To teach parents to instil in their children study habits and responsibility for their learning.

- To explain to the families aspects related to the culture of the host country.

- To advise parents on the importance of their attendance to tutorials to inform the teachers of the problems affecting their children and to obtain information on their progress at school.

2. A bridge linking the schools and the families of immigrant children.

Teachers stress that a change in the attitude of immigrant families for them to take an interest in their children's education should be accompanied by an increase in their participation in the schools. Some of the proposals for this purpose are listed below:

- Parents can participate in the schools giving talks to local students on aspects related to their countries.

- Families can acquaint local children with their mother tongue.

Autochthonous Students' families

The intervention proposals devised by the teachers to be put into practice by the associations have been grouped under two aspects:

- A change in attitudes. Teachers point out that immigrants' associations should carry out awareness raising activities to eradicate the attitudes and prejudices that local families have to the presence of immigrant pupils in schools.

- Encouraging friendly coexistence and bringing local and immigrant families closer. Some of the activities they propose should be carried out by immigrants' associations to aid friendly coexistence and a closer relationship between immigrant families and local ones. In the words of one of the teachers interviewed:

"It ■would be desirable to build a link between the parents. It is important that they should know and respect their different cultures. I believe this is the most relevant problem. The different customs, religions, views on life should become familiar to the locals and then they will be able to embrace what is good about them and reject those aspects that are negative"

The teaching collective

Teachers appreciate that immigrants'associations can do much to support their teaching. The proposals for different

areas are exposed below:

- Providers of intercultural resources. Teachers suggest that the associations should be in charge of providing typical materials from the pupils' countries. In the words of a teacher:

"The associations could bring literature from their countries for the teachers to use, also writers and things they make. If we have Moroccan pupils, we could work with Moroccan associations so that they can bring in items. Romania has this periodical I have told you about and in the latest one they enclosed a book by Romanian poets in Spain that we can use"

- Teaching the different cultures. This collective also supports the idea that associations should teach the main aspects of the culture of immigrant students. One teacher explains the cultural benefits that can be reaped from the participation of associations:

"We would be interested in the participation of associations to learn about the culture of immigrant pupils. In teaching we have to start from the knowledge and experiences of the children so that their education can advance in a positive way, therefore we are interested in learning about their culture"

- Mediators between teachers and immigrant parents. A fundamental aspect that all teachers stressed throughout the interviews is the urgent necessity for the associations to develop functions to encourage a closer link between immigrant parents and school life.

- Advice about the characteristics of immigrant students. In this aspect, they point out that once immigrants' associations have developed a closer link with the families of immigrant pupils, it should be them who inform the teachers of the circumstances surrounding the children.

4. Discussion

The results of this investigation show that to maximize an inclusive school that encourages interculturalism and integration between immigrant and local children and young people, it is necessary to open the schools to allow in and involve new educational agents: immigrants' associations which will contribute to the present academically monocultural schools the entry of other cultures, and their curricular involvement in a scenario that welcomes culturally diverse pupils (Picower, 2011 and Mo and Lin ,2013).

Teachers express their reasons and coincide with immigrants' association in pointing out that the latter must attend to local and immigrant families. To local families because they appreciate that these families present negative attitudes to their children sharing a school with immigrant boys and girls, and to immigrant families because they lack motivation towards and interest in the education of their children.

Teachers, who so far in the Spanish context, have not worked with or approached immigrants' associations to request their participation in schools, perceive how this participation should be (Soriano-Ayala, González-Jiménez y Cabellero Cala, 2014). They understand that associations could make relevant contributions to the curriculum, proposing and jointly designing curricular documents, intervening in specific education contexts for a peaceful coexistence and in tutorial activities Teachers state, as immigrants have done, that associations can intervene with immigrant students in welcoming activities, as mediators between them and the teachers, helping them to integrate in the school, increasing their self-esteem and improving their self-concept, reinforcing their learning and facilitating friendly coexistence. Teachers and immigrants believe, moreover, that they can work with local students towards a change in their attitude. This also applies to their families. With immigrant families, they would play a significant role showing them the relevance of the school and their children's education.

5. Conclusions

We understand that education is above all a collective project, a collaboration between all those involved in the life of a child or a young person: teachers, families, cultural centres, cultural associations, and according to our

investigation, immigrants' associations in the local area. Education is an eminently social process and we agree with Vila (2004) when he says that for this process to be complete there should be continuity, communication and action between educational agents and schools so that the whole responsibility should not fall entirely on schools and one of these agents within a multicultural context are immigrants' associations. On the other hand, coinciding with Flecha and Puigvert (2008), we appreciate that existing resources should be utilized and an open attitude to negotiation and collaboration with others is fundamental in the classroom. The collaboration of immigrants' association in the classroom and in the school would aid dialogical learning which would transform the school and its environment. It would be ideal to establish learning communities with the collaboration of immigrants' associations in these multicultural education environments, to fight situations of inequality that can affect children and young people facing the risk of being excluded (Sleeter, 2013, 2014).


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