Research project "Cultural and religious diversity in primary school"

Religion is becoming an important topic in the public school’s class rooms. Due to migration, pupils meet invigorated religion in the form of diversity, alongside their teachers’ teaching. The diversity varies with history, pedagogy, national and local culture and values. The experience of diversity varies with age and family tradition.

The countries chosen for description and comparison are Sweden, Finland and Estonia.The countries represent three experiences of cultural and religious diversity. In Estonia, the country has already had an ethnically and religiously diverse population for several centuries, with sizable Lutheran and Orthodox populations and smaller communities of Jewish, Muslim Tatar and Old believers being present already from the 18th century onwards, some of the communities long before that. Although the influx of immigrants in recent decades has been relatively small, the immigration in the Soviet period has massively affected the composition of the population of Estonia. Finland has until recently been a country with limited reception of refugees and other immigrants, meaning that the country’s learning process of how to handle diversity has started late. In Sweden, there is at least half a century’s experience of diversity to rely on, from the labour immigration in the 1950s and 60s until today’s diversity resulting from refugees and bringing together of families. The three countries open a possibility of describing and comparing diversity as an impact of three kinds of national heritage.

Research teams are formed in each country. The pupils’ development with age is investigated through analysis of 3rd, 6th and 9th grade pupils. Using pupils’ experience of diversity in school as a point of departure, the project’s aim is to:

(1) describe the bearing of structural factors on that experience; to
(2) describe the effect of variation in age and family tradition; to
(3) compare differences in three countries; and to
(4) develop tools for teaching about diversity in intercultural teacher education.

Culture and religion are intertwined; sometimes culture seems to be dictated by religion, in other instances religion serves as a form and name given to a specific culture. Regardless of the variety of conditions prevailing in different European countries, it is increasingly important to study a factor broadly defined as culture, individual religiosity, and organized religion, as well as the factor’s two-sided potential, for dialogue and appeasement as well as for conflict and tension. Education in compulsory school is a vital arena within which this issue can be studied. The degree to which culture, religiosity and religion serve (or might be made to serve) as a criterion of exclusion or prejudice in schools should be investigated as well as the degree to which the same factor can promote peaceful coexistence of cultural and religious groups.

Time: 1.1.2014-30.06.2017

Partners of the project:

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