Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

A Struggle for Equitable Partnerships: Somali Diaspora Mothers' Acts of Positioning in the Practice of Home-School Partnerships in Danish Public Schools

Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

A Struggle for Equitable Partnerships: Somali Diaspora Mothers' Acts of Positioning in the Practice of Home-School Partnerships in Danish Public Schools

Article excerpt

Introduction

Taking into account the socially, politically and historically created conditions, this article investigates how Somali diaspora mothers actively struggle to be recognized by teachers in Danish public schools as equitable partners in their children's education. Research shows that ethnic minority parents and/or immigrant/refugee parents tend not to engage in home-school partnerships in the same way as ethnic majority parents do (e.g., Intxasuti, Etxeberria, & Joaristi, 2013). Much empirical work points out the these parents are perceived as not interested in their children's education (Roy & Roxas, 2011; Dahlstedt, 2009; Dennesen, Bakker & Gierveld, 2007; Blakely, 1983; Theodrou, 2008; Crozier & Davies, 2007; Guo, 2012). Additionally parents are perceived by teachers and principals as lacking sufficient skills to discipline and raise their children adequately (Lawson, 2007; Dahlstedt, 2009; Roy & Roxas, 2011). Others suggest that immigrant and refugee parents do not get involved in their children's education because they do not know how to do so (Dennesen, Bakker & Gierveld, 2007; Vera, et. al., 2012; Bitew & Ferguson, 2010; Ibrahim, Small & Grimley, 2009). This lack of familiarity with the western educational system is exemplified by Bitew and Ferguson (2010) who write that in Ethiopia parents traditionally only contacted schools when there were serious problems with their child, hence immigrant parents from Ethiopia in New Zealand tended not to contact the schools. Much research thus points out that immigrant/refugee parents seemingly lack certain skills and interest necessary to engage in their children's education.

An extensive body of research, however, has made the argument that home-school partnerships are school-centric in the sense that only those practices that the schools deem valuable are recognized as active engagement (Orosco, 2008; Thodorou, 2008; Carreón, Drake & Barton, 2005). Some research shows how particularly ethnic minority and immigrant/refugee parents engage in their children's development and education in a number of ways that go unrecognized by professionals (e.g. Lawson, 2003; Lopez, 2001; Worthy & Rodrígeuz-Galindo, 2006). Additionally, research has argued that this school-centric notion of home-school partnerships is based on western middle class norms that result in certain groups of persons being marginalized as their ways of engaging in their children's lives is not perceived as adequate (Dahlstedt, 2009; Dannesboe et. al. 2012; Lareau, 1987). It has been pointed out that many immigrant and refugee parents feel discriminated against in their home-school relations (Guo, 2012; Sohn & Wang, 2006; Jimenez-Catellanos & Gonzalez, 2012) experiencing that teachers judged them and held low expectations of their children and of them as parents (Shim, 2013; Rimirez, 2003). Additionally Shim (2013) and Carreón, Drake and Barton (2005) show that immigrant parents feel unable to influence teacher's decision-making and some parents do not express their opinions to teachers because they fear negative repercussions if they speak up.

However, despite this substantial inequality evident in the field of parental involvement of ethnic minorities, few researchers have examined how ethnic minority and immigrant/refugee parents cope with this dissatisfaction and how they go about actively struggling against marginalization and discrimination. Lareau and Horvat (1999) show how Afro-Americans are very aware of the history of racial discrimination and therefore challenge teachers on the basis of this awareness. Freeman (2010) shows how working class parents actively position themselves as responsible parents based on knowledge that they are not perceived as middle class parents and at the same time not wanting to be perceived as lower-class parent. No research, however, has examined the strategies used by immigrant and refugee parents in order to be recognized as responsible and equitable partners in their children's education. …

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