Academic journal article International Education Studies

Ethnic Discrimination against Mapuche Students in Urban High Schools in the Araucanía Region, Chile

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Ethnic Discrimination against Mapuche Students in Urban High Schools in the Araucanía Region, Chile

Article excerpt


Ethnic or racial discrimination towards children and adolescents at schools is of concern in many contexts around the world because it is associated with diverse psychosocial, behavioural, emotional, and identity problems. The purpose of this study was to identify the types of ethnic discrimination experienced by indigenous Mapuche adolescents in schools in Chile. The study was qualitative in nature and two techniques were used: semi-structured interviews and focus groups involving an 'indicative' sample of 80 participants (30 students and 50 teachers) from three urban high schools in the Araucanía Region, Chile. Three modes of ethnic discrimination were identified: verbal, behavioural-attitudinal and institutional. A 'non virtuous cycle' of discrimination is suggested. It originates with teachers' prejudiced attitudes that lead to attributions of deficit among Mapuche adolescents. When these attributions are activated, they lead to a diminished sense of competence, avoidance and segregation among Mapuche students who then withdraw from active participation in learning, which perpetuates and confirms teachers' prejudice and attributions. Recommendations for the educational system, schools, and teachers are discussed to diminish the manifestation of ethnic discrimination at schools and its negative consequences for indigenous adolescent population.

Keywords: adolescents, ethnic discrimination, high school, peer discrimination, teacher discrimination

1. Introduction

Racial and ethnic discrimination have shown to generate a negative impact on targeted children and adolescents' psychosocial adjustment (Corenblum & Armstrong 2012; Lysne & Levy, 1997). This impedes the development of their ethnic identity and decreases their racial or ethnic pride (Smith et al., 2003), causing a reduced sense of security, feelings of social distancing, and a pessimistic view of the future (Becerra et al., 2009). Among the side effects reported are the reduction in academic self-concept and performance (Brown & Chu, 2012), the decrease in global self-esteem (Verkuyten & Thijs, 2006; Seaton & Yip 2009; Seaton et al., 2013), and an increase in depressive symptomology (Mesch et al., 2008) and behavioral problems (Wong et al., 2003).

Several studies have shown that the majority of discrimination experienced by children and adolescents occurs in the school context, and is perpetrated by both peers and teachers. For example, Ruck and Wortley (2002) examined the perception of discrimination and differential treatment in the disciplinary practices in secondary schools in Canada. A sample of 1870 adolescents from different ethnic and racial origins revealed that students were much more likely than white students to perceive discrimination from their teachers' attitudes and behavior towards them. Similarly, Wong et al. (2003) studied African Americans' experiences of racial discrimination in school context to identify its impacts and the factors that buffer such impacts. They documented discrimination from teachers and peers and reported that a strong, positive ethnic identity reduced the magnitude of association between racial discrimination experiences and a range of negative outcomes.

While studies like the above show that racial discrimination on the part of teachers and peers can lead to a range of negative effects and consequences, there is little knowledge about ethnic discrimination against indigenous adolescents in schools. The aim of the present study was to identify the main types of ethnic discrimination against indigenous Mapuche adolescents in Chile by analysing the oral discourse of Mapuche and non Mapuche teachers and students. By unpacking their argumentation and discourse strategies we aim to reveal different types and subtypes of discrimination, and the way these practices are channelled through discourse.

The Mapuche group is the largest indigenous group in Chile, representing 87. …

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