Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Attitudes toward Cultural Diversity: A Study of Russian Teachers

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Attitudes toward Cultural Diversity: A Study of Russian Teachers

Article excerpt

1.Introduction and Literature Review

With the process of globalization many countries, including Russia, face the challenge of training and educating students who are ethnic and religious minorities. The Directive of June 29, 2000 issued by the committee of the Council of Europe (2001) has guaranteed the assistance of 'the increase of awareness on requirements of human rights and the duties following from this in democratic society' (point IV). With that in mind, the committee encouraged 'creation of a climate of active understanding and respect for culture of other people in an education system starting from the preschool level' (point III). Recognizing cultural diversity among students in educational institutions is particularly important in societies with a large number of migrants. Daily interactions with teachers make them one of the most important figures for newly arrived immigrant children in school. Therefore it is important to understand teacher attitudes toward diverse ethnic and religious groups represented in their classrooms, as attitudes contribute to shaping the relationships between teachers and immigrant students (Grant and Tate 1995; Nieto 2015).

The concept of attitudes has always attracted considerable attention, by both international and Russian scholars (Ajzen, Fishbein 2000; Schwarz, Bohner 2001; Paniotto 2006; Ostrom 2013; Lebedeva, Tatarko, Berry 2016; Abakumova, Boguslavskaya, Grishina 2016). 'Attitudes' is an important psychological construct, first introduced by sociologists Thomas and Znaniecki (1918) in their study of Polish immigrants coming to America in the early 20th century. They defined 'attitude' as 'a condition of consciousness of the individual in relation to some social value', or the experience by the person of the meaning of this value (Thomas, Znaniecki 1918). Such 'condition of consciousness' is manifested in a combination of a person's beliefs, feelings, behavior in relation to socially significant objects, groups, or events (Vaughan, Hogg 2005) revealed when evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor (Eagly, Chaiken 2007). In 1947 Smith suggested distinguishing three interconnected components of attitudes: cognitive, emotional and behavioral (Smith, Bruner, White 1956). Attitudes held by individuals are influenced by the culture of the surrounding society and their social experience (Allport 1935). Among social attitudes the most crucial ones are ethnic and religious. Formed through ethnocultural contacts, ethnic and religious attitudes may be positive or negative; they may strengthen emotionalevaluative attitudes both toward one's own ethnicity and religion and toward representatives of other ethnic and religious groups (Banks1995; Jackson 2011).

Banks et al. (2001) suggest that teachers in diverse societies need to respect and understand the complex characteristics of ethnic groups so they can build upon cultural strengths and characteristics that students from diverse groups bring to school. In the U.S., many teacher preparation programs do not incorporate ethnic and cultural content into the teacher education curriculum (Banks 1995; Ladson-Billings 1995). The authors suggest that teacher preparation must include having educators uncover their personal attitudes toward these groups and acquire knowledge about their histories and cultures. With knowledge and new information, attitudes, or the cognitive attitudinal system, can be changed, resulting in more positive or negative beliefs, convictions, and opinions (Shikhirev 1999). Therefore, assessing attitudes of teachers toward different ethnic and religious groups can help inform the development of teacher preparation programs that increase teacher knowledge and influence their attitudes.

In the context of the growing migration worldwide, scholars stress the importance of public schools in integrating migrants into the new societies and cultures. The role of the teacher in this process is critically important (Emler, Okhana, Moskovichi 1987). …

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