Mediterranean Journal Educational Studies

Mediterranean Journal Educational Studies
Volume 15
Number 1
Abstracted/indexed in British Education Index, Current Contents,
CIJE (ERIC), International Bibliography of the Social Sciences,
Sociology of Education Abstracts
© Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Educational Research, University of Malta, 2010.
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies
Volume 15 Number 1 2010
Greek Cypriot adolescent attitudes toward immigrants and ‘enemy-others’
in the context of ethnic conflict / Michalinos Zembylas,
Athina Michaelidou & Thekla Afantintou-Lambrianou
Teacher performance appraisal in Portugal: the (im)possibilities of a
contested model / Marıa Assunção Flores
Older adult learning in Malta: toward a policy agenda / Marvin Formosa
Togetherness, coexistence or confrontation – the impact of school climate
and culture on peer-to-peer social relations in Catalonia, Spain /
Maribel Ponferrada-Arteaga & Silvia Carrasco-Pons
Science textbook readability in Lebanon: a comparison between
anglophone and francophone learning milieux / Yasmine El-Masri
& Barend Vlaardingerbroek
Culture and communication in academia: the views of faculty members /
Sidika Gizir
Book Reviews
ISSN 1024-5375
Abstract – This paper describes and analyses the results of a survey on Greek
Cypriot students’ attitudes toward immigrants and toward those considered as the
‘enemy-others’ (in this context, the Turks and Turkish Cypriots). This investigation
is important because issues of immigration seem to be further complicated by the
ongoing ethnic conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus.
Although this study does not examine whether attitudes about immigration change
as a result of ethnic conflict (or vice versa), it provides an initial mapping to
numerically chart the terrain of Greek Cypriot students’ tendencies toward both
immigrants and ‘enemy-others’. The results show that Greek Cypriot students
manifest generally negative attitudes toward immigrants and Turks and Turkish
Cypriots (although there is a differentiation in the perception of the latter group).
It is also shown that Greek Cypriot students prefer the model of separation rather
than that of assimilation or integration in their relations with immigrants.
Significant differences are identified between the perceptions of: (i) boys and
girls; and (ii) younger and older adolescents. The implications for intercultural
education both at the policy level and at the level of classroom practice are
discussed. It is also suggested that the intersection of (ethnic or other) conflict and
immigration and how it is manifest in the context of education requires attention
in future research.
M igration for economic, social or political reasons has always been part of
human history. The Mediterranean region has recently become the centre of
migration movement with countries such as Malta, Spain, Italy, Greece, and
Cyprus becoming main entry points into the European Union. Cyprus has
traditionally been a country of out-migration throughout the 20th century,
especially after the 1974 Turkish invasion that divided Cyprus into its north part
(still occupied by Turkey) and its south part (the government controlled area).
However, migration of labour to the Republic of Cyprus started in the 1990s as a
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 5-39, 2010
result of the relatively quick economic boom that has turned Cyprus into a host
country for immigrants (Spyrou, 2009). Although there are no official figures, it
is now estimated that migrant workers from different ethnic and racial
backgrounds total between 60,000 to 80,000 (Trimikliniotis & Demetriou, 2009)1 .
The issue of growing immigration, however, is further complicated by the
unresolved political problem – known as the ‘Cyprus Issue’ – that raises serious
security and other concerns (Trimikliniotis, 2009).
The changing profile of the population in the Republic of Cyprus has clearly
affected the social landscape and has altered the fairly homogeneous profile (until
the early 1990s) of primary and secondary schools (Zembylas, 2010b). During the
scholastic year 1995-1996 the percentage of foreign students was 4.41%, but this
percentage rose to 8.6% in the scholastic year 2007-2008 (Statistical Service of the
Republic of Cyprus, 2009). There are now approximately 13,000 foreign students
in the Republic of Cyprus. In some schools (especially in urban areas of low
socioeconomic conditions), immigrant students constitute the large majority of the
school population (80%-90%). This increasing diversity and contact between
Greek Cypriot and immigrant children could be a source of enriching learning
experiences for all, if certain conditions are ensured (e.g., see Psaltis & Hewstone,
2008). However, as some recent studies among children and youth show, this
contact is not free of challenges such as the development of stereotypes against
immigrants suggesting that ‘they take our jobs’, ‘they threaten our national
identity’ and ‘the immigrants are usually criminals’ (e.g., Spyrou, 2009;
Zembylas, in press). These stereotypes, it is argued, become even more
accentuated in contexts of ethnic conflict, because ‘indigenous’2 students have to
negotiate a complex situation: on one hand, they have to deal with the increasing
flow of immigrants; on the other hand, they need to negotiate the challenges of coexisting with those they perceive as ‘enemies’ (Shamai & Ilatov, 2001, 2005;
Zembylas, 2008, 2010a). As this research suggests, there might be more intense
emotional reactions against immigrants as a result of the development of defence
mechanisms against all those who are perceived to be ‘different’, ‘threatening’,
and ‘fearsome’.
The first step in studying such a complex phenomenon is to find out in more
detail the attitudes of indigenous students toward immigrants as well as toward
those perceived to be ‘enemies’. Thus, this paper describes and analyses the results
of a survey on Greek Cypriot students’ attitudes toward immigrants (migrant
workers are included in this category) and toward those perceived to be the
‘enemy-others’ (i.e., Turks and Turkish Cypriots). This investigation is important
because issues of immigration seem to be further complicated by the ongoing
ethnic conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Although this study
does not aim to examine whether attitudes about immigration change as a result
of ethnic conflict (or vice versa), it provides an initial mapping to numerically
chart the terrain of Greek Cypriot students’ tendencies toward both immigrants
and ‘enemy-others’3 . The present study of Greek Cypriot students’ attitudes is
valuable because attitudes are believed to be crucial in the formation and
maintenance of various (social, ethnic and cultural) conflicts and
misunderstandings or their gradual dismantling (Leong & Schneller, 1997). This
study, then, has important implications for intercultural education, not only in
Cyprus, but also in the wider Mediterranean region in which similar challenges
may exist.
The paper is divided into the following five parts. In the first part, we provide
an overview of education in the Republic of Cyprus, particularly in relation to
ethnic conflict and immigration in schools. Then, we briefly review the previous
research conducted on Greek Cypriot students’ attitudes toward immigrants and
Turks/Turkish Cypriots, followed by the theoretical framework of the research
study undertaken here. Next, we describe the research methodology (research
questions, research setting, sample and questionnaire) and then present the
results. The paper concludes with a discussion of some implications for
intercultural education at the levels of educational policy and classroom
Education in the Republic of Cyprus: ethnic conflict and immigration
Cyprus has been a divided society since the violent intercommunal clashes
in 1963-1967; in 1974, Turkey invaded after a failed military coup attempt to
unify Cyprus and Greece. Before the Turkish invasion, Greek Cypriots
constituted approximately 80% and Turkish Cypriots 18% of the island’s
population. The division of Cyprus, as a result of the Turkish invasion, came
with population displacements of around one-third of a total of 600,000 Greek
Cypriots to the south and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots to the north. As a result of the
lack of contact for many years, the division of the island has been almost
complete: geographically, culturally, and politically. Since 2003 there has been
a partial lift of restrictions in movement, which has meant that contact has been
possible again.
In conflict-ridden societies, such as Cyprus, education is segregated along
ethnopolitical lines, resulting in educational systems being often blamed for
perpetuating divisions and conflict (Bush & Saltarelli, 2000; Davies, 2004).
Existing research addressing education in divided Cyprus (e.g., Kizilyürek, 1999;
Bryant, 2004; Spyrou, 2006; Hadjipavlou-Trigeorgis, 2007; Zembylas, 2008)
shows indeed that the curricula and educational practices of both Greek Cypriots
and Turkish Cypriots (who are educated separately) have been systematically
used to create negative stereotypes and prejudices about the other. This research
indicates how primary and secondary school curricula and pedagogies implore
students to remember each side’s glories, honour the heroes who fought the
‘enemy-other’, and despise the other group. Also, history textbooks mirror the
collective narratives of each side – for example, in the ways that blame is
attributed, the silence of the other’s trauma, and the delegitimation of the other’s
historical existence (Papadakis, 2008).
Recently, in the south there has been an increasing number of ‘multicultural’
schools, that is, schools attended by minority children from various cultures,
including those children whose parents are migrant workers or married to
someone from another culture. Occasionally, there are a few Turkish-speaking4
children whose parents stayed in the south after the events of 1974 or moved there
recently; thus, the challenge that these schools face becomes more complex,
because these children are often treated with hostility in light of their ethnic
identity and mother tongue (see Zembylas, 2010a, in press).
Intercultural education as an educational policy is relatively new to Greek
Cypriot schools and society. Although policy documents and official curricula
include strong statements about humanistic ideas and respect for human rights,
justice and peace, in practice non-Greek Cypriot children are seen as deficient
and needing to be assimilated (Panayiotopoulos & Nicolaidou, 2007). The
current model of intercultural education being implemented in Cyprus is a
mainstreaming programme in which language learners attend classrooms with
indigenous Greek-speaking children. Schools which have an increasing number
of non-indigenous children become part of a Zone of Educational Priority
and receive additional help – such as extra hours for assisting non-indigenous
students to learn the language. The primary goal is to provide intensive Greek
lessons and specialised assistance to non-indigenous students. Some Greek
Cypriot researchers (e.g., see Gregoriou, 2004; Papamichael, 2009; Theodorou,
2008) emphasise that the social and cultural capital of the immigrant and
Turkish Cypriot children is ignored and the integration of these children is
accompanied by forms of passive exclusion and cultural misrecognition.
Gregoriou, in particular, suggests that our investigations should not remain
focused only on Greek Cypriot students’ xenophobic attitudes toward
immigrants, but should also include inquiries on the gradual development of
views and practices toward those perceived as ‘enemies’ in Cyprus.
With this background information in mind, the next section moves on to the
review of previous research and the theoretical framework of the present study,
drawing on critical multiculturalism and critical sociology of education in
Review of previous research and theoretical framework
Previous research
Although there is an increasing body of work on intercultural education in
Cyprus in recent years, there are only a handful of studies that focus their
investigations on the attitudes of Greek Cypriot students toward both immigrants
and Turkish Cypriots/Turks. These few studies are based primarily on attitude
surveys – however, there is also some qualitative research on children’s views –
documenting a variety of stereotypes and prejudices (Trimikliniotis, 2004a,
2004b; Trimikliniotis & Demetriou, 2009). A brief overview of this research is
provided below to show not only what has been done so far, but also the gaps that
exist in the present literature.
A research study conducted by Harakis et al. (2005) – entitled Anti-Social
Behaviour of Youths in Cyprus: Racist Trends – involved a sample of teachers,
heads of schools and deputy heads, media persons and youth, and was carried out
during 1998-2001. Two special questionnaires were administered to 1,242 youths
between the ages of 15-23. Some interesting findings among youth were the
following: 10% of the youths said that racism was justified; religion, way of life/
culture and outlook were important criteria to get married to a foreigner; 38% of
the youths said that stereotypes were justified or usually justified; Turkish
Cypriots living in the government-controlled areas were the less acceptable group
among all respondents in the study, followed by workers of Arabic origin, the
Roma, Pontians, workers of Asian origin, workers coming from east-central
Europe and women working in cabarets; and finally, 50% of all the respondents
in the study said that foreigners were usually connected with crime incidents.
The Centre for the Study of Childhood and Adolescence has also published a
report based on a survey conducted with fifth and sixth graders in 2004 in 10
different schools of Nicosia (the capital of Cyprus) with a total sample of 288
children (see Spyrou, 2004). The study – entitled Greek Cypriot Children’s
Knowledge about, Perceptions of, and Attitudes towards Foreigners in Cyprus –
painted a very negative picture of foreigners by Greek Cypriot students. For
example, 75% of children stated that they thought there were too many foreigners
living in Cyprus; the overwhelming majority of children stated that either ‘some’
(46%) or ‘all’ of foreigners should go back to their countries; only 14.6% stated
that it was good that foreigners lived in Cyprus, while 59% thought that foreigners
helped increase crime. On the other hand, as Spyrou pointed out, the fact that not
all children expressed these negative feelings toward foreigners was encouraging.
The qualitative part of Spyrou’s survey study confirmed the findings from the
administered questionnaire, highlighting the complexities and ambivalences in the
children’s perceptions of Sri Lankan and Filipino women who were employed as
domestic workers in Cyprus (Spyrou, 2009). In another study, Panayiotopoulos &
Nicolaidou (2007) acknowledge that their semi-structured interviews with
students revealed racist incidents against non-indigenous children; nonindigenous children were targeted mostly because of the manner in which they
dressed, the financial difficulties of their families and their skin colour. Also,
Papamichael (2009) and Theodorou (2008) make references to Greek Cypriot
children’s negative views of immigrants and the ways in which immigrant
students are marginalised. Their analysis shows elements of racism and
xenophobia in the majoritised group’s understandings and behaviours. In addition,
Philippou’s (2009) mixed method study shows the prejudiced and stereotyped way
in which Greek Cypriot pupils represent a number of national outgroups
(including various groups of immigrants and Turks); these groups are hierarchised
on the basis of various rules-criteria (the Turks being the least preferred people).
Finally, a recent ethnographic study that lasted for two years also
documented numerous racist incidents in which Turkish-speaking students were
systematically marginalised by Greek Cypriot students (Zembylas, 2010a, in
press). The study explored how practices and discourses at four multicultural
schools (three primary schools and one secondary school) shaped or were
shaped by the majority group’s emotions about ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’. A major
finding was that Greek Cypriot students and teachers’ practices and discourses
in relation to the complex interplay of race and ethnicity were illustrative of the
contingent cultural, political and historical structures that both informed and
were reinforced by these practices. This study showed how racialisation and
ethnicisation processes were inextricably linked to perceptions, practices, and
discourses in Greek Cypriot public schools.
Overall, this brief review of previous research indicates a variety of negative
attitudes toward immigrants, Turks and Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriot
students at various grade levels. These studies – which clearly reflect similar
surveys in the wider society of Cyprus (e.g., see Council of Europe: European
Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, 2006; the fourth round of the
European Social Survey, 2008/2009) – do not cover simultaneously a wide range
of grade levels from late primary throughout to late secondary school, and do not
address gender differences among students. The present study addresses these
important limitations of previous research. In addition, this study attempts to
address for the first time the attitudes of a wide range of indigenous students’ age
groups toward both immigrants and those perceived as the ‘enemy-other’. Finally,
this study is theoretically grounded in different ideas than those used in the past
(see below), and thus the implications for intercultural education take a rather
different policy and practical direction.
Theoretical framework
There are three modes of majority-minority interaction that can be used to
analyse reactions to immigrants: assimilation, integration and separatism
(Shamai, 1987, 1990; Steiner-Khamsi, 2003). Assimilation is the elimination of
public and private differences between different groups; essentially, the immigrant
group adopts the language, culture and norms of the majority (host) group.
Integration is the elimination of public differences between groups but not
necessarily their private (e.g., cultural) differences; in other words, the goal is to
create a common unifying citizenship or civic national identity but leaving to
individuals to choose their communities of belonging in private domains, enabling
them to maintain their cultures. Finally, separatism is the preservation of
differences between majority and minority groups; the immigrant group members
do not adopt the culture of the host society and keep within their own culture.
Theorists like Jenkins (2004) and Benhabib (2002) have made attempts to
reconcile private and public differences between cultural groups by contending
that cultures and identities are not fixed but fluid.
A theoretical framework that combines critical multiculturalism (Kincheloe &
Steinberg, 1997) and critical sociology of education (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977;
Giroux, 1993) is adopted in this study. Critical multiculturalism is valuable as a
framework to gain a deeper understanding of students’ attitudes toward
immigrants and ‘enemy-others’, because it adopts a comprehensive view of
diversity and acknowledges the role of power relations in shaping dominant
discourses and practices in society and schools (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997;
Mahalingham & McCarthy, 2000; Nieto, 2000). Attention is not focused on
superficial differences, but on those differences that are linked to social injustices,
contested political issues and unequal socio-political structures (e.g., citizenship
rights, societal conflict, contribution to economy etc.). In other words, the critical
multicultural perspective offers a different theoretical grounding for the
interaction mode with immigrants and other minoritised groups; assimilation,
integration and separatism are critiqued from the perspective of power relations
and their everyday consequences. Furthermore, critical multicultural theory
recognises the role of majoritised students’ attitudes and their negative impact on
interactions with minoritised students (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997). These
attitudes are generally acknowledged as powerful markers that are used to
legitimate inequality between majoritised and minoritised groups.
With regard to the definition, attitude refers to a favourable or unfavourable
assessment of things, people, places, events or ideas. Fishbein & Ajzen (1975)
defined the structure of attitudes as being made up of three components: cognitive,
emotional and behavioural. Breckler (1984) has elaborated further this theory,
clarifying that: the cognitive component (e.g., stereotypes) is formed by
perceptions, beliefs, and expectations; the emotional component (e.g., prejudice)
is made up of feelings, moods and emotions; and the behavioural component (e.g.,
discrimination) is made up of action tendencies and self-reported behaviour.
Attitudes constitute an important component of the cultural capital possessed
by the dominant group and are selectively endorsed and transmitted at an early age
by schools (Del Barco et al., 2007). Privileges of the dominant group are generally
unrecognised and most members of this group are unaware of the ways in which
racist attitudes against minoritised groups affects them (Gillborn, 2008). The
concepts of cultural reproduction and cultural hegemony (Bourdieu & Passeron,
1977; Giroux, 1993) describe how a society – schooling, in particular – reproduces
itself through perpetuating existing cultural and social hierarchies. The dominant
group attempts to control resources and establish its view as universally accepted.
Therefore, the dominant group may be unaware of its racist attitudes or that it has
interests in concealing them (Neville et al., 2000). In addition to the presence of
racist attitudes, there might also be nationalist attitudes, that is, beliefs that one’s
own national origin or identity are superior than other national identities; such
attitudes are frequently met in conflict-ridden societies (Sen, 2006). It is valuable,
then, to examine Greek Cypriot children’s attitudes toward immigrants and toward
those who may be considered as the ‘enemy’ in light of the ethnic conflict in
The research questions explored in this study were: (i) what are the Greek
Cypriot students’ attitudes – that is, perceptions, emotions, and self-reported
behaviour – toward immigrants and Turks/Turkish Cypriots?; and (ii) which kind
of interaction (assimilation, integration and separatism) would Greek Cypriot
students like to have with immigrants?
In order to investigate these research questions, a self-reported questionnaire
was administered to a random sample of schools (selected from all schools in
Cyprus) and primary and secondary students (randomly selected within their
schools). More specifically, the sample consisted of students at the upper primary
grades (ages 11-12), lower secondary (ages 13-15) and upper secondary (ages 1718). The questionnaire items (see Appendix) were generated on the basis of the
literature on students’ attitudes toward immigrants, particularly items developed
through the work of Shamai (1987, 1990), Spyrou (2004), Van Peer (2006) and
Neville et al. (2000), consultation with experts on racial/ethnic attitudes, and
informal individual and group discussions with indigenous and non-indigenous
students, teachers and community groups in Cyprus. Consequently, three groups
of questions probed: (i) perceptions; (ii) emotions; and (iii) self-reported
behaviours of Greek Cypriot students toward immigrants and Turks/Turkish
Cypriots. More specifically, the research instrument was an anonymous structured
questionnaire with open and closed type questions. The questionnaire consisted
of five parts that are briefly described below.
The first part (constituted by two sub-sections) consisted of 35 statements
investigating Greek Cypriot students’ perceptions of immigrants. The participants
had to select one out of five possible responses, indicating their degree of
agreement with the provided statements. The statements on this section of the
questionnaire were measured on a 5-point Likert scale that ranged from ‘1 – strong
disagreement’ to ‘5 – strong agreement’. The second part also investigated Greek
Cypriot students’ perceptions, but this time the questions referred to specific
national groups. In particular, the students were provided with 14 different
national groups (e.g., Indians, Pakistanis, Greeks, Turks, Turkish Cypriots, etc.)
present in Cyprus and were asked to indicate on a scale from 1-10 their degree of
agreement to four pairs of cultural characteristics (e.g., ‘uncivilised-civilised’).
The third part consisted of two sub-sections: the first one included 8 statements
exploring Greek Cypriot students’ emotions about immigrants; the structure of the
responses was based on a 5-point Likert scale like before; in the second subsection, the students were asked to provide a hierarchy of their emotions (among
six pleasant and unpleasant ones) about: (i) immigrants in general; and (ii) the
possibility that all immigrants will abandon Cyprus tomorrow. The fourth part
consisted of 10 items investigating the self-reported behaviours of Greek Cypriot
students toward immigrants. The structure of the responses was again a 5-point
Likert scale. Finally, the last part asked for the usual demographic information
(gender, grade level).
The survey was administered in the spring of 2009. The population of the
survey consisted of students from primary (ages 11-12) and secondary (ages 1315 and 17-18) education enrolled in the public schools of the Greek Cypriot
educational system (i.e., 25,450 students). The sample was identified, as
mentioned earlier, when schools were randomly selected from the list of all
schools in the Greek Cypriot educational system, since the purpose of the study
was to identify students’ perceptions toward immigrants, irrespective of their area
of residence or their prior experiences with immigrants. A random sample from
each selected school also identified the specific number of participant students,
who received an anonymous questionnaire with an accompanying letter
explaining how to fill it out. The administration of questionnaire took place in
classes, at a time specifically allocated for their completion. Overall, the
questionnaire was sent to 2,023 students, 675 primary and 1,348 secondary
students, a representative sample based on the statistics of the Ministry of
Education and Culture (2008). The final sample consisted of 1,333 students of
primary and secondary education (a response rate of 66%). More specifically, the
sample consisted of 465 students (37.5%) of primary education (11-12 years), 370
students (29.8%) of lower secondary education (13-15 years) and 406 students
(32.7%) of upper secondary education (17-18 years). There were 611 (45.4%)
males and 698 (52.4%) females; 30 students (2.3%) did not state their gender. One
hundred and twelve students who completed the questionnaire (8.5%) defined
themselves as immigrants, and therefore they were excluded from the study (after
the completion of the questionnaire) since the study focused on Greek Cypriot
students. The data were analysed using the statistical package SPSS. Both
descriptive and inferential statistics were used in order to provide answers to the
research questions of the present study.
Perceptions of immigrants
The analysis of the answers provided by the sample of this study reveals that
the majority of Greek Cypriot students held rather negative perceptions of
immigrants in Cyprus. Since these negative perceptions were a general finding
emerging from the results, it was decided to present in tables all the statements
with the highest disagreement (where more than 50% of the sample expressed
disagreement or strong disagreement with a statement on a 5-point scale). The
results from other statements in the questionnaire, which revealed agreement
(more than 50% of the sample expressed their general agreement on a 5-point
scale) are presented and discussed independently below.
Table 1 presents the statements with which Greek Cypriot students disagreed
to the higher degree.
As illustrated in Table 1, for example, more than half of the students considered
immigrants unequal to Cypriots. Moreover, a high percentage of Greek Cypriot
students disagreed with the statements that the immigrants ‘enrich the cultural life
and the tradition of Cyprus’, ‘make Cyprus better’, ‘help the economy of Cyprus’
and ‘help Cypriots see things in a different way’. However, more than half of the
students of the sample answered that immigrants ‘do not make Cyprus worse’, and
a large number of Greek Cypriot students considered that ‘the national identity of
Cypriot people is not threatened by the presence of immigrants’. A high
percentage of students stated that ‘racial incidents in Cyprus are scarce, occasional
events’, despite the fact that many students considered racism against immigrants
TABLE 1: Greek Cypriot students’ perceptions of immigrants
Immigrants enrich the cultural life and the tradition of Cyprus
Immigrants make Cyprus a better place
Immigrants should forget their own habits
Racism against immigrants is justifiable
Immigrants help Cypriots see things in a different way
Immigrants help the economy of Cyprus
Racial incidents in Cyprus are scarce, occasional events
The way Cypriots behave towards immigrants is very good
I consider immigrants as equal to Cypriots
The national identity of Cypriot people is threatened
by the presence of immigrants
Immigrants make Cyprus a worse place
Immigrants have the same opportunities as Cypriots to
succeed in their life
Immigrants have more rights than Cypriots do
Immigrants must return to their origin countries
* Disagreement is a combination of ‘1 = strong disagreement’ and ‘2 = disagreement’
on a 5-point scale
to be unjustifiable. Furthermore, Greek Cypriot students, while disagreeing with
the statements that immigrants ‘have the same opportunities as Cypriots to
succeed in their life’ and that they ‘have more rights than Cypriots do’, stated that
‘the way Cypriots behave towards immigrants is not very good’. Moreover, it was
found that the majority of Greek Cypriot students disagreed with the statements
‘immigrants should forget their own habits’ and ‘immigrants must return to their
origin countries’.
In addition to the results shown in Table 1, the study revealed interesting
findings regarding the agreement of Greek Cypriot students to specific statements
relating with their perceptions of immigrants, racism and discrimination in
Cyprus. Interestingly, it was found that a considerable percentage of Greek
Cypriot students agreed with the statement ‘racism is a major problem in Cyprus’
(f.=.746, 56.7%) as well as with the statement ‘it is important for immigrants to
preserve their own culture and values’ (f.=.592, 44.8%).
On the other hand, only a percentage of 38.4% (f.=.510) of the students agreed
with the statement ‘there is discrimination against immigrants in Cyprus’, while
a considerable percentage of students (f.=.494, 37.3%) stated that ‘immigrants are
to be blamed for the increase of crime in Cyprus’. Finally, 46.8% (f.=.619) of the
students agreed with the statement that immigrants ‘steal jobs from Cypriots’,
while 41.8% (f.=.553) admitted that immigrants ‘are employed in jobs that
Cypriots do not want to do’.
Table 2 presents the expectations of Greek Cypriot students from immigrants.
As indicated in Table 2, quite a high percentage of participants stated that they
did not mind that they did not know the immigrants very well. On the other hand,
it is interesting that a great percentage of the sample stated that they did not mind
the presence of immigrants in Cyprus. Also, a high percentage of them stated that
they did not mind when immigrants socialised among themselves and they did not
expect immigrants to dress, think and behave like Cypriots.
Other interesting findings of this study (not presented in the Table 2) revealed
that a percentage of 57% (f.=.755) of the sample stated that they did mind ‘when
immigrants behave as if they have more rights than Cypriots’. However, 38%
(f.=.503) of the sample agreed that ‘they like someone no matter what his/her
origin is’ and a percentage of 44.9% (f.=.598) agreed that ‘they like someone no
matter what his/her skin colour is’.
ANOVA tests revealed statistically significant differences among the three age
groups in the sample (primary, lower secondary and upper secondary). More
specifically, differences were found in the following statements: (i) ‘I do mind the
presence of immigrants in Cyprus’ (F(2,.1291).=.23.41, p.<..0005); (ii) ‘I do mind
when immigrants speak in their mother tongue’ (F(2,.1289).=.17.12, p.<..0005);
(iii) ‘I do mind when immigrants socialize among themselves’ (F(2,.1280).=.9.32,
TABLE 2: Greek Cypriot students’ expectations from immigrants
I do mind when immigrants mix with each other
I expect immigrants to think like Cypriots
I expect from immigrants to get dressed like Cypriots
I expect immigrants to behave like Cypriots
I do mind the fact that I do not know immigrants very well
I do mind the presence of immigrants in Cyprus
I do mind when immigrants speak in their mother tongue
I do mind when immigrants do not understand the Greek
language very well
* Disagreement is a combination of ‘1 = strong disagreement’ and ‘2 = disagreement’
on a 5-point scale
p.<..0005); (iv) ‘I do mind when immigrants behave as if they have more rights
than Cypriots’ (F(2,.1290).=.15.29, p.<..0005); and (v) ‘I like immigrants’
(F(2,.1284).=.23.73, p.<..0005). The statistical analysis showed that upper
secondary students were more negative toward immigrants than primary students,
who were more positive toward immigrants than lower secondary students in all
of the above statements. Overall, Greek Cypriot students aged 17-18 years were
the most negative toward immigrants.
Perceptions of specific national groups
This part of the study investigated Greek Cypriot students’ perceptions of
specific national groups. Students were asked to state their perceptions of several
ethnic groups on a 1-10 scale, from ‘not at all’ to ‘very much’, on given statements
that target specific characteristics (civilised, nice, hard working, and clean). The
results generally revealed the presence of hierarchical perceptions of national
groups. It is important to clarify here that students were not asked to hierarchise
groups; hierarchies were drawn up from the responses to statements presented in
the questionnaire. Table 3 shows the general perceptions (means and standard
deviations on a 10-point scale from the lowest to the highest degree) of the sample
toward the various national groups and according to the four aforementioned
Sri Lankan
TABLE 3: Greek Cypriot students’ perceptions of specific national groups
Mean* 4.43
St Dev
6.07 4.41 4.84 4.11 6.84 7.58 6.23 5.06 2.77 8.23 5.41 5.73 4.87
2.79 2.83 2.59 2.45 2.93 2.73 2.77 2.68 2.55 2.48 2.73 2.80 2.79
St Dev
6.29 4.81 4.52 3.89 7.04 7.65 6.03 4.98 2.87 8.36 5.53 5.74 4.78
2.85 2.92 2.56 2.51 2.85 2.70 2.71 2.66 2.64 2.38 2.73 2.73 2.79
St Dev
5.93 5.01 5.44 5.03 6.19 6.91 6.47 5.86 3.08 7.58 5.59 5.85 4.99
2.70 2.93 2.56 2.74 2.82 2.66 2.71 2.78 2.69 2.68 2.72 2.71 2.75
St Dev
5.58 4.73 5.48 4.90 6.01 6.89 6.20 5.66 2.70 8.05 5.48 5.71 5.09
2.74 2.90 2.61 2.64 2.88 2.77 2.73 2.70 2.56 2.53 2.75 2.77 2.91
* All means are based on the 1-10 scale from ‘not at all’ to ‘very much’
As shown in Table 3, Greek Cypriot students view the Greeks as the most
‘civilised’, ‘hard working’ and ‘nice’ national group, followed by the English.
Americans (third group in ‘civilized’ and ‘clean’) and Chinese (third group in
‘nice’ and ‘hard working’) are the groups which follow in ranking order, after the
Greeks and the English. The Bulgarians always come before the Romanians in the
ranking. Turkish Cypriots are ranked in the middle, without having a stable
ranking position. The last national group (with significant difference from all the
others) is always the Turkish one. Also, the Pakistanis are always toward the end
of the ranking scale.
Clearly, not all of these groups enjoy the same status in Cyprus, as they are
quite different in reasons for migrating, professions exercised, and perceived
cultural identities. Thus, Greek Cypriot students evaluate the English as being
‘higher’ in their perceptions than Eastern Europeans (e.g., Romanian and
Bulgarian); at the same time, the Pakistanis and Sri-Lankans are placed even
‘lower’ than Eastern Europeans in Greek Cypriot students’ perceptions. These
perceptions indicate how Greek Cypriot students’ representations include
biases, prejudices, and particular preferences for certain national groups.
Without more data (e.g., interviews) to triangulate these findings (e.g., to
justify one’s choices), it is difficult to interpret why some groups are perceived
differently. One can only speculate on these differences based on similar
studies in which the positive perceptions of the English may have to do with
their ‘good culture’ as opposed to the Asian cultures about which Greek
Cypriot students are not so informed (Philippou, 2009). Not surprisingly,
Greek Cypriot children display the greatest negativity toward the Turks who
are traditionally represented as the ‘arch-enemy’ in Greek Cypriot society and
schools (Papadakis, 2008). Unlike earlier studies in Cyprus, however, it is
interesting to note that Turkish Cypriots are not perceived as negatively as
Turks, perhaps because of more recent efforts in the Greek Cypriot society to
make this distinction at various educational, social and political levels
(Zembylas, 2008).
This part investigates the emotions of Greek Cypriot students about
immigrants. The results show the emotional ambivalence concerning the way
Greek Cypriot students feel about immigrants.
Specifically, the majority of Greek Cypriot students, as shown in Table 4,
stated that they did not trust immigrants; they did not feel comfortable among
immigrants and they did not have friendly relationships with immigrants. On the
other hand, a great number of students disagreed with the statement ‘I dislike
immigrants’, stating that they did not disregard (ignore) immigrants and they did
not avoid them. Finally, more than half of the students disagreed with the
statement ‘I feel sorry for immigrants’.
Student responses were analysed to investigate for statistically significant
gender differences. The analysis showed that girls gave a higher score of
agreement in the statements ‘I respect immigrants’ (t.=.-4.89, df.=.1234,
p.<..0005), and ‘I feel sorry for immigrants’ (t.=.-2.28, df.=.1284, p.=..023),
indicating that they respected and felt sorry for immigrants to a higher degree than
boys. However, in the statements ‘I avoid immigrants’ (t.=.-2.28, df.=.1284,
p.=..023), ‘I dislike immigrants’ (t.=.5.62, df.=.1153, p.<..0005) and ‘I disregard
immigrants’ (t.=.4.36, df.=.1185, p.<..0005), boys were more positive than girls in
stating their disagreement with the statements above.
TABLE 4: Greek Cypriot students’ emotions about immigrants
I feel comfortable among immigrants
I dislike immigrants
I disregard immigrants
I have friendly relationships with immigrants
I avoid immigrants
I feel sorry for immigrants
I trust immigrants
* Disagreement is a combination of ‘1 = strong disagreement’ and ‘2 = disagreement’
on a 5-point scale
Moreover, running ANOVA tests, it was shown that there were statistically
significant differences among students in the three age groups (primary, lower
secondary and upper secondary). More specifically, it was found that primary
students were more positive than all the other age groups concerning the
statements ‘I trust immigrants’ (F(2,.1291).=.27.62, p.<..0005), ‘I respect
immigrants’ (F(2,.1283).=.9.05, p.<..0005) and ‘I have friendly relationships
with immigrants’ (F(2,.1290).=.15.81, p.<..0005). Furthermore, primary
students disagreed more than the older students with the statements ‘I avoid
immigrants’ (F(2,.1289).=.6.79, p.=..001), ‘I dislike immigrants’
(F(2,.1276).=.10.04, p.<..0005) and ‘I disregard immigrants’
(F(2,.1288).=.20.16, p.<..0005).
Finally, when Greek Cypriot students were asked to rank their emotions about
immigrants in general, the analysis showed, as indicated in Table 5, that the
emotion which was ranked first was ‘fear’, followed by ‘anger’ and ‘compassion’.
The last emotions in ranking were ‘aversion’, ‘disgust’ and ‘pleasure’.
TABLE 5: A hierarchy of Greek Cypriot students’ emotions about immigrants
Mean Rank*
When I think of immigrants, I feel:
* (χ2 = 99,223, p <..0005)
TABLE 6: A hierarchy of Greek Cypriot students’ emotions about immigrants
Mean Rank*
If immigrants abondon Cyprus tomorrow, I will feel:
* (χ2 = 214,998, p <..0005)
Regarding the second statement, ‘If immigrants abandon Cyprus tomorrow, I
will feel …’, the students answered that they would firstly feel ‘relief’, secondly
‘pleasure’, then ‘concern’, followed by the feeling of ‘enthusiasm’,
‘disappointment’ and lastly ‘sadness’ (see Table 6).
Self-reported behaviour
The results showed that the self-reported behaviour of Greek Cypriot students
toward immigrants was negative (with percentages of disagreement being over
50%), as shown in Table 7.
TABLE 7: Greek Cypriot students’ self-reported behaviour toward immigrants
Immigrant children invite me to their house
I invite immigrant children to my house
I help immigrant children do their homework
I live in the same neighbourhood with immigrant children
I sit next to immigrant children in class
I play with immigrant children during brake time
I collaborate with immigrant children on school projects
I help immigrant children learn Greek
I have friends who are immigrant children
I help immigrant children at school
* Disagreement is a combination of ‘1 = strong disagreement’ and ‘2 = disagreement’
on a 5-point scale
The majority of Greek Cypriot students reported that they do not help
immigrant children at school in their effort to learn Greek or to do their homework,
and they do not collaborate with immigrant children on school projects. Moreover,
they stated that they do not play with immigrant children during break time and
they do not sit next to immigrant children in class. In addition, the results showed
that Greek Cypriot students do not live in the same neighbourhood with immigrant
children, they do not invite immigrant children to their house (and vice versa), and
they do not have friends who are immigrant children.
Our analysis also revealed that there were statistically significant differences
between the answers of boys and girls. More specifically, girls were more positive
in their answers than boys (even though all the answers were overall negative, as
shown above) in the following statements: ‘I help immigrant children at school’
(t.=.-3.76, df.=.1253, p.<..0005), ‘I help immigrant children learn Greek’
(t.=.-2.91, df.=.1253, p.=..004), ‘I help immigrant children do their homework’
(t.=.-2.46, df.=.1240, p.=..014), ‘I collaborate with immigrant children on school
projects’ (t.=.-4.78, df.=.1235, p.<..0005) and ‘I sit next to immigrant children in
class’ (t.=.-2.89, df.=.1247, p.=..004).
Discussion and implications
In this study we have addressed two main issues: (i) what are the Greek Cypriot
students’ attitudes toward immigrants and Turks/Turkish Cypriots?; and (ii) which
kind of interaction (assimilation, integration and separatism) would Greek Cypriot
students like to have with immigrants? The findings of the present study show that
Greek Cypriot students manifest generally negative attitudes toward immigrants
and Turks/Turkish Cypriots; also, responses to several statements throughout the
questionnaire reveal that, overall, Greek Cypriot students seem to prefer
separation from immigrants rather than these groups’ assimilation or integration.
The following discussion summarises the main findings of the study and examines
some implications at the levels of educational policy and classroom practice.
First, while Greek Cypriot students believe that immigrants come to Cyprus to
do the jobs that Greek Cypriots refuse to do, they also consider that immigrants do
not contribute to economic development and cultural life. On the contrary, it is
widely believed that these groups are responsible for the increase in crime rates and
unemployment. This finding confirms research results on perceptions of immigrants
by adolescence in Cyprus (Trimikliniotis & Demetriou, 2007) and in Europe (Van
Peer, 2006), especially in Southern Europe, as the fourth round of the European
Social Survey (2008/2009) shows5. One might argue that the negative perceptions
of immigrants are not so unexpected, given that there seems to be no meaningful
contact between Greek Cypriot students and the immigrant population. At the same
time, however, this negativity shows not only the hegemonic views about
immigrants in the Greek Cypriot society, but also the immense pedagogical and
social work that will be required to ‘undo’ such dominant stereotypes and prejudices
(e.g., the view that immigrants are responsible for crime).
Second, Greek Cypriot students acknowledge that racism against immigrants
is a considerable problem in Cyprus and racist incidents are not isolated, because
Greek Cypriots do not behave properly toward immigrants. However, only two in
five students agree that there is discrimination against immigrants. It is certainly
encouraging (compared to previous studies in Cyprus over the years) that racism
against immigrants is acknowledged; yet, it is alarming that such a large
percentage of students denies that there is discrimination against immigrants. This
fact confirms once again the absence of any meaningful contact with immigrants,
as well as the lack of their integration in society (see Del Barco et al., 2007, for
similar findings in Spanish schools). In fact, there is a widespread belief that no
matter what immigrants do, they will never become ‘Cypriots’ culturally (i.e.,
integrated in the Cypriot society); rather, they will always be ‘bounded’ in their
own national or cultural identities.
With regard to emotions, most Greek Cypriot students express apathy and
indifference toward immigrants, except when they feel that immigrants somehow
threaten them; in the latter case, Greek Cypriot students develop highly negative
attitudes. Particularly with reference to specific national groups, Greek Cypriot
students show more preference to Westerners, while Asians are lowest in their list
(see also Theodorou, 2008; Philippou, 2009). Turkish Cypriots are in the middle,
while the least preferred in all measures is the Turkish national group. This finding
confirms previous research (e.g., Spyrou, 2004; Makriyianni, 2007) about the
dominance of certain ethnic and cultural hierarchies, but there seems to be some
improvement concerning the perceptions of Turkish Cypriots over the years. Thus,
it is shown that the Greek Cypriot students’ perceptions toward Turks and Turkish
Cypriots are gradually differentiated, with the Turks being always the lowest in the
students’ formulated hierarchies. A possible interpretation of this finding might be
found in the differential identification of the Turks and Turkish Cypriots in public
and educational discourses over the years (Papadakis, 2008). Also, our recent
ethnographic research (Zembylas, in press) shows that students are more positive
toward Turkish Cypriots than Turks because some cultural similarities are
identified with the former group, while the latter group is consistently linked to the
Turkish invasion and the increase of illegal immigrants/settlers from Turkey to
Cyprus. Although this study has not examined whether there is any correlation
between Greek Cypriot students’ attitudes toward immigrants and the attitudes
toward Turks and Turkish Cypriots, the overall findings suggest the need to
explore this intersection in future research. Especially in parts of the
Mediterranean region in which the intersection between immigration and ethnic
or other conflict is strongly present (e.g., Israel and Palestine; Morocco and Spain;
etc.), educators need to pay further attention to the ways in which it is manifested
in students’ attitudes and practices. Finally, with regard to the emotions about
immigrants, Greek Cypriot students seem to feel discomfort and lack of trust. In
particular, feelings of fear and dislike top the list. In the hypothetical scenario that
immigrants would abandon Cyprus tomorrow, feelings of relief, pleasure and
enthusiasm are the highest on the list.
Lastly, as far as self-reported behaviour is concerned, it is concluded that the
Greek-Cypriot students’ behaviour towards immigrants is rather negative. Both
boys and girls avoid contact with immigrant children, although girls appear more
positive. In general, there is a more positive assessment from girls towards
immigrants; also, primary school students (ages 11-12) appear more sensitive
towards immigrants compared with students between 13-18 years old. With
respect to a more positive assessment from girls, it is claimed that perhaps girls
show greater sensitivity than boys in social and personal issues (see e.g. Pettigrew
& Meertens, 1995). With respect to the issue of age, it might be claimed that
children of age 11-12 years old are exposed to the cultural capital that is rather
hostile to immigrants for shorter periods of time than later age groups, therefore,
the negative impact is not as strong yet.
With respect to the second research question, the present study shows that
Greek Cypriot students seem to prefer separation models of coexistence with
immigrants rather than assimilation or integration. This conclusion is based on
collective evidence from students’ responses to several statements indicating that
assimilation and/or integration of immigrants is impossible (e.g., it is believed that
immigrants will never ‘become’ Cypriots culturally) or unacceptable (e.g., it is
believed that immigrants should leave at some point anyway, so an issue of
integration does not exist). These findings confirm that there is a strong monolithic
view about ‘culture’ and ‘identity’ among Greek Cypriot students that may be
further accentuated by the unresolved political problem in Cyprus (Spyrou, 2009;
Trimikliniotis & Demetriou, 2009; Zembylas, in press). The perceptions of ethnic
and cultural hierarchies among Greek Cypriot students – particularly in relation
to Turkish Cypriots and Turks – provide evidence of a strong national ethos in
schools (for a similar argument in the context of Israel see Al-Haj, 2004, 2005).
This national ethos – which can also be linked to society and the media, but is
certainly mirrored in schools, as Bar-Tal’s (1998, 2004) research indicates in the
context of Israel – is shown in the Greek Cypriot students’ lack of concern that
intergroup interaction is missing, as well as in their expression of preference that
each group mixes within itself.
This study has implications for educational policy and classroom practice and
encourages educational researchers not only in Cyprus but also in the rest of the
Mediterranean region to explore the potential consequences of adolescent
perceptions of immigrants and other minoritised groups. At the level of
policymaking, it is important that educational authorities and schools take
responsibility for identifying and challenging adolescent racist and/or nationalist
views. As Gillborn (2008) emphasises, school authorities need to set clear
procedures for both the monitoring of racist incidents and nationalist behaviours
in schools, and commit themselves to challenge racism and ethnic discrimination
in all their formations. For example, there are still no monitoring mechanisms of
racist incidents in Greek Cypriot schools and no explicit policies addressing how
schools should respond in such cases. Often, many racist claims are covered by coopting national(ist) discourses about the Greek Cypriot struggle to survive from
the constant threat by the Turks (Zembylas, 2008). To respond to these challenges,
educational policymakers in Cyprus need to develop relevant policies that not only
recognise racist/nationalist incidents, but also propose effective strategies to deal
with them.
At the level of classroom practice, the findings of the present study suggest
that attention needs to be given to intercultural education that helps teachers and
students become more sensitive to issues related to racism, prejudice and
discrimination (Banks, 2007), along with a deeper understanding of how these
issues may cross path with national(ist) claims. As critical multiculturalism
teaches us, an important aspect of challenging racist and nationalist views is
acknowledging the role of power relations in shaping dominant discourses and
practices in society and schools (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997). Therefore, the
investigation of social injustices, contested political issues and unequal sociopolitical structures need to become an important part of the school curriculum
(Nieto, 2000) in Cyprus. The majoritised group’s limited understandings of
racism, prejudice and discrimination need to be challenged, moving beyond the
simplistic acknowledgment of racism to a more nuanced understanding of how
racist views are entangled with discrimination practices in everyday life and in
what ways they reinforce certain inclusions/exclusions on the basis of one’s
ethnic, religious or other identity. Children and youth also need to recognise that
beliefs and practices about the supposed superiority of one’s ethnic origin
constitute particular forms of racism and nationalism; thus, naming these
beliefs and practices as racist or nationalist is an important first step in
developing mechanisms to overcome stereotypes and prejudices (Zembylas,
2008, 2010a).
In conclusion, the need to make sense of the emerging relationships between
indigenous and non-indigenous students constitutes a key component of forming
effective educational policies and classroom practices that will balance unity and
diversity in any educational system of the increasingly multicultural
Mediterranean region. Unity without diversity results in hegemony and
oppression; diversity without unity leads to separatism and fragmentation
(Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997; Banks, 2007). Although set in a different context,
Gillborn (2008) makes an argument which is relevant to all Mediterranean
societies: the importance of recognising diversity while promoting unity and antiracism. In countries which suffer from ethnic or other conflict, it seems that there
is an additional level of complexity that demands our in-depth attention and
analysis, perhaps as a way to overcome these conflicts.
Most of the migrants to the Republic of Cyprus are third country nationals from south east
Asia, Arab countries, eastern Europe and some European Union citizens; also, a large number
includes the Pontian Greeks, who form a special category because most of them are holders
of Greek passports and can settle in Cyprus without too many formalities (Trimikliniotis &
Demetriou, 2007; Trimikliniotis, 1999). There has also been some internal movement of
Turkish Cypriots (who are Cypriot citizens) from the north to the south of Cyprus, especially
after the partial lift of restrictions of movement in 2003.
Although the word ‘indigenous’ has certainly different meanings in different contexts, we use
the term ‘indigenous’ here in reference to how the local population is self-identified as the
group that has ‘natural rights’ over Cyprus (see Trimikliniotis, 2009; Zembylas, 2010b).
We are currently finalising a mixed-method study that focuses precisely on examining the
links between attitudes toward immigrants and those toward Turks and Turkish Cypriots.
The term ‘Turkish-speaking’ is more inclusive and this is why it is used here in reference to
both Turkish Cypriots and Roma (who speak Turkish in Cyprus). It is not always easy to
distinguish who is ‘ethnically’ Turkish Cypriot and who is Roma (Trimikliniotis &
Demetriou, 2009). When we want to make a distinction in the text, then the term ‘Turkish
Cypriots’ is used.
The findings of this study resonate with research results on the general public perceptions
of immigrants in several European countries (e.g., Green, 2007; Masso, 2009; Rustenbach,
Michalinos Zembylas is assistant professor of Education at the Open University of
Cyprus. His research interests are in the areas educational philosophy and curriculum
theory, and his work focuses on exploring the role of emotion and affect in curriculum
and pedagogy. He is particularly interested in how affective politics intersect with
issues of social justice pedagogies, intercultural and peace education, and citizenship
education. His e-mail address is: [email protected]
Athina Michaelidou is Head of the Centre for Educational Research and Evaluation
at the Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus. Her research interests are in the areas of
teachers’ role in research efforts and action research within the school context. She has
participated in many research and educational policy projects in Cyprus, and she is
involved in several projects funded by the EU and the Cyprus Research Foundation.
She has presented her work in national and international conferences. Her e-mail
address is: [email protected]
Thekla Afantiti-Lamprianou works at the Centre for Educational Research and
Evaluation at the Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus. She has a PhD in mathematics
education. Her research in the last couple of years includes multicultural education.
Her e-mail address is: [email protected]
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A. Varnava (eds.) The Minorities of Cyprus: Development Patterns and the Identity of
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Van Peer, C. (2006) Education on population matters in Europe: results from a comparative
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Zembylas, M. (2010a) Greek-Cypriot teachers’ constructions of Turkish-speaking
children’s identities: critical race theory and education in a conflict-ridden society,
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Vol. 22(1), pp. 39-59
Zembylas, M. (in press) Children’s construction and experience of racism and nationalism
in Greek-Cypriot primary schools, Childhood.
We would like to ask you to complete with honesty the following anonymous
questionnaire, which is conducted by the Centre of Educational Research
and Evaluation of the Ministry of Education and Culture, regarding how you
think and feel about immigrants and other groups in Cyprus.
Very much
A lot
1. Immigrants make Cyprus a better place
2. Immigrants enrich the cultural life and the
tradition of Cyprus
3. Immigrants steal jobs from Cypriots
4. Immigrants help the economy of Cyprus
5. Immigrants make Cyprus a worse place
6. Immigrants are employed in jobs that Cypriots do
not want to do
7. Immigrants are to be blamed for the increase of
crime in Cyprus
8. Immigrants should forget their own habits
9. Immigrants help Cypriots to see things in a
different way
10. Immigrants must return to their origin countries
11. The way Cypriots behave towards immigrants
is very good
A little bit
Note to what extent you agree with each of the
following statements, by putting in circle the
appropriate number from the scale on the right:
Not at all
12. Immigrants have the same opportunities as
Cypriots to succeed in their life
13. The number of the immigrants in Cyprus is too high
14. Racism against immigrants is justifiable
15. There is discrimination against immigrants in
16. No matter what the immigrants do, they will never
become Cypriots
17. Immigrants have more rights than Cypriots do
18. Immigrants should be obliged to learn Greek
19. Racial incidents in Cyprus are scarce, occasional
20. Racism is a big problem in Cyprus
21. I consider immigrants as equal to Cypriots
22. It is important for immigrants to preserve their own
culture and their own values in life
23. The national identity of Cypriot people is
threatened by the presence of immigrants
Note to what extent you agree with each of the
following statements, by putting in circle the
appropriate number from the scale on the right:
Not at all
A little bit
Very much
A lot
1. I do mind the presence of immigrants in Cyprus
2. I do mind when immigrants speak in their mother
3. I do mind when immigrants socialize among
4. I do mind when immigrants do not understand
the Greek language very well
5. I do mind when immigrants behave as if they have
more rights than Cypriots
6. I do mind the fact that I don’t know immigrants
very well
7. I expect from immigrants to get dressed like
8. I expect from immigrants to think like Cypriots
9. I expect from immigrants to behave like Cypriots
10. I like immigrants
11. I like somebody no matter what his/her origin is
12. I like somebody no matter what his/her skin
colour is
Complete what your belief is about each of the following groups by putting in circle
the appropriate number from a scale 1-10 (for each pair of characteristics separately).
Uncivilized 1
Sri Lankans
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Uncivilized 1
Hard working
Note to what extent you agree with each of the
following statements, by putting in circle the
appropriate number from the scale on the right:
Not at all
A little bit
Very much
A lot
I trust immigrants
I respect immigrants
I dislike immigrants
I disregard immigrants
I feel sorry for immigrants
I feel comfortable among immigrants
Immigrants keep me neutral
I have friendly relationships with immigrants
Use numbers from 1-6 to put in order the six emotions of each statement, starting
from the strongest one (e.g., write number 1 for the emotion which you feel to be the
strongest of all, number 2 for the strongest emotion after number 1 etc.)
When I think of the immigrants I feel:
If immigrants abandon Cyprus tomorrow, I will feel:
Note to what extent you agree with each of the
following statements, by putting in circle the
appropriate number from the scale on the right:
Not at all
A little bit
Very much
A lot
I help immigrant children at school
I help immigrant children learn Greek
I help immigrant children do their homework
I collaborate with immigrant children on school
I sit next to immigrant children in class
I play with immigrant children during break time
I live in the same neighbourhood with immigrant
I invite immigrant children to my house
Immigrant children invite me to their house
10. I have friends who are immigrant children
Put a √ or complete:
1. Gender:
2. Class:
3. Primary School
High School
4. Did you have the opportunity to meet immigrant children? Yes
If YES how many?…………
5. Do you have immigrant children in your class?
If YES how many?…………
6. Are you an immigrant child?
Abstract – This paper analyses the process of implementation of a new policy on
teacher performance appraisal in Portugal. It addresses issues related to its
purposes and underpinning assumptions, and the ways in which it has been put
into place in schools. Data are drawn from a review of existing literature on the
topic both nationally and internationally, from official documents and from
current research in which the author is involved. By and large, the system is rather
summative and bureaucratic which can be seen in the amount of regulations,
grids, and documents and the ways in which the outcomes of the appraisal system
are to be achieved and used. Among the most critical issues are the existence of
a quota system, the lack of recognition of the appraisers, existing bureaucracy,
which represents a burden for most schools and teachers, etc. The paper
concludes with some recommendations and ways of looking forward.
n many countries, concerns about student achievement in national and
international assessments and the need to raise the standards of teaching and to
improve the quality of pupil learning have led the governments to a number of
reforms. These have focused in many cases on standard-based models and on
increased accountability and surveillance of teachers’ work, among which is
teacher performance management and appraisal (Middlewood & Cardno, 2001;
Avalos, 2004; Avalos & Assael, 2006; Assael & Pavez, 2008). Portugal is no
exception. In 2007, a new Teacher Career Statute (Decree-Law number 15/2007)
was issued stipulating the existence of two categories of teachers and the
principles of differentiation and hierarchy in the teaching career along with new
teacher appraisal mechanisms.
Thus, it is important not only to analyse the assumptions and principles
underpinning the new policy on teacher performance appraisal, but it is also
crucial to look at the ways in which teachers and school leaders perceive it and the
ways in which they make sense of it. This paper addresses the following questions:
(i) what are the main features (and the assumptions underpinning them) of the new
policy on teacher performance appraisal in the Portuguese context?; and (ii) given
the general acceptance of the need for a new policy on teacher performance
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 41-60, 2010
appraisal, what are the arguments behind resistance and controversy in regard to
the new policy issued in 2007? This analysis is based upon a review of existing
literature on the topic both nationally and internationally, from official documents
and from current research in which the author is involved.
Teacher performance management and appraisal: what does the
literature tell us?
In general, existing literature identified the tensions between formative
(oriented toward professional development) and summative purposes (linked to
accountability and managerial decisions) (Chow et al., 2002; Avalos & Assael,
2006; Stronge, 2006a). Whereas some authors argue for the incompatibility of
these two purposes, others advocate the possibility and the need to incorporate
them into the same system of teacher appraisal (see, for instance, Simões, 2000;
Chow et al., 2002; Avalos & Assael, 2006; Stronge, 2010). This needs to be related
to views of teaching and teacher professionalism (Darling-Hammond, Wise &
Pease, 1983; Sachs, 2003; Flores, 2005; Day, Flores & Viana, 2007) and the ways
in which given concepts of teaching are translated into evaluation criteria and
standards (Avalos & Assael, 2006).
In a recent review, Vaillant (2008) draws attention to the diversity of the
teacher appraisal systems worldwide and of the mechanisms for certifying and
assessing teachers. She has also identified the political, conceptual and operational
factors which facilitate and hinder teacher appraisal process, drawing attention to
the need to take into account the contextual variables in the implementation of a
teacher appraisal system as well as the adequacy of the instruments for the
appraisal process, the need of the appraisers to be recognised and the importance
of feedback.
Existing literature discusses teacher appraisal systems within an accountability
era through dominant forms that threaten teachers’ traditional autonomy (e.g.,
school inspection and performance management in England), but it also
recognises the key importance of self-assessment and of critical reflection to
teacher professional development and improvement through, for instance,
reflection in, on and about practice; action research; and teacher learning
academies (Day, 2010). As Stronge & Tucker (1999) arguably suggest,
‘Evaluation can be an important tool for supporting and improving the quality of
teaching. Unfortunately, teacher evaluation too frequently has been viewed not as
vehicle for growth and improvement, but rather as a formality that must be
endured’ (p. 356). And they go on to say: ‘When evaluators approach evaluation
as a mechanical, bureaucratic exercise and teachers view it as an event that must
be endured, evaluation becomes little more than a time-consuming ritual’ (p. 356).
In other words, what is of crucial importance in teacher appraisal systems is its link
to professional development and improvement. This is to be related to issues of
quality of teaching, learning and achievement. In this regard, Darling-Hammond
(2010) draws a distinction between teacher quality and teaching quality. The
former is associated with ‘the bundle of personal traits, skills, and understandings
an individual brings to teaching, including dispositions to behave in certain ways’
(p. 200); the latter has to do with ‘strong instruction that enables a wide range of
students to learn’ (p. 201) in order to meet the demands of the discipline, the goals
of instruction, and the needs of students in a particular context. Thus, as the author
suggests, ‘Teaching quality is in part a function of teacher quality – teachers’
knowledge, skills, and dispositions – but it is also strongly influenced by the
context of instruction’ (p. 201).
Thus, teacher appraisal systems are about documenting the quality of teacher
performance, helping them improve and holding them accountable for their work
(Stronge, 2006b). Discussing the essential components for a quality teacher
appraisal system, Stronge (2010) draws attention to the three Cs – that is,
Communication, Commitment and Collaboration – in order to create ‘the synergy
that can elevate evaluation to a meaningful dialogue about quality instruction for
students’ (p. 31). This means that for quality teacher appraisal, it is important to
look at the ways in which both appraisers and appraisees see the appraisal process
and the relationship between them (Chow et al., 2002), the ways in which schools
and head teachers put a given policy into practice as well as the nature and the
purposes of the appraisal system. Added to this is the level of information and
training of various stakeholders involved in the process, particularly the appraisers
and the teachers. As Nevo (1994) noted, ‘teachers who understand how teaching
is being evaluated could not only improve their self-evaluation; they could also
benefit in preparing themselves for being evaluated by others or demonstrating the
quality of their skills and performance to designated audiences’ (pp. 109-110).
Existing literature on teacher appraisal has highlighted its complexity as far as
its purposes, processes and effects are concerned. It has drawn attention to the
importance of teachers’ perceptions and the complexity of the social dimension in
the implementation process (Fullan, 2001; Van der Vegt, Smyth & Vandenberghe,
2001; Flores, 2005; Tuytens & Devos, 2008). In this respect, both the content of
the evaluation system and the context in which the system will be used have to be
taken into account if it is to be effective and successful (Peterson & Comeaux,
1990). Research has demonstrated the need to pay attention to the meaning (and
sense-making) of the actors involved in the implementation of a given policy, their
values and emotions as well as the social interactions and the contexts in which
such change is going to be implemented (Timperley & Robinson, 1997; Van der
Berg, Vandenberghe & Sleegers, 1999; Spillane, Reiser & Reimer, 2002). A recent
study by Tuytens & Devos (2008) has shown the influence of the principal on
teachers’ perceptions of a new policy on teacher evaluation, lending support to
previous empirical work (Retallick & Fink, 2002; Kertsen & Israel, 2005).
Fullan (2001) draws attention to the dynamics of the factors of change and he
states that ‘intrinsic dilemmas in the change process, coupled with the
intractability of some factors and the uniqueness of individual settings, make
successful change a highly complex and subtle process’ (p. 71). Van der Berg,
Vandenberghe & Sleegers (1999), for instance, stress that teachers construct their
own systems of knowledge, skills and attitudes regarding their job and these will
inform the personal meaning with which they shape their professional behaviour
and the ways in which they deal with change. Others suggest that ‘teachers’ prior
beliefs and practices can pose challenges not only because teachers are unwilling
to change in the direction of the policy but also because their extant
understandings may interfere with their ability to interpret and implement the
reform in ways consistent with the designers’ intent’ (Spillane, Reiser & Reimer,
2002, p. 393). This is even more complex when what is at stake is a new policy
on teacher performance appraisal.
Teacher performance appraisal in Portugal: context and content
In Portugal, the centralisation of the decision-making process and bureaucracy
are two key elements in the education system (Lima, 2006; Ferreira, 2008). These
are very much prevalent in the structures and cultures of the system itself and of
the schools, despite the rhetoric of decentralisation and autonomy. This situation
leads in many cases to the mismatch between the discourse and the reality,
between the legal norms and the real practice. In other words, on the one hand,
there is the legal framework – the national policy level – which entails, for
instance, the principles of decentralisation and de-bureaucratisation along with the
discourse of flexibility and autonomy. On the other hand, there is the level of
practice (schools and teachers at the local level) in which opportunities, challenges
and constraints emerge in a context marked by highly centralised and bureaucratic
tradition (Ferreira, 2008). Thus, the policies and reforms of de-centralisation and
de-bureaucratisation and their emphasis on assessment and outcomes co-exist
with centralised practices prevailing in the structures and cultures which value the
formal procedures (Flores & Ferreira, 2007). This tradition of centralisation and
bureaucracy is visible in the amount of legal texts and decree-laws issued by the
Ministry of Education, an example of which is the new policy on teacher
performance appraisal as it will be illustrated later in this paper. In this section,
a brief overview of the new policy is presented. After a summary of the main
features of the legal framework for teacher performance appraisal prior to the
publication of the new policy in 2007, the main dimensions of the system currently
underway will be discussed in the light of existing literature on this topic.
The situation before 2007: teacher career and teacher appraisal
Up until recently, the career of teachers was regulated by legislation issued in
1990 (Decree-Law number 139-A/1990). This regulation stipulated the Teacher
Career Statute which was based upon the principle of a ‘single career’. All teachers
would follow the same path in order to progress to the top of their career. Ten
different steps comprised the teaching career. In general, progression was
understood as a ‘matter of time’ in so far as it was dependent upon years of
experience, a number of credits obtained for attending in-service education courses1
and the writing-up of a critical reflection on one’s own practice. Teachers had to
write-up a report (self-assessment report) in which they stated the activities they had
undertaken, the teaching they had done over a given period of time (depending on
the stage of the career in which they were, usually for 4 or 5 years, except for the
one-year contract teachers who had to do it annually). The report was to be assessed
by the leadership team (the Executive Council) of the school in which they worked.
It was an administrative and bureaucratic model for progression in the teaching
career within a teacher appraisal system which ‘did not evaluate’ as literature in this
topic has highlighted (e.g., Pacheco & Flores, 1999; Silva & Conboy, 2004).
In 2006, the government started the implementation of a process of change to
this model. The principles of differentiation and hierarchy (contrasting with the
flat career existing up until then) were introduced along with evaluation
mechanisms based upon the fact that ‘[existing] teacher performance appraisal,
with very few exceptions, has become a mere bureaucratic procedure without no
content at all’ (quote from the preamble of the Decree-Law number 15/2007 which
has introduced the new policy on teacher performance appraisal).
The Teacher Career Statute (2007) and its main features
The new Teacher Career Statute was issued in 2007 (Decree-Law number 15/
2007) and was justified by the government with the need to ‘promote the
cooperation amongst teachers’ and to ‘reinforce coordination roles’ at school
which require a new structure for the teaching career based upon the principles of
differentiation. It was also related to the need to introduce a ‘more demanding
system for teacher performance appraisal with effects on the development of
teachers’ career’ making it possible to ‘identify, promote and reward the merit and
to value the teaching activity’ (see preamble of Decree-Law 15/2007). The new
Teacher Career Statute stipulates the existence of two teacher categories (senior
teachers, i.e., professores titulares and classroom teachers, i.e., professores) – the
former, apart from teaching, are responsible for coordinating roles at school and
supervision and evaluation of other teachers. The criteria used to apply to senior
teachers include years of experience and post-graduate qualification and
performance appraisal outcomes2. Those who may access the category of
professor titular (senior teacher) must have a permanent post at school, 18 years
of experience, at least ‘good’ as a classification in terms of performance appraisal
and must be approved in a public examination which focuses upon the teacher’s
professional activity developed over a certain period of time in order to
demonstrate the abilities necessary to become senior teacher and undertaking the
roles inherent to this post (article 38, Decree-Law number 15/2007). However,
access to the top of the career is limited to a third of the number of posts available
in any given school. A recent Decree-Law (number 270/2009) establishes new
rules for teacher career statute, namely in terms of years of service in each stage;
the introduction of another stage for teachers in the category of professores (i.e.,
classroom teachers) and new rules for accessing to the category of professores
titulares (i.e., senior teachers), namely in terms of years of service to apply for
public examination in order to access the senior teacher category.
Another initiative relates to the conditions for accessing the teaching career.
From now on, an ‘examination’ on ‘knowledge and competencies’ is required for all
those entering the teaching profession in order to ‘demonstrate the mastery of
knowledge and competencies required to teach’ in a given area/field of knowledge
(article 22, Decree-Law number 15/2007). A ‘probationary year’ (in order to verify
the abilities of the new teacher regarding the requirements of the profession) was
also introduced during which the new entrant is accompanied by a senior teacher
with specialised training in educational organisation and curriculum development,
pedagogical supervision and teacher training (see article 31, Decree-Law number
15/2007). This new initiative is in place for the first time during the academic year
2009/2010 (cf. Despacho number 21666/2009).
The teacher performance appraisal system
With the new legislation, new mechanisms for teacher performance appraisal
were also introduced. It is argued that teacher performance appraisal has become
more demanding and complex, having effects upon the progression in the teaching
career in order to ‘identify, promote and recognise merit’. The main goals of the
teacher performance appraisal are to ‘improve student achievement and the quality
of student learning’ and to ‘provide guidelines for personal and professional
development within a framework of a system recognising merit and excellence’ (see
article 40, Decree-Law number 15/2007). Teacher performance appraisal also aims
at: (i) contributing to improve teaching practice; (ii) contributing to improve teacher
development and growth; (iii) identifying teachers’ training needs; (iv) identifying
the factors which influence teachers’ achievements; (v) differentiating and
recognising the best professionals; (vi) identifying indicators for managerial
decisions; (vii) promoting cooperation among teachers in order to enhance student
achievement; and (viii) promoting excellence and quality of the services to the
community (see also article 40, Decree-Law number 15/2007). Teacher
performance appraisal is applied according to the duties and roles of teachers (stated
in the same Decree-Law number 15/2007) in the light of the four main dimensions
which are considered to be the key elements in the depiction of the professional
profile of teachers (see Decree-Law number 240/2001)3: (i) professional and ethical
dimension; (ii) development of teaching and learning; (iii) participation in school
activities and relationship with the community; and (iv) training and professional
development within a lifelong perspective. The Scientific Council for Teacher
Appraisal (2008b), the national body which is responsible for giving
recommendations and monitoring the implementation of the appraisal process at a
national level, suggests the need to define national standards for teacher appraisal
beyond 2009/2010 based upon practice carried out in the first cycle of evaluation.
Teacher performance appraisal is to be carried out every two years; the end of the
first cycle of the evaluation process is to be completed by December 2009. In
January 2008, the Decree number 2/2008 was issued specifying the procedures to
be put into practice within the new teacher performance appraisal system.
The Decree number 2/2008 stipulates that teachers are entitled to have their
performance appraised, the aim of which is to contribute to their professional
development. Teachers, it is also stated, are granted the ‘necessary means and
conditions for their performance in accordance with the targets set up’. Teachers
are also required to do ‘their own self-assessment in order to guarantee their active
involvement and hold them responsible for the appraisal process’ and to ‘improve
their performance based upon the information collected during the appraisal
process’. Teachers are knowledgeable of ‘the objectives, assumptions, content and
functioning of teacher performance appraisal system’ and they have the right to
appeal. Teachers fill in a form with their own self-assessment, the aim of which
is to ‘involve the appraisee in the appraisal process in order to identify
opportunities for professional development’ and ‘meeting the targets set up’
including those related to the improvement of student achievement (see article 16,
Decree number 2/2008). Self-assessment is compulsory for all teachers. Table 1
summarises the main characteristics of the existing teacher performance appraisal
TABLE 1: Main characteristics of the teacher performance appraisal system (see also
Flores, 2009a)
Every two years
Main effects
Progression in the teaching career (mainly summative purpose)
Coordinator/head of department (who may delegate this task to
other senior teachers)
Head teacher (who may delegate this task to other members of
the Executive Council)
Issues to be
The head of department assesses the scientific and pedagogical
involvement and quality of the teacher based upon:
(i) preparation and organisation of teaching; (ii) teaching itself;
(iii) pedagogical relationship with the students; and (iv) process
of assessing student learning. At least three lessons (in different
modules or topics) are to be observed each school year for each
teacher. The head teacher assesses the following aspects: (i) level
of attendance (number of lessons taught); (ii) level of accomplishment of the duties required of the teacher; (iii) progress in
student achievement and reduction of dropout rates taking into
account the socio-educational context of the school; (iv)
participation at school which includes the participation of the
teacher in activities planned for the school year and quality and
relevance of teacher participation for meeting the targets;
(v) in-service training undertaken, namely courses related to the
content of the teacher’s subject and those related to the needs of
the school; (vi) roles undertaken at school; and (vii) development
of research and innovative projects at school.
Instruments are to be approved by the Pedagogical Council4 of
each school in the light of the recommendations of the Scientific
Council for Teacher Appraisal.
It includes the setting up of individual targets for each teacher
(agreed between appraisers and appraisee; in case of
disagreement, the appraisers’ perspective is prevalent). Individual
targets are set up based upon: (i) improvement of student
achievement; (ii) reduction of dropout rates; (iii) support given
to student learning including those with learning difficulties;
(iv) participation in the educational and management structures
at school; (v) relationship with the community; (vi) in-service
activities relevant for the individual professional development
plan; and (vii) participation and development of projects or
activities included in the Annual Activity Plan of the school and
other extra-curricular projects and activities.
The appraisal process encompasses the following steps: filling in
the self-assessment form by the teacher to be appraised; filling
in the assessment forms by the appraisers; checking and
validating of the evaluations of ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ and
‘unsatisfactory’ by the Committee for coordinating teacher
performance appraisal at school level; individual interview
between appraisers and appraisee; final meeting among
appraisers in order to reach the final appraisal decision.
rating scale
Very Good
A quota system does exist in each school for ‘excellent’ and
‘very good’ evaluations (to be fixed in accordance with external
evaluation of the school)5.
of the person
In each school, a Committee for coordinating teacher
performance appraisal is created. A national council – the
Scientific Council for Teacher Appraisal – was also created in
order to monitor the process of implementation of teacher
performance appraisal (see Decree number 4/2008).
The main characteristics of teacher performance appraisal system in Portugal
were presented very briefly in this section. However, a number of adjustments
have been made over the last two years in the process of its implementation
leading to the publication of more legal texts in order to overcome the resistance
(from the part of teachers and teachers’ unions) and turbulence in schools. This
was associated with an increase in workload and bureaucracy, thus, making it
difficult for schools to manage and implement the system of teacher performance
appraisal which was considered to be a burden for schools and teachers. This has
led to two processes of ‘simplification’ of the model which will be dealt with in
the next section.
The process of implementation of the new policy: resistance and drawbacks
By and large, the key features of the new system for teacher performance
appraisal include a diversity of appraisers and instruments, the consideration of a
number of dimensions in the teacher performance appraisal process (including
classroom observation), the setting up of targets regarding a number of issues
including student achievement, the existence of a quota system (one of the most
critical issues), along with hierarchy and differentiation in the teaching career
introduced by the Decree-Law number 15/2007. These changes were not without
controversy, especially from the part of the teachers’ unions and the teachers
themselves who have organised independent movements in order to fight against
the new policy. Teachers went on strike twice during 2008/2009 and two large
demonstrations were also organised (May and November) in the streets in Lisbon
with over 100,000 teachers protesting against the new policy. While the existence
of ‘a single career’ for all teachers was an important win acquired by teachers’
unions in the Teacher Career Statute in 1990, teachers also saw it positively in
terms of job security, fairness and collegiality, even if many teachers wanted
differentiation in teaching. Claims that the model is too bureaucratic due to the
amount of meetings, grids and other paperwork teachers have to comply with,
preventing them from focusing on teaching and learning, were at the forefront of
the protests. Teachers were also critical of the lack of training and specific skills
required of appraisers and of the hierarchy and differentiation introduced in the
teaching career6.
Recent years have, therefore, been marked by turbulence and resistance with
implications for schools and teachers’ work. A number of tensions and a climate
of anxiety and pressure in schools, along with ongoing protests about the new
policy, became part of the day-to-day lives of schools and teachers (which was
very much visible in the media). In order to respond to protests and resistance,
especially about the claim that there were no conditions to implement the new
policy under the current circumstances in schools, the government has introduced
two processes of ‘simplification’.
The first one concerned the appraisal of teachers (especially those with oneyear contracts and those who needed the outcome of the appraisal process in order
to progress in their career) during 2007/2008 (see Decree number 11/2008).
This simplified version included the following: (i) self-assessment form; and
(ii) assessment form from the Executive Council according to the following items
– (a) level of attendance; (b) accomplishment of the service attributed to the
teacher; and (c) attendance at in-service training courses. The second process of
‘simplification’ took place recently (see Decree number 1-A/2009) after a number
of protests on the part of the teachers and teachers’ unions, namely two strikes
and demonstrations. Three main areas of concern were then identified: (i) the
existence of appraisers from different areas of knowledge of those to be assessed;
(ii) bureaucracy; and (iii) the heavy workload inherent to the process of teacher
performance appraisal. Thus, the government has introduced a simplified version
to be put into place in schools in the first cycle of the appraisal process (which
ends in December 2009). It can be described as follows:
to guarantee that appraisers are from the same field of knowledge of those
to be assessed;
(ii) to exclude from the appraisal process the criteria regarding student
achievement and dropout rates (taking into consideration the difficulties of
these issues identified by the national Scientific Council for Teacher
(iii) in the case of tacit agreement, meetings between appraisers and appraises
are not necessary;
(iv) the process of appraisal carried out by the heads of department is to occur
only when appraisees require so (including classroom observation), but it
is a necessary condition to get the final evaluation of ‘excellent’ and ‘very
(v) to reduce to two (instead of three) the number of lessons to be observed,
although the appraisees may require a third classroom observation;
(vi) teachers who may retire until 2010/2011 (or those who want to apply for
early retirement) are excused from the appraisal process;
(vii) to excuse teachers teaching professional and vocational areas from the
appraisal process unless they want to do so;
(viii) to simplify the appraisal process of the appraisers and to compensate for
their workload (they are only assessed by the Executive Council of the
Overall, these changes and adjustments to the process of appraisal resulted
from the lack of conditions to put into practice such a complex and bureaucratic
system and they represent, to some extent, a drawback in some of the key elements
of the new policy. One of the main critical issues is classroom observation – a key
element in teacher appraisal – which has become not compulsory over the last two
years (i.e., 2007/2008 and 2008/2009). Other areas of concern relate to the lack of
recognition and training of appraisers and the excessive bureaucracy which this
model has brought to schools, along with difficulties in terms of time to perform
all the tasks and roles required of the schools and teachers within the framework
of the new policy. This became visible in teachers’ resistance to the model,
especially because they saw it as something ‘against them’ and ‘imposed on them’.
This is also to be related to the ways in which the government has dealt with the
introduction of the new policy and the ways in which it has been put into practice,
particularly the timing and the conditions for its implementation. The introduction
of this policy was regarded as a fact rather than a process to be understood and
tried out within a context of adequate information, training and discussion. All
this, associated with the fact that there was no experimentation before
generalisation and the inexistence of a culture of evaluation, has led to a rather
complicated situation which may undermine the need and relevance (and effects)
of a policy of teacher performance appraisal aiming at improving the quality of
teaching, teacher and school development.
In a recent empirical study, carried out during the implementation of the new
policy, Ribeiro (2008) found that teachers’ expectations about the effects of the
new system were rather low. A negative view was prevalent which was associated
with issues of inequality, competition among teachers, negative impact upon
teachers’ working relationships, bureaucracy and the lack of possibility to
progress in the teaching career due to the quota system. Some teachers were
sceptical, pointing to the ambiguity and doubt as far as the effects of the new
system were concerned. They were concerned about the purposes and the process
of the implementation of the new policy and its impact upon practice. There were
doubts and concerns about the ways in which the new system would promote
teachers’ professional development and the quality of teaching. Only a minority
revealed a positive perspective about the new system which they related to the
combination between teachers’ professional development and accountability
purposes that they saw as one of the positive features of the new system. Overall,
concerns about the profile of the appraisers, the nature of communication between
appraiser and appraisee, and the need for adequate and reliable assessment
instruments were also identified by the teachers. The scepticism concerning the
effects of the new policy and the lack of social recognition of the teaching
profession were also said to be two of the critical issues (Ribeiro & Flores, 2008).
Some of the issues illustrated above have also been highlighted by head
teachers and school teachers within the context of ongoing research (see Flores,
2009b, 2009c). By and large, findings point to a rather negative picture of the
situation in schools. Feelings of unhappiness, lack of motivation and sense of job
satisfaction, along with, in some cases, conflict and tension emerge from the data.
These are mainly associated with issues of purpose of the policy and process of
its implementation (which many teachers see as too summative and unfair), lack
of recognition of the appraisers, lack of information and training about the teacher
performance appraisal system, bureaucracy, and the existence of a quota system.
Teachers were also sceptical concerning the effects of the new policy on their
continuing professional development and on school improvement.
Conclusion and discussion: looking forward
By and large, the implementation of the new policy has been marked by
resistance and controversy, although there is general agreement about the need to
change the former system which was considered to be ineffective (based on a selfassessment report). Avalos & Assael (2006, p. 265), drawing upon the Chilean
experience, have identified a number of suggestions and recommendations for the
implementation of teacher performance appraisal systems: (i) ‘wide participation
of all stakeholders, especially teachers’; (ii) formulation of ‘criteria in a
participatory way’ to be based upon existing knowledge on competent teaching;
(iii) trying out of a ‘variety of procedures and instruments’; (iv) connecting teacher
performance appraisal to other teacher policies (e.g., professional development
opportunities); and (v) ‘resisting the temptation to hurry the design and
implementation process. Rather, provide time for both, as well as for monitoring
especially in the first years of implementation and remain willing to make any
needed adjustments’.
If we take these into account and relate them to the Portuguese context, it can
be argued that most of them, if not all, were overlooked. Indeed, as described
above, there was a generalisation of the system without previous experimentation.
The time between design and implementation (and generalisation) was too short
for an adequate dissemination of the information and for relevant training to
occur7. As a consequence, the level of participation was not that adequate either.
Teacher participation and a sense of ownership are crucial if teacher performance
appraisal is to be effective and successful (Nevo, 1994; Avalos & Assael, 2006).
Two of the factors hindering this process were the ways in which the new system
was implemented and the timing of its implementation (including all the
regulations and increased amount of work that schools and teachers had to
handle). By and large, the existing system is rather summative and bureaucratic
which can be seen in the amount of regulations, grids, and documents and the ways
in which the outcomes of the appraisal system are to be achieved and used. Among
the most critical issues are the quota system, the lack of recognition of the
appraisers, the necessary time and conditions to undertake such a complex and
bureaucratic system, the follow-up and support in terms of opportunities for
teacher professional development, bureaucracy, etc.
If there is agreement upon the need to introduce a new system for teacher
performance appraisal, which would focus on the key element of teachers’ practice
– the classroom practice – and which would ‘recognise and promote merit’, along
with the participation of different appraisers, the truth is that the ways in which the
new policy has been implemented has led to even more resistance and controversy.
An analysis of the new policy, the process of its implementation and the current
situation in schools identifies a number of risks. Apart from the problems
described above, the ways in which senior teachers were selected (in the first
phase), and the timing and the ways in which the process was implemented has led
to a climate of tensions, turbulence and anxiety in schools leading to early
retirements (in some cases with significant reductions in terms of salary). The risk
is that this policy will lead to no real effect in terms of teacher professional
development, quality of teaching and school improvement. Rather, superficial
changes might occur with no impact upon changing or challenging existing
teacher professional cultures (and teacher socialisation), with issues such as
individualism and competition undermining the creation and development of
communities of practice in schools. This was indeed one of the critical issues
identified by the Scientific Council for Teacher Appraisal (2008a, p. 1)
recognising ‘the risk of teacher appraisal to become an irrelevant act in terms of
teacher professional development’ due to the ‘excessive bureaucracy, the
emergence or reinforcement of unnecessary conflicts’ and ‘moving away from the
formative and regulatory goals’ that a teacher appraisal model should include.
These are also felt as real concerns for teachers in recent research (Flores, 2009b;
2009c) in so far as they were rather negative and sceptical in regard to the ways
in which they see the development of this policy, especially in regard to working
relationships in the workplace.
Recent reports by OECD (see Santiago et al., 2009) and the national Scientific
Council for Teacher Appraisal (CCAP, 2009) point to the existence of a number
of features to be improved in the Portuguese teacher performance appraisal
system. A recent study (CCAP, 2009) of the process of monitoring of the
implementation of the teacher performance appraisal, involving 30 schools,
reports that problems were felt at three levels:
at a macro-level – in which policies related to the teaching career, namely with
differentiation, accountability, and quota system, etc., were at the forefront of
the resistance and lack of motivation;
at a meso or school level – changes in school organisation namely in regard to
departments and existing cultures and practice. These relate to the lack of
classroom observation and the hierarchy and role differentiation which,
according to teachers, undermine collaboration;
at a micro-level – within the teaching profession and at the level of practice in
so far as the system has changed the culture of peers (lack of differentiation)
and individual autonomy. This gave rise to lack of motivation, conflicts and
changes in professional relationships among teachers.
In general data point to the inadequate timing in terms of the implementation
of the system; the too early and normative production of tools for teacher
appraisal; the normative view prevailing at schools; the mediatisation of the
process and its impact upon the profession and upon the society in general; the
lack of adequate training mainly for appraisers, etc.
As for the OECD report, although it recognises the need and relevance of the
existing model as a foundation for further development, it also suggests a number
of adjustments and recommendations for a more robust model, among which are:
strengthen teacher evaluation for improvement purposes; providing links between
developmental evaluation and career-progression evaluation; ensuring the
articulation between school and teacher evaluation; re-examining profession-wide
standards and a sharing understanding of what counts as accomplished teacher;
differentiating criteria according to stage of the career and type of education;
targeting instruments to assess key aspects of teaching; relying on three core
instruments: classroom observation, self-evaluation and teacher portfolio;
redesigning and further developing training for evaluation skills; accrediting
external evaluators for career-progression evaluation; ensuring teacher
engagement and motivation for successful reform, etc.
The question is: where do we go from here? It is hard to say at this moment
because there is ongoing debate and discussion about the ‘new’ model for teacher
performance appraisal involving the new Minister of Education, teachers’ unions
and political parties. Recent debates seem to point to changes in the status quo.
However, at this moment, it is possible to highlight a number of issues to be
considered in the change process: the key importance of teachers’ participation,
motivation, morale and commitment (which has been affected over the last years);
the need for a climate of trust and reliability in the appraisal process (which was
related, among other factors, to the lack of recognition of appraisers and validity
of instruments); the need to focus on the key aspects of teaching, namely through
classroom observation; the creation and clarification of the criteria for the
appraisal process; the simplification of procedures and instruments, which were
too bureaucratic and summative; the need to build upon school and teachers’
experiences on appraisal developed over the last years. More importantly, a sense
of ownership and a climate of trust is essential if teacher performance appraisal is
to be effective and successful. For this to happen and for positive impact in terms
of teacher development and improvement of student learning and achievement,
teacher performance appraisal needs to be reliable and valid. Issues such as the
nature of communication (a key element for effective and successful teacher
appraisal), the quality of feedback, the relationship between appraisers and
appraisees, the existence of relevant support and follow-up opportunities for the
continuing professional development of teachers, etc. are some of the critical areas
for further concern and research.
In 1992, In-Service Education and Training of teachers (INSET) became institutionalised and
compulsory for all teachers for teacher career progress (1 credit per year.=.25 hours of training). The
new Decree-Law, issued in 2007, also stipulates new regulations for INSET in order to ‘guarantee
that not only does not INSET hinder teaching activities, but it also effectively contributes to the
acquisition and development of scientific and pedagogical competencies relevant to teachers’ work
and particularly to their teaching’ (see preamble of Decree-Law number 15/2007).
One of the major criticisms from the part of the teachers and teachers’ unions relates to the existence
of two categories of teachers. This was one of the critical issues for the teachers in so far as the first
recruitment process to apply for the category of senior teacher (which was understood as a transition
phase into the new structure of the teaching career) was based upon criteria in which, in general, the
roles and tasks performed by the teacher out of the classroom – such as, head of department, president
of the Executive Council, member of the Executive Council, etc. – outweigh the dimensions related
to teaching itself. One of the criteria was the level of attendance. Also, only the work done between
1999/2000 and 2005/2006 (7 years in total) was to be taken into account in terms of assessment for
this first recruitment phase to apply for a senior teacher position (Decree-Law number 200/2007),
even if teachers had many years of experience in teaching.
The Decree-Law number 241/2001 refers to the specific profiles of professional performance of
pre-school and primary school teachers.
The Pedagogical Council is responsible for the educational coordination and guidance of the
school in pedagogical and didactical terms, monitoring and accompanying of students and also as
far as teaching and non-teaching staff is concerned. In this governing body, there are
representatives of the educational orientation structures at the school (departments, coordinators
of the year, cycle or course), of the educational support services, of the parents’ association, of
students (in secondary schools), and of the non-teaching staff.
According to the legal document (Despacho number 20131/2008), the maximum percentage for
‘excellent’ and ‘very good’ are 5% and 20%, respectively. However, these may be higher. This is
dependent upon external evaluation of the schools. For instance, if a school gets ‘very good’ (the
highest rating scale) in the five domains under evaluation for external evaluation purposes – that is:
(i) outcomes; (ii) quality of the education service; (iii) school organisation and management;
(iv) leadership; and (v) capacity for self-regulation and school improvement – the percentages
become 10% for ‘excellent’ and 25% for ‘very good’. For the schools which had not yet gone through
an external evaluation, the 5% and 20% for ‘excellent’ and ‘very good’ are applicable respectively.
Despite these legal changes, teacher recruitment remains a centralised and bureaucratic system (at
the Ministry of Education) which does not promote the development of a sense of belonging and
commitment within the school as a workplace. However, in order to avoid the high rate of teacher
mobility, and consequent turnover and instability, the Ministry of Education has decided to recruit
teachers for a 3-year period, from 2006/2007 onward, instead of the annual national search for
teaching posts which was in place before. From 2009 onward, the recruitment of teachers will be
done every four years.
This was also a critical issue identified by the Scientific Council for Teacher Appraisal (2008a)
which was associated with the adoption or imposition of appraisal instruments without relevant
information and a participatory process.
Maria Assunção Flores is assistant professor at the University of Minho, Institute of
Education, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal. She received her PhD at
the University of Nottingham, UK. Her research interests include teacher
professionalism, teacher education, induction and change. She is currently working on
teacher appraisal and professional development. She has published various books,
chapters, and papers in national and international journals. She is member of various
international associations and she is member of the board of directors of the
International Council on Education for Teaching. She was visiting scholar at the
University of Cambridge, UK, from September 2008 to May 2009. Her e-mail address
is: [email protected]
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Abstract – Late-life learning is no longer an exotic terrain within the field of adult
education. Older adults are not only participating in lifelong learning avenues in
increasing numbers, but recent decades also witnessed the emergence of learning
opportunities targeting specifically older cohorts. In Malta, the government not
only communicates its support to late-life learning, but also put forward agefriendly policies that facilitate the inclusion of older adults in learning
programmes. This paper conducts a critical overview of the Maltese experience
in older adult learning, analysing both its guiding rationale and participation
rates. It notes that late-life learning in Malta occurs in the absence of a national
policy framework that directs and supports the efforts of formal and non-formal
bodies in providing learning opportunities for older persons. The paper also
proposes an agenda for the late-life learning based on the values of social justice,
social levelling and social cohesion.
he provision of learning opportunities for older adults now holds centre stage
in intergovernmental and national policies on lifelong learning1. The Republic of
Malta, as signatory to the United Nations’ Madrid International Plan of Action on
Ageing (United Nations [UN], 2002) and member state of the European Union
(EU) which targets to become the most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the
world (European Commission [EC], 1995), frequently communicates its support
to the inclusion of older adults in learning programmes2. To this effect, the higher
education sector includes a maturity clause which exempts older adults from
presenting the necessary qualifications. The University of Malta, which is funded
mainly by the Maltese government, coordinates the local network of the
University of the Third Age, and pays for the rent of the premises and lecturing/
coordinating fees. Community day-centres run by the state also organise elderlearning sessions on a variety of social and health issues. In this sense, the present
and future prospects for late-life learning in Malta are bright and encouraging.
However, research in older adult learning needs to go beyond a superficial
descriptive analysis, and instead must judge the extent that ongoing policies are
‘no more than seductive rhetoric disguising a utopian view of how active ageing
might, in theory, be interpreted and operationalized’ (Withnall, 2009, p. 13).
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 61-85, 2010
Embracing such a vision, this paper conducts a critical overview of the Maltese
experience in lifelong learning in later life, analysing both its guiding rationale and
participation rates. The first part focuses upon that interface between later life and
learning as it arises in the Maltese setting. At this point, the paper forwards a
methodology section which informs the readers of the research design and methods
of inquiry followed in this study. The third part surveys the policy directions propelling
late-life learning in Malta, following which the paper presents the plethora of local
learning opportunities for, and participation in, late-life learning. The fifth section
conducts a critical discussion of the opportunities for late-life learning in Malta, noting
how the field ignores the structural issues that affect older persons’ ability to participate
in learning activities. Finally, the paper will propose an agenda for the late-life learning
based on the values of social justice, social levelling and social cohesion.
Older persons and learning in Malta
The last century witnessed unprecedented demographic changes to the extent
that it has been termed as the ‘age of ageing’. As a result of declining fertility and
mortality levels, all countries throughout the world registered an improvement of
life expectancy at birth, and subsequently, a growth in the number of older
persons. Malta was no exception and has evolved out of a traditional pyramidal
shape to an even-shaped block distribution of equal numbers at each age cohort
except at the top (see Table 1). Whilst in 1985 the 60+ and 75+ cohorts measured
14.3% and 3.8%, in 2008 these figures reached 21.4% and 6.1% respectively
(Central Office of Statistics, 1987; NSO, 2009a). This occurred as the birth rate
declined to 1.3 per family, while the expectation of life at birth for men/women
increased from 70.8/76.0 years in 1985 to 77.7/81.4 years in 2005 (NSO, 2007).
Population projections estimate that in the year 2025 the percentage of older
persons aged 60 and over will rise to 26.5% (NSO, 2009a). Similar to international
statistics, women are over-represented in older cohorts, with the masculinity ratio
for age cohorts in the 80-84, 85-89 and 90+ age brackets reaching 63.0, 57.1, and
48.0 respectively. Hence, single families headed by older females (especially
widows) predominate, with older women being more frequent users than older
men of health and social care services (Formosa, 2009a).
In 2007, households comprising two adults aged 60 or over with no resident
children held an average disposable income of €14,051, compared to a national
average of €16,085 and €21,745 for households without and with dependent
children respectively (NSO, 2009b). However, 20% of the 60+ cohort are
currently situated below the ‘at-risk-of-poverty’ line (NSO, 2009c). The number
of employed older persons is relatively low as only 10% and 1% of the 55-64 and
65+ cohorts were gainfully occupied in 2009 (respectively) (NSO, 2010).
TABLE 1: Maltese population by sex (2008)
% of
Source: NSO (2009a)
The last Census reported a negative correlation between age and educational
status (NSO, 2007) (see Table 2). As much as 65% of persons in the 60+ cohort
has a primary level of education or less, with 80% holding no educational
qualifications. Some 17% of persons aged 60+ are illiterate (NSO, 2007).
Although Census data is not broken down by gender, research has found older
women to hold a worse educational status compared to men (Formosa, 2000,
2005). However, as a result of the implementation of educational policies earlier
this century – especially the Compulsory Education Ordinance in 1946 which
raised compulsory school to the age of fourteen – older cohorts boast a better
educational record than the preceding ones (Formosa, forthcoming). This means
that in the coming two decades the educational disparity between older and
younger cohorts will be more equitable.
TABLE 2: Total Maltese population by age and educational status (2005)
Educational Attainment
No schooling
Pre-primary (Kindergarten)
No qualifications
Ordinary levels
Intermediate levels
Advanced levels
Non-university Certificate/Diploma
University Diploma
First degree
Professional qualification
Degree & Professional qualification
Postgraduate diploma/certificate
Educational Qualification
Source: NSO (2007)
of 60+
of 60+
The research directing this paper included two key objectives – namely, the
analysis of the policies on late-life learning in Malta, and secondly, the
uncovering and examination of participation rates and patterns of older adult
learning. I attempted to achieve such objectives through the ‘case study’
research design. Definitions of case studies vary but, in essence, all promote the
notion that the researcher aims at knowing a single entity or phenomenon – that
is, the case – through the collection of data through various procedures (Stake,
1995). As the case study is an autonomous research strategy that can actually
accommodate different paradigms and methods (Burton, 2000), this research
followed the critical paradigm as that ‘process of inquiry that goes beyond
surface illusions to uncover the real structures in the material world in order to
help people change conditions and build a better world for themselves’
(Neuman, 2002, p. 76).
Research methodology included three phases. First, an exploratory phase
visiting lifelong learning venues and settings in which older persons participate –
such as day-care centres, residential settings, village squares, etc. – as well as
meeting ‘experts’ in lifelong learning and social gerontology to attain a tentative
impression of late-life learning patterns. Secondly, an extensive research phase
during which European and local policy guidelines on lifelong learning were
analysed, and coordinators of adult and continuing education centres contacted to
request information on local participation rates and patterns of older adult
learning. The final phase consisted in the analysis of data and writing of the article.
Data was analysed following Glaser & Strauss’s (1967) grounded-theory
approach which advises to assign codes, annotations, and memos to data arising
from observations, conversations, and interviews.
Policy and older adult learning
The Maltese government has published no national policy on lifelong learning,
and adult education is covered in a limited manner by the Education Act. In 2002,
the Ministry of Education set up a steering committee to prepare a policy
document on lifelong learning but to-date this objective has remained unfulfilled.
However, as signatory to the United Nations’ Madrid International Plan of Action
in Ageing (MIPAA) (UN, 2002), Malta has vouched to implement strategies that
catalyse the inclusion of older adults in lifelong learning. The MIPAA advocated
an equality of opportunity throughout life with respect to continuing education and
vocational guidance/training. It called on governments to:
‘encourage and promote literacy, numeracy and technological skills
training for older persons and the ageing workforce...
implement policies that promote access to training and retraining for older
develop and disseminate user-friendly information to assist older persons
to respond effectively to the technological demands of everyday life...
encourage further research to better determine the relationship between
training and productivity...and education of older persons...’ (UN, 2002,
p. 16)
Malta is a member state of the European Union (EU) and is hence obliged to
adhere to the conclusions reached at the European Council held in Lisbon and the
European Commissions’ Communications on lifelong learning (EC, 2000, 2006).
The EU defines lifelong learning as ‘all learning activity throughout life, with the
aim of improving knowledge, skills and competencies within a personal, civic,
social, and/or employment-related perspective’ (EC, 2001, p. 9). As far as late-life
learning is concerned, the first policy document to mention ‘senior citizens’ and
‘ageing’ was published in 2006. Under the subheading of ‘active ageing’, the EU
advocated its Member States to ensure:
‘a longer working life, there is a need for up-skilling and increasing lifelong
learning opportunities for older order to keep older workers
employable, investment is needed throughout the life cycle and should be
supported by government, professional bodies and sectors. Special attention
should be given to those entering their mid career...
an expansion of learning provision for retired people...Learning should be an
integral part of this new phase in their lives...the Commission invite[s]
universities to be more open to providing courses for students at a later stage
of their life...’ (EC, 2006, pp. 8-9)
While it is positive to note the emphasis on the need to provide learning
opportunities for older cohorts, regretfully both the above policy documents are
more driven to espousing the ‘human capital’ and ‘vocational’ values of late-life
learning than its ‘humanist’ potential. The UN and EU visions for older adult
learning are unashamedly neo-liberal and economic in their foundation, where the
solution to the problem of ageing becomes finding a way for older people to be
economically useful. It is assumed that older adults find social value only by
becoming part of the pool of surplus labour when, in actual fact, there is little
evidence to support the usefulness of a strong human capital theory for older persons
(Cole, 2000). An ‘economistic’ rationale dominates so that late-life learning is not
promoted for its possible ‘empowering’ and ‘transcendental’ potential, but only as
a means to render the post-industrial societies ‘competitive in the face of the
transitional and multinational corporations’ ability to reap the advantages of
economies of scale through the expansion of international capital mobility’ (Borg &
Mayo, 2006, p. 18). Taking in consideration that productive policies are biased in
favour of persons with dominant types and extensive volumes of cultural capital,
what the UN and EU offer to late-life learning is a ‘model of knowledge economy
for some’ as opposed to ‘a model of a knowledge society for all’ (Healy & Slowey,
2006). Despite references to social inclusion and active citizenship, the EU’s
concern that ‘current uncertain economic climate places renewed emphasis and
importance on lifelong learning’ takes utmost priority (EC, 2001, p. 30). Such a
stance mirrors that taken by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which
defined lifelong learning as ‘a policy strategy directed towards integrating older
persons to a contemporary labour market, to give them necessary education level
and adapt the educational system in order to meet the changing economic, social and
demographic conditions’ (ILO, 2000, p. 15). It is also problematic that the drive to
improve the skills of older workers is not concerned with the various abilities needed
by the wide range of productive and service sectors, but focuses specifically on
those competencies required by the ICT industry.
In sum, EU and UN visions of active ageing is premised on a ‘new utopian
vision’ with no ‘humane centre’ (Williamson, 1998). This is because the need to
help older people stay in paid work is only one priority among others in late-life
learning. Other priorities include recognising the diversity of older persons,
challenging stereotypes of ageing, maximising participation, maintaining
personal independence, and retaining a sense of purpose and meaning. In later life,
people reach a stage in personality development where the struggle for money and
status is superseded by a search for ‘ego integrity’ (Erikson, 1963). This refers to
a meta-perspective shift as the source of life satisfaction, from a material and
rational vision to a cosmic and transcendent one. If older adults are to be educated
for new roles and activities, this must be based on an acceptance of the limitations
of existentiality and include taking responsibility for the well-being of future
generations (Moody, 1990).
Opportunities for older adult learning in Malta
The international context
To-date, there exists limited national analysis of participation rates of older
adult learning since most educational statistics, including those by Eurostat, take
the age of 65 as a cut-off point. However, the limited available research on
participation rates leads to two key inferences. First, that there is a negative
correlation between age and levels of participation in most forms of adult
education. One key ‘break’ point is around the age of 18, after which it is
estimated that one-third of people do not engage in any forms of structured
learning. However, it is the age of 55 that represents the strongest breaking point
in adult and continuing education. In the case of the United Kingdom (UK), for
example, only 14% of adults aged 55-64, 10% of adults aged 65-74, and as few
as 8% of those aged over 75 in 2009 participated in learning activities in 2010
(Aldridge & Tucket, 2010). In Italy, only 1.4% of adults taking part in adult
educational opportunities were above the age of 65 in the year 2008 (Principi &
Lamura, 2009). On the other side of the Atlantic, Hamil-Luker & Uhlenberg
(2002) found that despite the much heralded dawning of a ‘lifelong learning
society’ only one fifth of Americans aged in the 66-74 age bracket had any
educational experience in 1999. Secondly, statistics point out that the steepest
rises in elder-learning were recorded amongst the 66-74 age category, and in
non-formal and informal avenues. In the United States, the year 1990 saw 8.4%
of the 60-74 age group participate in at least one adult education class but by
1999 this number had increased to 19.9% (Hamil-Luker & Uhlenberg, 2002).
Moreover, while participation in formal learning increased from 5.5% in 1991
to 8.6% 1999, the rise of community-provided education was from 4.6% to
11.6% (Hamil-Luker & Uhlenberg, 2002). As regard the UK, while less than 1%
of people aged 60+ in 2008 engaged in higher education, some 19% and 11%
of persons aged 65-74 and 75+ (respectively) participated in adult learning
(Phillipson & Ogg, 2010). The predominance of young-old learners is also the
case in programmes catering exclusively to older adults with, for instance, the
University of the Third Age in Italy containing only 32.5% of members above
the age of 65 (Principi & Lamura, 2009). As the following sub-sections attest,
participation rates and patterns of older adult learning in Malta reflect such
international blueprints.
Formal learning
Formal leaning avenues are highly structured and hierarchical. Courses are
designed by expert-teachers to meet explicit requirements of accrediting bodies.
Whilst higher education is responsible for the issuing of undergraduate and
postgraduate degrees, the further education sector provides curricula that
generally lead to vocational skills and diplomas. In Malta, formal learning
avenues open to adults above the age of 16 include the Institute of Tourism
Studies (ITS), the Directorate for Lifelong Learning within the Ministry of
Education (DFL), the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology
(MCAST), and University of Malta. Table 3 records the number of older adult
learners in higher education in Malta.
The presence of older adults in Maltese formal education is to an extent a
vibrant one. Older learners approach their learning objectives with extraordinary
passion, and although there is a distinct preference for subjects in the arts and
humanities, the range of subjects followed is remarkable. The upward trend in
participation is impressive when considering that just half a decade ago no ITS
students were over 60, and that the older student body at Directorate for Lifelong
Learning and University of Malta consisted of just 119 and 18 students
respectively (NSO, 2005). Yet, at the same time, the situation is highly inadequate.
Only 2% of Maltese older adults aged 60 and over participate in formal learning
avenues. It is also disquieting that older learners in these formal institutions
constitute very low percentages of the total student population: University of
Malta (0.6%), MCAST (0.8%), and ITS (0.8%). One relative exception is the
Directorate for Lifelong Learning where students aged 60+ constitute 22% of the
total student body. The Directorate for Lifelong Learning has been organising day
and evening courses for learners from the age of 16 upward for a considerable
number of years. It offers over a hundred different courses, mostly in the evening,
that cover academic, technical, craft, leisure, information technology, and
aesthetic subjects.
The reasons for the low participation of older adults in formal education are
various. Many retirees left school at a relatively early age largely due to socioeconomic imperatives, lack of opportunity to pursue education beyond the basic
levels, and especially in the case of women, cultural mores that envisioned the role
of women as one of domesticity. Such experience is unlikely to engender an avid
desire to pursue further formal study later in life, and many even developed a
phobia toward learning:
I applied with immense trepidation. My parents thought that school was a
waste of time for girls, and when my parents were reluctant to buy me some
books I needed, my teacher advised them to keep me at home. I was ten
years old...I am very apprehensive of the whole learning experience. I
needed, and still need, a lot of encouragement to attend classes. I love
listening to lectures, reading books, and even writing essays, but
remembering that I will be assessed gives me the jitters. (Undergraduate
theology student, 67 years old)
Another barrier is that higher and further education institutions are not passionate
about late-life learning and opening their doors to older learners. Older adult learning
does not bring in grants or offer much career training paths in vocational centres. It
tends to be ignored and not be given any priority in marketing exercises. Educational
and gerontological institutions alike are quick to accept uncritically the ‘failure’ and
‘medicalized’ models of lifelong development where older adults are casted as passive
Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology
Institute of Mechanical Engineering
Maritime Institute
Non-certified courses
Faculty of Theology
Institute of Agriculture
Institute of Maltese Studies
International Institute for Baroque Studies
Mediterranean Institute
Source: Personal communication with respective authorities
School of Art (Gozo)
Sequence and line dancing
Lace making
Ballroom dancing
Computer awareness
Thread filigree
Keep-fit females
Monastery work
Basic English
Bavarian monastery
Computer awareness
ECDL core
Italian at lifelong learning centre
German at lifelong learning centre
Other courses
Directorate for Lifelong Learning (Ministry for Education, Culture and Youth)
Institute of Tourism Studies
Food hygiene course
Kitchen and larder basic theory and practice
Basic German for the hospitality industry
Pastry and baking basic theory and practice
Pastry and baking intermediate theory and practice
Institute of Agribusiness
Institute of Art and Design
Institute of Business and Commerce
Institute of ICT
Centre for Labour Studies
European Documentation and Research Centre
Faculty of Arts
Faculty of Economics, Management & Accountancy
Faculty of Education
Faculty of Laws
University of Malta
TABLE 3: Older adults (60+) in higher and further learning in Malta (academic year 2009/2010)
‘clients’ and ‘patients’ rather than learners. The result is a lack of serious interest in
older adult learning in favour of research enterprises that seek to legitimise higher
education norms as solely as a career-training enterprise linked to social and health
welfare reforms. However, one success story is found within the course ‘Teaching
older adults’ as part of the course leading to a Masters in Adult Education (University
of Malta) which was opened to the public. Four older adults read the course with other
students, and in each session were key players to the contribution and sharing of
knowledge relating to the field of educational gerontology. It is hoped that more
opportunities are provided to older adults to participate in higher and further education.
The founding of a Senior Studies Programme, as is found in other universities abroad,
is surely a step in the right direction.
Non-formal learning
Non-formal learning consists of structured events organised by local
authorities and the voluntary sector that offer learning programmes ranging from
creative to educational to informational. Programmes organised by local
authorities are popular with older adults who do not want the pressure of credit
courses but who still value the expert-teacher as a source of knowledge. The
voluntary sector is the essence of learning by doing, as well as seeking and
providing educational opportunities through their particular ethos. In Malta, local
authorities involved in the provision of adult learning opportunities include the
local councils, and the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC).
Late-life learning ranks low on the agenda of local councils. Out of a total of
68 local councils, only two localities – Mqabba and Mgarr – claimed to provide
learning courses in which adults above the age of 60 participated in. While in the
former locality five participants took part in Basic English and Maltese language
courses, the latter provided lessons to 11 participants in ‘punishment dolls’,
‘knitted beaded dolls’, and ‘dimensia [sic] talk’. The remaining local councils
replied that either they do not keep a record of the ages of learning participants,
or that they do not coordinate any lifelong learning events, or that no participants
aged 60+ had ever participated in learning events. This demonstrates that there is
little or no coordination of informational, advice, and educational guidance
targeted toward older adults at a community level. Few efforts are conducted on
behalf of local councils to facilitate self-help groups of older people, in learning,
civic and caring roles. This is highly surprising considering that some localities
include a high percentage of adults aged 60+ (e.g., Valletta, 30%; Sliema, 34%,
Cospicua, 23%; Floriana, 34%) (NSO, 2007). It is also disquieting that the
majority of local councils declined to reply to my request for information on
organised learning courses and older learners in their respective region. Following
up on these non-responses, it resulted that the human resources employed by the
local councils are stretched to the limit on matters relating to structural and
building related matters which, ultimately, constitute the core of objective and
subjective impact assessments. Accordingly, local councils do not have the staff
and skills to tackle the learning needs of older people strategically. When learning
organisations are organised priority is awarded to the needs of children, teenagers,
and young families. One thus finds various collaborative initiatives between local
councils and other governmental or voluntary institutions that result in learning
opportunities ranging from parental skills to literacy and numeracy courses but
rarely any initiative that targets the learning needs and interests of older adults.
One augurs that in the foreseeable future the Local Council Act empowers
communities to take on some responsibility for the delivery of social care services
where late-life learning is posited as a key priority area.
The responsibility of the ECT is to provide and ensure equitable access to
training programmes and employment services that contribute toward the social
and economic development of the Maltese community. Regrettably, statistics
issued by the ETC group all participants aged 55+ in one group so that data on the
60+ age band is not available. The ETC’s annual report for 2009 claimed the
number of persons above the age of 55 to participate in educational courses were
as follows: ‘employment aid programmes’ (15 – 4% of total students), ‘bridging
the gap scheme’ (1 – 1% of total), ‘work trial scheme’ (2 – 2% of total), and
‘mainstream courses’ (662 – 10% of total). As the case in formal education, the
ETC orientates its training toward the needs of young and middle-aged adults, and
fails to provide ‘third age’ career guidance and upskilling courses that target
specifically the needs of older workers:
The factory I worked at closed down. We were advised to contact the ETC.
I did so but it was for nothing. I was 59 years old at that time and was told
in certain terms that it was best if I waited a few more months when I would
be eligible for the state pension. They did not understand that I wanted to
work well beyond my retirement age. I found all doors closed and feel to
this very day that I was not taken seriously. My feeling is that they perceived
me as a nuisance rather than an unemployed worker. (Older student at DLF,
60 years old)
The voluntary sector in Malta, as is the case everywhere, consists of a large
plethora of unrelated and unconnected bodies. It thus proved impossible to arrive
at the total number of older participants and types of learning opportunities
present. Nevertheless, it is within the voluntary sector where the largest majority
of older learners is situated and which holds most benefits for participants. Many
older adults provided vivid testimonies of the benefits that learning brings as they
emphasised their appreciation of learning for its own sake, their satisfaction of
creativity, and the sociable enjoyment of group activities:
I discovered abilities that I never knew I had. I now feel fulfilled. When
learning I feel alive...I suffer from arthritis and bad back pain. Attending
the University of the Third Age helps me to overcome my pain, mentally at
least. The joys of learning helps me to forget my physical ailments...When
my husband died I needed a new lease of life. Learning how to sew and knit
gave me what I needed...Learning gave me confidence and more selfesteem. I no longer feel the old man on the block. (Various participants)
Voluntary bodies have limited income and depend for survival on volunteers,
so that those contacted claimed that it was not possible for them to keep up a
database of information on either the activities and or age of participants.
Although the different organisations in the voluntary sector invest much energy in
the promotion of activities that promote their respective ethos, a lack of human and
financial resources, as well as knowledgeable staff on adult and late-life learning,
means that few specific opportunities for older learners are organised. On the
positive side, older adults tend to form the majority of a good number of available
learning courses such as, for example, ‘Culture’ which includes seven informative
outings (organised twice yearly by the Academy for the Development of
Democratic Environment) and ‘EduCafe’ (organised monthly by the Fundazzjoni
Reggie Miller) in which various professionals from the social, legal, and medical
fields conduct informative sessions in a popular cafeteria. The University of the
Third Age (UTA) in Malta is the only local voluntary institution that caters solely
to the learning interests of older adults and which keeps a meticulous record of its
membership. This is possible because, as already accentuated to, the Government
of Malta pays the rent of its premises as well as for the fees of lectures and a fulltime coordinator. Membership can be easily acquired by those who have passed
their 60th birthday and willing to pay a nominal fee of ¤12. During the academic
years 2007/2008, 2008/20099, and 2009/2010 members numbered 626 (164 men,
472 women), 523 (148 men, 375 women), and 643 (198 men, 445 women)
respectively (NSO, 2009c).
As discussed elsewhere (Formosa, 2000, 2007, forthcoming), despite its positive
functions, the local UTA is far from an example of democratic learning as its practice
is highly biased in favour of the needs of middle-class urban older persons. Only one
member among the 2005/2006 student body listed her past work as an elementary
occupation, with a significant number of members – 209 or 29% – having held
professional roles (NSO, 2006a). More recent statistics preclude the past occupational
status of members but one finds that a majority of members lived in the Northern
and Southern Harbour Regions (51% and 15% respectively) where the UTA
premises are located (NSO, 2009c). A final concern related to non-formal learning
in later life is the relative absence of pre-retirement planning. Pre-retirement
education is the exception rather than the rule, and where it occurs, participants also
complain of the didactic and authoritarian style of most presentations which imbued
them with some level of concern and anxiety rather than a positive view of
retirement as a catalyst for successful ageing (Formosa, forthcoming).
Informal learning
Informal learning refers to day-to-day incidental learning where people are not
necessary aware of the ongoing learning processes. Informal learning occurs in a
wide range of locations ranging from libraries to dance clubs, generally through
self-directed strategies where learning typically begins with a question, a problem,
a need to know, or a curiosity. The sparse literature on older adult learning in Malta
places emphasis on non-formal learning experiences, and to-date, there has been
no discussion of the informal practices. The fact that national statistics on cultural
activities (ranging from dance classes, membership in band clubs, participation in
local council activities) put adults aged 25 and above in one age bracket (NSO,
2006b) – and that no data is available on the frequency of older persons in visiting
museums, theatres, cinemas, exhibitions, and art galleries, or who follow
television and radio programmes for learning purposes – precludes an agerelevant insight on informal learning. Learning within the family, church and
workplace, as well as intergenerational learning, constitute other lacunae in local
research. Yet, a number of secondary sources do throw light on some aspects of
informal learning in later life. One key avenue is travel, a practice that has become
more popular with older persons in recent years. The National Statistics Office
reported that in 2007, 35.7% and 15.2% of persons aged in the 55-64 and 65+ age
brackets respectively spent at least one night on a holiday abroad (NSO, 2009c).
The average number of nights spent when holidaying abroad by these age groups
were 8 and 9.5 nights respectively (NSO, 2009c). The connections between travel
and learning are widely recognised by older adults, and study/travel trips will
surely become lucrative business in the nearby future:
Our hobby is travelling. But ‘hobby’ is not the best word to describe it
because we do not travel for sun and sea escapes. We indulge in ‘travel’
because it opens one’s mind, you learn so many things. Last summer we
went to Italy. It was my third trip to Florence but you always discover
something new in museums. The same can be said of the Louvre. I visited
it two times and wish to visit again...Every country can stimulate your
mental faculties, not just Italy and England, but even countries such as
Slovakia, Tunisia, and Cyprus. (Older adult, 80 years old)
Volunteerism is another important course of informal learning, with national
statistics reporting that the number of volunteers aged 65+ in non-governmental
offices increased from 17,411 to 34,341 in the 2006-2007 period. The potential of
hobbies as a source of informal learning is not be underestimated (NSO, 2009c).
In the same period, popular pastimes amongst the 65+ included reading,
gardening, sewing/knitting, travel, home decoration, crafts/collectibles, arts/
crafts, singing/acting/dancing, internet, playing a musical instrument, modelbuilding, and photography – in that respective order (NSO, 2009c). As far as bookreading is concerned, it is disappointing that the National Public Library holds no
data on the age of members and operates within an absence of official guidelines
focusing on age-friendly strategies for increasing library use among older persons.
Finally, although persons aged 55+ are the least users of computer and internet
technology, the rate at which they are achieving computer literacy and connecting
to the internet surpasses that by middle-aged cohorts (NSO, 2005). This implies
that informal learning through online surfing is becoming increasingly prevalent
among older adults.
As Malta lacks a national policy for lifelong learning, late-life learning arises
as the responsibility of various state ministries which provide a range of
opportunities for older learners that are anything but well-coordinated. The
result is that the range of available opportunities for late-life learning are neither
easily accessible nor clearly formulated. The manner in which older adult
learning is planned and implemented fails in providing attention to learning as
a means to strengthen communities and aid citizens maintain a sense of purpose.
Rather than emphasising the ways in which learning helps older people explore
and develop interests and skills, improve their understanding of themselves, and
create social networks that provide meaning and support, the government’s
approach includes a skewing toward learning for employment purposes. The
lack of a national framework for late-life learning also increases the risk of
duplication of effort, inconsistent approaches as regard quality and access, and
an excess emphasis on productive ageing and health literacy. A framework for
late-life learning is a pre-requisite to good practice as it has the potential to admit
to needs of older persons, such as loneliness and reading difficulties, which
learning can help with (McNair, 2009). Moreover, older adults may not perceive
or fully understand their learning needs, while governments have objectives like
improving cohesion, or health, which people can be persuaded to follow, but will
not ask for (McNair, 2009).
The lack of seriousness by local councils toward adult and late-life learning is
another issue. In general, the contributions of local councils were found to be
heavily concentrated on the upkeep and maintenance of structural amenities,
collection of waste and road cleaning, and assisting citizens by providing
information relating to consumer affairs, transport, tax, and social services.
However, local councils also have a responsibility toward public attitudes
concerning social cohesion, civic engagement, volunteerism, satisfaction with
home and neighbourhood, independent living, and biopsychosocial well-being.
Although lifelong learning can help with all of these, local councils have yet to
formulate proper strategies on ageing and late-life learning. Admittedly, the
decision of central government to concentrate resources on vocational courses
leading to increasing productivity in the labour market means that funding for
‘humanistic’ kinds of learning is limited. Local councils are generally devoid of
advisors that help them address the needs of their senior citizens. Community daycare centres are coordinated with staff which lack training on the transcendental
interests of older members, with daily activities rarely extending beyond popular
bingo sessions and health-related messages by paramedical officers. As a result,
local councils are failing to secure a broad range of community learning initiatives
that may range from age-friendly library services (such as large-print books on
subjects that interest older adults, distribution of reading aids, and mobile delivery
of books), to matching young volunteers with housebound older persons for the
exchanging of ICT skills and local history accounts, to providing financial literacy
courses focusing on the handling of money, insurance and mortgages, and
managing a budget.
Another problematic issue is the fact that the available provision of learning
opportunities has failed in meeting the key priorities of social levelling, social
cohesion and social justice. First, confirming other local and international research
(e.g., Swindell, 1990; Formosa, 2000), there lies a positive correlation between
middle-class background and participation. It is true that most learning
opportunities are either free or demand only a nominal fee, and require no
academic qualifications. Yet, the way most provision for late-life learning is
organised – especially with respect to subject content and teaching styles – typifies
a strong middle-class bias. The emphasis on liberal arts subjects, delivered by
experts, means that (well-educated) middle-class elders perceive late-life learning
as an opportunity to go back to an arena in which they feel confident and selfassured of its outcome and development. The working-class community, on the
other hand, generally has limited schooling experience and a life history
characterised by poverty and social exclusion, so that it enters later life permeated
with a habitus of ‘necessity’ (Bourdieu, 1984). The University of the Third Age
is a clear case in point, with many working-class persons feeling highly
apprehensive and reluctant to join an organisation with such a heavy ‘class’
baggage in its title. Perceiving the theatrics of high-brow learning as alien to their
identity formation and lifelong interests, most working-class elders prefer to pass
their retirement in other leisure pursuits which demand a ‘practical’ rather than a
‘scholarly’ kind of knowledge.
As such, the provision of late-life learning runs the risk of functioning as an
essential political activity, forming part of a large macrocosm of symbolic
institutions that reproduce existing power relations. Secondly, many an adult
educational vision has been criticised for its in-built gender bias (e.g., Jackson,
2003; Daniels, 2010). Late-life learning in Malta is no exception. Programme
planners – who tend to be men – treat older learners as a homogenous population,
and overlook how older women have limited schooling experience and workplace
training, rarely enjoy an occupational pension, and form part of the army of
informal carers who support sick and disabled relatives. Late-life learning in
Malta remains oblivious to the unique learning needs of older women (e.g.,
financial literacy and informal care) and to the inimitable ‘situational’ barriers
(e.g., domestic and caring responsibilities, not holding a driving license)
precluding them from participation in learning activities. One also notices a
‘masculinist’ attitude as the available courses generally worked to embed older
women learners in traditional gender roles and expectations rather than working
toward increased general social levelling among the sexes. However, even older
men were also found to be somewhat left out in the cold. One key issue in older
adult learning is the low percentage of male participants, with many assuming that
older men are not interested or motivated to join. Available provision viewed older
men as a homogenous group of confident individuals with promising educational
and occupation experiences when, in reality, older men are categorised by a
diversity of beliefs, values, and resources. For instance, no space is given to
learning activities focusing on environmental issues, mathematics, and do-ityourself work, which are generally of utmost interest to older men.
Other lacunae concern pre-retirement education, intergenerational learning,
and informal care. Although at the end of the 1990s the government pledged to
increase its funding toward preparing older workers for the third age, there
remains a lack of attention on this issue, and there is yet no consensus on which
body is responsible to plan and finance pre-retirement education. Presently, preretirement education is short and available only to a small proportion of people
who work mainly for the public sector or large corporations. Full-time housewives
or in part-time employment, the self-employed, and workers in small industries
are expected to prepare for their transition to retirement on their own initiative.
Available pre-retirement planning emphasise the need for retirees to have ‘varied
interests’ and ‘keeping mentally active’ – rather than focusing on the emotional
issues of retirement that range from personal (e.g., self-awareness and selfregulation) to the social (e.g., empathy and networking) – an approach that was
criticised by Phillipson & Strang (1983) for its moral undertones.
Intergenerational learning is another neglected area, as provision is devoid of a
serious attempt to link third and fourth agers with children, teenagers, and adults.
The benefits of intergenerational education are well-known. While elders can
mentor individuals from the younger generation, they can also learn from the
younger generation. Intergenerational contact creates an opportunity for
reciprocal learning, as well as improving the everyday memory function of older
learners. It is disappointing that older adults have limited opportunities to attend
and contribute toward primary, secondary and continuing levels of education.
Most attempts in intergenerational learning consisting in school children visiting
residential and nursing homes, an event that – especially on its own – may actually
function to reinforce the stereotype of older adults as helpless and frail. Sectors
responsible for late-life learning must think outside the box and coordinate
activities such as book clubs, community work, film screenings, and linking
Maltese elders with younger immigrants. Finally, Malta is characterised by a
‘southern model of welfare’ (Matsaganis et al., 2003). This refers to a situation
where state provision for community welfare remains marginal so that persons are
highly dependent on their families (especially female relatives) to provide them
with the care they need (Darmanin, 2006). With respect to later life, this means that
a significant percentage of older adults succeed in remaining living in their homes
only as a result of extensive informal care-work on behalf of daughters and nieces.
It is lamentable that the local provision of late-life learning overlooks the learning
needs of this growing sector. There are no learning initiatives that aids relatives
to provide better health and social care standards, become more aware of their own
role in the community, and empowering them with finding a united voice to ensure
that policies address and support their needs. Learning initiatives would help in
determining the problems faced by informal carers, evaluating existing services
tailored toward the needs of frail older persons, and work toward the establishment
of a National Day and Charter for Informal Carers that would strengthen both
family resources and the motivation to continue caring for older persons.
An agenda for the future
Malta must work toward ensuring that access to learning throughout the life
course is perceived as a human right, while strongly guaranteeing adequate
learning opportunities in later life becomes a central objective in government
policy. There is no doubt that as the time that people in a relatively healthy and
independent later life increases, we need a public policy which looks at late-life
learning beyond just a resource for employment and extending working life. The
following broad priorities emerge from the results and discussion reviewed in this
National policy framework. There is a need for a national policy framework on
lifelong learning that includes a sound emphasis on later life. This framework
must be guided by a rational that reinstates lifelong learning in the (pre-Third
Way) values of social levelling, social cohesion, and social justice
(Faure,1972). Only so will it become possible for late-life learning to prioritise
the ‘democratic-citizen’ over the ‘future worker-citizen’ as the prime asset of
post-industrial societies (Lister, 2003). The framework must also describe
what kinds of learning opportunities any older adult can reasonably expect in
Malta, while setting and monitoring targets for participation.
Local authorities. In meeting their responsibility toward the welfare and wellbeing of their communities, local councils must lobby the central government
to be awarded an explicit role and responsibility in the planning, coordination
and financing of age-related services including adult and late-life learning. In
partnership with third sector agencies and formal education providers, local
councils must take the role of learning hubs that bring all the ‘providers
(public, private, and voluntary together) together, to coordinate resources,
consult older people (current and potential learners), and promote learning
among older people’ (McNair, 2009, p. 17).
Widening participation. Responding to older adults that remain educationally
and socially disadvantaged necessitates a ‘widening participation’ agenda.
Providers must think out of the box so that late-life learning initiatives attract
older adults with working class backgrounds, older men, elders in living in
rural regions, and housebound elders. There must be serious attempts in
outreach work to facilitate learning opportunities outside formal settings with
older adults who could or would not usually participate in traditional formally
organised provision. Without doubt, the teaching of ICT and elearning
strategies comprise a central priority on a ‘widening participation’ agenda.
Higher education. There is a need for the higher education sector to play a key
role in encouraging new types of adult learning through all phases of the life
course. In addition to employment-related programmes that support older
people moving from full-time employment to various forms of work, higher
education must also provide ‘personal development’ programmes which
identify new types of courses and markets among a diverse and segmented
post-50s market, and ‘health and social care’ programmes orientated to
professionals working with older people that vary from foundation degrees
through to modules for continuing professional development (Phillipson &
Ogg, 2010).
Informal learning. Learning also takes place outside classrooms through selfdirected learning, sometimes in isolation, and at other times with family
members and friends through voluntary and social activities. A framework on
lifelong learning must advocate those learning aids that facilitate and even
initiate informal learning. There is a need for a structure within which older
adults gain insight into themselves as learners. Older adults must be aided to
learn how they learn, examine multiple ways to learn, and look for ways to plan
their future learning more effectively. In practice, this necessitates elder clubs
in libraries, and age-friendly functional literacy and elearning support.
Productive ageing. There is a need for learning initiatives for employment,
both for those still in or seeking paid work, while latching upon EU-funded
programmes whose goal is to get older people back to work. Emphasis must
go beyond simply the provision of courses leading to formal qualification,
and also include initiatives that update skills and knowledge, and adopt
previous experience to new contexts (McNair, 2009). Programmes must be
sensitive to the differences between women and men toward remaining in or
finding work, as well as respect the choice of those who may still want to
embrace a ‘culture of retirement’ even if it means a ‘trade-off’ with a lower
standard of living.
Pre-retirement education. The educational system that spends some 18 years,
and substantial financial capital, to prepare citizens for the world of work, but
simply a couple of afternoons (if lucky) to leave it, is clearly biased against
older persons. Society has an obligation toward its citizens to provide them
with learning initiative that help them plan for their third and fourth ages. It is
noteworthy that a really democratic pre-retirement education is not simply
instruction about the formalities surrounding pensions, the drawing of wills,
and health. It is one which also includes a discussion of psychological and
social strategies that lead older adults to improve their quality of life.
Informal care. Since learning is a human process that covers every aspect of
human living, all carers of older persons, both informal and formal, should be
involved in elder-learning. Learning initiatives must be made available, free of
charge, to family relatives and volunteers involved in the care of older persons.
Such programmes are to focus on the dynamics of sensing the feeling of older
persons and perspectives, taking an interest in caring outcomes, empowering
older adults’ development and strengthening their abilities, cultivating
opportunities for diverse people, and anticipating, recognising, and meeting
the needs of the person under care.
This research paper has highlighted that despite the strong recognition of the
need to embed older adults in lifelong learning, the conceptual and practical
implications have been limited. Focusing on the Republic of Malta, it argued
that the dominant vision for learning is anything but lifelong, and that older
adults are left out in the cold as far as educational policy is concerned. Moreover,
there is no doubt that policy documents and action plans dealing with some
aspect of late-life learning may be well-intentioned, but ultimately function
nothing more than empty rhetoric concealing neo-liberal values. Despite the
dedication of the International Year Literacy Year in 1990, there is very little
research or policy relating to older persons and literacy. In late modern society,
literacy is not simply a vehicle for economic survival but also to acquire the
understanding and ability to survive psychologically in a complex and
constantly changing world. The penultimate section also provided an attempt to
suggest policy directions for a really lifelong and long-life learning. Although
the ordinances emerged from empirical research conducted in one particular
region – that of Malta – there is no doubt of their relevance to other geographical
regions. After all, literature includes an emergent body of literature criticising
lifelong learning policies for their ‘enonomist’ and ‘ageist’ biases (e.g., Hake,
2006; Slowey, 2008).
The road toward a successful policy and action plan on lifelong and late-life
learning is, of course, not without obstacles. The hegemonical grip of ‘Third
Way’ politics (Giddens, 1998), which celebrate the human capital model of
development and individuated lifestyles, has led to an almost absence of
philosophical reflection on the empowering potential of late-life learning. Latelife learning must be embedded in a critical value system which seeks to expose
‘how relations of power and inequality, (social, cultural, economic), in their
myriad forms combinations, and complexities, are manifest and challenged in
the formal and informal education...of adults’ (Apple, Au & Gandin, 2009, p. 3).
As a result, there exists a strong need to engage older adult learning as a form
of resistance toward the neo-liberal political ideology that makes successful
ageing contingent on meeting the employment needs of the new knowledge
economy. On a more practical level, public resources may be seriously limited
which necessitates collaboration with voluntary and third sector resources, and
self-organising provision, which may lead to further logistic and organisational
difficulties. As McNair (2009) stressed, public resources, especially access to
buildings, workshops and equipment which could be used for learning may exist
but ultimately be unavailable due to conflicting priorities, unhelpful regulations
or a simply lack of awareness of inherent possibilities. The implantation of
provision is only half the work as one must ensure that programmes really target
the generational habitus of older learners, and remain sustainable and relative to
incoming generations. Moreover, quality and accessibility are not to be
underestimated since otherwise the overarching rationale underlying the
implementation of older adult learning would be forfeited. Such issues are
surely not easily resolved but, in the spirit of critical paradigm, there is a real
hope if local and global movements collaborate together for social
There is no commonly agreed definition of ‘older’ persons, and different people age at very
different rates. Herein, the author is thinking of people above the age of 50, which is the
beginning of what is generally seen as the ‘third age’ of life – a period life phase in which there
is less employment and child-raising responsibilities to commander time – before a ‘fourth age’
where morbidity tends to limit activity and people become dependent on others and specialized
services for some aspects of daily living. However, for statistical purposes, a cut-off point was
determined at age 60 which currently represents the required age to qualify for the statutory state
pension in Malta.
The Maltese archipelago is made up of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. It is located in
the Mediterranean Sea with Sicily 93 km to the north, Africa 288 km to the south, Gibraltar
1,826 km to the west, and Alexandria 1,510 km to the east. Comino is uninhabited, and with
Gozo having a population of just 29,904 persons, Malta is the major island of this archipelago
state (National Statistics Office [NSO], 2009a). The total population of Malta is 365,568 on a
total land area of 315 km2, which makes it the most densely populated European Union member
state (NSO, 2009a).
Marvin Formosa is a lecturer at the European Centre of Gerontology, University of
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Abstract – This paper presents some of the results of the study ‘Coexistence and
Confrontation among Peers in Secondary Schools in Catalonia’ commissioned by
the Ombudsman’s Office of the Catalan government and carried out at the
Institute of Childhood and the Urban World (CIIMU) in Barcelona, Spain, in
2005-2006. It offers a description of the indicators of malaise and exclusion
among students at nine public and private secondary schools serving varying
social environments in Catalonia. Qualitative and quantitative techniques were
applied, based on focus groups and in-depth interviews with students, teachers,
parents associations and school management, and a questionnaire for students in
Year 1 and Year 4 of secondary school (ages 12 and 16). Though the results
obtained also reveal a certain amount of verbal, social and physical bullying in
these schools, this study’s main interest was the factors consitituting each school’s
climate as it affected student peer-to-peer relationships. Such factors included the
type of ‘model’ student promoted by the school; the values governing social
popularity and stigmatisation among the students; the sorts of academic
expectations placed on students by the school; the perception of teaching methods
and practices among students; the social relationship between teachers and
students as perceived by the latter; the different models of governance through
rules and the level of internal coherence in applying sanctions; the strategies used
by the school to create groups; and the degree of recognition by the institution of
the diversity of students’ origins.
Theoretical focus: beyond bullying
n 2004, the Ombudsman’s Office of the Catalan government started to receive
increasing numbers of complaints about peer bullying in the secondary school
context, after the striking news of the suicide of a teenage student that later has
come to be known as ‘the Jokin case’ 2 . As a result, in 2005 the Office
commissioned the Institute of Childhood and Urban World (CIIMU)3 to carry out
an in-depth study into how school climates might be affecting relationships of
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 87-107, 2010
coexistence in local secondary schools and thus having a negative impact on the
wellbeing of students.
Rather than following a psycho-pedagogical approach that is chararacteristic
of most of the classic studies on bullying and school climate, the study was carried
out from a socio-anthropological perspective, although the contributions of
previous literature, regardless of disciplinary perspectives, were carefully taken
into account. Priority was given to looking at practices and relationships among
students and school institutions from a holistic point of view, focusing on student
agency in social interactions with and within the school. We therefore regarded
gender, social class, ethnic/national origin and language4 not only as independent
variables but also as elements of processes that are constructed and (re)produced
in the school as well as in peer relationships. The (re)creation of femininity and
masculinity, social distancing and cultural/ethno-racial/national and linguistic
hierarchies are interwoven in the processes of identity-building and also through
social relations. In particular, our approach draws heavily on Bourdieu’s notion of
different forms of symbolic violence (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) and Ross Epp’s
notion of systematic violence (Ross Epp, 1999), a kind of inherent institutional
‘violence’ that favours exclusion, malaise and inequality of power in the heart of
schools. Our main objective was to identify the factors and processes in schools
that students perceive as being of key importance in their relationships of
conviviality/coexistence, as opposed to the information provided by adult agents
in the same institutional space.
Schools and peer relationships
Exclusion in school: bad for many, good for some?
Ethnographic research in schools has shown how the institution of the school itself
creates the conditions for violence and opposition among peers. Through the structure
and the order within that structure is created what Payet (1997, p. 177) has called
‘logical institutional discrimination’, a hierarchical mapping on the school structure
itself5 which favours the creation of groups of winners and losers according to the
different levels of prestige they enjoy. Involuntarily, this also favours the emergence
a system of ‘systematic violence’ for which nobody feels responsible but which has
the effect of excluding some sectors of students (Ross Epp, 1999).
‘Systematic violence is found in any institutionalised practice that affects
students unfavourably. In order to be damaging, the practices do not need
to produce a negative effect in all students. They may be beneficial for some
and damaging to others.’ (Ross Epp, 1999, p. 18; italics in original)
Hallinan & Williams (1989) have shown the influence of certain factors on the
organisation of schools when it comes to developing interethnic friendships, such as
the presence or absence of groups separated according to performance, the balanced
presence of children of different origins in the same class or the use of teaching
methods based on public exposure of students in their evaluation. But the school as
an institution can produce class, ethnic and sexual segregation in spite of an apparent
discourse of equal opportunity (Oakes, 1987; Payet, 1997). In Catalonia, previous
research has also shown how the kinds of discourses circulating among the
different agents in relation to ethnicity and performance in the school affect the
level of racism present in interethnic relations (Serra, 2001; Pàmies, 2008).
Segregation and violence: when does resistance emerge?
Academic segregation of the students and their consequent social isolation
within the school increases school violence, as has been shown by research carried
out in France: ‘…the feeling of violence and the climate of anti-social behaviour
grows according to the increase in “internal” and social exclusion experienced by
its students’ (Debarbieux, Dupoux & Montoya, 1997, p. 35).
Success in positive coexistence and bonding between students and the school
depends on how this tension between differentiating and equalising mechanisms
is resolved (Araos & Correa, 2004). Some British studies (Hargreaves, Hester &
Mellor, 1975) show that the values and norms transmitted in low academic ability
groups (constructed as ‘bad’) contribute to the crisis of oppositional sub-cultures
among young people. The working class sub-culture of ‘mates’ among young
people (Willis, 1977) is constructed in resistance to the school culture and this
implies hostility toward more conformist, less ‘masculine’, minority and female
students. Student groups are constructed ‘against’ the others, thanks to a firm
separation between ability-level groups as well as daily practices in the school
(Eckert, 1989; Flores-Gonzalez, 2005). Moreover, the de-legitimisation of
working class culture (Feito, 1990), the emphasis on body control and behaviour
and the repetitive teaching methods in working class schools (Fernández-Enguita,
1997) also encourage resistance among students.
Hidden violence: organize, separate, teach
Violence is latent in school processes and structures, between power
relationships in the institution and in relation to the teachers’ authority (Bourdieu
& Passeron, 1977) and sometimes it only becomes evident in certain acts which
in themselves are unmistakeable distress calls, such as depressions, suicide
attempts or blatant aggression:
‘Violence corresponds to the unsought-after part of internal processes of
discrimination, remaining hidden or unnoticed (what has been called
systematic violence), unless it takes the form of victimising actions that are
unavoidable in school self-observation ...’ (Araos & Correa, 2004)
Bureaucratic organisation and disciplinary techniques (such as isolation,
sorting of students) provoke feelings of being different and alienation in young
people from minority groups as a result of cultural distancing and a lack of power
(Davidson, 1996), which in turn affects the formation of their identity and social
relationships. On the other hand, on the specific subject of bullying, factors such
as the stress induced by high levels of academic competition, a decline in
confidence in education as a means to social betterment, the authoritarian styles
of teachers, strict hierarchies in school, harsh tools of discipline and weak teaching
skills have revealed themselves to be key in the growth of this phenomenon in
Japan (Yoneyama & Naito, 2003).
School climates and bullying
Moos (1979) defines school climate as a learning environment which involves
both the categories of personal growth among students and the school’s system for
maintenance or change, which includes order and clarity in the rules of conduct.
Taking all this research as a starting point, our own definition takes ‘school
climate’ to have four dimensions:
An institutional dimension, which includes elements ranging from the public
image projected/attributed to the school, to the system of rules and how
diversity is approached.
A teaching dimension, including academic expectations, teaching methods
and school rituals.
A participatory dimension, which considers the extent of real participation of
students in the classroom and school.
A relational/social dimension, which includes elements like social popularity
among students, the profile of the ‘ideal’ student, friendships, conflicts and
relationships of abuse and intimidation.
It has to be noticed that bullying itself remains an important interest, in spite
of our focus on school climate that we would regard as an important part of
previous conditions for its emergence or development. We understand bullying as
the type of situations where a student is repeatedly exposed to negative actions by
one or several of their peers, as originally defined by Olweus (1993) and adopted
later by Del Barrio et al. (2003). We are talking about reiterated actions that reveal
intention and inequality of power between individual students. However, like
Pellegrini (2002), we also consider bullying a deliberate strategy for achieving
status among classmates that has to do with systems of stratification at school and
the way social relations are understood.
Previous research in Spain that has focused on coexistence in the school context
and on peer bullying can be fundamentally grouped into the following categories:
Measuring the extent of peer bullying (Bisquerra & Martínez, 1998; MoraMerchán et al., 2001; Del Barrio et al., 2003; Oñederra, 2004; Serrano
Sarmiento & Iborra Marmolejo, 2005; Defensor del Pueblo, 2006).
Analysing aggression among peers in relation to juvenile subcultures
(Martínez & Rovira, 2001).
Exploring the relations of coexistence in schools and families (Martín,
Rodríguez & Marchesi, 2003) – one of the few that identifies school climate
as an independent dimension.
Therefore, beyond a narrow focus on bullying, our study intended to answer the
following questions, as a guide to orientate our reconstruction of the conditions
created by different school climates from the perceptions and experiences of students
(Síndic de Greuges, 2006; Carrasco et al., 2007; Ponferrada & Carrasco, 2008):
What factors of social, ethnic and gender stratification affect the hierarchies
and peer relationships in the school environment?
What school processes emerge as factors of exclusion and malaise and have
the capacity to affect identities and relationship styles among young people?
What peer groups emerge in the school schools, what characteristics do they
have (class, gender, ethnic origin, group values, social and academic status)
and what kind of relationships do they have with one another?
Methodology and sample
In parallel to a review of the literature on peer relations in schools, and
following a methodological orientation inspired by grounded theory, we organised
three focus groups of students from different social, academic and neighbourhood
backgrounds with the aim of incorporating their perceptions into the research
instruments we intended to apply, namely questionnaires and guided interviews.
The fieldwork was carried out in nine secondary schools in different areas of
Catalonia. We collected data from students in their initial and final years of
compulsory secondary education (known locally as ESO6 ), their teachers and
their schools’ management teams. The selection of schools was made with the
cooperation of a special unit at the Catalan government’s Department of Education
that is devoted to preventing, responding to and mediating in situations of conflict
or maltreatment among members of a particular school community (USCE7 ). The
nine secondary schools were selected to represent different types of realities in
terms of private/public ownership and management of the school; socio-economic
status of students; location; proportion of immigrant students; and the availability
of specific strategies for the promotion of good relations and/or mediation
programmes, that is, whether a particular school had an official or unofficial
culture of conflict resolution.
Different types of data were obtained for each school under study. The team
started by obtaining and analysing information about the school and its educational
goals, rules and norms. Next, statistical data were gathered about the students
according to sex and ethnic/geographic origin, as well as the number of disciplinary
sanctions they had received, and their cause and resolution. Websites, journals and
documents on discipline and conflict resolution were also consulted. Guided
interviews were also carried out with members of each school’s management team
(i.e., the head teacher and head of studies), the school’s educational psychologists,
members of the Parents’ Association, Year 1 and Year 4 programme coordinators in
all nine schools, and Year 1 and Year 4 students in a smaller subset of five schools.
The students to be interviewed were selected with the help of the coordinators and
class tutors8 . Different students were selected from each class according to their
relative positions in terms of peer leadership in the context of the classroom and the
school (in other words, we selected some students who ranked highly as peer leaders
and some who had low rank). Finally, a questionnaire was administered to the full
set of students from all nine schools (N = 1,197). Each researcher personally visited
the schools assigned until all the interviews were completed and the documents and
statistical data were collected. The same team personally handed out the
questionnaires to students and collected ethnographic data during pre-questionnaire
visits and while the questionnaires were being completed.
Status, expectations and methods: ‘This school is crap’
Our questionnaires showed that 61.6% of students in the sample had between
‘some’ and ‘a lot of’ confidence in the school. Significantly, however, 34.8%
reported that they had ‘no’ or ‘little’ confidence – a proportion of low confidence
that was reflected throughout the four years of ESO. In relation to the academic
dimension, 44.1% of students were of the opinion that the school thought of them
as a ‘normal student’ and 29.4% as a ‘good student’. The qualitative analysis of
our data showed that one of the factors with the most positive influence on
relationships of coexistence are the high expectations placed on students and the
positive image projected on students by teachers, as transmitted through teachers’
discourse and practice in the daily life of the school. Competitiveness and high
academic demands, contrary to what was expected, did not appear to be conditions
that favoured conflict. What had a negative impact, rather, were the low
expectations and/or negative views that the teachers had of their students, as
indeed the students had of themselves. It even emerged that some schools view
themselves as ‘dead ends’, in a hopeless situation because of the socio-economic
level of their catchment area, where the operating agents appear generally to have
given up. In those schools, desperation feeds feelings of malaise among students,
which does not necessarily indicate that they treat students any worse, but points
to a general disheartening and undignified social and school atmosphere. In these
schools, students make greater demands to be ‘respected’ (34.7% compared with
22% in ‘high’ prestige schools) and perceive low expectations on the part of the
school and negative labelling by the educational community:
R: What do the people in the neighbourhood say about this school?
S1: About [name of school] they say a lot of bad things...
S2: They say it’s crap, and they say it, too, about all the rest [of
schools in the neighbourhood].
R: They say it about [name of school]?
S1: Yes.
S2: And they say to us, are you going to go to [name of school]? It’s
bloody awful!
(R – researcher, S1 – male student, S2 – female student, Year 4, School 5)
The students state that conflicts and insults arise more easily when they are
bored in the classroom and cannot see the sense in what they are doing. This
boredom in the classroom, with repetitive methods and students’ skills left
unchallenged, ultimately constitutes institutional violence.
‘The intentional exposure to boredom and repetition is one part, but only
a small part, of everything that is systematically violent in our schools.’
(Ross Epp, 1999, p. 18)
The most common complaints by students, especially in private schools9 –
where children feel they have a right to complain – are related to the professional
competence of teachers and their teaching methods: an excess of homework,
lecture-style teaching and low-level content. In the majority of schools, the
teaching methods most commonly described can be summed up as listening to
the teachers’ explanation, summarising, doing exercises and correcting them.
Now read, summarise, explain and do the exercises. (Male student, Year 4,
School 5)
They make you read a bit each and they explain, and then they carry on
reading, explaining and reading... (Male student, Year 4, School 3)
They say bla, bla, bla and that’s it…if you understood it, that’s fine, and if
not, that’s fine too. (Female student, Year 4, School 2)
Yes. Because they don’t explain, and you’re copying a really long part, and
you don’t understand it, and they just explain it the same way. (Female
student, Year 1, School 5)
The connection between the professional competence of the teachers and the
emergence of classroom conflict seems evident, and is something that showed up
in the focus group discussions and again in the interviews.
But the classes are really shit, and then they call your parents to say that
you don’t do anything, that you cause trouble. (Male student, Year 4,
School 1)
Ideal and contested identities: ‘I see myself as completely the opposite of what
they want’
In schools that promote an ideal student profile that combines academic
success with social skills, among peers it is best to be seen as sociable and
‘everybody’s friend’. Therefore, better relationships of coexistence are promoted
where compatibility between the academic and the pro-social is valued. However,
this was only observed in one of the high-prestige private schools with students
drawn from the middle and upper social classes, where the whole community
expects a high level of performance from the school and its teachers.
R: What do you think is the ideal student profile in the school?
S1: I don’t know. Maybe like [name of student; the girl interviewed
as a positive leader].
R: How would you define her?
S2: Very open...
S1: Studious, very friendly, laughs a lot, she’s always laughing and
S2: Yes...she’s like always really positive, you never see her like
that...always has a smile on her face, she’s quite mature I think
S1: Yes
S2: Socially she’s got time for everything, for friends, for being with
everyone, so in the end everyone gets on with her.
S1: She’s got girlfriends too, they meet up a lot, I don’t know...
(S1 – female student, S2 – male student, Year 4, School 4)
The ideal profiles promoted most intensely in the rest of the schools in the
study are based on pro-academic and pro-authority identities, but without any
specific links to social skills in terms of either relationships with peers or adults.
And no incentive is offered to pursue those identities – something that corresponds
to the low degree of participation by students in classes and in school. For most
students, the notion of participating is limited to answering the teacher’s
questions. They either do not know how to participate in the decisions taken by
the school, or – especially in private schools – feel that their participation is
allowed but tightly controlled. Students tend to think that the school is largely
concerned with producing good academic results and that they are expected to
adopt an attitude of apparent studiousness, of ‘paying attention’, as well as an
unquestioning acceptance of school authority (‘shut up and do as I say’).
Relationships with teachers are perceived as social capital (i.e., it is advantageous
to be a ‘teacher’s pet’). It is a conformist, silenced identity that uses the strategies
of subterfuge. This is a good example of students describing what is expected of
S1: Someone who never skips class, who studies, doesn’t talk and is
a bit of a teacher’s pet.
S2: I don’t know. Yeah, like this.
(S1 – male student, S2 – female student, Year 4, School 2)
What do you think the ideal student is like in this school?
One who pays attention, gets good grades.
(S – male student, Year 4, School 5)
In schools with a majority of middle class students, there appears to be greater
tolerance of diversity of dress and leisure habits. The main axes of maturity/
immaturity that are seen through body appearance, dress and leisure habits create
different, mutually exclusive groups that affect relationships of coexistence,
but also have dimensions of social class: ‘chavs’ versus ‘skaters’; ‘brats’ versus
‘chavettes’. These are oppositions and distinctions in identity that interweave
gender, class, age, lifestyle and consumption habits, as well as ethnic/national
origin and habitual language, suggesting that these differences should be taken
into account by the school as being fundamental in friend or enemy relationships.
However, there are two other dimensions in which the school institution itself
plays a key role: the attitude to school (being either a rebel or a conformist in class)
and, linked to the former, the attitude in peer relationships (between
‘marginalised’ and ‘hooligans’). The construction of gender and sociability is
interrelated with the attitude toward school, given that it is precisely the male
students perceived as being conflictive that are most popular socially and also
most desirable sexually to the girls. Therefore, opposition to school and peer
aggression forms part of the construction of traditional heterosexual masculinity
(which continues to be mainly dominating), as has been shown by other
researchers (Mac an Ghaill, 1994; Swain, 2003), where this masculinity implicitly
brings with it resistance to school authority.
The most popular are the ones who get into most trouble.
Why do you think they are so popular?
Because they are troublemakers.
(S – male student, Year 4, School 5)
...It depends on what you like. For example, the Peruvian girls like
Peruvian boys, the girls like the lads with attitude, and the lads...and so
on...but the successful ones are a bit fit and give it a bit of attitude. I don’t
like them with attitude, but yeah, normally they are. (Female student, Year
4, School 2)
However, among the girls, popularity is implicit in the evaluation of the female
body, since the most popular young girls are the prettiest and most attractive
physically in the eyes of the boys.
R: Who are the most popular girls in the school?
S1: The ones with the best bodies...[expresses this more with hand
gestures, as if he was holding one…]
R: Don’t stop…
S1: The ones who are fit, the fit ones...well, the ones that aren’t bitter
and bad-tempered...
S2: Yes, the ones that aren’t stroppy, the ones who are nice to you,
and have a pretty face and...
S1: And if they’re fit, even better.
(S1 & S2 – male students, Year 4, School 5)
In schools in working class districts, the pretty ones also have to be ‘hard’ and
‘a bit rebellious’. In these areas it is much more difficult to be ‘respected’ if you
don’t show that you’re prepared to take insults or jokes. These are the codes that
govern student-to-student relationships:
Don’t you get on with each other in general?
It’s just that I’ve changed...before I was really like that, and here
if you haven’t got, to put it crudely, a pair of balls, you won’t last
a minute because I remember that I went in and I was like I was
and they started on me, and they even wanted to hit me, and I’ve
got a really strong character but I never showed it, and then I
did show it and they said, well that stupid girl isn’t so stupid, so
I carried on like that, and now, yeah, people respect me...but
they also have an idea about me that isn’t true. Because now I’m
behaving how I am [talking about the time of the interview] but
the people in class see me as ‘yeah, man, whatever’ you know
what I mean? They see me as mouthy and I’m not like that, I am
super. People see me as being like mouthy, revolutionary,
because I don’t go to class...
(S – female student, Year 4, School 2)
The data from questionnaires show that male students continue to be the main
figures in acts of physical aggression: 6.4% of boys replied that they had regularly
hit one of their classmates, compared with 1.4% of the girls. Models of femininity
and masculinity – and even more when these are related to a social class that is
implicitly or explicitly de-legitimised by the school authority – have a strong
influence on relationships of coexistence. Schools that do not manage to create
social inclusion in their institutional environment and which attend sectors of the
population which already perceive themselves to be excluded in the social sphere
promote separations among peers according to their attitudes of conformity or
rebellion toward the school.
Exclusions and diversity: ‘They pick on the Arabs a lot’
Despite the fact that 40% of the young people in the survey reported that they
had never felt insulted or ridiculed, 22.1% of foreign origin students reported that
they had been ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ insulted, compared with only 12.4% for
local origin students. Most of the students denied feeling isolated at school, but
among those who claimed to feel alone, the percentage of young people of foreign
origin was double that of young people of national origin (18.7% and 9.3%
respectively, combining the ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree’ categories). The
statements made by some foreign origin students makes their sensation of
vulnerability evident, something that is not seen in most of the studies on
coexistence, where neither ethnic-national origin, phenotypical characteristics nor
family language use are taken into consideration. Despite this situation, there is a
general absence in schools of plans or policies designed to combat racism and
promote cultural coexistence. Here is some evidence from an Ecuadorian student:
I want them to come more often [referring to the police], there
are always problems, the other day they smashed my nose in a
fight because they were insulting me and hitting me.
Do you have problems with your classmates?
Yes, they are all really immature and they see me being quiet and
they pick on me. They get [name of boy] every day, something
happens and it’s [name of boy], always [name of boy] (…) The
other day [name of boy] insulted me in class and I did him over
in IT. And in the Catalan class I didn’t hit him because the
teacher came.
And when I get tired I start to hit out, start punching people.
(S – male student, Year 4, School 2)
Our qualitative data showed that the experience of the Gypsy minority in these
schools is also dominated by aggression and insults by their classmates, some of
whom are foreign origin students who have themselves been assaulted by
classmates. So the spiral of exclusion and violence grows. Young Moroccans, for
example, for whom we were not able to collect any evidence in this study as they
were not selected by the teachers for interviews in any of the diverse categories
that we proposed (this in itself is an important piece of information that will form
part of our research at a different time), are spoken of by their classmates as
constant victims of aggression.
What about in the other school?
No, it was in primary that there were problems. But in this
school it doesn’t happen as far as I know. What I have seen, and
more last year, is that the Arabs get picked on a lot.
Who picks on them?
The Spanish. There were some that went around as if they owned
the place, and they picked on them a lot...
And how did the Arabs react?
No, no, they didn’t do anything, because they were weaker, and
they saw that they were being marginalised...I did see that
And did anybody say anything?
No, everyone ignored it and did like when there aren’t any
teachers, and they don’t say anything so they don’t get hit
afterwards. But you could see one looking in the mirror and they
were hitting him.
(S – male student, Year 4, School 2)
The only exclusion that is apparently minimised is that of gender, given that
girls feel that they receive equal treatment to boys at school, although they do
show lower indexes of self-confidence (13% of girls and 5% of boys do not agree
with the statement ‘I like myself as I am’).
Finally, behaviour such as insults and even physical aggression against male
students who have masculinities that do not fall into line with the traditional
gender models continue to be present in schools, both in working class and
middle class environments. Some schools carry out occasional activities
intended to foster gender equality and tolerance in tutorials and talks, but in
general do not have cohesive plans to offset the gender values common in the
school environment and among the students’ home environment, such as
homophobia, and in some cases, students even think that such talks by their
teachers legitimise behaviour that is anti-homosexual. Not demonstrating a
traditional male identity places a male student in a highly vulnerable position
among his peers.
Is there anyone who doesn’t have friends, who is all alone?
No, it’s not that they don’t have friends but they’re very
weak...for example there is a really effeminate boy and even I
recognise that I’ve gone over the top with him sometimes...and
there are some who come and hit him and they told me all sorts
of things from last year...Oh my God.
Like what for example?
Well they hit him, and then loads of people came and hit him,
and they called him a poof, and because they see he’s really
weak and every time they come for him he’s with the girls, and
they know that the girls won’t do anything, well...
(S – male student, Year 4, School 2)
Diversification vs. homogenisation: ‘Neither more stupid nor cleverer: levelled’
Segregation of students by academic performance, including the creation of
reinforcement groups for certain students in certain subjects, contributes to
naturalise and interiorise stigmas and hierarchies in students’ minds about their
own classmates. ‘Low’ group students develop increasing hostility toward peers
in the ‘high’groups as well as a negative view of themselves as students. This
stratification ends up causing students to make generalisations about their peers
according to the class groups they belong to:
S2: In Class A are the swots, in Class B as well, Class C is mixed and
in Class D are the hooligans.
R: And what do you think about being in Class D?
S1: I don’t care. I wouldn’t like to be in Class A, they are all prats
and daddy’s boys.
(S1 & S2 – male students, Year 4, School 1, ‘Low’ group)
S1: In Class A they are all people who might later do a module or
work and in Class B they’re people who’ll do Baccalaureate or
they think that...
S2: They have a chance of doing it...
(S1 – female student, S2 – male student, Year 4, School 2, ‘Low’ group)
Did they organise the classes by level?
I don’t know, but in the other class there are people who are
repeating the year and they are more behind.
(S – male student, Year 4, School 2, ‘Low’ group)
In some of the schools in the sample, the ‘low’ level group was placed in an
area apart from the other classes, adding a physical dimension to their symbolic
separation, as could be seen in the results of the questionnaires. The effects are
clearly negative, since some of the tutors interviewed even recognised the extra
effort they had to make to motivate these students and include them in school life.
In the schools where groups were made up of students regarded as diverse in terms
of ability, students thought that in their classes there was ‘a bit of everything’, and
the schools that experimented with completely flexible groupings10 promoted
relationships of companionship, since the perception of isolation was reduced
and the perception of an improved situation of coexistence between students
R: What do you think of this kind of organisation?
S1: I think it’s good, because you learn to work in a group, well at
my school we did that too but we always had to say you, you and
you, and then you had the group. I think it’s very good for
learning to work in a group. For togetherness.
S2: I think it’s good, because whether you like it or not you always
meet new people, of course you have to get to know them
working for a year you get to know people, afterward outside
you go with who you want, don’t you? But you meet more people.
(S1 – female student, S2 – male student, Year 4, School 4)
The school itself contributes to the creation of envy and malaise through the
organisation of groups by academic performance and risks promoting aggressive
relationships. For example, two of the students in a ‘high’ group explained how
two classmates of weaker physique were bothered by some of the students in the
‘low’ group, in clear response to the subordinate position assigned to them as
members of a low-prestige group.
Rules and discipline: Where do they come from? How are they understood?
And how is social order achieved?
Some 59.8% of students at private schools and some 45.4% at state schools
reported that conflicts of coexistence were most frequently resolved using
dialogue, with a higher degree of satisfaction in conflict resolution being
expressed by the former. A strict system of rules merely enforced through
punishment appears to be negative for coexistence. However, a strict system of
rules may have a positive effect when the rules encourage negotiation, and data
suggest that this is more often happening in schools with high academic
expectations of students, families and teachers, typically the private ones. A joint
process of close academic and personal counseling by class tutors in these schools,
where teachers are clearly expected to account for results in this sense, acts as an
emotional cushion and facilitates tolerance and even identification with the system
of rules.
Two of the elements mostly responsible for a school’s positive climate are the
presence of rules drawn up by the school community as a whole, where students
and teachers in all categories perceive themselves as participants to a certain
extent, and the perception that the rules are applied consistently in the resolution
of conflicts without relevant perceptions of injustice. In this regard, 59% of
students reported that school conflicts were resolved fairly and 62.4% thought that
all teachers used the same criteria to apply the rules. The way in which sanctions
are applied is an important factor, since arbitrary and unreasonable application of
punishments on the one hand and the devaluation of the effect of written warnings
on the other appear to be serious factors in the creation of malaise at school and
resistance among young people. Such things lead to a general devaluation of the
system of rules, which thus becomes less effective when more serious problems
What do they normally punish you for most? Do they send notes
S1: For the smallest, stupidest thing they’ll give you a note.
S2: Sometimes you say something and you think they’re going to
give you a note, and sometimes you say another thing and they
say ‘Note!’ And what are you supposed to do?
S1: When you deserve one, they don’t give you one.
(S1 – female student, S2 – male student, Year 4, School 2)
Students’ reactions were extremely negative before their perception of
authoritarianism, defined by the existence of teachers who would not allow
students’ intervention, who use punishment frequently and who always impose
their own opinion. The threat of heavy sanctions to prevent those problems
perceived as being extremely serious, such as physical fights, substance
consumption and dealing, physical aggression against teachers, may be an
effective element of control. However, if students are not included in the rulemaking process or in their application and high expectations of their behaviour are
not placed on them, then other long term consequences may come about, such as
the intensification of levels of resignation and lack of motivation among students,
paradoxically leading to classroom disruption, high levels of absenteeism or
aggressive peer-to-peer relations outside school.
Relationships with the teachers: ‘They should inspire confidence’
With respect to relationships of proximity between teachers and students,
quantitative analysis of our questionnaire results showed that 73.2% of young
people ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that the relationships were good.
Nevertheless, 11.3% reported that teachers ‘often’ or ‘always’ ridiculed them.
When the students feel that they are listened to by the school as represented by
their teachers, this even seems to compensate for strict rules and high levels of
punishment. A quality tutorial project and a relation of trust between teachers and
students are preventive factors in terms of the generation of confrontation.
Emotional closeness is one of the highest demands of the students, especially
among lower-middle and working classes, together with the demand for ‘respect’,
since some of them complain of cold treatment and even public humiliation as a
normal part of school life. They want teachers who, in addition to knowing their
field, are pleasant and involved as people, have a basically benign attitude toward
students and do not automatically resort to punishment:
They should be more involved with the kids, and not send us out when we
have a joke. (Male student, Year 4, School 1)
They should be kind, explain things to you well, make you laugh, make a
little joke if you are bored of listening, I dunno, be a good teacher.
(Female student, Year 4, School 2)
They should tell you things about themselves. (Male student, Year 4,
School 3)
In connection with this, we might recall the observation by Valenzuela (1999)
with respect to the centrality of what she calls the ‘politics of caring’. It would
seem to be exactly what students in our study are asking for of the school as a
model for good relations and as a social context in which they spend a good part
of their days.
But it can also be concluded that the majority of students in our sample do not
see their schools as ‘dangerous places’, as Potts (2006) has called them. They felt
good about their schools and had a lot of friends (86%) in an environment where
they, as youth, place considerable value on peer friendships: 73.7% valued the
importance of friends as an influence on their personality. Moreover, most of them
(75.5%) agreed that their school encouraged positive relations, despite the fact that
certain specific practices provoked malaise, such as teachers’ ridiculing of their
learning efforts, the non-generation of relationships of trust, invasion in spheres
that they considered to be private and non-intervention in cases of physical
violence. More specifically concerning bullying behaviours, 14.3% of students
responded that they had been insulted, spoken badly of or ridiculed ‘frequently’
or ‘always’, while those who did not report ever having received this treatment
accounted for 41.3%. In relation to physical violence, 4.7% reported that their
classmates hit them ‘frequently’ or ‘always’, while 79.2% confirmed that they had
never been hit.
The analysis of interviews, however, revealed the profiles of students who are
especially vulnerable in school: academically-inclined students with few social
skills; young homosexuals or those with non-conventional masculinities/
femininities; those who change schools and social contexts and who have to learn
a new cultural code of peer relationships; those from a low-prestige social class
or ethnic-national origin; but also students from ‘majority’ groups perceived as
being weak and who thus more easily fall victim to the ‘revenge’ of students from
minority or marginalised social sectors.
Concluding remarks
This study gives some clear indications about what the key factors are in terms
of creating a school climate that promotes solidarity and togetherness among
students. The affective expectations that students have about their school, how
students from one year are separated into smaller groups and the degree of
recognition and legitimation of the differences between students as manifested by
the practices of the school institution obviously have a bearing on how students
deal with each other at school. Likewise, the style of authority exercised by the
institution is important, with a need for consistency in the application of rules and
sanctions as well as a sense that students are participating in the governance of the
school. It is also essential that the quality of classroom instruction is such that
students are not bored and active participation by students is fostered and
encouraged. Last but not least, the type of student profile that is promoted by
the school as an institution through daily practice and interaction can have
a considerable impact on student peer-to-peer relations.
Obviously, schools differ between themselves in climate and culture and so do
the schools in our sample. In this paper, we have identified and analysed some of
the range of elements that commonly emerged in all of them that had an impact
on peer relations though in varying importance and intensity as experienced by
students. Three years after the public hearing to the Catalan Ombudsman report
based on our larger study in the Catalan autonomous parliament, the Department
of Education has created a mandatory programme11 for all schools to implement
with the aim to promote positive social relations. Unfortunately, it only partially
draws attention to the role played by the school climate and culture on the nature
and quality of peer relations and focuses by large on a disturbing and pervasive
notion of inherent conflict as part of contemporary youth.
An earlier version of this paper was presented in Spanish at the 1st International Conference on
School Violence (2007) organised by the University of Almería, Spain. The authors take equal
responsibility for the paper.
See, for example I. Viar Echevarría’s paper in (14/02/06).
L’Institut de l’Infància i Món Urbà (CIIMU) is a consortium created by the Barcelona City
Council, the Barcelona Provincial Council, the Unversitat de Barcelona, the Universitat
Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
Language is a key element in any study of this sort in Catalonia given that most of the student
population is, to some extent, bilingual in Catalan and Spanish, and there are also increasing
numbers of first or second generation immigrant children who may speak a third language (or
more) at home.
In a conversation with the coordinator of Year 4 in one of the secondary schools included in the
study, the explanation she gave for how the groups were formed was ‘First of all we make the
structure and then we place the students in the structure that we have created’. In other words,
the groups were created with pre-assigned and different levels of prestige, since the basis for
grouping at the school in question was academic performance for a standarised categorisation,
not the real students’ characteristics and/or needs.
In Educació Secundària Obligatòria (ESO), students are typically aged 12 to 16.
The Unitat de Suport a la Convivència Escolar (USCE) is a special unit of support to help schools
in situations of conflict resolution, basically developing mediation strategies. It is also in charge
of training activities and courses on mediation for teachers.
The total number of students in each ‘Year’ (i.e., form or grade) are divided into several
(typically four) groups. In ‘homogeneous’ grouping, students are separarted according to
academic level (what is known in the literature as ‘streaming’). The tutor is the teacher who is
in charge of all the students in a particular group.
Although the many so-called ‘escoles privades concertades’ in Catalonia are technically private,
they also receive subsidies from the Catalan government.
New groups were formed for each new task that the students had to complete.
Programa de Convivència i Mediació Escolar (see
Maribel Ponferrada-Arteaga and Silvia Carrasco-Pons are members of the
EMIGRA Research Group, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology,
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain. Their respective e-mail adresses are:
[email protected] and [email protected]
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Abstract – Science subjects are taught in either English or French in the Lebanese
high school system. In a strongly examination-driven system exhibiting parallel
English and French science courses and textbooks, the issue arises as to whether
the second language in which learning occurs has any determining effect on
outcomes. This paper outlines an exploratory study involving the readability of the
national Year 12 biology textbook using both Flesch and Cloze tests, and the
reading strategies that students employ when reading science texts. On the whole,
there did not appear to be any major differences between anglophone-medium and
francophone-medium students with regard to the readability of the book, but the
study raises questions which cast some doubt on the simplistic assumption that the
choice of the second language makes no difference, particularly with regard to
students’ reading strategies.
ebanese school education is bilingual: some subjects are taught in Arabic
while others are taught in English or French, a choice which is made by individual
schools be they public or private; there are parallel anglophone and francophone
streams in some schools. The Lebanese dual language policy dates back to the
French mandate (1920-1943) following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire
and the end of the First World War, when the public education system was
modelled on the French system, as it remains to this day. English has, however,
been increasingly used in Lebanon since the 1960s, and there exists today a
pronounced American influence in private education, especially at tertiary level.
The school curriculum unit of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education
prescribes curricula for all subjects from Years 1 to 12. The Ministry’s Centre for
Educational Research and Development produces textbooks for these curricula.
Where subjects may be taught in English or French, parallel versions in those
languages are produced.
The Lebanese secondary education system is dominated by two external
examination junctures: the Brevet at the conclusion of Year 9, and the terminating
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 109-124, 2010
Lebanese Baccalauréat. The Brevet acts as a filter for promotion to Year 10;
students who fail it either transfer to the parallel vocational education system or
simply drop out. The Baccalauréat is a university entry qualification, although
this may be supplemented by additional tests such as the SAT for private
universities which follow the American model. Upper secondary schooling in
Lebanon is strongly geared to university entry, with a very high transition rate
operating between the secondary and tertiary education sectors (Vlaardingerbroek
et al., 2007).
The need for secondary school students to study science and mathematics in
a foreign language is compounded in the Lebanese context as there are two foreign
languages to choose from. In the highly competitive, examinations-dominated
world of Lebanese upper secondary schooling, the question arises whether
studying science and mathematics in English or French is indeed a matter of ‘six
of one, half a dozen of the other’, or whether there are subtle differences between
the two learning milieux which may translate into a comparative advantage or
disadvantage. Lebanese classroom practice tends to revolve around the official
textbooks, and one line of enquiry into this issue is the evaluation of the
comparative readability of those books for arabophone students. Accordingly, the
purpose of this exploratory study was to gauge the readability of both language
versions of the national Year 12 biology textbook, and to gain an insight into
reading strategies used by students.
Textbook readability in the context of school science
Research from numerous countries suggests that science instruction in schools
is generally heavily based on science textbooks (Ginsguger-Vogel & Astolfi,
1987; Otero & Campanario, 1990; Groves, 1995; Stern & Roseman, 2004; Fang,
2006). Reading a text in any language is cognitively challenging whatever the
subject matter (Kern, 1989; Labasse, 1999) for both native and second language
(L2) readers as ‘it involves the coordination of attention, memory, perceptual
processes and comprehension processes’ (Kern, 1989, p. 135). Reading science
texts seems to be a particularly painstaking endeavour for students whether these
texts are written in their native tongue or a foreign one (Fang, 2006). Science texts
in general constitute a distinctive genre characterised by a complicated, rigid
organisation, a large number of both technical and non-technical words, long
nominal phrases, sentences dense with information, and complicated syntactic
structures (Halliday, 1993; Groves, 1995; Sutton, 1998; Parkinson, 2000; Gee,
2001; Fang, 2006). Given the inherent complexity of science texts, reading
science textual material constitutes one of the main impediments to understanding
science concepts (Groves, 1995; Chavkin, 1997; Fang, 2006) as L2 readers have
to deal with scientific concepts through ‘a yet-unmastered language’ (Lee, 2005,
p. 492). This extra effort is constantly demanded from science students in Lebanon
(Boujaoude & Sayah, 2000). Students need to develop adequate reading strategies
to overcome their difficulties and extract meaning from their science textbooks.
These can be simple traditional strategies such as skimming the text and re-reading
(Carell, 1989), or more elaborate techniques such as activating background
knowledge (Zvetina, 1987) or recognising text structure (Block, 1986).
In this study, the term ‘readability’ refers to what Fry (2002, p. 286) calls ‘true
readability’, which is the ease with which a text or a passage may be read and the
extent to which it is interesting to read. This definition contains a subjective
dimension that distinguishes it from approaches involving the mere application of
readability formulae. The readability of a text – in this case a scientific text or
passage – implies the extent to which a reader can read and make sense of the text
or passage s/he is reading. Because reading involves interaction with written texts,
language proficiency is considered to be necessary in order to effectively
understand the text. In other words, reading is a ‘reasoning task connected to a
language task’ (Swaffar, 1988, p. 141). Hence, students need to learn and
understand scientific language in order to comprehend the scientific concepts and
acquire the needed communication and thinking skills (Kearsey & Turner, 1999).
Despite improvements in the quality of science textbooks over the past few
decades, studies from a variety of countries have shown that students continue to
face problems in reading science texts (Ginsguger-Vogel & Astolfi, 1987; Fang,
2006). Various researchers have reported that students find science a ‘forbidding
and obscure’ (Halliday, 1993, p. 69) subject and that reading a science text is a
difficult enterprise that can be frustrating (Fang, 2006). But, ironically, even
though reading texts in a foreign language requires more effort on the part of L2
learners, research suggests that problems faced by second language learners are
not very different from those faced by native speakers: both encounter similar
challenges when reading science texts as ‘science language’ includes features that
are peculiar to science, that is, the scientific register (Kern, 1989; Halliday, 1993;
Fang, 2006). Other than technical terms, difficulties reside in the grammatical
features which include interlocking definitions, technical taxonomies, special
expressions, lexical density, syntactic ambiguity, grammatical metaphors and
semantic discontinuity. Numerous empirical studies (Ginsguger-Vogel & Astolfi,
1987; Merzyn, 1987; Groves, 1995; Chavkin, 1997; Sutton, 1998; Fang, 2006)
have shown that students are challenged by the lexical components of science
texts. Fang (2006) identifies, in his extensive work with middle-school students,
a number of linguistic features that seem to hinder reading in science. As well as
technical vocabulary and high information density, texts use complex sentences
with long noun phrases and multiple subordinate clauses (see also Groves, 1995;
Chavkin, 1997). These jointly slow down, or even impede, students’ processing of
information because of cognitive overload. Furthermore, Fang (2006) points out
that prepositions, conjunctions and pronouns, frequently used in science texts to
convey specific causal, consequential or chronological relationships, seem
ambiguous to students. In addition, the employment of metaphors and ellipses as
well as the nominalisations, which recur in science readings to pack information
and build generalisations, appear to be too abstract for students, even native
Together, these linguistic aspects of the scientific genre give science a ‘turgid,
dense, abstract and distilled’ (Fang, 2006, p. 505) character. As a result, Sutton
(1998) believes that students are receiving a misleading image of science: one in
which science texts look like passages that necessarily describe the truth. The
investigative feature of science, its tentative nature as well as its value-laden
character, fade. Instead, a rigid, imposed, untouchable, unarguable science is
conveyed to students.
In science education, language is no longer an incidental medium through
which students express their thoughts and reach better understanding. It is rather
a new vocabulary and grammar to master before entering science classes. Hence,
language can become an impediment to learning in that it may underlie many
misconceptions (Boujaoude & Sayah, 2000).
The literature identifies a number of strategies used by readers whether reading
a text in their native language or in a foreign language (Carell, 1989; Kern, 1989;
Anderson, 1991). Some studies suggest that there is a clear distinction between the
strategies used by successful readers and those employed by unsuccessful ones
(Carell, 1989; Oxford & Crookall, 1989). According to a review done by Carell
(1989), proficient readers seem to focus on the meaning conveyed by the text
while less proficient readers tend to consider reading as a decoding process.
Hence, proficient readers typically tend to skim the passage, skip unknown words
that are unimportant for the overall meaning, make inferences and keep the
meaning of the passage in mind while reading. On the other hand, less competent
readers tend to lose the meaning of the sentence as soon as the latter is decoded,
and seldom indulge in skimming as they fail to distinguish between essential
words and insignificant ones.
Anderson (1991) classified and characterised reading strategies used by
second language readers. His framework consisted of five main categories of
processing strategies: supervising strategies, support strategies, paraphrase
strategies, strategies for establishing coherence in the text, and test-taking
strategies. According to his empirical studies, proficient readers and less
competent readers use virtually the same types of strategies; however, proficient
readers are better at knowing ‘how to use a strategy successfully and orchestrate
its use with other strategies’ (Anderson, 1991, pp. 468-469).
In summary, reading science texts, be it in students’ native language or a
foreign one, constitutes a main impediment to understanding scientific concepts.
This seems to be primarily attributed to the scientific register and the grammatical
features embedded in the written language of science. Students seem to overcome
the language barrier by developing various reading strategies. This study aims to
examine and compare the main problems faced by second language speakers when
reading science texts written in English and in French, as well as to investigate the
reading strategies developed.
Biology was selected as the subject for this investigation as it is studied by all
Baccalauréat strands except one, and is the backbone of the popular ‘Life Science’
strand. The parallel English language and French language national biology texts
produced by the Ministry of Education for the Life Science strand are ‘Life
Science’ and ‘Science de la Vie’ respectively (currently in the 2006 new editions).
These books are used by most schools, public and private, which follow the
Lebanese curriculum.
A single school offering the Lebanese curriculum, having both French and
English as languages of science instruction for separate language sections, was
selected in order to limit the number of situation variables. Grade 11 Life Science
strand students were selected because they had not yet encountered the Grade 12
textbook. There were 29 students (16 boys and 13 girls) in the English section and
46 in the French section (23 boys and 23 girls).
The Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) formula (Flesch, 1948) and its French
adaptation (Kandel & Moles, 1958) were applied to samples of each text. The FRE
is a good objective indicator of the level of difficulty of a text, but it does not give
any indication about the interaction between the reader and the text; a text may be
easy to read in terms of decoding words, but be totally unintelligible (Labasse,
1999). The standard Cloze test was adopted in order to test students’ ability to read
meaningfully the same selected passage in English or French. The Cloze test has
often been used on science texts, including biology textbooks (Cohen & Poppino,
1978; Merzyn, 1987; Fatt, 1991) and in the context of the second language medium
of instruction (Steinman, 2002). A French version (test de closure) was developed
by Landsheere in 1978 (Ginsguger-Vogel & Astolfi, 1987; Bennacer, 2007).
For the Flesch testing, the researcher extracted from the textbooks all passages
discussing a single topic with minimum reliance on diagrams and pictures: the
passage had to be discursive rather than merely presenting a lot of new
information. These criteria served the purpose of the study as they are very
important for the selection of the texts eligible for Cloze testing (Steinman, 2002;
Bennacer, 2007). The researcher ended up with 17 passages in each version of the
book. For the Cloze testing, the researcher selected from these passages those that
were at least 250 words long. To avoid concept novelty (Oller, 1979), passages
discussing completely new topics were disregarded. This left 10 passages, of
which one was randomly chosen. The final target excerpt was from the chapter
entitled ‘Genetic variation and polymorphism’ in English and ‘Variation génétique
et polymorphisme’ in French. The English passage was 298 words long, while the
equivalent in French counted 315 words. Fifty deletions were made in both
versions of the Cloze test (every fifth word, observing the usual rules of Cloze test
preparation – Steinman, 2002). The last sentence of the French version had to be
included intact. Deleted words were categorised as technical vocabulary, nontechnical vocabulary or grammatical, and the Chi-square test was used to compare
the frequencies of these between the two tests; the value of 1.95 indicated that
the two versions of the test did not differ significantly in this regard.
Alternative words which did not substantively alter the meaning of the
sentence were accepted when marking the Cloze tests. The t-statistic was used to
compare the mean scores of the two groups.
Interviews and verbal reports are widely used as methods for diagnosing and
understanding the strategies employed by readers when faced with a text (Carell,
1989; Kern, 1989; Oxford & Crookall, 1989; Anderson, 1991). Following the
administration of the Cloze tests, interviews were conducted with 20 students (10
from each language section) whose Cloze scores were the closest to their language
groups’ respective means. This sampling method was used in order to compare
two ‘average’ groups of anglophone- and francophone-medium students, rather
than comparing groups of students with widely differing readability scores within
each group.
Prior to the interviews, the researcher explained to the interviewees the
purpose of the study and the valuable contributions that the interviews would have
on the research conducted. The interviewees were assured that their participation
was voluntary and confidential. The interviews were conducted using 15-minute
timeslots. These were conducted in Arabic (although, as is the norm in Lebanon,
the researcher and the students referred to scientific concepts in the second
language; not having been taught science in Arabic, they do not have a scientific
vocabulary in their mother tongue). The interviews focused on an excerpt from the
chapter ‘Mechanisms of evolution’. The passage was headed ‘Mutation and
genetic innovation’ in English and ‘Mutations et innovations génétiques’ in
French. The students were requested to read the text silently while the researcher
was taking note of any strategy applied (such as note taking, scanning, skimming).
Interviewees were asked to rate the difficulty of the passage and to identify words
and sentences that hindered their understanding. They were asked to explain terms
(some scientific, others non-scientific) and sentences (some short, some long) to
evaluate their reading strategies. The interviewees were also asked about the
extent to which they used Arabic (their mother tongue) and how they used it while
reading science texts in English or French (see Appendix IA).
The answers to the interview questions were categorised into the first four
categories of Anderson’s (1991) framework (supervising strategies, support
strategies, paraphrase strategies and strategies for establishing coherence in the
text; the fifth category, test-taking strategies, was not pertinent to the study).
A coding sheet completed by the researcher was devised for this purpose
(see Appendix IB).
Results and discussion
For the English passages selected for Flesch testing, Reading Ease scores
ranged from 10.6 to 57.1 . Of the 17 texts selected, one text was ranked as ‘Fairly
Difficult’, ten as Difficult’ and six as ‘Very Difficult’. The French passages
likewise ranged from 19.9 to 47.3; nine were classified as ‘Difficult’ and eight as
‘Very Difficult’. These scores and descriptors place the national biology textbooks
well within the ‘Scientific-Technical’ category (see Appendices IIA & IIB).
The means on the Cloze tests were 26.3 (53%) and 29.2 (58%) for the English
and French groups respectively. Despite what appeared to be a higher mean for the
latter, the t-value of 1.76 was not statistically significant. According to the
Bormuth criterion reference scores (Bormuth, 1968), these means place the
English version at the Instructional Level (i.e., the passage is sufficiently
understandable under supervised instruction) and the French version at the lower
reaches of the Independent Level (i.e., the passage is suitable for student
independent study; albeit, in this instance, very close to the borderline between the
Instructional Level and the Independent Level). Overall, the tests used indicated
that the reading difficulty of the textbook was about the same for both groups. The
medium of instruction did not seem to favour substantially one group over the
other in its capacity to read a scientific text meaningfully. The literature in the field
suggests that very similar problems across languages arise in reading science texts
even when students are native speakers of either language: English (Fang, 2006)
or French (Ginsguger-Vogel & Astolfi, 1987). Students reading science material
in a foreign language face comparable difficulties, albeit more acutely, as do
native speakers of the same age.
In the course of the interviews, three students from the English section (n = 10)
described the passage as ‘easy’ (cf. none in the French section, n = 10), five
students from each section described it as ‘accessible’ and five students in the
French section as ‘hard’ (cf. two on the English section). When asked about the
main challenges that hampered their understanding of the science text given to
them, the most common factor mentioned was that of difficult technical
vocabulary (10 French section students and 8 English section students). School
students commonly believe that high achievement in science depends to a great
extent on the mastery of technical vocabulary (Groves, 1995; Sutton, 1998;
Kearsey & Turner, 1999; Parkinson, 2000). Three students in each group noted
difficult non-technical vocabulary. Four francophone students complained about
ambiguous sentence structures (vs. none of the anglophone students), and four
about the complexity of concepts/ideas under discussion (cf. two anglophone
students). Other comments – sentence length, noun density, the lack of contextual
clues – tended to be mentioned by two or fewer students.
TABLE 1: Frequency of reading strategies exhibited by interviewees
Frequency (out of 10)
Anglophone Francophone
recognises loss of concentration
states failure to comprehend a
section of text
adjusts reading rate to increase
formulates a question
makes a prediction about the meaning
of a word of about text content
referes to lexical items that impede
states success in understanding a
section of text
Strategies for
skips unknown words
expresses a need for a dictionary
skims material for general understanding
scans material for a specific word or
uses cognates between L1 and L2
breaks lexical items into parts
translates a word or phrases into L1
uses context clues to interpret a word
or phrase
reads ahead
uses background knowledge
acknowledges lack of background
Table 1 summarises the strategies used by the interviewees. Participants in
both groups relied equally on comparable supervising strategies. Almost all
participants stated success or failure to understand a portion of the text, adjusted
reading rate in order to increase comprehension, made a prediction about the
meaning of a word or about text content, and referred to lexical items that impeded
comprehension. With regard to support strategies, the majority of the participants
in both groups skipped unknown words and scanned the text for a specific word
or phrase. However, most participants in the English group (7 out of 10) expressed
a need to use a dictionary, as opposed to only one of the ten in the French group.
A possible explanation is that the anglophone-medium students were not as adept
at breaking a word into parts. Another possibly significant observation was that
half of the participants in the French group skimmed the text for a general
understanding before reading, while only one participant in the English group did
so. As for the paraphrase strategies, most of the participants in the French group
(8 out of 10 participants) and half of the participants in the English group (5 out
of 10) used cognates between L1 and L2 to understand the text and translated
words or phrases into L1. The picture was again a homogeneous one in the case
of strategies for establishing coherence in a text. Most or even all participants
reread a text or read ahead to enhance understanding, and used contextual clues
and background knowledge to interpret a word or phrase. In addition, most of the
participants ascribed great value to the pictures and diagrams accompanying
scientific texts, as they perceive them important tools that enhance reading
On the whole, the students came across as proficient readers in the second
language. It is important to note, in this regard, that the Lebanese education system
is selective: as well as the Brevet filter after Year 9, there are further filtering and
streaming processes in Years 10 and 11, especially in private schools. Year 12 Life
Science students are necessarily academically good students, and would be
expected to be proficient second-language users and readers. This study, however,
suggests that there may be differences between English-medium and Frenchmedium students with regard to support strategies. Francophone students
appeared to be slightly more mature readers in this study, more intent on taking
in the whole rather than getting bogged down in technical details. Given the
limited scope of the study and the small sample size, we would not venture,
however, to generalise upon this point.
Conclusion and recommendations
Although inconclusive, there are indications arising from this study that the
use of English or French as the medium of instruction in science may ‘make a
difference’. Although not statistically significant, the readability of the French
version of the textbook was slightly higher than that of its English counterpart
according to both Cloze test results and the Bormuth criteria as applied to the
Flesch scores. Francophone students were moreover considered to be the more
adept readers. These may be spurious observations arising from the small sample
size, but it may also point to a real underlying difference favouring francophone
students in the Lebanese system. Extensive and comprehensive studies on a larger
scale at lower secondary as well as upper secondary level are needed to resolve
this issue.
At the very least, the study has highlighted the importance of reading in
classroom science. The promotion of effective reading strategies could be an
indirect way of improving science education outcomes in Lebanon. Science
teachers should focus on central scientific themes and concepts to promote
meaningful learning and motivate students (Sutton, 1998; Groves, 1995; Fang,
2006) Teachers should also develop traditional reading strategies in students such
as skimming, scanning, guessing or skipping unknown words, tolerating
ambiguity, reading for meaning, critical reading, making inferences, and so on,
and encourage students to develop more sophisticated ones that engage
background knowledge. Fang (2006) encourages teachers to use paraphrasing
exercises as they could serve as a way to transform the scientific language into
everyday language.
This research was carried out under the auspices of a Master of Arts (Science
Education) thesis programme at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.
Yasmine El-Masri has an MA in Science Education from the American University of
Beirut and is currently undertaking doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, UK.
Her e-mail address is: [email protected]
Barend Vlaardingerbroek is an assistant professor in the Department of Education
at the American University of Beirut. His e-mail address is: [email protected]
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Interview Questions
How do you find this text? Is it easy or difficult?
What is the main idea of this passage?
What do you find difficult in the text?
Which of these two words do you find hard(er)? (Given two difficult words
selected by the researcher) Why?
What do you do when you come across such words?
Which of these two sentences is harder in your opinion? (Given two difficult
sentences selected by the researcher) Why?
Can you explain these sentences for me, please?
What would you do to overcome the difficulties in those sentences?
While reading, do you use the diagrams found in your book? At what stage?
Do you use Arabic in order to understand what you are reading? How?
Interview Coding Format
Language of instruction: E
1. When given the text, the student:
a. Skims through the pages
b. Reads word by word
2. According to the student, the text is:
a. Easy
b. Accessible
c. Hard
3. The main idea is:
Paragraph 1:
Paragraph 2:
Paragraph 3:
4. What do you find difficult in the text while reading it:
a. the sentence structure
b. the vocabulary
c. the concept/ideas
5. The meaning of: ‘natural population’
The harder word is:
a. technical
b. non-technical
6. What do you do when you come across such words?
Flesch Reading Ease Scores of Science Texts
Texts in English
Very Difficult
Very Difficult
Fairly Difficult
Very Difficult
Fairly Difficult
Very Difficult
Very Difficult
/ 100
length in
Texts counting less than 250 words
Flesch Reading Ease Scores of Science Texts
Texts in French
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
Très Difficile
* Texts
counting less than 250 words
/ 100
length in
Abstract – The purpose of this study is to assess the interrelationships among
factors negatively affecting the communication process among faculty members.
Specifically, structural equation modelling was used to test the interrelationships
among nine factors, namely: lack of motivation, alliances, lack of common goals,
scientific discourse, individualism, inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge,
administrative issues, introvert characteristics of the department and
departmental atmosphere and their impact on poor communication among faculty
members. The sample for the study consisted of 480 faculty members including
professors, associate professors and assistant professors employed in seven state
universities in Turkey. The data were gathered by utilising the Inventory of
Communication Analysis in Academic Context (ICAAC) and analysed by using
LISREL. Overall, the model explained 74% of the total variance in poor
communication, and fit indices suggested a good fit of the data. The results and
implications are discussed.
inancial cutbacks, decreasing public spending, new accountability measures,
enrolment uncertainties, calls for a broader range of services to society, economic
recession, and confusion about academic goals, which are among the challenges
facing higher education institutions, have combined to encourage the
reorganisation of these institutions across the world (Altbach, 1995; Jacob &
Hellström, 2003). The restructuring of higher education has generated various
critical debates on almost all aspects of universities, such as collegial tradition,
departmental structure, academic culture, knowledge, ethics and roles of
academics (Barnett, 1993; Kerr, 1994; Altbach, 1995; Adams, 1998; Tapper &
Palfreyman, 1998; Edwards, 1999; Marginson, 2000; Jacob & Hellström, 2003).
The effects and acceleration of change in higher education vary in nature,
provenance and intensity, but all impact on academic staff and their perception
about their worklife and the workplace (Adams, 1998) in which communication
takes place.
In addition, quality in research, teaching and service, which are the basic tasks
of a university, mainly relate to the quality of administrative processes, academic
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 125-147, 2010
staff and related aspects of their worklife and workplace, technical infrastructure,
and so on. Among other organisational processes and themes that may be related
to these changes and quality issues, organisational communication deserves more
attention because of its central position in the organisational action, control,
coordination and survival of organisations.
Organisational communication can be defined as a process through which an
organisation’s members express their collective inclination to coordinate beliefs,
behaviours, and attitudes, and it also gives meaning to work and forges
perceptions of reality (Kowalski, 2000). It is a transactional symbolic process that
allows people to relate to and manage their environments by establishing human
contact, exchanging information, and reinforcing or changing the attitudes and
behaviours of others (Book et al., 1980). Communication also requires a common
purpose and a common understanding of the goals which an enterprise aims to
achieve. Thus, communication is the process most central to the success or failure
of an organisation.
Hunt, Tourish & Hargie (2000) stated that, as with most organisations,
universities as educational establishments engage in a wide variety of
communications to realise their basic tasks – teaching, research, and service.
However, universities have some distinguishing features which make their
communication process more complex compared to business organisations. These
distinguishing features can be categorised as goal ambiguity or multiplicity,
complexity of goals and mission, administrative structure, academic profession
(Birnbaum, 1988), and structural and cultural configuration (Birnbaum, 1988;
Alvesson, 1993; Becher, 1994; Baldridge et al., 2000; Trowler & Knight, 2000;
Ylijoki, 2000; Hearn & Anderson, 2002; Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
In addition, Millett (1968) proposed that the structure of the university may
facilitate or impede communication. Structure impedes communication when it is
not clearly related to the technological process and desired output of higher
education. Also, structure hampers communication when it is not clearly defined
in terms of functions to be performed by the differentiated parts of the enterprise.
On the other hand, structure can facilitate communication when it is clearly
defined and related to the technology and outputs of higher education.
Moreover, universities are labour intensive, that is, the staff of a higher
education institution is a significant component having a major role to play in
achieving the objectives of the institution (Rowley, 1996). Specifically, faculty
members have a special status as part of an academic department and they cannot
be just passive recipients of management communication. In other words, faculty
members are the vital part of the entire university communication network.
However, there is a dearth of research which specifically investigates
communication among faculty members.
Research problem
Against this background, this study collectively suggests the value of assessing
interrelationships among factors negatively affecting the communication process
and their impacts on poor communication among faculty members in Turkish state
universities by testing a hypothetical structural model (see Figure 1) drawn from
the findings of a qualitative case study conducted by Gizir & Simsek (2005) and
also the related literature.
In their studies, Gizir & Simsek (2005) aimed at investigating the most
common communication problems and the ways of solving these problems
according to the views of faculty members at the Middle East Technical University
(METU). The results of their study indicated many factors that influenced, both
positively and negatively, the communication process in an academic context.
Factors influencing negatively communication within and between departments
were named ‘inhibitors’, including disciplinary culture, high individualism,
inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge, lack of motivation, competition,
alienation, alliances, criticism, departmental atmosphere, lack of common goals,
administrative issues, methods of communication, time constraints, size of the
department, age profile of faculty, only personal contact, introvert characteristics
of the department, inadequate collaboration in scientific work, upper
administrative staff and communication, marginalisation, formal mediums, and
general size of the campus. Gizir & Simsek (2005) also proposed that the number
FIGURE 1: Hypothetical structural model of poor communication among faculty members
of inhibitors are greater than the number of enablers, and that this situation may
be a sign of some problematic areas in the communication process in an academic
Gizir & Simsek (2005) also pointed out that some factors were stressed more
frequently than others by the faculty members interviewed and appeared to have
a greater negative influence on the communication process in an academic context
than others. These factors were ‘lack of motivation’, ‘administrative issues’,
‘departmental atmosphere’, ‘high individualism’, ‘introvert characteristics of
the department’, ‘criticism’, ‘alliances’, ‘lack of common goals’, and ‘inadequate
exchange of scientific knowledge’.
The present study employs a hypothetical structural model which takes into
consideration the interrelationships among these factors1 (as well as the related
literature) and reviews their impact on poor communication.
The sample of the study consisted of 480 faculty members employed in seven
state universities representing seven regions of Turkey. The sample selection
process involved several consecutive steps. In the first step, seven state
universities representing seven regions of Turkey were identified by using a
criterion sampling strategy. Among the 53 state universities in Turkey, the selected
universities have the oldest history, have more faculties and more faculty
members, and more students compared to other public universities in the same
regions (Council of Higher Education, 2004a, 2004b). The aim was to include the
largest university in each region in order to enhance the representative power of
the sample.
After identifying the faculties which were the most common and familiar ones
in sampled universities in order to distribute the sample equally in the best way,
a sample of faculty members was selected from these faculties by utilising a
stratified random sampling procedure. Finally, the names of the faculty members
from each stratum were drawn randomly and 1,000 faculty members were selected
to form the sample.
Data were obtained by mail and out of 1,000 faculty members, 480 returned
the surveys, representing a 48% return rate. Out of the 480 faculty members, 128
were from the faculties of Science (26.7%), 90 were from Education (18.8%), 102
were from Economics and Political Sciences (21.3%), and 160 were from
Engineering (33.3%).
The mean age of the sample was 45.74 years (SD = 8.5) with an age range of
30.0 to 67.0 years. The service year of faculty members within their current
university was 18.1 years (SD = 8.9) with a range of 1 to 41 years. Out of the 480
faculty members, 115 were female (24%) and 365 were male (76%).
The Inventory of Communication Analysis in Academic Context (ICAAC)
was used in this study in order to assess the potential factors affecting negatively
the communication process and poor communication among faculty members in
the academic context. Responses were measured on a 5-point Likert scale with
anchors labelled from ‘certainly disagree’ to ‘certainly agree’. The ICAAC was
developed mainly by Gizir & Gizir (2005), and a validity and reliability study was
conducted by the same researchers. Results of the confirmatory factor analysis
highlighted ten factors from this 36-item inventory: poor communication,
individualism, inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge, lack of motivation,
alliances, administrative issues, lack of common goals, scientific discourse,
introvert characteristics of the department, and departmental atmosphere. The
results also showed that internal consistency coefficients of the factors as
estimated by Cronbach Alpha were satisfactory, ranging .67 to .88 .
Data analysis
In the present study, LISREL 8.30 for Windows (Jöreskog & Sörbom, 1999)
with SIMPLIS command language was used to analyse the data. The maximum
likelihood estimation method was used in all the LISREL analyses. For the model
data fit assessment, Goodness-of-Fit Index (GFI), Adjusted Goodness-of-Fit
Index (AGFI), Comparative Fit Index (CFI), Normed Fit Index (NFI), NonNormed Fit Index (NNFI), Incremental Fit Index (IFI), Relative Fit Index (RFI),
Root-Mean-Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA), and Standardised Root
Mean Squared Residual (SRMR) were used in the study (Schumacker & Lomax,
1996). The expected values for a good model data fit interpretation are possible
if the GFI, AGFI, CFI, NFI, NNFI, IFI, and RFI index values are above .90.; and
RMSEA and SRMR index values are below .05.. In addition, the significance of
the paths among latent variables was considered with respect to the t-test results
and non-significant paths were deleted in a subsequent process of ‘modeltrimming’ (Byrne, 2001). For the purpose of revising or improving the model data
fit, modification indexes were also taken into account. Then, direct, indirect and
total effects were examined.
Descriptive statistics for the latent variables
The means, standard deviations and correlations of the latent variables used
in the structural equation model are presented in Table 1.
TABLE 1: Means, standard deviations and correlations among latent variables
.672** –
.609** .612** –
.680** .584** .534** –
7.13 12.54
2.02 4.75
0.80 0.88
Note: Correlations: *p < .05; **p < .01. PC: Poor Communication; IND: Individualism; IESK:
Inadequate Exchange of Scientific Knowledge; LM: Lack of Motivation; ALL: Alliances; AI:
Administrative Issues; LCG: Lack of Common Goals; SD: Scientific Discourse; ICD: Introvert
Characteristics of the Department; DA: Departmental Atmosphere.
The Structural Equation Model
Structural equation modelling was used to test the hypothesised
interrelationships among ‘lack of motivation’, ‘alliances’, ‘lack of common
goals’, ‘scientific discourse’, ‘individualism’, ‘inadequate exchange of scientific
knowledge’, ‘administrative issues’, ‘introvert characteristics of the department’,
‘departmental atmosphere’ and their impact on ‘poor communication’.
Two steps were used to determine the interrelationships among latent variables
and their impact on poor communication. Firstly, the hypothetical model of the
poor communication among faculty members presented in Figure 1 was
estimated. Although this initial model indicated approximately a good fit to the
data except AGFI and RFI (see Table 2), three paths between latent variables were
found to be non-significant in this model. Specifically, the paths from ‘alliances’
to ‘introvert characteristics of the department’ (γ = 0.06, t = 1.00), and ‘inadequate
exchange of scientific knowledge’ to ‘introvert characteristics of the department’
(β = 0.02, t = 0.31) indicated non-significant t-values. The path from ‘scientific
discourse’ to ‘inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge’ was also found to be
non-significant (γ = 0.17, t = 1.87). So, these three paths were deleted from the
estimated structural model.
Secondly, as a result of inspecting the modification indexes, two new paths
were added into this structural model, between ‘scientific discourse’ and ‘introvert
characteristics of the department’, and between ‘scientific discourse’ and ‘lack of
Significant improvements in model fit of the structural model, as evidenced by
the decrease in χ2 and increases in other fit indexes, were obtained when the
alterations proposed by the modification indices were considered. Consequently,
as shown in Table 2, the goodness-of-fit indices calculated for the model
provided a very good fit to the data. The model fit statistics were as follows:
χ2(555) = 828.11, p < .05; χ2/df = 1.49; RMSEA = 0.032; SRMR = 0.041;
GFI = 0.91; AGFI = 0.90; CFI = 0.97; NFI = 0.91; NNFI = 0.96; IFI = 0.97; and
RFI = 0.90 . These values were deemed adequate to interpret the significant
interrelationships among the latent variables. Moreover, the structural model had
path coefficients all of which were statistically significant and theoretically sound.
TABLE 2: Chi-square and goodness-of-fit statistics for the initial and the modified model
Hypothetical Model
Modified Model
Table 3 presents standardised Lambda-x and Lambda-y estimates, t-values,
and squared multiple correlations for the modified model. As can be seen from
Table 3, all Lambda-x and Lambda-y values, which are the loadings of each
observed variable on a respective latent variable, ranged from 0.44 to 0.89, and all
parameter estimates were statistically significant as obtained through t-values.
TABLE 3: Standardised lambda-x and lambda-y estimates, t-values and squared
multiple correlations for the fitted model
Poor communication
Communication only related to academic issues
Limited personal communication
Giving extra effort for communicating with others
No need to communicate with each other
Insensitivity among faculty members
Inadequate participation in social activities
Individualism in scientific studies
Individualism among faculty members due to competition
Focusing only on personal work and activities
Inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge
Inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge
Not informed about others’ scientific activities
Lack of motivation
Inadequate reward system for motivation
Low involvement in scientific activities
Low motivation for conducting research
Alliances with respect to gender
Alliances with respect to title
Alliances with respect to service year
Administrative issues
Unclear organizational structure
Lack of administrative control over communication
Top-down and one-way communication structure
Alliances in the administrative staff
Latent and observed variables
Inadequate social activities organized by administrators
Double standards
Lack of common goals
Lack of common scientific goals
Lack of common goals for the future
Lack of common solutions to departmental issues
Scientific discourse
Taking scientific discourse as personal
Scientific discourse through gossip
Avoid discussing issues because of interpersonal relations
Introvert characteristics of the department
Inadequate scientific communication with other departments
Only personal contact with other departments
Departmental atmosphere
Artificial, cold and boring climate in the department
Lack of sense of cohesiveness among faculty
Feeling oneself as a part of the department
Feeling of safety within the department
Feeling close to other faculty members in department
Direct relationships
Figure 2 displays LISREL estimates of the parameters in the structural model
in which the coefficients were in standardised values and t-values. As can be seen
from Figure 2, which displays the structural model of the factors for poor
communication among faculty members, the standardised path coefficients
changed between 0.11 and 0.86 in the fitted model. Cohen (1992; cited in Schoon,
Sacker & Bartley, 2003) interpreted the absolute magnitudes of path coefficients
or the effect sizes of the parameter estimates, determining that standardised path
coefficients with absolute values less than 0.10 indicate a ‘small’ effect, while
values around 0.30 indicate a ‘medium’, and values above 0.50 indicate a ‘large’
effect. With respect to these criteria, significant interrelationships among the nine
latent variables which explain poor communication among faculty members
were found.
Out of nine latent variables, two latent variables including ‘individualism’ and
‘departmental atmosphere’ have direct, positive and strong impact on ‘poor
communication’. Specifically, the path coefficient from ‘individualism’ to ‘poor
communication’ indicated a large effect size (β = 0.52); while ‘departmental
atmosphere’ to ‘poor communication’ indicated almost as large an effect size
(β = 0.40). The results also indicated that these latent variables explained 74% of
the total variance of ‘poor communication’ in the fitted model. In addition, the
fitted model identified positive and direct relationships among the other latent
variables as explained in Figure 2.
FIGURE 2: Structural model of poor communication among faculty members
As shown in Figure 2, three latent variables directly and significantly predicted
‘individualism’. The path coefficient from ‘inadequate exchange of scientific
knowledge’ to ‘individualism’ specified a large effect size (β = 0.57), whereas the
path coefficients from ‘departmental atmosphere’ and ‘lack of common goals
to individualism’ pointed out medium effect sizes (β = 0.17; and γ = 0.23,
respectively). Eighty-six percent of the total variance of ‘individualism’ was
predicted by the factors mentioned in the structural model.
The greatest relationship came from the path coefficient from ‘lack of
motivation’ to ‘inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge’ (β = 0.51), while the
path coefficient from ‘individualism’ to ‘inadequate exchange of scientific
knowledge’ was moderate (β = 0.36), and ‘alliances’ to ‘inadequate exchange of
scientific knowledge’ indicated small (γ = 0.11) effect sizes. These latent variables
explained 83% of the total variance of ‘inadequate exchange of scientific
knowledge’ in the structural model.
When ‘lack of motivation’ was taken into consideration, it was observed that
the path coefficient from ‘scientific discourse’ to ‘lack of motivation’ indicated a
large effect size (γ = 0.58), but the path coefficient from ‘departmental
atmosphere’ to ‘lack of motivation’ specified almost a moderate effect size
(β = 0.25). The total variance explained by the latent variables was 62% for ‘lack
of motivation’ in the structural model.
In a similar vein, the path coefficient from ‘administrative issues’ to
‘departmental atmosphere’ indicated a large effect size (β = 0.47), whereas the
path coefficient from ‘lack of common goals’ to ‘departmental atmosphere’ gave
a moderate effect size (γ = 0.29). The path coefficient from ‘introvert
characteristics of the department’ to ‘departmental atmosphere’ signified almost a
medium effect size (β = 0.21) in the model. Moreover, the latent variables
explained 78% of the total variance of ‘departmental atmosphere’ in the structural
The other two greatest effects in the fitted model were the path coefficient from
‘scientific discourse’ to ‘introvert characteristics of the department’ (γ = 0.80),
and the path coefficient from ‘lack of common goals’ to ‘administrative issues’
(γ = 0.86). The explained total variances by latent variables were 64% for the
former and 74% for the latter. When the directions of the relationships were
considered, it was observed that all the relationships among latent variables were
positive in the structural model.
Indirect relationships
As can be seen from Table 4, when the indirect relationships were considered,
the results of the present study indicated that there are positive and significant
indirect relationships between all the nine latent variables and ‘poor
communication’ in the model. Specifically, the exogenous variable of ‘lack of
common goals’ has the greatest indirect and significant influence on ‘poor
communication’ (γ = 0.54) and goes through ‘individualism’ and ‘departmental
atmosphere’, separately.
Again, the dependent latent variable of ‘inadequate exchange of scientific
knowledge’ has almost a large indirect impact on ‘poor communication’ (β = 0.37)
mediated by ‘individualism’. In addition, ‘administrative issues’, ‘lack of
motivation’ and ‘scientific discourse’ have almost moderate indirect relationships
with ‘poor communication’ (β = 0.26; β = 0.19; and γ = 0.21, respectively).
However, all the other path coefficients from ‘departmental atmosphere’,
‘individualism’, ‘introvert characteristics of the department’, and ‘alliances to
poor communication’ indicated small but significant indirect effects with various
magnitudes (β = 0.16; β = 0.14; β = 0.12; and γ = 0.04, respectively).
TABLE 4: Standardised indirect relationships among latent variables in the fitted model
Latent Variables
0.05 --(2.37)
Note: t-values are shown in parenthesis in the table. PC: Poor Communication; LCG: Lack of Common
Goals; SD: Scientific Discourse; ALL: Alliances; IND: Individualism; IESK: Inadequate Exchange
of Scientific Knowledge; LM: Lack of Motivation; AI: Administrative Issues; ICD: Introvert
Characteristics of the Department; DA: Departmental Atmosphere.
In addition, the structural model identified significant indirect relationships
among the other latent variables. Specifically, the independent latent variables of
‘lack of common goals’, ‘scientific discourse’, ‘alliances’, and the dependent
latent variables of ‘individualism’, ‘inadequate exchange of scientific
knowledge’, ‘lack of motivation’, ‘administrative issues’, ‘departmental
atmosphere’, and ‘introvert characteristics of department’ have significant indirect
influence on ‘individualism’, with various magnitudes ranging between 0.07
and 0.37.
Similarly, all nine aforementioned latent variables also have indirect impact on
‘inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge’, again with various magnitudes
ranging from 0.03 to 0.42 . However, the path coefficients from ‘individualism’
and ‘alliances’ to ‘inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge’ were considered
to be non-significant with respect to t-values (t = 1.34; and t = 1.81, respectively).
Moreover, the indirect influence of ‘lack of common goals’ on ‘lack of
motivation’ was approximately moderate (γ = 0.17), while the indirect influences
of ‘administrative issues’ (β = 0.11), ‘introvert characteristics of department’
(β = 0.05), and ‘scientific discourse’ (β = 0.04) on ‘lack of motivation’ were small.
Finally, ‘lack of common goals’ (γ = 0.40) and ‘scientific discourse’ (γ = 0.17) also
had strong indirect relationships with ‘departmental atmosphere’.
Total effects
As shown in Table 5, when the total effects of the latent variables on ‘poor
communication’ were considered, ‘individualism’, ‘departmental atmosphere’,
‘lack of common goals’, and ‘inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge’ had
the greatest total effects on ‘poor communication’.
TABLE 5: Standardised total effects among latent variables in the fitted model
Latent Variables
Note: t-values are shown in parenthesis in the table.
Moreover, ‘administrative issues’, ‘lack of motivation’ and ‘scientific
discourse’ had moderate total effects on ‘poor communication’ (β = 0.26;
β = 0.19; and γ = 0.21, respectively), whereas the total effects of ‘introvert
characteristics of the department’ and ‘alliances on poor communication’ were
considered to be small (β = 0.12; and γ = 0.04, respectively). The total effects
among the other independent and dependent latent variables can also be seen in
Table 5.
Discussion and major conclusions
The results provide evidence that the proposed model representing the
interrelationships among nine factors, namely, ‘lack of motivation’, ‘alliances’,
‘lack of common goals’, ‘scientific discourse’, ‘individualism’, ‘inadequate
exchange of scientific knowledge’, ‘administrative issues’, ‘introvert
characteristics of the department’, ‘departmental atmosphere’ and their impact
on ‘poor communication’ was significant.
Specifically, the results indicated that there were direct relationships
between ‘individualism’ and ‘poor communication’, and between the
‘departmental atmosphere’ and ‘poor communication’, while other relationships
between each of the seven remaining factors and ‘poor communication’ were
The strongest direct relationship was found between ‘individualism’ and ‘poor
communication’. A close inspection of the items supposed to measure poor
communication may refer to the existence of poor communication among faculty
members. These items imply the existence of insensitivity among faculty
members; the feeling that faculty members do not need to communicate with each
other; and the requirement of giving extra effort for communicating with other
faculty members. In the interviews with faculty members by Gizir & Simsek
(2005), high individualism was one of the most frequently mentioned factors
influencing the communication process within a department and was indicated as
the main cause of inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge in the department,
while the size of the department, lack of motivation, competition, the feelings of
domination or possession of knowledge, the nature of the field, a promotion
system based on publication and other criteria, lack of common goals were stated
as the main causes of this inadequate exchange. In addition, they agreed that
although there were some differences in reported causes of this, high
individualism was one of the most common issues regarding work-related
communication within the department. In their study, it was also claimed that
individualism in scientific activities is reflected in informal relations.
Furthermore, Clark (1983) related individualism to the nature of academic
work. He pointed out that the favourite doctrines of faculty members, freedom of
research, teaching and learning, were heavily individualistic. Clark said that each
person was to judge and choose for him or herself, so this idea seems to be
atomistic. He believed that individualism remains a value that some faculty
members sense they share, while showing respect for the choices and actions of
others. He also mentioned that values do not produce similar behaviours to be
integrated, in other words, faculty members acted differently according to their
individual judgment and dictate, while they are also aware of moral bases for such
actions, share attachment to the premises, exchange respect, and grant authority
accordingly. So, individualism seems to be a flexible pattern, though one that has
an elective affinity for the increasingly variegated nature of academic work, that
is, it may be used to legitimate and rationalise such variety, while at the same time
operating as a shared perspective.
Another direct relationship was found between ‘departmental atmosphere’ and
‘poor communication’. A lack of conflict and the presence of team spirit and
cooperation are distinguishing characteristics of cohesive climates, and members
of cohesive work groups are more satisfied and possess more positive outlooks
than do members of less cohesive groups. Optimistic predispositions and
satisfaction are positively related to pro-social behaviours within work settings
such as self-disclosure, the willing acceptance of others, empathy, and enhanced
levels of trust (Pelton, Strutton & Rawwas, 1994). In such climates, open
communication including instructions, scientific discourse, complaints,
suggestions, good ideas, bad ideas, and personal opinions are pervasive among
its members (Myers et al., 1999).
Less cohesiveness, not having a feeling of belonging and a feeling of insecurity
as implied by the items used to measure departmental atmosphere in the present
study seem to cause poor communication among faculty members. The existence
of poor communication among faculty members in a department seems to be
acceptable within an atmosphere in which faculty members, who are individually
oriented, do not have a feeling of belonging but rather a feeling of insecurity.
The results of this study also indicated that lack of common goals had the
strongest indirect impact on poor communication. The results showed that lack of
common goals influenced individualism, and, in turn, individualism affected poor
communication. The finding related to the relationship between ‘lack of common
goals’ and ‘individualism’ is consistent with the reports of Gizir & Simsek (2005)
who found that high individualism was mainly caused by lack of common goals
in an academic context. In their study, the relationship between high individualism
and lack of common goals was explained by faculty members interviewed as a
situation in which there were no common goals, everyone had their own individual
goals, and they tried to achieve these goals by themselves. Interviewees also
suggested that the communication process was impeded by the fact that faculty
members did not agree on some basic issues and common goals due to the
chauvinism within and among departments.
In contrast to business organisations, which have a clear unity of mission,
complexity of mission and multiplicity of goals are unique features of universities.
This complexity comes from their various constituencies and interest groups,
namely academic staff, students, administrators, councils, government, the public,
and the Ministry (Clark, 1983; Patterson, 2001). Each group holds divergent, even
opposing, views on university goals and priorities, both within and between the
groups. For instance, administrators try to achieve efficient use of resources, while
academic staff focuses on both teaching and research, with different strengths of
commitment to each. Patterson (2001) also stated that because individual, group,
and institutional goals are so different, even conflicting, it is likely to be extremely
difficult to formulate a statement of meaningful goals for the university. He also
claimed that attempts to impose uniformity through specific goal-directed activity
will always lie uneasily alongside this structure of segmented professionalism,
and be inconsistent with the essential character and purpose of the institution – the
challenging, reworking, maintaining, disseminating, expanding, defending, and
evolving of knowledge generated by the commitment to research. Similarly,
Cohen & March (2000) state that ‘efforts to generate normative statements of the
goals of a university tend to produce goals that are meaningless or dubious’ (p. 16).
In a similar way, Clark (1983; cited in Patterson, 2001) claimed that although
academics may share in common the fact that they work with and upon
knowledge, they do not share common knowledge; in fact, they are rewarded
primarily for going off in opposite directions. Disciplinary fields continue to
become ever more specialised, and tend to function as separate cell groups. As a
result, there is a high degree of professional autonomy and authoritativeness at the
operating level of the university. In addition, Clark states that the university is both
discipline based and discipline diversified, because the crucial links for specialist
groups are their identification with others working in the same specialised fields,
either within or outside the academic system; loyalty to the employing university
or institution frequently takes second place. He also views the university as a loose
confederation of knowledge-bearing groups, continually cell splitting and
mutating, disunited by their disparate loyalties, interests, ideas and approaches to
knowledge, each with a high degree of self-control.
In addition, it seems that the distinctive quality of academic institutions and
systems is caused by their organisational structure and administrative processes,
including a high degree of fragmented professionalism, and employees being a
special kind of professional people characterised by a particularly high need for
autonomy (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1991; Baldridge et al., 2000; Clark,
2000; Rowland, 2002). This situation leads faculty members not to share common
goals, but instead follow an individual path, which negatively affects the
communication process.
The reciprocal relationship between ‘individualism’ and ‘inadequate exchange
of scientific knowledge’ as one of the findings of this study seems to reflect the
individualistic nature of academicians, professional fragmentation, departmental
atmosphere, and lack of common goals among academicians as mentioned above.
Another finding of the present study was the relationship between ‘lack of
common goals’ and ‘poor communication’ that goes through ‘departmental
atmosphere’. In other words, there was a direct relationship between ‘lack of
common goals’ and ‘departmental atmosphere’. As mentioned before, common
goals are one of the basic requirements for the unity of an organisation; they give
a feeling of belonging and motivation, and provide a means of justifying the
institution to its various publics (Patterson, 2001). In addition, common goals
strengthen cohesiveness and they are strongly related to effective communication
in which people express their views openly, consider the opinions of others, and
combine ideas. Such communication patterns are mainly related to positive
feelings and confidence in future collaboration (Tjosvold & McNeilly, 1988).
Based on this background and as a result of close inspection of the items used
to measure departmental atmosphere in the present study, including statements
such as ‘there is no sense of cohesiveness among faculty members within my
department’, and ‘I feel myself as a part of this department’ (reversely coded), it
may be claimed that there is an atmosphere or climate in which faculty members
do not have a feeling of belonging or a sense of wholeness in their departments
because of an absence of common goals. In such an atmosphere, poor
communication among faculty members seems to be inevitable.
The results of the present study also showed that there is an indirect
relationship between ‘lack of common goals’ and ‘poor communication’ mediated
by ‘administrative issues’, and then ‘department atmosphere’. According to
Birnbaum (1988), as colleges and universities become more diverse, fragmented
and specialised, their missions do not become clearer, rather they multiply and
become sources of conflict rather than integration. He claims that the problem is
not that institutions cannot identify their goals, but that they simultaneously
embrace a large number of conflicting goals. In a similar way, Baldridge et al.
(2000) state that ‘colleges and universities have vague, ambiguous goals and they
must build decision processes to grapple with a higher degree of uncertainty and
conflict’ (p. 128).
Lack of common goals as an issue may be caused by the tasks of higher
education being both knowledge-intensive and knowledge-extensive. Clark
(1983) stated that ‘Goals are so broad and ambiguous that the university or system
is left no chance to accomplish the goals, or to fail to accomplish them. There is
no way that anyone can assess the degree of goal achievement’ (p. 19). Similarly,
Baldridge et al. (2000) claimed that goal ambiguity is one of the chief
characteristics of academic organisations.
Besides professional fragmentation, Patterson (2001) mentioned the existence
of a wide diversity in leadership styles and status found at the faculty departmental
level. Patterson (2001) stated that many heads of departments, far from
comprising a managerial level that will uniformly interpret, adopt and reflect an
upper-echelon philosophy, often give a higher priority to their own and
departmental goals than to overall organisational goals. Different goals and the
differences in the priority of goals among administrators seem to lead to some
administrative issues in universities.
When taking into consideration the issue of the complexity of the goals of
universities and the characteristics of the university institution which inhibit goal
clarification; together with administrative structure and the importance of
common goals for the existence, wholeness, and effectiveness of an organisation,
the relationship between lack of common goals and administrative issues seems
quite high. Common or cooperative goals are highly influential on the
effectiveness of administrative processes, such as decision making, motivation,
organisational change, personnel management, and productivity (Lunenburg &
Ornstain, 1996).
In conclusion, it can be stated that departmental atmosphere is one of the most
influential of the factors considered, and it directly influences communication
among faculty members. Similarly, another of the most influential factors was
individualism, which was directly related to poor communication. Also,
inadequate exchange of scientific knowledge appeared to be another influential
factor. However, lack of common goals emerged as being more influential than
other factors. This seems to be quite plausible when we take into account the
distinguishing characteristics of universities as organisations, including
multiplicity of goals, the nature of the academic profession, and structural and
administrative configuration.
Regarding the composite approach to theory building proposed by Reynolds
(1971), the study of Gizir & Simsek (2005) may be seen as an exploratory stage
to provide guidance for procedures to be employed in the present study. In other
words, the study of Gizir & Simsek (2005) was used as a preliminary study and
provided some substantive categories and hypotheses for the present study. Then,
this study tried to test the hypothetical model including interrelationships among
the constructs. Thus, it might be claimed that the present study may be seen as an
important step to building a theory. There is a need for further research to validate
various types of hypotheses that may be drawn from this earlier model. Further
research studies may investigate whether the fitted model obtained in the present
study is valid in other cultures, such as individualistic cultures or collectivist
cultures. In addition, the fitted model should be re-tested over time. Furthermore,
each factor and their relationships with poor communication represented in the
fitted model may be studied separately.
1. See Appendix I for the definitions of the factors. Among these factors, instead of ‘high
individualism’ and ‘criticism’ which were used as the names of the factors in the study of Gizir &
Simsek (2005), ‘individualism’ and ‘scientific discourse’ were used respectively in the present
study because they were found to be more suitable to explain the phenomena.
Sidika Gizir is assistant professor at the Faculty of Education, Mersin University,
Turkey. She is interested in organisational communication and organisational culture
in higher education institutions. Her e-mail address is: [email protected]
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Definitions of the Factors
In this study, the factors negatively affecting the communication process among faculty
members were defined as follows:
Administrative Issues refer to issues which negatively affect the communication
process caused by administrative and organisational structure, administrative
processes, and the administrators of the universities. When compared with business
organisations, universities exhibit some critical distinguishing characteristics that
affect all organisational processes. Birnbaum (1988) categorises these distinguishing
characteristics of universities as goal ambiguity or multiplicity and complexity of goals
and mission, administrative structure and academic profession.
Alliances refers to a kind of grouping formed by people holding the same or similar
attitudes, interests, beliefs, or having the same or similar age, gender, tenure, and title
(Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Departmental Atmosphere can be defined as ‘the current common patterns of important
dimensions of organizational life or its members’ perceptions of and attitudes toward
those dimensions’ (Peterson & Spencer, 2000, p. 173). The dimensions of
organisational life include members’ loyalty and commitment, their morale and
satisfaction, their quality of effort or involvement, and their sense of belonging
(Peterson & Spencer, 2000; Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Inadequate Exchange of Scientific Knowledge refers to faculty members not sharing
adequately scientific knowledge and not having any information about the scientific
activities and scientific contributions of their colleagues (Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Individualism is defined as a situation in which people try to promote their self-interest,
personal autonomy, privacy, self-realisation, individual initiative, independence,
individual decision making, an understanding of personal identity as the sum of
attributes of the individual, and less concern about the needs and interests of others
(Darwish & Huber, 2003).
Introvert Characteristic of the Department refers to a characteristic of an academic
department in which faculty members have a poor or inadequate communication with
other faculty members from other departments in the university with regard to
scientific, formal, and informal message exchange (Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Lack of Common Goals refers to not sharing or having the same institutional goals for
which organisations were established or created to achieve (Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Lack of Motivation refers to the faculty members not having much enthusiasm to
conduct scientific research, to improve their intellectual qualities, and to teach the
students (Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Poor Communication refers to the inadequacy in the process through which
organisational members express their collective inclination to coordinate beliefs,
behaviours, and attitudes in organisations (Kowalski, 2000).
Scientific Discourse refers to a mean or a medium providing opportunity for faculty
members to exchange scientific knowledge and experiences in order to improve their
scientific works and other scientific activities (Gizir & Simsek, 2005).
Carmel Borg, Mario Cardona and Sandro Caruana (2009) Letter to a
Teacher: Lorenzo Milani’s Contribution to Critical Citizenship, Malta,
Agenda, xvii + 253 pp., ISBN: 978-9993-86-42-4 (paperback).
This book revolves around the educational ideas of Don Lorenzo Milani, an
Italian Catholic priest and his political commitment to education for social justice,
particularly in the empowerment of the poor. The main part of this book consists
of a translation of the Lettera ad una Professoressa, which was written by Milani’s
students attending his school in the remote Tuscan village of Barbiana. The
translation is accompanied by extremely well researched notes and detailed
commentaries in a section that follows the translated letter and an introduction and
translator’s note, written by the authors and presented just before the translation
of the letter. The book also includes a foreword by Peter Mayo, a prologue by
Domenico Simeoni, a republished interview with Eduardo Martinelli, one of the
eight boys who co-authored the letter and an epilogue by Adele Corradi, a teacher
at the Barbiana school.
In reading this book, one immediately understands why the authors are deeply
taken by Lorenzo Milani’s thoughts and philosophy of education. The letter is a
manifesto of the political and educational responsibilities that Milani managed to
install in his students. It is a demonstration of the pedagogical passions that
effectively convince his students to voice the injustices of an educational system
that repeatedly fails them. Don Milani managed to develop their political actions
for social justice through the pedagogical principle of ‘I care’.
Carmel Borg, Mario Cardona and Sandro Caruana share Milani’s political and
educational convictions. As educators themselves, they reiterate the ‘I care’ maxim
convinced that they can infuse similar commitments in all teachers and student
teachers by making the letter accessible to them. The authors clearly find parallels
between the injustices experienced by the Barbiana students and those of students
today. The authors are deeply conscious of the fact that many students are not getting
the quality education they are entitled to, that parental involvement in school is low,
that assessment of students goes against the very educational aims they should be
promoting and that schools are failing their students. The authors make good use of
Letter to a Teacher to revive the critical and radical spirit in the educational and the
social contexts that are becoming increasingly rightist, neo-liberal and interested in
reproducing the privileges and interests of the dominant few. The authors are
conscious that schools teach children to think solely of what is advantageous to them
and to remain silent to the systematic injustices reproduced by the school.
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 149-151, 2010
The acts of translation engaged by the authors are also a reflection of such
radical political commitment. Their use of English, which is considered the
language of the coloniser, is used strategically to disseminate critical
consciousness against the dominant language. Milani himself used to insist on the
need for translation of the classical texts of writers such as Homer, Foscolo,
Manzoni and others. Milani was convinced that students in Barbiana were entitled
to read these texts in their own language, which is not solely and purely Italian but
an Italian language which is alive; that manages to speak to them. One understands
that Milani wanted to give his students the cultural capital they lacked, without
forgetting or rejecting their own.
The translation of Borg, Cardona & Caruana truly vindicates the cultural
capital of the Barbiana students. Their material poverty certainly does not reflect
the richness of their thoughts and of their prosperous sensitivities to the
eradication of social inequalities. This translation of Letter to a Teacher renders
the voice of the students, classic. It transforms the culture of these children into
a cultural capital that teachers today cannot do without. Milani states that
translation provides a living language to those who are poor, it is not driven by
polemical debate and is instigated by the desire to break down privileges. Milani’s
words describe precisely the aims of the authors of this book. Their love for those
who are marginalised from and by the school is as strong as their contempt for the
abuse of the power of the privileged few. The authors’ work of translation,
therefore, is evidently also politically and educationally loaded.
This point reminds one of Spivak’s (1993) ‘The politics of translation’.
Unfortunately, Spivak uses a language which cannot be widely read. Her texts are
a hard door at which readers have to knock several times before they access the
political ideas hidden behind it. Nevertheless, in spite of the contradictions of
using a difficult language, in Spivak’s text one can find the magic word that allows
the poor to enter the entitled cave of riches.
There are two particularly important points in Spivak’s work that are relevant
to this book Letter to a Teacher and particularly to aspects of translation that are
discussed in the Translator’s Note. Spivak explains that when she was translating
the writings of Indian women she had to unlearn the way she had been taught to
translate. She states that school has taught her to reproduce a collection of precise
synonyms. Translation, she argues, is deeper than this and translators are
challenged by a series of ambivalent decisions. Translators have to be faithful to
the text, they have to become engaged with the text, but on the other hand, they
have the power to extend its meaning. They cannot forget their presence in the
political connections of translation. Such ambivalence is clearly evident in the
Translators’ Note in Borg, Cardona & Caruana’s book. The note shows the
translators’ desire to surrender to the text they are translating. They acknowledge
that ‘in this translated version the main priority has been to limit the distance from
the original text as much as possible’ (p. 22). However, later on in the same note
they explain how difficult it was for them to do this, as the language they are using
(English) cannot copy exactly the Italian language. The notes on commentaries on
the text are meant to fill in the gaps between the two languages. One major
interesting point here is their comment that when they did not manage to find
words in English that reflect what is intended in Italian they ‘use sentence
structures and lexical items which may not correspond to what one might expect
in formal, written English style’ (p. 25).
As translators they have chosen to go beyond official languages that fix
meanings. Spivak explains that ‘in translation, ... meaning hops into the spacey
emptiness between two named historical languages. Translation has to do with
loss of boundaries, loss of control, dissemination’ (Spivak, 1993, p. 180).
Spivak also insists that good translation involves the translators delving into
the conditions and contexts of the texts rather that translating meanings
superficially. The different sections of the book have this function of putting the
reader into the pictures of the historical, political and social contexts from which
the letter took shape.
One last issue that needs to be outlined is that of the agency of translators, in
their acts of translation. Translators are not passive and cannot completely
surrender to the text. They are agents of language and approach texts just like
directors of plays or actors interpreting scripts. Spivak describes the relation of the
translator to the text as a love relation. Translation facilitates the relation between
the original and its shadow. Translators are possessed as if lovers possessed by
love. The eroticism of the relation is ethical in that through translation one
recognises the ‘other’ that can never be replicated. Translation reminds the
translators of their cultural difference from the text which is being translated.
Borg, Cardona & Caruana’s book is an example of the love relation that the
authors have with the text. This relation is also ethical in that they recognise the
‘other’ in the students of Barbiana, but especially in the educational processes,
including that of translation, that are committed to the dissemination of a
pedagogy that makes difference.
Spivak C.G. (1993) Outside the Teaching Machine. New York: Routledge.
Simone Galea
University of Malta
Michael Hand (2006) Is Religious Education Possible: A Philosophical
Investigation, London & New York, Continuum, 158 pp., ISBN:
0-8264-9150-2 (hardback).
Many schools assume that it is logically possible to teach religious education
in schools and that it can be taught in a non-confessional manner. However, some
philosophers have argued that non-confessional religious education is not possible
without imparting religious beliefs. This book is considered significant because it
attempts to explore logically the debate by presenting arguments and views of
different philosophers.
Hand begins his book by outlining the main arguments in the introduction
chapter, particularly focusing on the possibility of imparting religious
understanding without imparting religious belief. His concern is to discuss
whether teaching religious education in schools is a futile practice, examining the
claim that ‘non-confessional religious education is a logically incoherent
enterprise because religious understanding presupposes religious belief articles’
(p. 2).
It is clear that Hand’s book centres around Hirst’s papers. In the first chapter,
Hand uses Hirst’s papers (see Hirst, 1975) to initiate the discussion. Hirst’s
premises that ‘i) religion is a logically unique form of knowledge, and
ii) understanding it involves holding certain propositions of that form to be true
or false’ (p. 4) are examined in conjunction with Wittgenstein’s (1953) ideas in his
Philosophical Investigations. Interestingly, Hand includes the arguments of
various philosophers – such as Marples, Attfield, Gardner, and the ‘river-bed’
propositions – to make the reader consider the issue from different angles. He does
this by cleverly dissecting each layer of the philosophers’ arguments, whether
supporting or opposing Hirst’s premises, with the support of Wittgenstein’s
argument. Basically, Hand’s first chapter sets out the agenda of the whole
discussion by showing the flaws, not only in Hirst’s arguments but also in
arguments of the key contributors to the debate.
Hirst’s second premise that ‘understanding a unique form of knowledge
involves holding certain propositions of that form to be true or false’ is scrutinised
in Hand’s second chapter. Here, the ambiguity of Hirst’s arguments for his second
premise is elucidated with the help of Pring (1976), Wilson (1979) and Brent
(1978). Hand concludes his second chapter with the restatement of the forms of
knowledge thesis by presenting the taxonomy of three categories of proposition;
necessary, mental and material propositions; and a logical space that introduces
contingent propositions about non-material public referents. It is the latter
proposition (i.e., contingent proposition about non-material public referents) that
would allow the possibility of being moral and religious forms of knowledge.
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 152-154, 2010
However, the discussion whether or not religious propositions would take this
form of knowledge, is ensued in the third chapter.
The third chapter examines several philosophers’ attempts to show that
religious propositions constitute an autonomous epistemological class. Hand
claims that if religious beliefs are prescriptions which are considered to be binding
(as argued by Wittgenstein or as Philip claims that they are expressions of feeling),
then they would neither be beliefs nor beliefs of a distinct epistemological kind.
On the other hand, if religious beliefs are referred to Hudson’s transcendent
conscious agents, Wisdom’s patterns of human reactions, or Brent’s autonomous
personal beings, then they would belong to epistemological categories that are
already familiar to us, hence losing its distinctiveness. Hand also examines Leahy
and Laura’s account of religious beliefs that refer to non-material public referents
viewed by the believers, which he considers as implausible and incoherent. In
concluding his third chapter, Hand sets his task to present a positive account of the
meaning of religious propositions so as to identify their epistemological class(es)
in the next chapter.
Chapter four displays the thoroughness of Hand’s research in philosophy of
religion as he delineates the concept of religion and propositions about god not
only from different religious perspectives, but also from a philosophical
perspective. His arguments that gods are transcendent (comprise of minds) or
superhuman persons (comprise of minds and bodies) lead to his assumptions that
propositions about gods constitute familiar epistemological classes of mental and
material propositions. Since religion does not constitute a unique form of
knowledge and only involves truth claims of familiar epistemological kinds, he
concludes that the proposition that teaching for religious understanding without
imparting religious belief is a coherent one.
The final chapter clarifies and expands the discussion on the distinction
between mental and material propositions, which has been set out in the second
chapter. Hand also counters the behaviourist contention that mental propositions
are reducible to material ones. He argues that though we may not be able to
establish the existence of other minds with logical certainty, we can make
reasonable inferences to other minds from the appearance and behaviour of other
A believer of a religion who reads Hand may disagree with this contention,
particularly if the believer accepts that his/her religion is a unique form of
knowledge. Holding on to this assumption entails many conditions, including the
commitment of the believer toward his/her religion. Readers who agree that
Hand’s contention is correct do so because they are not committed to the religion
as s/he regards religious knowledge as not only unique, but mere propositions
about religions and gods.
A point worth noting is that the discussions in the book centre around the
general understanding of all religions in general. However an ‘eye or an individual
of faith’ would have a deeper understanding of his/her religion, hence the view that
religion is a unique form of knowledge would apply to him/her. On this account,
I would argue that whether religion is a unique form of knowledge or whether it
refers to familiar epistemological class or classes is not a discussion that can take
place in an objective manner. It depends on the individual’s readiness to accept the
former or latter. A class that is learning about religious education would hold on
to the latter’s view, but a class of a religious school children learning about their
religion would agree on the former. After all, truth cannot be objectively proven,
but ultimately remains with the individual. Nevertheless, readers can be persuaded
by the force of argument and truth is necessarily established in this way. Following
this line of argument, Hand’s attempt to resolve the debate about logical
possibility of religious education by examining the claim that there is a religious
form of knowledge, to a certain extent, has been successful.
Brent, A. (1978) Philosophical Foundations for the Curriculum. London: George Allen
& Unwin.
Hirst, P. (1975) Knowledge and the Curriculum: A Collection of Philosophical Papers.
London: Routledge.
Pring, R.A. (1976) Knowledge and Schooling. London: Open Books.
Wilson, J. (1979) Preface to the Philosophy of Education. London: Routledge & Kegan
Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations (translated by G.E.M. Anscombe).
Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Suhailah Hussien
International Islamic University Malaysia
Maria Teresa Tatto and Monica Mincu (eds.) (2009) Reforming
Teaching and Learning: Comparative Perspectives in a Global Era,
Rotterdam, Sense Publishers, 291 pp., ISBN: 9789460910333
(hardback), 9789460910326 (paperback).
This book is the first volume of the five World Council of Comparative
Education Societies (WCCES) series. It originates from discussions held at an
international congress in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2007. The book
consists of 17 chapters contributed by scholars from different countries.
The central argument of this book is set out in the following quote: ‘In the
name of globalization reform has become in many cases the essential tool of
political systems to initiate change that often displaces other – more culturally
relevant – arrangements’ (p. 2). This book explores the ‘contextual meanings of
those culturally relevant arrangements’ (p. 2) from comparative viewpoints. It
helps the reader to appreciate: (i) ‘the effects of (global) educational reform on
teaching and learning’; (ii) ‘the policies and politics where reform occurs’; and
(iii) ‘the role of the curriculum and experiences in education institutions’ (p. 3),
mainly in the field of teacher education in different countries.
The following is a synopsis of the chapters of the book. Chapters of the book
are arranged basically by contents and the methodology utilised for research
introduced in the book. Chapter 1 (Reforming teacher and learning: comparative
perspectives in a global era) is written by the editors as an introduction and
summary of the book. Chapter 2 (Reforming teacher education in Latin America
and the USA: a comparative perspective through critical discourse analysis)
presents some similarities between teacher education policies in Latin and North
America by utilising a critical discourse analysis based on three main documents.
Chapter 3 (Imagined globalisation in Italian education: discourse and action in
initial teacher training) explores the ‘forms of imagined (discursive)
globalisation’, ‘internationality’ (p. 23) and the ‘dilemma’ (p. 34) between an
English model which is appraised in recent Italian policy documents and the
Italian tradition by analysing a wide range of official documents, journals and
articles. Chapter 4 (Policy, practices and persistent traditions in teacher education
in South Africa: the construct of teaching and learning regimes) discusses how
traditional viewpoints of teaching and learning affect the new requirements of
education policy in South Africa by interviewing scholars and staff in three
faculties in South Africa.
In Chapter 5 (Documentation for diffusion of education reform in Egypt:
rationale, approach, and initial experiences), there is a discussion about the
possibility of implementing a variety of methods in a research topic. Chapter 6
(Global trends in teaching employment: challenges for teacher education and
development policies) utilises some data from two key sources of UNESCO to form
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 155-157, 2010
a discussion about trends on teacher education, employment and reforms in
economies and globalisation. Chapter 7 (Qualified teacher status, one indicator of
the teaching profession’s standards: lessons for California from Finland, Ireland, and
Korea) analyses standards and the status of teachers in three countries in comparison
with California by exploring mainly the ‘requirements for qualified teacher status’,
educational/school system and its performance in respective countries.
In Chapter 8 (Japanese technical cooperation to enhance teacher quality in
developing countries: a multiple case study in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and
Cambodia), the research is conducted through three projects organised by JICA in
Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia. The authors are involved in one of the
projects as technical advisors as well as researchers. Chapter 9 (A comparative
analysis of teacher competences in England and Finland) explores what levels and
types of competency are required by teachers in order to facilitate cultural change
at schools in England and Finland with an analysis of project-based data. Chapter
10 (Teacher education in Serbia: towards a competence-based model of initial
teacher education) also discusses several teacher competences which are regarded
as being vital by teachers and educators in Serbia, using the research method of
the Tuning project. Chapter 11 (Pre-service secondary school teachers’ use of
symbols and algebraic relationships in Turkey) examines pre-service secondary
mathematics teachers’ understanding and usage level of algebraic relationships
and symbols in Turkey by questioning and interviewing the teachers.
In Chapter 12 (Teachers’ concerns profile regarding the reformed mathematics
curriculum in Turley), a questionnaire about the 6th grade teachers’ concerns on the
recent reform of mathematics curriculum in Turkey is analysed. Chapter 13
(Health education: analysis of teachers’ and future teachers’ conceptions from 16
countries in Europe, Africa and Middle East) discusses teachers’ conceptions
about health education in sixteen countries with the analysis of a questionnaire
according to a KVP model. In Chapter 14 (Sex education: analysis of teacher’s and
future teacher’s conceptions from 12 countries of Europe, Africa and Middle
East), data from a questionnaire about conceptions on sex education in twelve
countries through the Biohead-Citizen project were analysed. Chapter 15
(Teachers’ linguistic and cultural potentials: empowering new school practice in
France and Switzerland) discusses multicultural and multilingual environments in
French and Swiss schools by utilising data collected by interviews, school visits
and training sessions between 2003 and 2008. Chapter 16 (Knit together for a
better service: towards a culture of collegiality in teaching science in Sri Lanka)
explores how to develop teachers’ potentials and make reforms work successfully
through interviews, observations and documents in five schools. Chapter 17
(School projects in France: management strategies and state disengagement)
shows the results of a research project undertaken to find the role of school
inspectors in French primary schools.
The book highlights some important issues affecting the implementation of
educational reforms and programmes in both developed and developing countries.
Research in the book shows that reforms and programmes in teacher education are
often affected by financial, social, political, cultural, historical and religious
issues. For example, it indicates that ‘institutional histories and traditions are
powerful shapers of academics’ responses to policy directives as they undertake
the processes of curriculum making for teacher education’ (p. 41). It is also pointed
out that the ‘social and political history of a country has immense implications for
improving the schools’ and ‘[w]ithout an understanding and appreciation for this
aspect of educational assistance, donors of such assistance will find their task
impossibly difficult’ (p. 125). It shows how teachers’ work in developing countries
is ‘vulnerable to global trends in education, the economy and employment’ (p. 91).
More importantly, ‘If teachers are well-informed and convinced of the benefits of
the reform movement, they can alleviate their concerns and focus on looking for
ways to improve the program both individually and holistically’ (p. 194). A wide
variety of analytical, empirical and theoretical research methods are utilised in the
book. A widespread methodology allows the reader to assess their characteristics,
benefits and drawbacks for particular research.
The provision and acquisition of education relating to basic knowledge and
skills are fundamental and essential for all children. The research in the book has
rightly placed the greatest importance on them. Furthermore, some countries have
already established in their laws what to teach and/or how to teach, thereby
succeeding in providing a ‘good’ education system enabling children to acquire
basic knowledge and skills. Some of these countries are now attempting to provide
pupils with education tailored to individual needs, interests, aptitudes and
abilities. With the foundation of basic knowledge and skills firmly established, it
would also be very beneficial to consider education tailored to individual needs,
interests, aptitudes and abilities in the future.
To summarise, this book is worth reading in order to consider teacher
education in certain countries and its role in providing pupils with education for
basic knowledge and skills. The book can also provide some ideas for research
methods if necessary. It would be very interesting to explore how the research
findings in the book affect teacher education in practice in their country. Some
research has described educational and political movements within a country, and
these should be well known. However, simple knowledge of the movements
cannot change the reality of the situation. It would therefore be of more benefit if
the research introduced a more detailed process aimed at the realisation of
educational and political goals.
Ikumi Courcier
Durham University, UK
Robin Campbell (2009) Reading Stories with Young Children, Stokeon-Trent, UK, Trentham Books, 132 pp., ISBN: 978-1-85856-452-4
‘…the primary school curriculum has become saturated with documents,
strategies, targets and testing, testing, testing. So much so that sometimes there
may appear to be so many accountability boxes to be ticked and plans to complete
that fundamental aspects of literacy can be forgotten’ (p. 2).
The starting-point for Robin Campbell’s book is that reading stories with
young children – variously known as story reading, storybook reading or readalouds in different countries – is the most fundamental aspect of literacy. Children
who are read to and with, become readers; those who are deprived of stories and
books fail to make gains in literacy. As schools have more targets to meet, busy
teachers feel guilt at engaging in such a pleasurable activity as reading a story or
sharing books with their pupils. And yet, Campbell is insistent that without this
shared love of stories, children will fail to make the progress they need to meet the
literacy targets.
For those of us who share his obvious passion for passing on not just literacy,
but a love of books and stories to our children, this book is timely. Despite gains
made technically in literacy through recent intervention strategies and literacy
strategies, children here in the UK, seem to enjoy reading less. Teachers of young
children feel pressure to talk about the technical aspects of books every time they
share one with their class, to point out and teach where words rhyme or alliterate,
to discuss features of plot, setting or character, and so sharing books has become
more teaching than pleasure. Following Campbell’s advice here might both
restore the pleasure for teachers and, more importantly, children, and make our
children readers who enjoy reading.
The book is aimed at ‘teachers of young children, teaching assistants and all
those who work with young children’ and to show parents how reading might be
‘developed in educational settings’. It would also be an ideal introduction for
student teachers. There is such a skilful blend of scholarly researched text,
transcriptions of home and classroom dialogue, examples of activities to follow on
from books and photographs of children’s work, that the reader feels drawn into
the home or class and the world of children’s stories. As a former teacher of young
children, so much of this book resonates for me with memories of similar
conversations and signs of progress in children’s engagement with books and
Here are some much-loved favourites; The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Rosie’s
Walk and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, to mention just a few. For those
unsure of what might be a successful book to choose to read with children, a good
Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15(1), pp. 158-159, 2010
place to start would be Campbell’s reference list of children’s books. He expands
on some of the features of what contributes to success in chapters on ‘The
importance of narrative and quality books’, and ‘Reading stories in the classroom:
getting started’. For those unused to reading to children, there is good advice here
for the first few occasions: how to prepare before reading; how to ‘perform’ the
reading by using voice and timing; and ways of involving the children during it.
The second half of the book discusses more structured work with children’s
literacy from stories: features of print and how to develop children’s knowledge
of letters, sounds and words (Chapter 5); developing activities such as role play
or using puppets, writing and drawing, making books, art and crafts, linking to
songs and rhymes (Chapter 6); ways of encouraging children’s own reading skills
through shared reading, sustained silent reading, the use of buddies and pairs,
literature circles, individual and guided reading (Chapter 7). This leads on to the
introduction of children’s emergent writing skills and cross-curricular work from
stories, particularly focusing on mathematics, science and social studies.
For all of this, there is a comprehensive set of references to enable the reader
to follow any of these points further, which makes this particularly suitable for the
student teacher starting out, but provides others with a window into the research
on which the book is based. All of this research is shared lightly throughout, so that
the book is immensely readable and as enjoyable as one of the stories Campbell
He concludes that his book ‘has emphasised the literacy learning which can
follow from the well prepared and enthusiastic reading of a story’, and ‘The
enjoyment children receive from story readings sparks their desire to read for
themselves in a way no worksheet can ever emulate’ (p. 120). For those who would
like to know how to provide children with both literacy learning and enjoyment
from stories, this book is a good place to begin.
Susan McLarty
University of Edinburgh, UK
The MJES is a biannual refereed international journal with a regional focus. It features educational
research carried out in Mediterranean countries, as well as educational studies related to the diaspora
of Mediterranean people world-wide. The journal offers a forum for theoretical debate, historical and
comparative studies, research and project reports, thus facilitating dialogue in a region which has
strong and varied educational traditions. There is a strong international dimension to this dialogue,
given the profile of the Mediterranean in the configuration of the new world order, and the presence of
Mediterranean peoples in Europe, North America and elsewhere. The MJES is of interest to scholars,
researchers and practitioners in the following fields: comparative education, foundation disciplines in
education, education policy analysis, Mediterranean studies, cultural and post-colonial studies, Southern
European and area studies, intercultural education, peace education, and migrant studies.
Editor-in-Chief: Ronald G. Sultana (University of Malta)
Managing Copy Editor: Michael A. Buhagiar
Executive Editors: Christopher Bezzina, Mark Borg, Grace Grima, André E. Mazawi, Paul Pace
Bardhyl Musai (CDE, Albania); Mohamed Miliani (Es-Senia University, Algeria); Jadranka Svarc
(Ministry of Science and Technology, Croatia); Helen Phtiaka (University of Cyprus); Nagwa Megahed
(Ain Shams University, Egypt); Pierre Vermeren (Université de Bordeaux, France); George Flouris
(University of Athens, Greece); Devorah Kalekin-Fishman (Haifa University, Israel); Paolo Landri
(Università di Napoli, Italy); Osama Obeidat (Hashemite University, Jordan); Samir Jarrar (Arab
Resource Collective, Lebanon); Deborah Chetcuti (University of Malta); Naima Benmansour
(University Mohamed V, Morocco); Maher Z. Hashweh (Birzeit University, Palestine); António M.
Magalhäes (Universidade do Porto, Portugal); Marina Luksiè-Hacin (University of Ljubljana,
Slovenia); Xavier Bonal (Autonomous University of Barcelona); Mahmoud Al-Sayyed (University
of Damascus, Syria); Ahmed Chabchoub (University of Tunis I, Tunisia); Hasan Simsek (Middle
East Technical University, Turkey).
Abdel Jalil Akkari (Université de Genève, Switzerland); Philip Altbach (Boston College, USA);
Aaron Benavot (UNESCO, France); Mark Bray (IIEP, France); Jean-Louis Derouet (INRP, France);
Andy Green (Institute of Education, London, UK); Zelia Gregoriou (University of Cyprus); Linda
Herrera (Institute of Social Studies, The Hague); Antonio Novoa (Universidade do Lisboa, Portugal);
Marco Todeschini (Università di Milano, Italy).
MESCE (Mediterranean Society of Comparative Education) Representatives
Peter Mayo (President, MESCE); Carmel Borg (General Secretary, MESCE); Giovanni Pampanini
(Founder, MESCE)
REVIEWS EDITOR: Simone Galea (University of Malta).
Editorial correspondence, including manuscripts for submission, should be addressed to Ronald G.
Sultana, Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, EMCER, University of Malta, Msida MSD
2080, Malta. Tel. (+356) 23402936; Fax. (+356) 21338126; E-mail: ronald.s[email protected] Books
for review should be sent to Simone Galea at the same MJES address.
Journal web page:
Notes for Contributors
The MJES publishes original contributions in the field of education that focus on
Mediterranean countries and the diaspora of Mediterranean people worldwide. To
ensure the highest standards all submitted articles are scrutinised by at least two
independent referees before being accepted for publication. Prospective authors
are advised to contact the editor before submitting their manuscript. Published
papers become the copyright of the journal.
The MJES features articles in English, though occasionally it will also publish
papers submitted in French. Authors who are not fluent in English should have
their manuscripts checked by language specialists in their Universities or
Institutes. The Editorial Board is also willing to promote English versions of high
quality articles that have already been published in any of the Mediterranean
languages that do not have wide regional or international currency. In such cases,
however, responsibility for copyright clearance rests with the author/s, who
carry all responsibilities for any infringement.
All contributors should be aware they are addressing an international audience.
They should also use non-sexist, non-racist language, and a guide sheet is
available in this regard.
Manuscripts, preferably between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length, should be sent
to the Editor MJES, Professor Ronald G. Sultana, Director, Euro-Mediterranean
Centre for Educational Research, University of Malta, Msida MSD 2080, Malta,
accompanied by an abstract of between 100-150 words. Research Notes, Project
Reports, and Comments (1,500 to 3,000 words in length) are also welcome.
The manuscript can be submitted as an e-mail attachment, to be sent to:
[email protected] Alternatively, three complete copies of the
manuscript can be submitted, typed double-spaced on one side of the paper.
A diskette version of the article (preferably formatted on Word for Windows)
should be included with the manuscript.
Authors are encouraged to send a copy of their manuscript as an e-mail attachment
to the editor ([email protected]) in order to cut down the time of
the refereeing process. It is essential that the full postal address, telephone, fax
and e-mail coordinates be given of the author who will receive editorial
correspondence and proofs. Authors should include a brief autobiographic note.
To enable the refereeing procedure to be anonymous, the name(s) and
institution(s) of the author(s) should not be included at the head of the article,
but should be typed on a separate sheet. The surname of the author/s should
be underlined.
Figures and tables should have their positions clearly marked and be provided
on separate sheets that can be detached from the main text.
References should be indicated in the text by giving the author’s name followed
by the year of publication in parentheses, e.g., ‘... research in Mahmoudi & Patros
(1992) indicated ...’, alternatively this could be shown as ‘... research (Mahmoudi
& Patros, 1992) showed ...’. The full references should be listed in alphabetical
order at the end of the paper using the following formula:
Book: Surname, Name initials (date of publication) Title of Book. Place of
Publication: Publisher.
Article in Journal: Surname, Name initials (date of publication) Title of article,
Title of Journal, Volume(issue), pages.
Chapter in Book: Surname initial/s, Name initials (date of publication) Title of
chapter. In Name initials and Surname of (editor/s) Title of Book. Place of
Publication: Publisher.
Particular care in the presentation of references would be greatly appreciated, and
ensures earlier placement in the publication queue.
Proofs will be sent to the author/s if there is sufficient time to do so, and should
be corrected and returned immediately to the Editor.
The Editorial Board welcomes suggestions for special issues of the MJES.
The Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies is published
with the support of the University of Malta
Volume 15 Number 1 2010
Greek Cypriot adolescent attitudes toward immigrants and ‘enemy-others’
in the context of ethnic conflict / Michalinos Zembylas,
Athina Michaelidou & Thekla Afantintou-Lambrianou
Teacher performance appraisal in Portugal: the (im)possibilities of a
contested model / Marıa Assunção Flores
Older adult learning in Malta: toward a policy agenda / Marvin Formosa
Togetherness, coexistence or confrontation – the impact of school climate
and culture on peer-to-peer social relations in Catalonia, Spain /
Maribel Ponferrada-Arteaga & Silvia Carrasco-Pons
Science textbook readability in Lebanon: a comparison between
anglophone and francophone learning milieux / Yasmine El-Masri
& Barend Vlaardingerbroek
Culture and communication in academia: the views of faculty members /
Sidika Gizir
Book Reviews
ISSN 1024-5375
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