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What Role Does Culture Play in Shaping Children’s School Experiences?

Oxford University Press

One way to think of culture is as a context in which we learn and develop. We share, live, perform, and experience culture through our participation in daily activities, customs, and routines with social others. Culture helps us make sense of our social worlds and shapes our actions, thoughts, and feelings.

With increasing migration and the movement of people in the twenty-first century, many children in the US and worldwide are attending school in formal settings where cultural norms and practices at home may conflict with those children encounter at school. This experience places children in the position of having to navigate two different social worlds—home and school. One broad question we can explore is: “what role does culture play in shaping children’s school experiences and academic success?” Let’s visit three specific areas: parental beliefs and socialization practices, teacher perceptions, and school curricula and children’s learning.

Parental beliefs and socialization practices

Parental expectations, beliefs, and attitudes about education shape children’s academic experiences. Many parents in diverse cultural communities view education as a path to future success. For example, as a group many Asian and Asian American children attain academic success. What role does culture play in these outcomes? Chang notes that as a group, Chinese and Taiwanese parents place a high value on education. Kim and Park  note the same is true for Korean parents. Parenting approaches in these communities highlight training and disciplining children, parent self-sacrifice, and devotion to children. Parents believe perseverance and hard work is the key to success and socialization practices reinforce these values and traits. These cultural practices help children internalize the values their parents place upon education and behaving according to social norms. Children acquire these values and are loyal, appreciative, and dedicated to their parents for their support and encouragement. In part, they attain academic success to honor their parents and the broader social groups to which they belong.

Teachers perceptions

Teachers play an important role in children’s academic success too. What practices work best to motivate children to do well at school? The answer depends upon numerous factors. For example, many teachers will be entrusted with educating children who may not share their cultural heritage. How might this cultural mismatch shape children’s school experiences and potential for academic success?

Most American school practices reflect dominant, mainstream American values, norms, and behavioral scripts. For most European American children who value independence and uniqueness, teacher praise and rewards can be highly motivating. However, for children who come from families that value humility and modesty, receiving praise in front of classmates might be an uncomfortable interaction.

Student engagement norms are another example. Many American teachers using a mainstream cultural lens, connect active student engagement with student attentiveness. Yamamoto and Linoted that for many Asian and Asian American students, knowing when to be quiet is a desirable skill which caregivers socialize their children to acquire. Teachers using mainstream, American cultural values and norms may perceive quiet students as disengaged and inattentive. These perceptions impact children’s motivation to learn and academic success...

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Autor: Robyn M. Holmes, Professor of Psychology at Monmouth University   Quelle: Oxford University Press, 15th February 2021
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