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Elena Papamichael

Abstract

There is an increasing acknowledgement of cultural diversity as the norm in societies around the world, which creates further challenges for the educational systems, especially the teachers. Cyprus is not an exception; at the moment Greek-Cypriot teachers are working in highly diverse environments in the context of a predominantly monocultural educational system in a multicultural, still ethnically divided society. Based on research still in progress, this article aims to explore intercultural education in Greek-Cypriot primary schools, with a focus on the teachers’ role. A review of the field of multicultural education, its approaches and critics provides the framework for this study. The article discusses the preliminary findings of an ethnographic study conducted in two highly diverse Greek-Cypriot public primary schools, focusing on the teachers’ understandings and practices of intercultural education. The analysis shows that most participants consider acceptance of diversity and challenging negative elements of racism and xenophobia in children’s attitudes as the main aims of intercultural education. The teachers attribute a cross-curricular character to intercultural education and offer no standard ‘recipes’ for its implementation in everyday practices. In both schools, the practices mainly involve events for the ‘celebration of diversity’. The article concludes that intercultural education, as described by the participants in this study, represents the additive approach of multicultural education, which has been heavily criticised for tokenism and failure to challenge institutional racism. However, some teachers’ critical reflections and policy developments point to the possibility of moving toward a transformation approach of the curriculum. 

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Keywords

intercultural education, multicultural education approaches, teachers' understandings, diversity, Greek-Cypriot primary schools

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