PRESCHOOL EDUCATION IN CONTEXT OF ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN MAURITIUS: ANALYSIS OF YOUNG CHILDREN DRAWINGS ABOUT THEIR PERCEPTIONS OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
University of Mons - Faculty of Psychology and Education (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:The Mauritian economic and sociopolitical context favors the maintenance of cultural differences and specific ethnic community identities, inherited from the colonial history of the country. Diseases and complexes are still source of mistrust and difficult contacts with other cultures (Boolell, 2008; Chan Low, 2008; Hanoomanjee, 2008; Mahadeo, 2008). The relative harmony of Mauritian societal functioning is due to a tacit and complex consensus of tolerance and mutual exclusion. These principles are taught to Mauritians from their early childhood and are rarely questioned (Carpooran, 2008). The educational system, through its competitive functioning, contributes to confirm and reproduce these cultural based inequalities (Carpooran, 2003; Prosper, 2006). The recognition of cultural difference is a long and complex psychosocial developmental process (Bredendiek & Krewer, 2003; Lavallée, 2007) and the school may have a major influence on the development of children intercultural skills. It is a place of privileged access to other social fields than its own community. It is one of the few institutions that contribute to common references among citizens, beyond their differences (Allan, 2010). The multiculturalism of Mauritian pupils' population is the topic of our research. Our aims were to understand how these young children detect the cultural diversity of their country and the representations they expressed. Our study is based on the immersion of a researcher, during three months, within a preschool institution called Bethléem. Given the age (4-5 years old) and the linguistic diversity of the 22 pupils we met, we chose to mainly collect data through drawing activities on different themes (country, school, family home, place of worship...) and individual interviews to better understand the subjective meaning of their productions. We also interviewed their teachers. We individually and transversely analyzed the data to answer our research questions. Our interpretation of the children's drawings shows that many of them are conscious of some specific country characteristics and relationships between main cultural communities (Hindu dominance, existence of social tensions, social relations between men and women, father's authority...). Moreover, religion seems to be a particularly important theme for children, as their drawings are impressive. However, they mainly express the cultural differences by drawing the classroom and the other pupils, more than the country itself (whose island characteristics dominate). These results would confirm the fact that the school environment is precociously diverse. The role of the school thus appears ambiguous: it could enable children to face the differences and foster interaction with members of different cultural groups, but it could also be the first place where children become conscious of cultural partitioning of their society. Their teachers believe that educational practices implemented within their classroom would promote better understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. Indeed, the children explain themselves their own traditions to their classmates and share their cultural heritage. The school would enable children to learn from each other and would promote interculturality. Our paper will present the details of our analysis and a synthetic debate of our results which allow us to contribute to a better understanding of the children perception and recognition of cultural differences.
Keywords: Early childhood, cultural diversity, drawing representations, preschool education, interculturality.