Susanne Jamsvi

  • Teacher students learning what? – The multicultural discourse in curriculum in teacher education in Sweden

    Susanne Jämsvi and Lill Langelotz
    University College of Borås

    Research seminar

    Themes: research-based curriculum

    Tuesday 2 September 2008, 16.10-17.10 in Penthouse A

    Bernstein (1971) claims that a curriculum defines what valid knowledge is. A question to be asked in accordance is therefore, what is defined as “valid knowledge” in the teacher education curriculum in Sweden. The governmental bill of 1999/2000:135 states that the teacher education shall educate teachers to meet a multicultural school and a society characterized by diversity. What traces of multiculturalism are visible in the curriculum? What perspectives of multiculturalism may teachers of tomorrow thus get in their education?

    The objective of our study has been to disclose multicultural discourses in the course syllabi in “the general area of education”, AUO, in the teacher education. In the study 177 course syllabi from 22 universities in Sweden have been scrutinized. Multiculturalism, in our interpretation, is not only a question of ethnicity and nationality or religion, but also of class. Keywords in the process of analyzing have been “background, foreign, religion, language, Swedish, culture” and words and concepts related to these.

    One main result is that the multicultural discourse is formed from a monocultural perspective i.e. Swedish, middleclass. Culture, irrespective of being about class or ethnicity, is “talked about” as a feature belonging to The Other, both on an individual and a collective level. Earlier research in educational contexts shows similar findings (for example Gundara, 2005; Lahedenperä, 1997; Sjögren, 2001).

    Our findings also show that the multicultural discourse is characterized by deficits. In syllabi issues of ethnicity/nationality and multilingualism are expressed as if they are issues of functional disorder. Pupils, when being categorized for example as “not Swedish”, are seen as having certain characteristics that will disenable them from learning. The culture affects the pupils’ capacity for learning and teacher students have to learn about the Others’ background.

    Yet another result is that multiculturalism is linked to issues of democracy and values. This part of the multicultural discourse is characterized by a disciplinary stand and of a monocultural perspective being its basis. Democracy is only to be interpreted in one way and the school knows which values pupils and parents have to have i.e. to learn.

    With reference to the result we raise a few questions. What do teacher students learn about multicultural issues when the discourse looks like this? Will it affect pedagogy in any way? Do syllabi have any impact at all on what students learn? We would like to discuss questions like these during the seminar.