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Cultural diversity and the learner’s perspective: attending to voice and context. (English)
Leung, Frederick K. S. (ed.) et al., Mathematics education in different cultural traditions. A comparative study of East Asia and the West. The 13th ICMI study. Final outcome from the 13th ICMI study conference, Hong Kong, China, October 2002. New York, NY: Springer (ISBN 0-387-29722-7/hbk). New ICMI Studies Series 9, 353-380 (2006).
From the text: In the discussion paper for this ICMI study, it is stated, “For this study, culture refers essentially to values and beliefs." The ICMI Study is distinguished from other studies “in that it is specifically concerned with comparing practices in different settings and with trying to interpret these different practices in terms of cultural tradition." The discussion paper makes it clear that the ICMI study is "limited to only a selection of cultural traditions" and then argues that “Those based in East Asia and the West seem particularly promising for comparison." In invoking a comparison between East-Asian and Western cultural traditions of mathematics education, the ICMI Study does not “merely refer to geographic areas." Instead, a comparison is made between the “Chinese/Confucian tradition on one side, and the Greek/Latin/Christian tradition on the other”. By framing the comparison in this way, the ICMI Study is at risk of oversimplifying the situation by appearing to assume that school systems can be aligned with one ‘cultural tradition’ or the other. Of the researchers who contributed to this chapter, the school systems of three draw on more than one cultural tradition and an understanding of mathematics classrooms in these school systems is not advanced by the postulated East Asian-Western (or Confucian/Christian) dichotomy. Australia, in particular, is culturally plural. In the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, a class of twenty-five children can include over twenty distinct ethnic backgrounds. This raises the question of the interaction between home culture and school system, and suggests that the identification of a nation with a single culture may be appropriate only rarely in a world that is increasingly internationally mobile. This immediately problematises cultural explanations of international differences in student achievement, since such explanations assume that either the school system or the student body (or both) can be identified with a single culture. The challenge for school systems in countries such as Australia or South Africa is to accommodate and cater to a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds. Perhaps culture itself is not the essential characteristic in distinguishing one school system from another, but rather the differences in how school systems (and classroom practices) have developed in response to either homogeneity or heterogeneity of culture. In this chapter, Japan provides an example of a less culturally-diverse setting. The argument begins with the need to explicitly challenge the identification of nation with culture.
Classification: C60 D20 C20 C30
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