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Title: Diversity and acceptance: views of children and youngsters
Authors: Santos, Maria Teresa
Keywords: Inclusão
Issue Date: Aug-2010
Abstract: "Modern societies are becoming more heterogeneous, multiethnic, multicultural, and schools have to deal with an increasing number of children whose characteristics are distinct in a multiplicity of aspects. Reflecting then the social reality, the public school is challenged to answer with quality in order to promote the full potential of its population (Ainscow, 1997; Morgado, 2004; Rodrigues, 2006). Human history is full of examples of segregation and humiliation of individuals and groups whose characteristics did not fit the social patterns and rules. This mechanism of categorizing some as different and deviant, upon which many prejudices were built, are still present in contemporary societies, though in more subtle and covered ways than in the past (França & Monteiro, 2004; Vala & Lima, 2003). School is the ideal context to provide the opportunity to contact with diversity. Young people realize this and are aware of school meaning for social development. But when diversity comes in very salient features, how they see it and react to it? Inscribed in the field of inclusive education, this study focuses on children and youngsters’ perceptions of different aspects of diversity in people (e.g., skin colour, handicap, ethnicity, violent behaviour, social-economic status) on their experience of contact with individuals of the referred groups and on the way they see and conceive relationships with them. The theoretical framework puts into perspective various approaches concerning education and difference, the self and others perception, the interpersonal and group relationships, stereotypes and prejudice and also the strategies to promote positive attitudes towards others. A group of 85 children and youngsters (10, 13 and 16 year-olds) of Beja (Portugal) elementary and secondary schools were interviewed. The data analysis was centred not only on the qualitative aspects of the content but also submitted to statistical procedures. As supported by the literature, it was expected that age, gender and parents’ academic level (independent variables) would influence children’s and youngsters’ perceptions, therefore bringing to light distinct patterns of thought and behaviour. However, in this study, there was no statistic evidence of such differences. As a whole, the results show a group whose perceptions of others, who belong to usually stereotyped and discriminated social categories, are mainly positive and so are the relationships established or foreseen with members of those groups. If skin colour, handicap and social-economic status are consider by the great majority as not offering any problem to relationships, the same is not so unanimous regarding the gipsy ethnic group and here the prejudice is more evident, with many stating how difficult they find to relate with members of this group. In fact, when we look into the various studies, the gipsy ethnic group is the minority group most rejected by the Portuguese Society (Dias et al., 2006; Fonseca et al., 2005; Mendes, 2005). Therefore, this presentation will analyse some of the results and discuss the role of school to promote the acceptance of diversity."
Description: Comunicação apresentada no ISEC2010 – Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress "Promoting Diversity and Inclusive Practice", 2-5 Agosto 2010, Queen’s University Belfast
Peer reviewed: no
Appears in Collections:D-ECSC - Comunicações sem peer review

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