The ‘smallness’ of minimalist tolerance

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Darmanin, Mary (2013)
  • Publisher: Education Inquiry
  • Journal: Education Inquiry (issn: 2000-4508, eissn: 2000-4508)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/edui.v4i1.22061
  • Subject: ethnicity, immigration, minimalist tolerance, smallness, discretion

This article critically examines how Malta, the smallest EU state, has developed specific ‘small’ or ‘minimalist tolerance’ discourses and practices in the education of ethnic minorities and immigrants. As a previous colony of Britain, now a ‘new’ host country with, relative to its size, the largest influx of undocumented immigrants, Malta faces particular challenges in adjusting to new forms of ethnic diversity. Whilst not arguing a path dependency, Malta’s history of domination and its resort to Roman Catholicism as a marker of ethnic identity position it in particular discursive practices which generate ‘small’, minimalist, even negligible and negligent approaches to cultural and ethnic diversity in its schools. Starting with a brief history and an account of contemporary education policies, the article constructs the theme of ‘smallness’ through an analysis of the discourses of key education policy-makers and school principals. With contradictions between the declared policy objectives and the implementation, or lack thereof, in schools, there is a ‘discretionary’ model in place. The educational experience of ethnic minority and immigrant children is at the discretion of school principals and teachers and their ‘classes of toleration’ (Dobbernack and Modood, 2012:2). Obstacles to an expanded concept of tolerance derive mainly from a definition of the national identity as Roman Catholic, as well as specific ‘smallness’ discourses. On the ground, actors argue that the ‘smallness’ of Malta and its attachment to its Catholic identity makes it unable to move beyond this very minimalist toleration of ethnic diversity. The article deconstructs these discourses.Keywords: ethnicity, immigration, minimalist tolerance, smallness, discretion(Published: 1 March 2013)Citation: Education Inquiry Vol. 4, No. 1, March 2013, pp. 31–62
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