Children’s perceptions of intercultural issues : an exploration into an Iranian context
In its recent history, Iran has exhibited the highest rates of brain drain in the world and simultaneously has been recognized as one of the world's largest refugee havens. Consequently, Iranians inside and outside this country have come to closer contact to a wider range of cultures than ever before. Recognizing the importance of fostering intercultural sensitivity, there is a growing need to introduce intercultural learning into the Iranian educational curricula. The first step in this involves understanding current levels of awareness of children in Iran and the potential for creating opportunities for intercultural learning. Therefore, this research aims to explore how children educated at primary level in Iran make sense of/understand concepts such as intercultural interaction and adjustment. The conceptual framework for this research draws on Anderson’s Obstacle Model to cultural adaptation. In this study, the child-participants were asked to either reflect on their real intercultural experiences or imagine what it would be like to move to and live in another country. This study is also an attempt to explore the boundaries of child-focussed research methodologies. Hence, it consisted of three phases: designing the child-friendly research instruments, data collection, and sharing the data with the child-participants. The data collection was via the administration of 294 ‘child-friendly’ questionnaires and conducting five group interviews in five primary schools in Tehran with children of age 10 to 12.\ud \ud The findings of this study revealed children’s ambivalent feelings about experiencing intercultural encounters. Schooling, friendship, and language were found to be the key influential elements in children’s understanding of intercultural interaction and adjustment. These three elements are related to one another. These findings contribute towards developing a model which incorporates children’s views about cross-cultural adjustment in a more comprehensive way. The findings also have far-reaching implications for EL teachers in Iran.
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