Due to the increasing scale of migration, European society is becoming more and more multicultural. However, society itself seems not to know or is unable to cope with multiculturalism in a way that allows a respectful coexistence with the Others, based on mutual acceptance, will and commitment to enter into closer relationships.
In the theoretical section the state of contemporary postmodern society is analysed, as well as the transition from modern to postmodern society. Furthermore, the position of an individual in this transition it analysed. Due to the variety of value systems in the postmodern society, this thesis questions human rights as a universal and commonly accepted principle of Western democratic societies. Because of the growing criticism of that concept, the thesis then analyses the concept of the global ethic, which, according to many, deepens or ethically complements the concept of human rights. The concept of tolerance as one of the fundamental concepts of Western democratic societies is also discussed. The study further examines the concept of recognition, which addresses a number of criticisms of the tolerance concept.
The problems at the broader societal level are also reflected in the school environment, so the study examines whether the public elementary school can be based on human rights and the global ethic. The paper argues that schools should be developed into a coexistence environment, particularly coexistence with the Others. For that reason, this thesis presents the concepts and approaches that are fundamental in the development of a coexistence culture based on respect for the Other as different. The analysis of the situation in Slovene primary schools at both the systemic and the practical level shows deficiencies in the inclusion of pupils of non-Slovene origin, primarily deriving from tolerance and assimilation rather than respect tendencies.
Before this theoretical background, a study is carried out to determine, in particular, whether among the teachers and pupils in the Slovene elementary schools the respect for ethnicities predominates only as a principle or as actual interpersonal behaviour, and whether there are differences in attitudes towards different ethnicities.
The Empirical part I presents the results of the research carried out on a sample of 1037 pupils and 187 teachers from six Slovenian municipalities. Data were collected with a questionnaire, specially designed for the purpose of this research. Data were also collected via semi-structured interviews, which deepened meaning of the questionnaire data. The interviews were conducted on a sample of 26 pupils from one elementary school in the Ljubljana municipality and 15 teachers from three elementary schools in the Central Slovenia region. Data are presented through four sections, according to research questions. The main findings of these four research questions are summarized in the following.
The main findings of the first section of research, related to pupils’ attitudes towards ethnicities, show that: girls have a more positive attitude compared to boys; historical rivalries between ethnicities have a bearing on pupils’ attitudes; younger students have a more negative attitude towards ethnicities than older students; bilingual politics can influence the attitude of pupils to one or the other traditional national minority; pupils have the most negative attitude towards students of Roma and Albanian background, and the most positive for Slovenes, English and Germans, as well as Croats. The study also shows that the degree of principle of respect is always higher than the degree of willingness to enter into closer relationships with different ethnicities. Furthermore, the attitudes towards ethnicities were also collected from the teachers. The results demonstrate that: the attitude of teachers to ethnicities is very good; male teachers are slightly more inclined to accept students from different ethnic groups in the class compared to female teachers; there is somewhat more negative attitude towards pupils of Roma and Albanian origin among teachers from different places. It is also noted that in comparison with teachers, pupils have a slightly more positive attitude towards Slovenes and English and a noticeably more negative attitude than teachers to Albanian and Roma students.
The main findings of the second section of research, related to pupils’ opinion of pupils’ attitudes towards ethnicities, show that pupils perceive that the principle level of respect for pupils to other ethnic groups is higher than the degree of willingness to enter into closer relationships with them. Pupils of those ethnic origin that have a negative attitude to certain ethnicities themselves, are aware of the same negative attitude of other students; pupils of the lower years have a more positive opinion of pupils’ attitudes towards ethnicities compared to older pupils; pupils are aware of the poorer attitude of peers towards the pupils of Roma background. Furthermore, the results related to the teachers’ opinion on pupils’ attitudes towards ethnicities, demonstrate that female teachers have a better insight into the real attitudes of pupils to ethnicities than male teachers, as demonstrated in the first section of research. The research also found that pupils and teachers are aware of a more accepting attitude of pupils to ethnicities, which enjoy a more positive reputation in the Slovenian society than to those who have a lesser reputation. Teachers are aware of the problem of pupils’ negative attitudes towards ethnicities to a greater degree than pupils themselves.
The main findings of the third section of the study, related to pupils’ opinion of teachers’ attitudes towards ethnicities, show that this variable is relatively good, and that pupils of those ethnicities that themselves have a more negative attitude towards certain ethnic groups, also experience the same attitude of teachers towards those ethnicities. The main findings related to teachers’ opinion on teachers’ attitudes towards ethnicities show that this is very good, and at the most negative, they indicate the attitude of teachers towards pupils of Roma and Albanian background. It was also found that pupils’ assessment of teachers’ attitudes to ethnicities is more positive than those of the teachers.
The fourth section of the study examines by factor analyses the opinion on the presence and the effectiveness of approaches and activities at the level of the class and the school, which influence the development of respectful relations with fellow pupils of other ethnicities through the orientation of the school in the implementation of the equality of ethnic groups (1st factor) and school orientation in the preservation and development of ethnic identities (2nd factor). The main findings related to pupils’ opinion show that: Roma pupils (most of them coming from Lendava) and Hungarians have the more positive opinion on the 2nd factor whereas pupils from the ethnic groups of the former Yugoslavia have the most negative attitude towards the 2nd factor. Scoring more positively on the 2nd factor is also a defining characteristics of the teachers from Lendava. When comparing the opinions of students and teachers, it was found that teachers’ opinions on both factors are more negative than pupils’ opinions.
On the basis of the obtained results and theoretical section, guidelines are developed for the educational work in schools, in which the emphasis is primarily on the attitudinal and educational dimensions in developing respectful relationships to the Others as different. The guidelines cover eight areas, namely the development of the intercultural and anti-biased ethos of the school, highlighting the importance of a reflected analysis of the school situation and education towards critical reflection and self-reflection using the Critical Incident Technique; developing intercultural sensitivity in pupils; promoting the ability and possibility of developing a positive identity; developing an understanding of the Other as different by proposing methods that empower understanding of the Other as different; pedagogical approach of dialogue and active listening of pupils; empathic and exotopic understanding of the Other; encouraging and facilitating contact with the Other as different – entering into quality interpersonal relationships; promoting and using collaborative learning, and in this context, in particular, group research.
Since it was intended to check the necessity, usability and applicability, and consequently the effectiveness of the guidelines, action research was conducted at one of the elementary schools in Ljubljana. The findings are presented in Empirical part II. As part of the action research, four main activities are presented and analysed that were carried out at school, considering the school’s guidelines and needs. The results confirmed not only the necessity of these activities, but also their effectiveness, so it can be stated that the guidelines can help shape more respectful relationships to different ethnicities. There were positive changes in the relations between pupils from different ethnic backgrounds, as well as in the image, understanding and respect for other ethnicities; a noticeable appreciation of previously neglected ethnicities was established; students developed a desire to learn about other ethnicities, and above all the desire to get in touch with the Other and learn from him. Nevertheless, certain limitations or facts were identified that need to be addressed in the introduction of educational guidelines, and thus complement the elaborated guiding principles. The following recommendations are suggested: changing the school ethos is a long-term goal, so it should be pursued gradually; the application of the guidelines requires a long time, as it is a long-term process; teachers must be in favour of change and the establishment of an anti-biased and intercultural ethos at the school, and respect for different ethnicities; guidelines should be presented to teachers as concrete as possible; teachers first need to fathom the degree of own intercultural sensitivity; it is necessary to work on the implicit beliefs of teachers and break stereotypes, that are perceived by the teachers as natural and non-problematic, whereas they are not; schools need a “critical friend”.
In the conclusion of this paper, based on the fundamental findings of the carried out work, suggestions are provided on changes in the education of teachers, which would enable them to acquire knowledge and insights to work in accordance with the guidelines, particularly awareness of their own attitudes towards diversity and self-development, as this is crucial for the effectiveness of further work of teachers towards developing respectful relationships between pupils.