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Indoaustralian And Euroaustralian Parental Values by Joyce Martin, PhD
Knowing that a relationship exists between cultures and education is a prerequisite to effective teaching. (Baruth & Manning, 1992)
People from the Indian subcontinent have emerged as the fastest growing group of migrants to Australia and are now the third largest immigrant group (Mercer, 2006). While the skills these migrants bring are vital to the continued economic wellbeing of Australia (National Skills Forum, 2005; Bell, 2006). As a result the Australian government has launched a series of overseas expo¡¯s to attract more professional and skilled migrants (Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship). Despite the locally recognised need for such migrants, we are increasingly in competition with countries such as Britain, the United States, Canada, continental Europe, East Asia and traditional destinations such as South-East Asia (Khadria, 2001, Mercer, 2006). To remain economically competitive Australia must continue to not only to attract these professional and skilled people but we must currently find ways to retain these migrants who have so many attractive options including returning to India during a period of unprecedented booming economic growth. This return would not only be to a place where their skills will be recognised and their values respected but also to a society where their values are congruent with the educational beliefs and practices.
As most of these migrants are parents or potential parents one of the major factors affecting their attraction and retention is their belief that their culture will be understood, accepted and, even more importantly, to the greatest extent possible, maintained by their children (Zaidi, 2000; Lakha & Stevenson, 2001; Dhawan, 2005; Sahoo, 2004). However, many Indian parents, despite their best efforts to maintain their traditional values when immigrating to countries like Australia (Faria, 2001), the United States (Vangeepuram. 2005; Hindu American Foundation, 2005; Lalwani, 2006) or Britain (Saloni, 2006), or Switzerland (Sapru, 2006), find their traditional values misunderstood, ignored, devalued or even misrepresented (Hindu Education Foundation, 2005). This lack of recognition, understanding and respectful acknowledgement may cause many parents to become fearful that discrepancies between their culture and that of their new country may create an environment unconducive to reproducing or maintaining essential elements of their culture in their children (Faria, 2001; Segal, 1991; Visweswaran, 2000; Lakha & Stevenson, 2001).
Differences in Parental Values and Educational Expectations
Values have been defined as, ¡°broad ideas regarding what is desirable, correct and good that members of a society share¡± (Vander Zanden, 1990, p.33) however, cultural groups may vary greatly in detail as each of these attempts to capture all of the elements which characterize the attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours of any group of people (Tan & Goh, 1999, p. 410). These differences are often reflected through the inseparable link between cultural values emphasised in the educational processes (Tan & Goh, 1999, Spindler, 1963). Therefore, schools, and teachers as transmitters of culture need to be aware of parental and community values and to provide educational experiences that develop and reinforce these values. In multicultural societies such as Australia, teachers must be appreciative of and responsive to not only the dominant or traditional values in a given society but also the minority and contemporary values of parents and community (Marjoribanks, 2002) because where there are practices related to teaching, assessment or resources in the formal or hidden curriculum which run counter to these values, there is the ever-present possibility of misunderstanding and discord (Jay, 2003; Lynch, 1989; Cunningsworth, 1995; Holly, 1990).
Indian Curriculum, Intelligence and Culture
Srivastava & Mira (2001) in their study of 1,885 lay people in India, reported that in Indian society, a wide range of traditional competencies, cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural were still culturally valued. However, as a consequence of British colonialism and continuing Western influences, there has been continuous a narrowing of the criteria for judging the excellence of people and their productivity which lead to a narrowing of academic goals (Raina & Srivastava (2000).
Gardner and Multiple Intelligences
While India was narrowing its criteria toward Western thinking, Howard Gardner (1983) challenged Western criteria by suggesting that that intelligent behaviour should be defined as:
Consistent with this definition, Gardner proposed that the ability to solve problems, create products or deliver the services valued in a society was not the result of not a single ¡®intelligence¡¯ but rather the expression of a combination of separate, semi-autonomous intelligences that included not only linguistic and mathematical competency, but also visual, auditory, kinaesthetic/motor, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic and existential/philosophical intelligences and related competencies.
These intelligences and their related competencies may then provide a way of comparing a broad spectrum of competencies in relation to the following questions:
Is the value ascribed to awards associated with each of Gardner¡¯s intelligences significantly different for IndoAustralian and EuroAustralian parents?
Is the value ascribed to the teaching of outcomes associated with each of the intelligences significantly different for IndoAustralian and EuroAustralian parents?
The adventious sample derived from personal networks consisted of forty-one migrant parents from India or Sri Lanka (IndoAustralian; M=24, F=18); and forty-two parents of European heritage who were at least second generation Australians educated in Australia (EuroAustralian; M=5, F=38). The European Australian requirement was designed to limit, as far as possible, comparisons of values to two cultural heritage groups within the multicultural Australian society; those from the subcontinent of India and those with the traditional values as taught in Australian schools. However, the researcher acknowledges that neither of these constitutes a homogeneous cultural group with both Europe and India being made up of diverse cultures. However, the sample of IndoAustalian parents was culturally circumscribed to some extent in that the parents are best described as having lived primarily in Hindu dominated communities. However, this limits the generalisations that can be drawn with regard to Indian parents from Moslem dominated cultures.Both participants of both groups were well-educated professional or highly skilled parents thus minimising the potential influence of parental education or economic status (Cahmore & Goodnow, 1986)
A questionnaire was devised to elicit relative value held by parents for abilities associated with each of the intelligences as defined by Gardner (1983; 1993; 1994). Part A asked for cultural heritage as IndoAustralian or EuroAustralian, gender, and the gender of their child(ren); Part B asked participants to assign a value from 9 (highest value) down to 1 (lowest value) on abilities or competencies related the nine intelligences defined by Gardner assigning each value only once. This assignment related to three parental areas, a) encouragement of the nine different intelligence related abilities in their child, b) value they placed on awards related to each intelligence related ability, c) and the importance they placed on teachers fostering each of the intelligence related abilities.
Pilot testing of the inventory showed highly significant correlations (p¡Ý.001) for intelligence related abilities across encouragement/award/teaching stems except for interpersonal ability x awards, interpersonal ability x teaching, naturalistic ability x teaching which had significant correlations (p¡Ý.01); and no significant correlation for philosophical ability x teaching. These correlations seem to indicate two things; first, that the indicators for each intelligence seem to be reasonably comparable and second, that the value ascribed to each intelligence, whether for ability, awards or instructional importance bear strong similarities.
Gender of Child
Parents were asked to rank separately responses for male or female children. Both groups of parents, however, rebelled in almost equal percentage at the concept firmly suggesting that it was insulting to suggest differences based on gender. This feedback while at odds with stereotypes of Indian parents as gender biased can be explained in several ways. One explanation is that both of these well-educated groups of parents may have been responding to what they believed to be politically correct. However, the vehemence of the replies of IndoAustralian parents seemed to undermine the likelihood of this. A second explanation is consistent the population sampled as professional or skilled workers with the literature indicating that with the advent of greater affluence and education of the parents, there is a diminished difference in expectations of children based on gender even in countries like India where gender differences are often assumed to culturally entrenched (Kambhampati & Pal, 2001; Drez & Kingdon, 2001; Kingdon, 2002). The literature and the current findings should alert teachers to the dangers of assumptions that could be made about parental expectations based on solely cultural heritage.
Gender of Parents
While the sample of IndoAustralian parents provided comparable numbers of males and females (M=24, F=18), the EuroAustralian sample precluded meaningful analysis (M=5, F=38), thus only the IndoAustralian sample was examined for parental gender differences.
As shown in Table One, male and female IndoAustralian parents differed significantly on four of the nine intellectual areas with IndoAustralian fathers assigning greater value to mathematics and IndoAustralian mothers assigning to the development of intrapersonal, naturalistic and philosophical intelligences. The gender expectations observed may be reflective of the parents¡¯ own intelligences and the values ascribed in their culture. For example, Shanwal (2003) in a study of emotional intelligence in Indian primary school children found significantly higher levels of emotional intelligence among girls and rural girls having higher subscores for regulation behaviour than city girls.
Similarities in Parental Values
Parental Differences in Values
The three graphs which follow, while still reflecting similarities in the overall pattern of parental responses, also give visual indications of some potential differences in the degree of valuing of different abilities, awards for these abilities and their related intelligences \and the importance ascribed to their teaching. The significance of these differences is presented in Table Three.
While the ranked preferences cited above indicate high levels of concurrence, there were some significant differences in the average scores assigned to some items. For example, while there were no significant differences between the average ratings for language ability or awards the significant there were significant difference in emphasis placed on schools teaching language skills with. This may be a reflection of IndoAustralian parental awareness that while English is the official language of India that their children may still need more direct teaching to bring them up to the standards of native Australian speakers.
The significant differences in emphasis on visual and auditory ability, awards and teaching may, however, be suggestive of a cultural difference wherein those of an IndoAustralian heritage may place greater value on development and expression of these intelligences. If this is true, then there may be may a need for teachers to incorporate more of these skills into the daily life of children from Indian backgrounds not only to be congruent with the expectations of their parents but also to acknowledge and build upon the proclivity to think and express ideas through these intelligences.
Similarly, the significantly greater emphasis by EuroAustralians on kinaesthetic awards and teaching of physical skills may be yet another reflection of the stereotype Australians as ¡®sports mad¡¯. In response to their experience of this expression of the hidden curriculum, IndoAustralian parents may wonder at the number of hours and resources allocated to physical activities such as sport within the crowded school day or the often disproportionate number of awards for sporting ability at Speech night.
Finally, there at first inspection appears to be an anomaly between the significantly higher ratings for interpersonal skills by EuroAustralians and significantly higher ratings for intrapersonal ability by Indians. However, this is only if ¡®intrapersonal¡¯ is interpreted as being synonymous with ¡®independent of¡¯, or not needing interpersonal relationships. In fact, the Indian concept is more aligned with Gardner¡¯s definition of intrapersonal as being knowledgeable of, and true to, one¡¯s true nature and purpose in life. This knowledge, in the Indian tradition, is not the antithesis of interpersonal ability but rather a precondition for it (Matsumato (1999; Paranipe, 1998; Sibia, Misra & Srivastava, 2004).
First, the data indicates that IndoAustralian and EuroAustralian parents, of the same SES, are quite similar in the value that they ascribe to the different intelligences of their children as reflected in their abilities, the value of awards for these abilities and the importance of teaching to these.
Second, the data suggests that there may be differences in the strength of the value that IndoAustralian and EuroAustralians ascribe to each of the intelligences and resultant abilities. These differences could result in misunderstandings or conflict between Eurocentric teaching programs and the values of IndoAustralian parents. However, these differences are, at best, only suggestive due to the limited sample size and lack of assurances that the sample is representative of the wider IndoAustralian population.
Thirdly, there are implications of the results from both sets of parents with regard to the curriculum and the emphasis on each of the key learning areas (KLA¡¯s). As each of the KLA¡¯s may, to a large degree, be linked to one of the intelligences defined by Gardner and used as the basis for the abilities nominated in this study, there is a decided difference between the parental values expressed and the amount of time and effort afforded to the teaching of the KLA¡¯s. For both groups, interpersonal and intrapersonal abilities or intelligences were rated highest suggesting that parents value the emotional development of their children to a greater extent than has been previously recognised. Further, while the traditional areas of maths and language were rated very high by parents, the results indicated that parents, in particular the IndoAustralian parents, wanted a balanced curriculum which looked to the development of all of the intelligences and abilities. This desire was underscored by the fact that ten percent of the questionnaires to IndoAustralian parents were deemed ¡®invalid¡¯ for the purposes of this study as they rated every one of the items as a ¡®9¡¯ while only one EuroAustralian did this.
This study is presented, therefore, not as an endpoint in reflecting parental values, but rather as an initiative which will lead to further discussion, debate, and most importantly, continuing research into how educators can better understand and respond to parental values.
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Readers are invited to submit their comments directly to Dr Joyce Martin, Mount Saint Mary Campus, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 April 2008
Editor, Health and Ageing