A summary of :
INTERCULTURAL EDUCATION AT A PRE-SCHOOL LEVEL IN THE CONTEXT OF POLISH KINDERGARTEN CURRICULUM CHANGES
Stanisław Staszic University of Applied Sciences in Piła, Poland
This article discusses the issue of interculturalism and the teaching of foreign languages to kindergarten children, as well as different characteristics that are present in each age group and guidance for teachers.
The first issue analyzed in detail is the question of whether children have stereotypes from an early age. It has been shown that children are able to recognize their gender and different ethnic groups from a very early age. This leads them to similar actions, i.e. they tend to prefer to associate with people of the same sex or the same race, avoiding strangers, without of course this being a universal rule. Of equal interest is the fact that, while adults may admit that stereotypes are misleading, children can hardly draw such conclusions, so teaching through experience (rather than a monotonous lecture on the subject) on equality, could change the situation (Róg, 2015, p. 181/2).
What could teachers do about it? According to the author of the article, they should first know that children have a tendency towards stereotypes at a young age. Later, a list of teacher guidance on activities is presented as follows (Róg, 2015, p. 183):
- Activities that include movement and energy are suggested
- Verbal teaching, as children do not yet read, but also some short activities of writing and reading practice
- Collaborative learning
- Pedagogical perception to avoid mistakes
- Responsibility in making decisions for the team
- Friendliness and warmness for emotional balance
- Encouragement of communication
- Present a role model they wish their children to follow
More specifically, children generally have some common characteristics (e.g. they are self-centered, curious, have fantasies, seek communication, etc.), but these do not apply to every age group. Therefore, a table of activities suitable for each age group is presented (Róg, 2015, p. 184/5). Some examples are the following:
- Children as young as 3 years old are interested in discovery, they get tired easily, they have difficulty in concentrating, they imitate, etc., thus, activities should be varied and interesting, not long-lasting, not group work. These can be applied by repetition, songs, stories, etc.
- Children as young as 4 years old have a better memory, they want a lot of movement, they understand their feelings and those of others, they use thinking strategies. Suitable activities for this age would be those that involve a lot of movement, not time consuming, simple teamwork, art, colors, with the help of repetition, songs, stories, role play and drilling.
- Children as young as 5 years old have a higher degree of attention, are able to recall information, categorize, begin to understand numbers, they need a lot of movement and can be aggressive. The activities that are indicated are those of physical exercise, group work, painting and crafts, simple arithmetic, etc., which can be carried out with repetition, songs, stories, riddles, painting, simulation exercises.
Furthermore, “It is also advisable to use a range of didactic aids: toys, puppets, visual aids, pictures and flashcards which imitate the real world” (Róg, 2015, p. 185).
On the issue of interculturalism, Polish research emphasizes the importance of intercultural teaching from an early age so that children can achieve the expected results. This can be achieved with the general organization of the classroom, the appropriate books and games, music and anything else that can offer a cultural journey of knowledge (Róg, 2015, p. 186).
In more detail, focusing on Polish reality and the teaching of English in kindergartens, the author of the article conducted a study on the preparation of teachers for intercultural education in kindergartens. 24 syllabi that were in electronic form were studied on the website of the Universities. At first glance, the results show that there is little or no focus on this issue, meaning that students and future teachers in kindergartens receive insufficient training on the issue of the application of interculturalism in kindergartens (Róg, 2015, p. 188/190). Of course, this cannot be completely confirmed as we cannot know what is really going on in the university programs.
Subsequently, the second survey was based on kindergarten teaching programs approved by the Ministry of National Education. Six programs were studied and it was proved that the reference to culture mainly concerns the Polish culture itself (architecture, national holidays, etc.), with very limited references to other cultures. Only one of the six programs seems to focus on children’s intercultural competences, with activities that fight stereotypes and create a place to get to know the multicultural character of Poland (Róg, 2015, p. 191/2).
According to the Polish Ministry of National Education, it is mandatory to teach a foreign language to young children of 5 years old since 2015, while from 2017 it is the same for younger children, because the earlier the learning begins, the better the results will be in the future (Róg, 2015, p. 193). Therefore, the need arose for a third and final survey on the teaching of English as a foreign language in kindergartens, studying 5 programs. The proposed methods were, among other things, the use of images, repetition, memorization, the use of visual audio material, the encouragement for discussion in the foreign language, role-playing games, etc. (Róg, 2015, p. 194/7).
In summary, according to the author, there is a gap between the preparation of teachers in universities and the practice of interculturalism in kindergartens. Although the tolerance and respect for other cultures is anticipated, there is no proper preparation of teachers in this field and in the implementation of appropriate practices (Róg, 2015, p. 197). Certainly, this is the research data for a specific number of kindergartens and it might differ.
In my personal experience, I could say that in the kindergarten I have been cooperating with since October (Przedszkole Leśne Gajówka), there are active English language teaching programs and the introduction of other cultures. First of all, the fact that I, a Greek, therefore a carrier of a different language and culture, visit the kindergarten twice a week, play with the children, accompany them on excursions and participate in their activities, is a good example of promoting the interculturalism, as well as showing the differences and the similarities with people from other cultures.
Another example is that every Wednesday a musician used to visit the venue, bringing his musical instruments and performing a 15-20-minute program for the children. One of the topics he presented was music from various countries, where the children listened to the song and then accompanied the music using musical instruments (drums). This is certainly a small sample of interculturalism that is sought to be achieved.
Furthermore, the fact that I was given the opportunity to perform short workshops about my country could play an important role in building up their intercultural skills. For example, at Christmas I briefly explained to the children that in Greece the tradition is to decorate a boat (instead of a tree), due to the close relationship with the element of the sea. Also, during the carnival days, I handed out some plaster masks to the children so that they could color them, because that’s how tradition is in Greece. In this way, under the guidance of those in charge, we have tried to incorporate various intercultural elements into the program aimed at expanding children’s horizons and discovering new different things.
There are many other examples of interculturalism that I have noticed (e.g. the children already know how to count to 3 in different languages and insist on doing so often, they once wore costumes of different nationalities and sang songs in a foreign language), and this is a very positive and optimistic message for the future generation.
Therefore, I could conclude that, I understand that children have both a tendency to avoid something different and to seek to discover the unknown. The situation is not always the same and changes day by day and from child to child (e.g. I have clearly noticed that some children are happy with my presence and others might be indifferent). However, I believe that this is not a phenomenon to be taken personally, because it also depends on the personality and temperament of each child, and it can change over time. In any case, I strongly believe that intercultural education should be encouraged from an early age because this is the right thing to do.
Volunteer in CIM Horyzonty
Róg, T., 2015. Intercultural Education At a Pre-school Level In The Context Of Polish Kindergarten Curriculum Changes. pp. 179-201. [Online]
Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313138584_2015_INTERCULTURAL_EDUCATION_AT_A_PRE-SCHOOL_LEVEL_IN_THE_CONTEXT_OF_POLISH_KINDERGARTEN_CURRICULUM_CHANGES