The role of cultural background in a parent teacher relationship
The case of Russian immigrant parents and Swedish elementary school teachers
The growing multiculturalism of the Swedish society affects the school environment and leads to raising cultural and ethnic diversity among pupils. While there are many immigrant groups in Sweden, this research focuses only on the current residents of Sweden who have Russian background. One of the reasons is an increasing migration flow of the Russian born people to Sweden during the last 15 years. One of the necessary conditions of a child’s development is cooperation between educators and child’s family; therefore, the successful communication between teachers and parents is crucial. Well-being of a child can be challenged if school and home fail to cooperate. The risk of failure might be higher if teachers and families have different cultural background and do not speak a common native language. Therefore, the issue of communication between parents and teachers has to be studied in order to understand the area of possible conflicts and ways to solve and avoid it. The aim of this study is to describe and to analyze how parents of Russian origin communicate with teachers in the Swedish elementary school and preschool class and how cultural differences influence their communication. An empirical qualitative approach has been used. The data for the study has been collected through interviewing a number of Russian parents and Swedish elementary and preschool class teachers. This study investigates how communication between these teachers and parents usually occurs as well as what perspectives and attitudes toward the schooling process, childrearing, teaching and learning processes are hold by the participants. The results of this research show the risk areas where the cultural mismatch can occur and the conditions of the minimal and maximal influence of the cultural background. These areas generally refer to teaching methods used in the Swedish schools, teacher’s role in the child-rearing process, conditions for well-being of a child, importance of a child’s achievement and learning outcomes. The bigger cultural mismatch, the higher level of dissatisfaction and the higher risk of communication failure. The most important factors for successful communication between the immigrant parents and teachers have been defined as level of satisfaction, trust, awareness of potential cultural difference and similarities between the parents’ and teachers’ worldviews. Focus on the similarities in the process of building strong relationships and communication between the school and immigrant parents is viewed as a key to successful cooperation of the parents and teachers with reduced negative influence of cultural clash.