As previously shown an
individual’s development is affected by the environment in which the child
develops, this includes sociocultural and socioeconomic influences which
reflect the culture that the child is born in and influences a wide spectrum of
behviour (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Owen, Ware & Barfoot, 2000). As a
consequence culture plays a central role in how children relate to their
surroundings and this impacts on the creation of a child’s self- image, confirming
Vygotsky’s theory that the sociocultural context of the child has a central
importance in the development of the individual, particularly because this
influences the way the child is reared (Vygotsky,1978).
Cultures can be broadly
defined into individualistic or sociocentric. Whereas Western cultures tend to
focus more on individualism, Eastern cultures focus on a sociocentric approach.
These cultural differences impact on how children are raised, for example
whereas parents from Western cultures might work towards their child developing
a strong sense of self and independence, parents from Eastern cultures might
focus more on how their child relates to the family the extended family and the
community in general.
The family unit can be viewed
as a microcosm of the surrounding culture. Triandis, (2001) recalls the
Vygotsgian approach and maintains that relationships within the family are influenced
by the sociocultural context and this impacts on how children are brought up. Acculturation,
a process of how the culture of a group or individual is modified as a result
of living within a different culture or value system to their own, typical
amongst immigrant families also has an impact on how children are brought up.
Jambunathan and Counselman (2002) for example highlighted that Asian American
parents (Indian) are not as strict as parents from the Indian subcontinent. Therefore
the culture one lives within is likely to influence the parenting style that is
chosen. Despite this however Asian American parents still proved to be more
authoritarian than Caucasian American parents who tended to be more permissive.
A study by Dornbusch, et al. (1987) asked a set of multicultural students to
define their parents approaches to parenting (authoritative, permissive and
authoritarian) Asian-American students tended to define their parents as
Culture also dictates the way
that children behave within the classroom and this also has an impact on how
children might be perceived by their teachers. The influence of culture on how schooling
is valued and the importance of education for the individual, influences how
the students interact in the classroom, this is highlighted if we contrast the
attitudes of children from Western cultures to those of children from Eastern
cultures. Whereas Asian students might tend to be quiet in class and avoid making
eye contact with teachers (Bennett, 2003) a European child might appear to be
more proactive in discussions and will look directly at their teachers.
In essence culture can best
be described as “the set of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviours
shared by a group of people, communicated from one generation to the next”.
(Matsumoto, 1997:5) and this is what we see within the context of a
multicultural education system as the lecture theatre acts as a microcosm of