Ethnicity in the classroom: ‘Emphasise shared interests’

Ethnicity in the classroom: ‘Emphasise shared interests’

Ethnic diversity does not necessarily lead to more aggression in the classroom. A shared ethnic background does however strengthen friendships, says sociologist Marianne Hooijsma.
11 February om 17:14 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 February 2020
om 18:05 uur.
February 11 at 17:14 PM.
Last modified on February 11, 2020
at 18:05 PM.


Anna Koslerova

Door Anna Koslerova

11 February om 17:14 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 February 2020
om 18:05 uur.
Anna Koslerova

By Anna Koslerova

February 11 at 17:14 PM.
Last modified on February 11, 2020
at 18:05 PM.
Anna Koslerova

Anna Koslerova

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For her PhD, Hooijsma researched primary and secondary schools with more than one thousand children. ‘What we share is more important than what divides us’, she found. ‘So teachers should place emphasis on children’s common interests rather than their ethnic backgrounds.’ 

Children tend to be selective when choosing their friends but place less emphasis on negative relationships than positive ones. This means that they prefer those who are similar to them, but kids who are different will not necessarily become enemies. ‘They might just be a bit more indifferent towards them’, says Hooijsma. 

This doesn’t correspond with social psychologists’ findings about our desire for a positive group identity. We want our football team to be the best and our class to be the most popular, and one of the ways of making our ‘in-group’ look good is to make the others seem inadequate. 

But, says Hooijsma, this tendency to put others down was not prevalent in Dutch classrooms when it came to ethnicity. Even though children preferred to form friendships with those who had a similar background, they did not reject those with a different ethnic background.

Overcoming prejudice

Things like shared hobbies or music interests also play an important role in choosing who to befriend, as does sharing a classroom. Within classrooms, children are not more likely to defend someone just because they have shared roots, while that effect is visible among children with the same ethnicity from different classrooms.

What can teachers do to help students overcome prejudice towards their classmates?

According to Hooijsma, they should strive to create an in-group and encourage the kids to form deeper friendships. They can do so by giving them an assignment to work on together or helping them figure out what they have in common. 

‘We know that friendships are formed based on a shared identity’, Hooijsma says. ‘Whether this is a preference for the same food or a shared ethnicity, largely depends on the ways in which we encourage these children to socialise.’

Yue will spend her first two weeks in isolation because of coronavirus

Yue after arriving in Groningen: ‘I was nervous about making contact with other people after having come from China.’

Yue will spend her first two weeks in Groningen in isolation

In the midst of the corona eruption, Chinese PhD student Yue will spend two weeks in isolation after arriving to Groningen from the Chinese province of Shandong last Saturday.
4 February om 16:29 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 February 2020
om 9:51 uur.
February 4 at 16:29 PM.
Last modified on February 12, 2020
at 9:51 AM.


Anna Koslerova

Door Anna Koslerova

4 February om 16:29 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 12 February 2020
om 9:51 uur.
Anna Koslerova

By Anna Koslerova

February 4 at 16:29 PM.
Last modified on February 12, 2020
at 9:51 AM.
Anna Koslerova

Anna Koslerova

Studentredacteur
Volledig bio
Student editor
Full bio

Friends will provide Yue with the necessary food supplies and she will only leave the house to take out the garbage early in the mornings. ‘This is best for everybody’, she decided after having thoroughly discussed the situation with her new housemate in Groningen.

They have agreed that Yue will stay in their shared house by herself, while her roommate, for the time being, will rent an Airbnb. After two weeks, which is the known incubation time of the coronavirus, the two will move in together.

Daily life

Back in her home town of Dikou, a village 750 kilometers to the north of Wuhan, Yue’s daily life had already been affected by the outbreak. She was isolated from family and friends, as local authorities decided to seal off the village at the start of the outbreak. 

This was especially difficult during the Chinese New Year last week. ‘Normally we visit our loved ones during this time of year, but now everyone was glued to their mobiles’, she explains. As a result, Yue did not get to say goodbye to her sick grandmother, who lives in a different village, before heading to Groningen. 

Panic

Yue saw with her own eyes how quickly fear can spread. Before she left, four people from the nearby city of Liaocheng had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. ‘Luckily for me, they were from a different district’, she says.

But once the government put up road blockades around her village, people started worrying. ‘The virus wasn’t a big deal until people realized they couldn’t leave’, Yue says. ‘That’s when the panic spread.’ The fact that no one went out to buy for groceries even though the shops remained open, illustrates the intensity of their anxiety. 

She herself grew increasingly concerned about her upcoming journey to Groningen, her new home for the next four years. She didn’t know if she could even make it to the Beijing airport, which is about 450 kilometers north of her home town, and board her flight.

Temperature checks

The local authorities do let people leave if’s urgent. Yue starting a new job abroad was reason enough for them. On her way to the airport, she encountered traffic jams, due to the mandatory temperature checks.

Before arriving at the airport, she had her temperature checked three times. Then once more after her arrival, as part of the security check. ‘All passengers on board the flight, including children, wore masks and only took them off to eat’, Yue explains.  

Healthy

It’s now four days since she arrived in Groningen and Yue feels healthy. Yet she stands by her decision to stay home for two weeks, deeming it necessary for her future life in Groningen.

‘I was nervous about making contact with other people after having come from China’, she says. This way, she and others will know for sure there’s nothing to fear.

Yue will spend her time at home preparing for her PhD, reading novels and searching for tips on what to do in her new city.