Managing the unmanageable: curriculum challenges and teacher strategies in multicultural preschools in Sweden

Jonas Stier (1) , Margareta Sandström (2)
(1) Dalarna University - Mälardalen University, Sweden , Sweden
(2) School of Education, Culture and Communication, Mälardalen University, Sweden , Sweden

Abstract

In its political ambitions and pedagogical spirit to address an increasingly diverse population, the Swedish national curriculum for the preschool contains contradictory or even conflicting goals. On the one hand, the curriculum stipulates openness to, tolerance for and appreciation of cultural, ethnic, religious and social differences, and respect for the unique background of children. On the other hand, it stresses universal human rights and the fundamental values of Swedish society. How preschool teachers work with and make sense of such contradictory or even conflicting goals in everyday practice is the focus of this text. The research questions are: (1) How do preschool teachers describe the challenges they face in their daily work when they attempt to honour the stipulations of the curriculum? (2) Which strategies do they describe as using to manage these challenges? The empirical material consists of 14 focus group interviews with 41 preschool teachers from two highly ethnically and culturally diverse urban areas of metropolitan Stockholm. Results suggest that there are a number of recurring preschool situations where cultural and religious differences lead to dilemmas and potential friction between children, preschool teachers and parents. Results also show that the preschool curriculum provides little guidance and instead the preschool teachers must develop their own strategies to handle children’s and parents’ expectations and demands, for instance by using the children as cultural intermediaries. Overall, the preschool teachers adopt strategies that enable them to avoid “difficult” situations, which in effect risks placing the challenges on the shoulders of the children.

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Authors

Jonas Stier
joi@du.se (Primary Contact)
Margareta Sandström
Author Biographies

Jonas Stier, Dalarna University - Mälardalen University, Sweden

Jonas Stier: School of Humanities and Media Studies, Dalarna University, Sweden
Jonas Stier is a professor of intercultural studies at Dalarna University. He has long experience of intercultural research within a variety of contexts such as preschools, schools and higher education and has written several books in these areas. Moreover, he has strong commitment to public outreach and is a popular lecturer outside academia. Currently, he is serving as the acting pro-vice chancellor at Dalarna University.

Margareta Sandström, School of Education, Culture and Communication, Mälardalen University, Sweden

Margareta Sandström is a senior professor of special education at MälardalenUniversity. She has long experience of educational/special educational/intercultural research within a variety of contexts such as preschools, schools and higher education and has written several books in these areas. Moreover, she has strong commitment to teacher education

Stier, J., & Sandström, M. (2018). Managing the unmanageable: curriculum challenges and teacher strategies in multicultural preschools in Sweden. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 18(3), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.36923/jicc.v18i3.767

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