Petite enfance et établissements scolaires

Strength Through Diversity - 2nd Policy Forum, 21-22 September 2017


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While the student body has become increasingly diverse in OECD countries, teachers still tend to be a very homogenous group. Diversity is a broad concept but is defined here as ‘’characteristics that can affect the specific ways in which developmental potential and learning are realised, including cultural, linguistic, ethnic, religious and socio-economic differences” (Burns and Shadoian-Gersing, 2010: 21). Even though the challenges of increased diversity are prevalent in almost all OECD countries, the context is different. In the traditional immigration OECD countries, with long histories of indigenous populations (e.g. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States), classroom diversity mirrors the diversity of the population and new arrivals in the country. In a second group of OECD countries (including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom), classroom diversity is strongly linked to more recent international migration. In a third group of countries (e.g. Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain), classroom diversity is rather new because they have been shifting from immigrant-sending to immigrant-receiving countries.

Whatever the history and context in each country, social, cultural and linguistic diversity is here to stay (Vertovec, 2007). Responses to the diversity in the education system vary in scope, focus and approach across countries and regions. They are referred to as multiculturalist education, anti-bias and anti-racist education, critical multiculturalism and more recently culturally responsive/relevant pedagogies (term used in Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand) and multicultural or intercultural education (term used in the European Union) (Reid and Major, 2017). Sometimes this term is grouped under the umbrella of inclusive education. Inclusive education can refer to the integration of children with disabilities in some countries, or to the need to adapt schooling to all special needs in other countries (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2010). The fact that the same term is used to denote different policy challenges in different contexts adds an additional layer of complexity to discussions among academic and policy communities on how best teachers can be prepared to be effective in diverse classrooms and what approaches are needed to effectively navigate diversity in classrooms and society.

In recent years, some scholars have suggested that quantitative increases in diversity have led to the emergence of entirely new challenges and have results in qualitative differences connected to ‘super-diversity’ (Vertovec, 2007). Super-diversity refers to the “dynamic interplay of variables among an increased number of new, small and scattered, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants” (Vertovec, 2007: 1024). It surpasses traditional variables such as ethnicity, countries of origin, language and religion to also include immigration statuses and their concomitant entitlements and restrictions of rights, divergent labour market experiences, discrete gender and age profiles, patterns of spatial distribution and mixed local area responses by service providers and residents. This super-diversity entails numerous challenges for prospective and practicing teachers as well as school leaders because education systems often do not take into account the multiplicity of factors which may influence educational attainment and success, and thus many teachers are unprepared to teach and support diverse students (Gogolin, 2011; Little, Leung and van Avermaet, 2014). It also has consequences for policy-makers and practitioners on how to provide incentives to teachers to work in disadvantaged schools and to allocate resources across and within schools, how to design and regulate initial teacher training, how to design professional development activities, how to recruit and retain teachers from a minority/immigrant background as well as how to develop feedback and evaluation mechanisms.


The objectives were to 
  • Identify common challenges for teaching in diverse classrooms;
  • Examine promising practices and innovative approaches used by countries to ensure that teachers are well-equipped to deal with multicultural classrooms; and
  • Facilitate peer-learning between countries in the areas of teacher training, professional development, teacher diversity, indicator development and evaluation mechanisms.
Keynote Speakers

 Keynote Presentation

Opening Presentation

Session 1: Organisational incentives and resource allocation

Session 2: Initial teacher training: evidence and country experiences

Session 3: Teacher professional development: evidence and country experiences

Session 4: Teacher diversity: evidence and country experiences

Session 5: Indicator development and evaluation mechanisms

Optional OECD/ New Approaches to Economic Challenges seminar





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