The Impact of Culture on Education

Cultural tendencies impact the way children participate in education. The table below describes different expectations about “normal” school behavior for students from individualist and collectivist cultures As you review this information, take a moment to think about how teachers who lack knowledge about culture might interpret the behavior of a child from a collectivist culture These differences may cause educators to inaccurately judge students from some cultures as poorly behaved or disrespectful In addition, because cultural differences are hard to perceive, students may find themselves reprimanded by teachers but fail to understand what they did that caused concern.

Individualist and Collectivist Cultural Perspectives on Education

Individualist Perspective Collectivist Perspective
Students work independently; helping others may be cheating. Students work with peers and provide assistance when needed.
Students engage in discussion and argument to learn to think critically. Students are quiet and respectful in class in order to learn more efficiently.
Property belongs to individuals, and others must ask to borrow it. Property is communal.
Teacher manages the school environment indirectly and encourages student self – control. Teacher is the primary authority, but peers guide each other’s behavior.
Parents are integral to child’s academic progress and participate actively. Parents yield to teacher’s expertise to provide academic instruction and guidance.

Source: Adapted from Individualist and Collectivist Perspectives on Education, from the Diversity Kit (2002) Providence, R.I.: The Education Alliance.

The influence of culture on beliefs about education, the value of education, and participation styles cannot be overestimated Many Asian students, for example, tend to be quiet in class, and making eye contact with teachers is considered inappropriate for many of these children (Bennett, 2003) In contrast, most European American children are taught to value active classroom discussion and to look teachers directly in the eye to show respect, while their teachers view students’ participation as a sign of engagement and competence.