Reflections of Multiculturalism and Patriotism in Slovene Elementary School Curricula
Reflections of Multiculturalism and Patriotism in Slovene Elementary School CurriculaThe paper presents an analysis of the inclusion of patriotic elements in the curricula of elementary school subjects which are adapted to a multicultural environment. The legislative framework of the educational system in Slovenia anticipates the modification of curricula when elements of a minority’s identity are in question. The results of the analysis can be summarised in two sets of findings: the method of the inclusion of patriotic elements differs firstly according to the subject’s curriculum (absence of a strategic approach), and secondly depending on the minority in question. It seems as if the integration of patriotic elements in the curricula of both national minorities is coincidental.
KEY WORDS: curriculum, multiculturalism, ethnic minorities, patriotic elements, elementary education
National identity is formed through individuals’ identification with the language, customs, overall style of life and culture, and historical development of the nation. The process of identification with the nation also takes place through learning and education, through which individuals belonging to a nation acquire language skills, learn about national culture and history and develop certain values, thus creating a national consciousness—the sense of belonging to the nation (Govekar-Okoliš 2010). In principle the schooling system institutionalises a range of content and the inclusion method, which are intended to strengthen national identity. At the same time the modern concept of education also includes the principle of promoting multiculturalism (Portera 2008). Both principles are also applied in the further development of elementary schooling in Slovenia (White Paper 2011). This indicates that pupils need to acquire knowledge about the history of Slovenia and its culture, and that in addition to developing and maintaining their own cultural traditions they need to engage with multiculturalism and have respect for the pluralism of cultures. Pupils should develop an awareness of personal identity, national identity, and cultural identity. Such highly institutionalised inclusion of such multicultural elements for the (two) national minorities in the Slovene education system should apply to other minorities (social, economic, etc.) as well, either by introducing multicultural elements into the national educational system or by offering more open curricula that could be tailor-fit for specific minority groups.
However, there is a fragile balance to be achieved when promoting patriotic elements of one’s own nation and simultaneously respecting all nations, as merely the quantity of information on one’s own nation could be an element of differentiation. Thus special attention should be paid to how patriotic elements are included in the school curriculum. These methods of inclusion are often subtle and cross-curricular, even more so when educating young people who are members of ethnic minorities and thus living in a country other than their country of origin. Building national identity based on identification with values such as common heritage, language, customs, culture, history, etc., in an educational institution of another country requires special attention. Placing all these elements into the curricula of national education indicates a high level of protection of minority rights and multiculturalism.
The Slovene education system specifically addresses the education of national minorities. It is not the aim of this article to argue whether there are additional national minorities or communities that should be constitutionally protected. The authors thus analyse the existing minority protection framework in the area of education. In the context of understanding how the elements of any minority (including multicultural elements) are included into the educational system, the minorities here are addressed as a very broad category. Analysing the curriculums of national minorities serves as a proxy for understanding the broader multicultural approach, which is most evident when there is a long historical coexistence of different cultures. In Slovenia, two national minorities (Hungarian and Italian) and one community (Roma) are constitutionally protected. Article 5 of the Constitution states that the state must protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in its own territory. It must protect and guarantee the rights of the Italian and Hungarian national communities. The Constitution also defines Italian or Hungarian, in addition to Slovene, as the official language in specific areas, and protects the right to express a person’s own national identity and the right to use his/her language (ibid., Art. 11, 61 and 62). Moreover, in Article 64 the Constitution explicitly states that in accordance with the law, both national minorities have the right to education in their own language and the right to establish and develop such education. In this context, the two minorities are entitled to an adapted syllabus, tailored curricula, skilled educational staff (proficient in both languages), additional funds and teaching aids for the implementation of the national minority educational programme, and adapted norms and standards.
For the purposes of this article we will differentiate between two types of elements related to learning about broader society, country, and national identity. First are polity (civic) element – learning content about the polity of the country of Slovenia (and beyond), in which topics such as elections, democracy, institutions, etc. are covered. In addition to civic elements there are patriotic elements, which are included to foster national identity in pupils. Both types of elements, civic and patriotic, are included through different subjects, though admittedly both are often interwoven and can overlap. While civic elements are mostly included within the subject of civic culture and ethics, in which content is related to institutional arrangements as well as a factual understanding of the elements of state and citizenship, patriotic education is included within many subjects’ curricula as well as in cross-curricular content. In ethnically mixed areas, these patriotic elements are introduced through the subjects of geography, history, society, music, and art, so that tailored curricula for national minorities are adopted on a national level.
The aim of this paper is to present analyses of the inclusion of patriotic elements in elementary school curricula in ethnically mixed areas and how these elements differ from the curricula of the general programme. We present analyses of three selected subjects: society (fourth and fifth grades); geography (sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades); and history (sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades). Although the curricula also differ in the compulsory subjects of music, art, and language (Slovenian, Slovenian as a second language in the ethnically mixed area of Slovenian Istria, Slovenian as a second language in the ethnically mixed area of Prekmurje, Hungarian, Hungarian as a second language, Italian as a second language in the ethnically mixed area of Slovenian Istria, and Italian), their content is so strongly adapted to the specifics of the ethnically mixed areas (especially language courses) that a substantive comparison is not possible. Admittedly, knowledge of language and its integration into the educational system is of great importance for the development of national identity (Colja 2013).
The aim of this paper is not to initiate a discussion on whether or not pupils who are minorities should or should not be taught Slovene patriotic elements, or if these elements should in part or in their entirety be substituted by patriotic elements of the countries of their national origin. Instead this paper should be understood as an attempt to evaluate the way the Slovene educational system addresses patriotic elements in its curricula.
MULTICULTURALISM AND (NATIONAL) IDENTITY
The concept of patriotic education is inevitably linked to national identity. Identity, in general, is becoming an increasingly elusive concept. An ever-changing environment requires an individual to constantly adapt oneself. The constitutive dimensions of ourselves – time and space, sickness and health, gender and age, birth and death, sex and love – are no longer just facts. They also present and define us and act as an anchor (Melucci 1996). Milharčič Hladnik (2012) warns about oversimplification of identity categorisation. This applies especially to Europe, where the history of migration results in individuals’ “composed identity”. In pursuit of a multicultural society, these heterogeneous identities should be understood and tolerance should be learned. The flagship for the realisation of a multicultural society is the educational system, which can significantly lower racism and intolerance levels. Milharčič Hladnik (ibid.) adds that this same system simultaneously enables racism and discrimination by fostering national culture, national identity and language as core elements of education.
The aim is to achieve a fragile balance of building national identity (which is too important to be left to improvisation or coincidence, as this opens the door to extremism, excessive forms of nationalism, and xenophobia) and fostering multiculturalism. Identity formation should be based on the perception of knowledge and experience (Torres 2010: 187). There are many ways of transferring the knowledge of national identity in multicultural societies (see also Sardoč 2012). But introducing multicultural elements to national minorities is not to be equated with introducing national identity elements. This set is not so much multicultural as bicultural. The question is to what extent pupils who are national minorities should be acquainted with patriotic elements of their country of residence, and to what extent they should be acquainted with patriotic elements of their countries of origin. Should pupils who are ethnic minorities embrace both cultures (and identities), and should pupils who are not ethnic minorities embrace these as well?
It is a question of finding the best balance between instruction on patriotic elements of minorities’ motherlands and instruction on Slovenian patriotic elements. Pupils should build a positive attitude towards the country where they live but at the same time keep in touch with their cultures. One should be aware that a delicate balance must be created when educating young citizens to cultivate positive emotions towards their country of residence and foster national identity.
TWO EDUCATIONAL MODELS (FOR NATIONAL MINORITIES) IN SLOVENIA
Although both national minorities in Slovenia are equally protected in the Constitution and subsidiary legal acts, two different educational models are in use: the traditional model for Italians (hereafter IP – the Italian language programme) and the bidirectional model for Hungarians (hereafter HP – the Hungarian programme). The two models differ mostly in regards to how minority languages are used in the educational process. The traditional model uses either the Slovenian or Italian language as a medium of communication, while the bidirectional model aims at using both languages (Slovenian and Hungarian) equally. Vidmar (2011) explains that the bidirectional model is a rarely used model for the preservation of both languages and that this approach is particularly suitable for pupils who lack connections to their mother states (which was typical during the period of the Iron Curtain). In this model both languages have equal status, which is achieved within a single unit of instruction (a teaching hour) by passing from one language to the other in a chronologically prescribed order. For members of the Italian minority, the school system in force is monolingual. In schools where the Italian language is the language of instruction, Italian is also the language of the school administration and is used for communication with parents. It is important that schools with Italian as the language of instruction are not closed institutions, intended only for children of the Italian national community, but are open to all children (Klemenčič and Klemenčič 2001).
In addition to the linguistic leverage that is used to foster minorities’ connections to their countries of origin, there is also content adaptation in the curricula for some subjects at bilingual schools. According to the Act Regulating Special Rights of Members of the Italian and Hungarian Ethnic Communities in the Field of Education, education in schools where the language of instruction is Italian, as well as education in bilingual schools in ethnically mixed territories, comprises (a) knowledge of the historical, cultural, and natural heritage of the Italian or Hungarian national community and their countries of origin; (b) development of one’s own cultural tradition; and (c) education for respecting and understanding national and cultural differences for collaboration between members of the Slovenian national majority and the Italian or Hungarian national communities and developing the ability for cohabitation in ethnically and linguistically mixed areas (Article 3).
A national, strategic document on education (White Paper 2011) further elaborates and adds to these three objectives, so pupils may learn about the position of the Italian and Hungarian national communities in neighbouring countries and establish links and cooperation with members of these communities and their institutions. The adaptation of the curricula reflects an emphasis on fostering minority languages. In schools with the IP programme, for example, where the language of instruction is Slovenian, there is a compulsory Italian class (meeting twice per week). In schools where the language of instruction is Italian, pupils are obligated to take Slovenian language classes. There are also other curriculum adaptations that enable minorities to learn about the historical, cultural, and natural heritage of their countries of origin in order to develop their own cultural traditions and the ability to cohabitate in ethnically and linguistically mixed areas. These elements are included in social science subjects when possible. However, there is no blueprint for such inclusion. Thus the authors of an individual subject’s curriculum have used different inclusion methods to integrate the historical, cultural, and natural heritage of minorities’ countries of origin. Before analysing methods of inclusion, it should be noted that the national educational strategy and legal framework do not anticipate replacing elements concerning the Slovenian historical, cultural, and natural heritage with that of the minorities’ countries.
INCLUSION OF PATRIOTIC ELEMENTS IN THE CURRICULA OFETHNICALLY MIXED AREAS
We analysed the curricula as a set of study content (Curzon 1985). We analysed the patriotic elements in the curricula of three selected subjects: society (fourth and fifth grades); geography (sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades); and history (sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades). As previously stated, although the curricula also differ in the subjects of music, art, and language, their content is so strongly adapted to the specifics of the ethnically mixed areas (especially the language courses) that a substantive comparison is not viable. Although knowledge of the Slovenian language (or a minority language) and the language’s integration into the educational system is important (Colja 2013), it would be necessary to choose a different approach for such an analysis.
Substitution method in society curricula
The curricula for the society courses in all three types of elementary schools (GP – the general programme, IP – the Italian language programme, HP – the Hungarian programme) display very similar sets of content; however, there are some differences. The society curriculum in the IP includes more minority topics than the curriculum in the GP and, surprisingly, more than the curriculum in the HP. Specially added to the objective knowledge is the position of the Italian minority in Slovenia, which is completely absent in HP the curriculum. In addition, this objective is placed in a unit on the “family”, which is somewhat unusual, since minority issues are covered in a unit on “participation in the community”. This substantive part of the IP curriculum includes objective knowledge of major minority institutions, which is completely absent in the HP curriculum. It is therefore clear that differences exist between the IP and HP curricula concerning national minority elements.
In the unit “Slovenia – Location and Characteristics,” there is an obvious substitution of Slovenian patriotic elements with minority elements (Italian and/or Hungarian). The aim is that pupils (in the GP) learn characteristics of typical Slovenian culture, special features of Slovenia, and components that shape Slovenia’s national identity. The HP and IP curricula also prescribe similar goals about culture and national identity, but it is not clear which nation’s characteristics or which ethnic identity should be addressed. Moreover, the goal for the pupil to know the natural and cultural heritage of Slovenia is completely disregarded.
Didactic recommendations for the IP and HP include a note that teachers should strive for the equal inclusion of both nations’ elements while promoting multiculturalism and developing positive intercultural relations among pupils. This specific recommendation makes the substitution of Slovene national elements with minority national elements even more peculiar. For the unit “People in Society”, the didactic recommendation for the GP reads, “Practical field work in the vicinity of schools or in other Slovenian regions – is the basic teaching method”, while the IP and HP recommendations read, “Practical field work in the vicinity of the school or in other regions – is the basic teaching method”. In the IP and HP recommendations the words “Slovenia”, “Slovenian”, etc. are mostly excluded.
Slovenian elements are also excluded in cross-curricular recommendations. There is a recommendation that art classes in the GP link the choice of artistic motifs and techniques to humans and the environment in time and space (for example, customs, traditions, historical monuments, handicrafts, beehives, hayracks, museums, galleries, artists, etc.). In the cross-curricular recommendations, the specific elements of Slovene culture, like beehives and hayracks, are simply deleted. Similarly, in the physical education recommendations, which in the GP include Slovenian folk dances, the word “Slovenian” is deleted.
Generalisation method in geography curricula
In addition to the substitution method used in society curricula, our review of geography curricula reveals another approach – generalisation. The operational goals in the last part of the sixth-grade curricula are intended to familiarise pupils with the beauty and geographical diversity of the country (Slovenia, Italy or Hungary, depending on the programme). Listed among the GP objectives is that the pupil learns the values and uniqueness of the Slovenian landscape. In the case of the IP and HP curricula, the word “(the) Slovenian” is replaced with the word “any” (thus “any landscape”). One of the GP’s aims reads, “the pupil values the natural and cultural heritage of Slovenia as a basis for the development of tourism.” Again, in the IP and HP the word “(of) Slovenia” is simply deleted. National minority elements are mostly included separately (supplementally). To a much lesser extent comparative integration is used, such as the goal that the pupil “lists the major accomplishments of Slovenians (GP) and Italians (IP) and Hungarians (HP) in Europe and worldwide”.
Generalisation is also present in the didactic recommendations. The overall didactic recommendations are very similar in all three programmes (the GP, IP, and HP). This is most likely due to the extreme generality of the subject’s curriculum. In the case of cross-curricular integration, for example, it is stated (in a very general way) that geography and cultural education are linked, as, “It [cross-cultural content] provides pupil with an understanding of the importance of learning about their national culture and the awareness of belonging to this culture”. It refers to the undetermined culture of an undetermined nation. The didactic recommendations for the IP and HP regarding field trips include a visit to at least one of the regions of Italy (IP) or Hungary (HP). However, there are some ambiguities regarding the implementation of these field trips. The GP curriculum states, “Opportunities for fieldwork also include natural science days, project work and geographical and interdisciplinary excursions to the Slovenian landscape”. In the IP and HP curricula, “to the Slovenian landscape” is simply deleted. Although the didactic recommendations in the IP and HP curricula state, “Geographical excursions can be shorter, aimed particularly at the local region, and longer, which are typically interdisciplinary and focused on learning about the different natural geographical regions (units) of Slovenia. Every year an excursion to at least one geographic region Slovenia is to be planned, so that pupils in four years learn about different natural and socio-geographic regions” (ibid). We are dealing with partial and sometimes incoherent deletions of the words “Slovenia” and “Slovenian”, although it is clear from the content that the field trips are meant to be taken to Slovenian regions.
Since the subject of geography has great potential to influence and foster patriotic feelings merely by introducing elements of countries’ uniqueness, it is important that the descriptions of these elements are not too general (not applying to any specific country), as we could avoid (unintentionally) reinforcing patriotic feelings in the general population (thus also in pupils who do not live in ethnically mixed areas). A salient quotation about the objectives of the geography (GP) curriculum reads, “In the subject geography pupils develop positive feelings towards their homeland, a sense of belonging to their nation and country, and love of the natural and cultural heritage.” In this GP curriculum “Slovenia” could be written instead of “their homeland”. Generalisation distances GP pupils from Slovenia, while the IP and HP curricula focus on awareness of the cultures of both nations. To illustrate, let us quote a section (ibid.): “In learning and understanding different cultures, social groups, their representatives, and social relationships pupils develop positive attitudes toward cultural diversity and develop intercultural relations.” The IP and HP curricula add, “This is particularly important in bilingual areas, because the subject geography should foster both nations’ cultures equally and the geographic content of both countries should be presented equally.”
Equal representation method in history curricula
After reviewing the history curricula in all three programmes, we found that neither the generalisation method nor the substitution method is used, which is due to the specifics of the subject. The method used could be described as the equal representation method, as the history of both nations (minority and majority) is taught. There is a difference, however, in the HP and IP’s methods of integration. While the IP curriculum integrates the content comparatively, the HP curriculum emphasises the history of the minority nation. It should also be noted that there are significant differences between the IP and HP regarding the content of the history of Italy/Hungary, as the HP integrates more of these elements than the IP. In the chapter “Man Thinks, Creates, and Builds”, the HP curriculum adds the objective that pupils know specific characteristics of Hungarian architecture. In the elective chapter “Ways of Life”, pupils can compare different ways of life throughout the history of the Hungarians, and in the elective chapter “Cultural Heritage” the aim is to describe examples of typical Slovenian and Hungarian dishes.
The history curriculum in the IP adds elements of Italian history in a comparative way. Thus, when learning about Slovenian history pupils have to learn similar content about Italy’s history. There are, however, some minor objectives added, for example, the objective that pupils describe the Italian peninsula and peoples, such as the Etruscans, Veneti, and Histrians; the objective that pupils describe the emergence of urban communities and city states in Italy; the objective that pupils describe the development and political regimes of the maritime republics (with special emphasis on Venice), etc.
On the other hand, in the HP curriculum, two whole chapters, “Hungarians in the 20th and 21st Centuries” and “Hungarians in the Middle Ages”, are integrated. Corresponding chapters are completely absent from the IP curriculum. Overall, the prevailing method in the HP curriculum is not comparison (to Slovenian history), as in the IP curriculum, but rather the integration of additional aims, although these aims could easily be included in a comparative way as in the IP curriculum. In the chapter “Changed Political and Religious Identity of Europe”, for example, the HP curriculum integrates the additional aim of learning about the Hungarian Reformation movement. The aim is not listed within the broader goal of understanding Slovenian reformatory movements. It is instead listed separately (and thus not comparatively). Similarly, the curriculum includes the chapter “Peasant Revolts, Epidemics and Natural Disasters”, which aims at learning about the consequences of the Hungarian peasant rebellion. Since the HP curriculum already includes the causes and consequences of the peasant revolt in Slovenia, it is not clear why this subject is not connected (comparatively) to the peasant revolt in Hungary.
The presented method of integrating content about the minority nations is also reflected in the didactic recommendations. In cross-curricular recommendations, in the IP curriculum the Italian language is listed alongside Slovenian, and both are included comparatively, while in the HP curriculum the Hungarian language is listed separately. The didactic recommendations serve as compelling evidence of how different methods are used in the HP and IP. The recommendations state that in IP schools, which are located in the ethnically mixed area of Slovenian Istria, history is a subject of great importance. The overall subject goals and structure retain the same structure as the general curriculum for this subject, but the implementation should be tailored to the specific aims of these schools. An important objective is fostering national (Italian) identity in minority pupils while simultaneously instructing pupils on the history of the majority nation in order to develop tolerance for the majority nation. This method presents a basis for mutual understanding between the members of the two communities. The curriculum also includes a more detailed discussion of the history of the Italian minority in Istria, the history of Italy, and the history of Slovenes. To reach this aim, the teacher must choose appropriate teaching materials, resources, and Italian literature, both in the original Italian and translated. These readings enable pupils to develop a critical attitude towards different historical interpretations of the same events in both nations.
Our analysis of the elementary school curriculum in terms of patriotic content in ethnically mixed areas addresses two concerns. First, it presents the actual implementation of the constitutional obligations of the Republic of Slovenia in respecting the rights of minorities. One important issue that is linked to this question, but was not elaborated in the article, is that ethnic minorities in Slovenia are harder to define than is portrayed in the Constitution. Special rights or affirmative action policies for constitutionally recognised ethnic minorities are viewed as exemplary (Žagar 2004), however both ethnic minorities and the ethnic community (recognised by the Constitution) make up less than 0.66 % of the Slovenian population. Even more compelling is that more than 90 % of citizens who declared themselves as non-Slovene in the National Population Census are not included in bilingual or multicultural educational models. Thus the present analysis could serve as an instruction to enhance multicultural education for all ethnic minorities in Slovenia.
Second, it reveals how patriotic elements can be implemented in Slovenia’s educational system (but not those of the minorities’ countries of origin). Presuming that we can distinguish between patriotic and civic elements, civic elements should apply to all pupils, regardless of their national origin, as these elements foster citizenship in regards to the polity (in Slovenia). Thus it seems logical that the curricula containing elements of civic culture and ethics are not different for pupils in ethnically mixed areas.
The subtle inclusion of patriotic elements in the three subjects analysed should, according to Slovenia’s legal framework, be based on enabling pupils of ethnic minorities to learn about the historical, cultural, and natural heritage of their countries of origin, so pupils may develop their own cultural tradition and learn about respecting and understanding national and cultural differences. The methods for implementing these provisions are left to policymakers (or in our case the authors of the curricula). In society courses, content that is linked to Slovenia is either deleted or generalised. Following multicultural guidelines instead of substituting Slovenian patriotic elements with the patriotic elements of the minorities’ nations would be more suitable.
Geography curricula apply the generalisation method. When the GP curriculum includes learning about some Slovene geographical element, the curricula of ethnic minority programmes delete any words relating specifically to Slovenia and replace them with generalised terms. There is great inconsistency between content and instructions. Learning about and understanding different cultures, social groups, their representatives, and social relationships allows pupils to develop positive attitudes toward cultural diversity and intercultural relations. Curricula in ethnic minority programmes should address both nations’ cultures equally. Geographical content for both countries should be presented equally. Therefore, instead of generalisation, a comparative approach should be used. This approach is used in the history curricula. However, in this case there are significant differences in how the ethnic minority curricula include patriotic elements. While the curricula for the Italian minority integrate content comparatively, the curricula for the Hungarian minority use a method of emphasis. There are some differences between both minorities’ curricula in all three analysed subjects, but the most prominent difference is in the history curricula.
The inconsistent method of inclusion of patriotic elements in the education of ethnic minorities is evident both vertically and horizontally. The methods differ among all three subjects as well as between both minority programmes. The question is whether these differences are a result of well-planned policy or are an inadvertent consequence of decentralised and ad hoc decisions.