The necessity to include multicultural education policies and practices in schools and teacher education has been widely recognized both in Finland and internationally. However, terms such as ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘multicultural education’ have contested and vague meanings in educational discourse. This paper investigates discourses on multicultural education from critical multicultural education and postcolonial theoretical perspectives. The focus is on the teacher education policies of all the eight primary teacher education programmes in Finland. Discourse theory analysis revealed six diverging discourses within a framework of conservative, liberal and critical multicultural education. The results show that it should not be taken for granted that policies including multicultural education contribute to social justice in education and teacher education. Consequently, policy-makers need to question the rhetoric regarding multiculturalism and to focus on how inequality is reproduced and upheld in discourses in teacher education and schools, and how this can be challenged.
Ida Hummelstedt-Djedou is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Her dissertation focuses on multicultural education in Finnish teacher education and in primary schools. Hummelstedt-Djedou’s research interests include critical multicultural education, norm-critical education and anti-racism education. She is currently part of the project Multilingual and Intercultural Education in Finland and Sweden at University of Helsinki and Stockholm University and a member of the Nordic Centre of Excellence in Education ‘Justice through Education’.
Harriet Zilliacus is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Her interests centre on issues of cultural diversity in education, teacher education and policy-making. Dr. Zilliacus’s doctoral dissertation focused on identity and inclusion in minority religious and secular ethics education in the Finnish comprehensive school. Her latest research focused on discourses on cultural identity in the Finnish and Swedish national curricula. She is part of the project Multilingual and Intercultural Education in Finland and Sweden at University of Helsinki and Stockholm University and a member of the Nordic Centre of Excellence in Education ‘Justice through Education’.
Gunilla Holm is Professor of Education in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki and director of the Nordic Centre of Excellence in Education ‘Justice through Education’. Her research focuses on issues in education related to race, ethnicity, class and gender as well as on photography as a research method. Professor Holm’s current projects include Perceptions and Constructions of Marginalization and Belonging and Multilingual and Intercultural Education in Finland and Sweden.
This work was supported by University of Helsinki, strategic funding (2015-2017); Helsingin Yliopisto.