Field Research on the Position and Experiences of Immigrants in Iceland

Introduction

The concept of child education has been of considerable interest to scholars around the world for a long time. Generally, any nation that can be termed as multicultural has had a moment in its history when the concepts of interracial, religious, and national equality have played a bigger role in its social and political progress. In Iceland, alienation in child education has been a hot issue, more so when the aspect of immigration is put into perspective. Primarily, there have been witnessed cases of discrimination in the education system among the immigrants, with indigenous children being given preference.

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Various studies conducted reveal that the issue of racial discrimination in Icelandic child education system can be eliminated by embracing multicultural social equality, which promotes diversity and shared sense of belonging. This is in addition to extreme equality of all children, validation of the education system to ensure that immigrants are assimilated into the Icelandic education culture without having to de-link them from their own culture, and ensure that the education system is designed in a way that immigrants are able to access education at all levels. Although observed in Iceland to a far lesser extent than in such countries as the USA, this controversial nature of citizenship education is still considerably important for the Icelandic society and integration of immigrants into it. It is the purpose of this research to unearth all this.

This research paper will discuss the Position and Experiences of Immigrants in Iceland. The paper will review literature from various studies, identify the problem facing Icelandic child education, and highlight the various remedies to the problem.

Position and Experiences of Immigrants in Iceland

General Perceptions

It is a common fact that people in most states globally have been so much preoccupied with the aspect of educating children. Generally put, this theme has cut across both political and social aspects, impeding societal development especially in the contemporary globalized society. In most cases, some scholars discuss the issues related to inadequate child education and emphasize the need and significance for inclusive and equal chances of learning for both the boy and girl child. Other scholars, acknowledge the fact that child education is one of the fundamental children’s rights, look at educating a child as a legal and parental duty that every child should have an access to. While addressing this, they look at the impact that immigration may have on child education when people happen to move to other alien states such as Australia, Britain, and Iceland, among others.

Problems facing Child Education

Studies reveal that in Iceland, migrated students are not as successful as their Icelandic counterparts, especially those who talk a different dialect than Icelandic. They are susceptible to various dangers such as bullying, involvement in unusual demeanor, and sexual abuse (Schubert, 2010, p.2). Another study was done on the ability of Iceland school to handle an increasing population of immigrant schoolchildren. It was concluded that students from other nations are generally alienated from their Icelandic colleagues during normal school days.

Due to the fact the foreign students are lacking in Icelandic adeptness, they find it cumbersome to associate with their fellow students from Iceland and benefit from the school subject content. The fact these children are able to survive in an environment with diverse cultures, communicate through more than one language and can suit into several cultural settings is a skill and portrait of their personality that is not commonplace in the Iceland community.

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Multicultural social equality

The concept of a multicultural community manifested through mutual existence of diverse racial and religious groups of people is very much exemplified in several parts of the world, among them, we have the Great Britain. A multicultural community is not only supposed to cultivate diversity, but it should also encourage a shared sense of belonging and enable all members within it to cherish a common identity (Osler, 2005, p.9). The United Kingdom is still devising a mechanism of alleviating school discrimination that is still evidenced in some areas that have a history of controversy such as the Northern Ireland. Unity and diversity, general inclusion and involvement, globalization and intercultural enlightenment (ideals created by the Center for Multicultural Education) are part of the means that the mechanism is engaging (Osler, 2005, p. 19-20).

Extreme Equality of all Students

There is an overstressed equality of individuals belonging to diverse ethnic, religious, or racial groups in class. The authorized curriculum regards all students as though they were of the same race, in the same social class and citizens by birth (Noddings, 2005, p. 75). This causes immigrants from other nations such as China, and Mexico, among others to feel uncomfortable and segregated. Additionally, school children who have the right to acquire education as members of the United Kingdom may end up feeling that their national, cultural and linguistic belonging is being taken for granted.

This aspect sophisticates the previously tricky way of their incorporation into the society. Therefore, education for immigrant children should not flout children rights for either national or ethnic distinctiveness since both can be concurrently enhanced with success. In the same vein, the official curriculum in the United States does not put into account the fiscal ability of their students. It consequently follows that immigrants may be required to take time to adjust to the entire situation. To adjust accordingly, such immigrants normally experience sizeable fiscal constraints. Funding their tuition maximally and accessing other resources relevant for learning, are among the financial challenges that immigrant students normally have to grapple with. The treatment that the curriculum accords to students by treating them equally is results to a problem when it comes to the social integration of the immigrant learners. It is there fore of necessity for the curriculum to be adjusted to accommodate the needs of the immigrant students rather than the immigrant students being obliged to adapt to a learning system that attempts to treat all of them equally while ignoring their needs (Noddings, 2005, p. 77).

Validating the educational system

Education of immigrant children has its base in the citizenship education, which has been bedeviled with numerous hurdles such as segregation of immigrant students and inability of the curriculum to accommodate the cultural uniqueness of the immigrant learners, to make them still feel they have a sense of belonging even while in a foreign country. In an attempt to address these disparities and devise an authentic education system, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations came up with strategies sometimes back. This is because the migration from both the east and southern Europe had placed strains in Iceland and other nations.

The education committee of OECD met and resolved the necessity to ensure that the kind of education offered should be able to make immigrants and their children to not only get assimilated, but to also conserve their cultural distinctiveness in the process (Council of Europe, 1991, p.344). It is further documented that the concept of citizenship education was designed and build by strong and mainstream groups of the community with a sole aim of serving their own needs first and the values of other secondarily.

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Derived from this, the societal education framework in Iceland has a segregational element of citizen education as its chief impediment. To conquer the hurdle, there are two main approaches that should be adopted by both the individual citizen and the government. First, the Congress government ought to broaden the meaning of the phrase “We people” to be actually inclusive of everybody within America, and not just the dominant white citizens only who are in charge of everything to do with the fundamentals of social development. Secondly, efforts should be put in place to ensure that every body everywhere at all levels of learning has been enlightened regarding the meaning of being intercultural and forbearing (Banks, 2007, p. 5). A blend of these two approaches will go a long way to enhance the improvement of citizenship education for the wellbeing of all the people for the good of the entire community. This includes whether it is the community within the United States, its neighborhood or the entire world.

Immigrant Child education in Iceland

For the past almost ten years, many immigrant children have been getting into the Icelandic educational system. The system is partitioned into four levels: Pre-school level, compulsory level, upper secondary level and the higher education level (Ministry of Education Science and Culture, 2002, p. 6 – 7). Immigrant students are found in almost each of all these levels of education in different proportions. There is an increase political awareness of the cultural and learning needs of these children (UNESCO, 2008, p. 9). The Iceland curricula stresses on the incorporation of introductory and welcoming units in the educational courses. There is a major consideration of both language and culture in the curriculum, with Iceland being categorized as a foreign and compulsory language (European Commission, 2010, p. 4). Majority of immigrants in Iceland speak Polish, Thai and Serbo-Croatian dialects (UNESCO, 2008, p.9). While learning Iceland as part of the curriculum course content, immigrant children reserve the right to continue using their language. The government supports this imperative right as well (Stefna, 2007, p. 4).

There is also a reported conventional high drop out rate of immigrant children especially at the upper primary level. Equality in education is also exercised in Iceland. It entails offering all children appropriate learning instructions and granting them an opportunity to choose the tasks that they are interested in working on. Although this does not imply similar solutions for all, it is somewhat analogous and corresponding opportunities. The tasks offered are supposed to apply in the same way to all pupils regardless of their gender, origin, religious conviction, sexual orientation, or nationality (UNESCO, 2008, p. 14). In the same vein, the UNESCO experts have also realized the educational progress of Iceland in the Education for all (Inclusive Education). This is evidenced in the inclusion of the Icelandic language, which is compulsory for all, though it can also be used as a second language. In this regard, learning institutions in Iceland regulate the pressure of most immigrants in learning this new language while making sure that the immigrants are improving in their knowledge of the Icelandic language (UNESCO, 2008, p. 4 – 5). One of the challenges faced is focusing on pupils who may be at the danger of being marginalized and removed from school. Immigrant children form part of the marginalized pupils (UNESCO, 2008, p. 14).

Summary and Research Significance

The above-discussed review on the child education for immigrants as portrayed in scenarios from diverse regions across the globe, give room to two main deductions. To begin with, the study on immigrant education has generally been conducted by numerous sound scholars in the world, which forms a relevant platform on the succeeding developments as seen on this topic. Secondly, the concepts presented by scholars regarding child education for immigrants are often contentious, and as such may need further and proper validation. Moreover, child education for immigrants is an area that has not been extensively researched on to make one make any major inferences. It is the aim of the current study to help bridge this gap.

Research Questions and Objectives

As a result, the objectives and questions of this research can be drawn from the tasks outlined in the literature review. In particular, in an attempt to beef up the knowledge in relation to education of immigrant children in Iceland, the current study will require more information on the topic, and accordingly, such details should emanate from direct role players of the named educational process, that is immigrants residing in Iceland. Actually, the more particular list of the objectives set for the ongoing study comprises of the following aspects:

  • Study the progression of integrating immigrants into the community and state of Iceland.
  • Look at the conditions of development of child education for immigrants in Iceland
  • Study the general circumstances the position and experiences of immigrants residing in Iceland.
  • Apply the theoretical framework and perceptions from what other reputable scholars have done to the results in the study.
  • Come up with a widespread breakdown of the levels of immigrant child education in Iceland with regard to what is transpiring in other nations within the same context.

In a bid to achieve the above outlined objectives, the following list of research questions with help from data collection and analysis methods discussed after (In the Research and Methodology part).

  1. What are the experiences of immigrant children in Iceland as far as education is concerned?
    1. Are there equal education opportunities for immigrant children and the Iceland natives?
    2. How does the Icelandic educational system portray equality/inequality?
  2. Can immigrant schoolchildren be integrated into the Icelandic community and schools and retain their national distinctiveness?
  3. How are the social and cultural elements of immigrants in Iceland preserved?
    1. Is it possible to still practice the original social and cultural aspects as an immigrant and still be part of the Iceland society?
    2. How are roles and family relations of immigrants altered when they become part of what transpires in Iceland?

Therefore, it is anticipated that the above pointed out questions will find their solutions in the further discussed methodology that incorporates data collection and analysis approaches, including considerations of confidentiality and privacy.

Research Method

Data Collection Method

The fundamental approach of collecting data to be used in the current research is a particular interview method that incorporates the concepts of both the open ended and structured interviews with developed kinds of close-ended questions. The benefits of using such a dual strategy in interviewing is having the alternative of altering the questions and hence the focus of the entire progressive discussion. This is all determined by the answers obtained and the feedback from the one being interviewed (Mason, 2002, p. 156 – 157). For putting the said benefit in place, the interview used in this research encompasses four fundamental aspects as follows:

  • The interview occurs in an informal context. This allows for objective responses from the interviewee.
  • The interview gives room for the interviewer and the interviewee to interact.
  • The interview concentrates on the narrow and concise number of subject matters drawn from the main research topic.
  • The interview depends on the interviewee’s capability to utilize their knowledge in specific circumstances as put across by the one interviewing (Mason, 2002, p. 91).

Elaboratively, the above named aspects are building up in the interview used in the course of the research to fulfill the interview’s main objective. These objectives entail establishing real insights, concepts, notions, and attitudes of the one being interviewed rather than getting scholarly answers determined by the formal setting rather than real state of things. The fundamental features of the interview used are active dialogue and listening, flexibility and reframing of questions, enhancement of subject development, and nonexistence of any negative feedback to ignorance conveyed by the interviewee (Mason, 2002, p. 211).

Interview Design

In particular, the interview adopts a design that makes use of a number of questions that have been categorized in five key clusters. These clusters are chosen with regard to the main areas that the interview and the entire research concentrate on. They entail general perceptions, culture, education, and family.

Below are examples of specific questions that reflect the respective clusters mentioned above.

  1. General Perspectives
    1. What is your home country? Kindly say something concerning your life experiences in that nation.
    2. At what time did you get into Iceland? Please explain regarding your view of how Iceland if unique from your own country.
  2. Culture
    1. Please describe the culture of your country by mentioning the key aspects that make it outstanding and unique.
    2. What are the points of comparison and differences between your culture and that of Iceland?
  3. Education
    1. Do you have children who are undergoing Icelandic education?
    2. What is your take on the education in Iceland? Do you think the four levels of learning fit the learning requirements of your children?
  4. Family
    1. How many are you in your family?
    2. How old are your children and at what levels of the Icelandic education are they?

The interview process is expected to entail four important steps, which, if properly applied, should lead to the obtaining of data that are more objective from the interviewees. The steps include:

  1. Preparation
  2. Starting the interview
  3. The central core of the interview
  4. Closure, Analysis and Conclusion

In particular, the preparation will be centered on two main aspects. These include getting ready the questions to be used in the interview and choice of the people to be interviewed. The interview questions should be prepared based on the information provided in the literature review and should be in line with the topic under research, research questions, and objectives. The appropriate choice of an interviewee is based on a structured selection approach. This approach pays special regard to the immigrant status of the interviewee, their educational history and the virtual level of integration into the Icelandic community.

The ideal interviewee should be someone who came to Iceland when they were less than five years of age, during when their parents immigrated. This should have given such an individual a sufficient basis to not only be conversant with the Icelandic culture and environment, but to also have undergone the Icelandic education system right from childhood.

After completion of the preparation stage, the interview should begin. The interviewer should start by elaborating not just the objective of the interview, but also that of the research. If recording of the interview is to be done, reasons for the same should be given as well. It should be made clear how the data to be collected will be set down and analyzed as well as handling the issue of confidentiality. If the interviewees are at ease with recording, it should be explained to them on the need to confirm that the machine is functioning accordingly (Gillham, 2000, p. 40). It may also be prudent to put some questions that may be of assistance in the interview process on a sheet of paper. This should be put in a place that can be easily seen by the interviewer.

When the preparation stage is complete, the interview should commence with interviewer creating a comfortable environment for the interviewee and establishing a rapport. Good open-ended questions should be directed to the interviewee to enable them give suitable feedback regarding their background (Purdue Marketing Communications, 2007, p. 1). In some cases, you may be required to add-on to the foundational factual data like some previous details of how the interviewee has come to the present level of their personal life. Unlike the open-ended questions, these kinds of questions are closed. It is imperative to journey on from this prior to the adoption of a question-answer style (Gillham, 2000, p. 41). The third stage that is actual interview occurs in an informal manner, allowing for adjustment of the questions in accordance to the responses from the interviewee. The chief essence of the interview process is establishing the extent to which the interviewee is conversant with the theme of the interview. It is rather not meant to investigate some extra information that the one being interviewed is not cognizant of.

The final step is the closure. Just like the introduction part, this part is very crucial. It encompasses two vital components. One of them is the summarizing of the content. At times, it is crucial to give a synopsis of you have learnt from the interview so that the interviewee can accord you necessary response on the same. Secondly, there is an appreciative aspect that is supposed to be accompanied by thanking the interviewee, and finalized by giving them a firm handshake and a smile (Gillham, 2000, p. 42).

Data Analysis

This comes subsequently after collecting data from the interviewee. It is meant to transform gathered data into relevant answers to the questions under research and for details for further research in the days to come. Thus, the data analysis applicable in this research entails the process of not only considering, but also discussing the findings of the interview in the theoretical and conceptual framework presented in the literature review part. In other words, the research findings will be discussed in comparison to what other scholars have provided. Such a strategy is geared towards providing a very objective type of data with regard to the experiences and position of Icelandic immigrants’ children education.

Some of the specific areas of interest to be included in the data analysis include general information regarding education of immigrant children in Iceland, challenges faced in this part of education, ways of dealing with those challenges, and the benefits of the Icelandic immigrant child education in comparison to that offered in other parts of the world. Derived from this, incase such benefits are realized, the researcher will be obliged to recommend solutions to other nations where immigrant education for children requires appropriate modifications.

Moreover, on the platform of the findings analyzed from the ongoing data analysis strategy, the researcher will be able to both grant answers to the research questions and obtain the objective of the research, which is examining the immigrant child education in Iceland. Data analysis will also encourage the actuation of the current study’s inferences. Besides, the analyzed data will provide insight into the probability of further research in the same field.

Confidentiality

The discussed interview will be conducted with special attention given to the elements of confidentiality and discretion. Every person has the right for privacy, and this should be applicable to the interviewee chosen for the research. Accordingly, the interviewer warrants fixed secrecy and value to the privacy of the interviewed person. This assurance is supported by the concord of both parties, that is, the researcher and the interviewee append signatures, in which the researcher is legally liable for flouting the confidentiality of the one to be interviewed. Based on such a strict observance to the confidentiality regulations, none of private details of the interviewee such as name, physical address, exact occupation data, appearance features, and, snaps, among others will be revealed in this paper as well as in any other document that might come after it based on the current one’s data.

The Interviewee’s Background

Physical Characteristics

Due to the restraints, all information regarding the privacy and confidentiality of the person to be interviewed for the current research is provided for in this part. Therefore the interviewee is a white female in good both physical and mental conditions (this ensures that the interviewee is able to not only perceive questions properly, but is also able to comprehend and respond to them in naturally). The nation of origin of the interviewee is Poland even though her parents came to Iceland from Thailand about ten years prior to her birth.

Age and Income Status

The interviewee is a 35 years old person, currently employed by one of the Non Government Organizations in Iceland. The educational background of the interviewee was one of the foundational criteria for his selection. She actually underwent all the four stages of Icelandic education which are pre-school, compulsory, upper-secondary, and higher -education. The interviewee belongs to a middle-income social group, which conditions her aspiration for further career progression and improvement of living standards.

Life in Iceland

The interviewee has lived in Iceland for about 32 years, which means that her parents migrated to Iceland from Poland when she was around three years old. Since that time, the interviewee has obviously mastered the Icelandic language, which helped her succeed in both academic and occupational endeavors. The interviewee is married to an Icelandic male and they have two children both in Iceland. Currently, the interviewee considers herself to be well integrated into the Icelandic culture largely, but the means towards this integration is one of the questions that the interview is set to vividly bring out.

Research Findings from the Interview

General Perspectives

The interviewee disclosed that her country of origin is Poland. This, the researcher is already aware from the background of the interviewee. Concerning life experiences in Iceland, the interviewee reported that she had never at any point encountered any incident of discrimination expressed either towards her or her parents in all day-to-day life situations. The first point of integration into the Icelandic community was the interviewee’s study at the pre-school level when she was four years. The interviewee described the situation at school as simply amicable and peaceful. The socialization process at school was described as non-stressful due the fact that the interviewee had learnt the Icelandic language right from home and at school.

Culture

Regarding culture, the interview disclosed that the customs, manners, and dressing of the Polish took after the patterns from both the west and east. It was also reported that the people from Poland like showing hospitality especially to artists over the years, so that they can learn from them. She also reported that she found the Icelanders to be as hospitable as the Icelanders. However, she disclosed that the Islanders had a greater value for literature and preferred other artistic aspects like weaving, woodcarving, and silver crafting (Ramacher, et al, 2010, p. 20; Holme, 2005, p. 47).

Education

The interviewee accented to the fact that she had two children who were undergoing Icelandic education. Both were at the pre-school level. She also heaped praises on the Icelandic education. She reflected back from the time she joined pre-school and could reflect no indicators of discrimination at school. Additionally, the educational system in Iceland had helped her to become both a professional and self-reliant woman. In her view, the four levels in the Icelandic learning system would suit the learning needs of her children

Family

Most of the questions in this block had already been answered in other blocks of the research: background and education. These questions address both the number of family members and whether children attend the Icelandic education system.

Discussion

Most of the views presented in this research greatly differ from those given by most scholars on the same subject. It should be noted that the findings of this research are from a direct participant that is a woman of Thailand descent but has been living in Iceland since her infancy. To begin with, the issue of segregation extended to immigrants (Wolf and Macedo, 2004) is not applicable in Iceland as from the new findings. On the contrary, the findings reveal that multiculturalism seems to be the dominating aspect in Iceland. Secondly, there are assertions from some scholars that there is extreme equality in most schools in the United States, which does not respect individuality of other people’s nationality. However, the current research has not established a platform for such a phenomenon in Iceland.

The findings presented offer direct answers to the research questions presented earlier on this study. Therefore, the state of development of child education for immigrants in Iceland can generally be assessed as positive and open to future improvements. Moreover, the findings reveal that the immigrant children in Iceland have equal learning opportunities with their natives. This is expressed through absence of discrimination and the equal learning opportunities that both the Icelandic government and curriculum offer to the children.

Conclusion

Therefore, it will important to conclude this work by asserting that the state of immigrant children education in Iceland is at the better stage of development as compared to other countries, in which reputable scholars find considerable issues in this area. Although the rather narrow scope of the research does not allow generalizing based on its findings, the worth and significance of the current findings is obvious. First, the research has managed to examine the topic of immigrant children education in Iceland directly, using evidence by a person that has experienced all the stages of Icelandic education – the interviewee. Secondly, the research has provided the option for further study and further revealed that the progression of the Icelandic immigrant children education is at a better level than in other states globally.

References

Banks, J. (2007). Educating citizens in a multicultural society. NY: Teachers College Press. 2010. Web.

Council of Europe. (1991). Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Forty Third Ordinary Session (Second Part) 1991 Official Report of Debated Volume II. Belgium: Council of Europe.

European commission. (2010). National system overviews on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms. 2010.

Gillham, B. (2000). The Research Interview. London: Continuum International publishing Group.

Holme, C. (2005). Peasant Art in Sweden, Lapland and Iceland. Sweden: Kessinger Publishing.

Mason, H. (2002). The venture imperative: a new model for corporate innovation. NY: Harvard Business Press.

Ministry of Education Science and Culture. (2005). Education. Web.

Noddings, N. (2005). Educating citizens for global awareness. NY: Teachers College Press.

Osler, A. (2005). Teachers, Human Rights, and Diversity: Educating Citizens in Multicultural Societies. London: Trentham Books.

Purdue Marketing Communications. (2007). Four Stages of an Interview. Web.

Ramacher, A. K. et al. (2010). Iceland – An Overview: History, Economy, Culture, Educational System: Seminar Paper. Berlin: GRIN Verlag.

Schubert, U. (2010). Acculturation strategies of migrated adolescents within the school context. Web.

Stefna, I. (2007). Ministry of Social Affairs of Iceland. Government Policy on the Integration of Immigrants. Web.

UNESCO. (2008). Preparatory Workshop on Inclusive Education Nordic Countries: Iceland. International Bureau of Education.

Wolf, P. and Macedo, S. (2004). Educating citizens: international perspectives on civic values and school choice. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.

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