Culturally or contextually appropriate?

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This edition is centred on an analysis of culturally relevant approaches in early childhood development recently undertaken by the Foundation. The objective was to learn from the accumulated experiences of 11 projects. One aim was to explore how projects that work in culturally appropriate ways can pay special attention in their work with children and parents to factors such as language, cultural norms, childrearing practices and family relationships. The second aim was to highlight the ways in which projects working in different contexts handle relationships between cultures.

Text of Culturally or contextually appropriate?

  • Early Childhood MattersF
























    t h e b u l l e t i n o f t h e B e r n a r d v a n L e e r F o u n d a t i o n O C T O B E R 1 9 9 8 N O . 9 0

    Culturally or contextually appropriate?

    Culture or context: what makes approaches appropriate?

    Samenspel: playing/taking action together

    And a young child shall lead them

    The new community publishing

    Motivating in challenging contexts

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    ISSN 1387-9553

    Cover photo: Partnership in Learning Project, Kopanang

    Consortium (Republic of South Africa)

    Photo: Phia van der Watt

    Photo inside front cover: Vormingscentrum voor de

    Begeleiding van het Jonge Kind (Belgium)

    Belgian boy and Turkish mother and child

    Photo back cover: COMED (Nigeria)

    Children perform the Edo dance


    Culturally or contextually appropriate? 3

    Jim Smale

    Culture or context: what makes approaches appropriate? 6

    Marinde Hurenkamp

    Samenspel: playing/taking action together 15

    Roel Copier and Marinde Hurenkamp

    And a young child shall lead them 20

    Sesame Street: Kids For Peace

    Zimbabwe: the new community publishing 27

    Kathy Bond-Stewart

    Motivating in challenging contexts 37

    Freda Brock

  • The consultant combed throughdocumentation about 11 projects thattake into account particular culturalattributes of the communities withwhich they work. These projectsrecognised the importance of culturalrelevance in their approach, in theirmethodologies and in the content ofthe programmes that they developed. Inorder to tease out some of theunderlying similarities and differences,projects that work in a broad spectrum

    of quite different settings weredeliberately chosen. The geographicspread covered Australia, Botswana,Malaysia, Guatemala, Argentina,Germany, The Netherlands, the UnitedStates of America, Colombia, and Israeland the Palestinian AutonomousRegion. The chosen projects work withindigenous peoples in their traditionalsettings, with migrants, and in multi-ethnic environments. Some of theprojects operate in areas that can only

    be reached by foot or on horseback;others work with migrants inmetropolitan centres like Berlin orRotterdam.

    Culture in context

    In the article that presents the results ofthese deliberations (page 6) MarindeHurenkamp highlights some of the 11projects in showing that effectiveculturally appropriate approachesmeans mapping the whole context. Thatincludes discovering what the essentialfoci of the work should be, ascribingrelative importance or priority to eachof these, and identifying the kinds ofresources that are available. After thatits a question of finding out what

    ingredients have to be mixed to producewell developed and appropriateprogrammes.

    To justify this, Marinde Hurenkampexplains how she came to realise that,although it is possible to isolateelements that can be labelled culturallyrelevant, few of these are uniquelyabout culture. She also saw that allelements that projects acknowledge andwork with are interlinked. Takentogether they represent the particularcontext that determines why the projectis there, what it is doing, and how it isdoing it. To isolate some of these andtry to discuss them out of their contextsis therefore of limited value.

    B e r n a r d v a n L e e r Fo u n d a t i o n 3 E a r l y C h i l d h o o d M a t t e r s

    Culturally or contextually appropriate?

    This edition of Early Childhood Matters is centred on an analysis of culturallyrelevant approaches in early childhood development (ECD) recently undertaken bythe Foundation. A consultant, Marinde Hurenkamp, conducted the analysis inconjunction with a small Working Group of Foundation staff. The broad objectivewas to learn from the accumulated experiences of 11 selected projects, as they arereflected in our archives. One aim was to explore how projects that work in culturally appropriate ways have to pay special attention in their work withchildren and parents to factors such as language, cultural norms, childrearingpractices, familial relationships, and so on. The second aim was to highlight theways in which projects working in different contexts handle relationships betweencultures. The analysis is a subjective reading of hundreds of documents authoredby almost as many people over many years.

  • To explain this, she uses the analogy of a filter and alens. If you want to look at something through afilter, then you choose the filter that suits yourpurpose in this case a filter that only allowsculturally appropriate elements to show through.Looking through a lens instead allows you to do twothings: first, to observe the entire picture; andsecond, to tighten your focus and look at gradationsand relationships gradations in the significance thatis given to any element; and relationships between allelements in a given context.

    Common threads

    Her article also explores a number of threads thatcommonly recur in projects that work with ethnic orcultural groups, or in multicultural settings. In doingthis, she also the variety of approaches and responsesthat projects demonstrate. One of these threads ischildhood and childrearing. That there aredifferences in the ways in which childhood itself isconceptualised is well understood. What isemphasised here is the fact that, in many cases,childrearing takes place in conditions of change,changes that result from migration, from theencroachment of outside values, or from attempts byan ethnic or cultural group to find a secure placewithin a multicultural society. This implies newcircumstances to which families must adjust,circumstances unfamiliar enough to affect andthreaten perhaps even damage or destroy keyareas such as perceptions of childrens places in their

    families, traditional practices and values, supportsystems for children and families, and so on.

    A second thread is language and culture. (see box onpages 13 and 14) The article acknowledges thatlanguage is one of the fundamental vehicles for thetransmission and sustaining of culture; and showshow all projects stress the importance of the mothertongue. Beyond this, language is often linked to therelationship between minority and majority cultures.Noteworthy here is work of the Peer EducationProgramme in the United States of America thatincludes articulating internalised messages ofoppression, racial scripting and unspoken messages.In addition, three more of the projects work directlyon issues such as cultural differences, prejudice,discrimination, solidarity and anti-racism.

    A third thread is responses to contexts. Looking backas far as the 1970s, a general movement is clear. Thisruns from a community development approach thatconcentrated on ensuring children a healthy physicalenvironment in which to live, to approaches that giveequal weight to the psycho-social needs of childrenand their physical health, nutrition, drinking waterand shelter. The article goes on to stress a widediversity that demonstrates responsiveness to generalproblems such as isolation, while also showing theimpact of local factors.

    B e r n a rd v a n L e e r Fo u n d a t i o n 4 E a r l y C h i l d h o o d M a t t e r s

    Partnership in Learning Project, Kopanang Consortium (Republic of South Africa)

    Photo: Phia van der Watt

  • To complement Marinde Hurenkamps article, I haveincluded articles that go into more depth about theapproaches and work of two of the projects thatMarinde Hurenkamp studied. The first is theSamenspel project based in The Netherlands that hasdeveloped a highly flexible methodology for workingin culturally appropriate ways with children and theirparents. It depends on certain procedures, structuresand bodies of knowledge, but its flexibility derivesfrom the absence of set patterns for either theapproaches or the work itself. The flexibility is suchthat the methodology is successful with specificcultural or ethnic communities, and withmulticultural groups as well. (page 15)

    The second article deals with a pro