Cultural Literacy Practices in Formal Education (UK)

Eleni Stamou, Anton Popov

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


Executive summary:

As part of our research inquiry on the development of cultural literacy in formal educational settings, empirical qualitative evidence was collected in 3 case-study schools to explore secondary education teaching practices and learning experiences regarding culture, heritage and belonging. The data were generated through semi-structured interviews with teachers and pupils, in an urban, a semi-urban and a rural locality.

Teachers’ critically engaged with education policy and narrated their teaching practices as bounded by the opportunities and constraints facing their schools and localities. We captured them going beyond their roles and connecting their teaching to wider issues and learning objectives. Yet, throughout their narratives they often evoked conceptualisations of culture as external to pupils’ embodied experiences, thus reproducing dominant hierarchies of cultural value and foregrounding forms of cultural capital related to strategies of distinction. Secondly, and in relation to the above, we identified teachers’ narratives underlined by a ‘deficiency’ model, preoccupied with establishing a given values-system, underpinned by normative accounts of culture and multiculturalism.

Students’ narratives of school experiences echoed their multiple social positioning. In terms of class, we observed habitual elements in their accounts of their learning strengths and weaknesses, their ideas of future pathways and their perceptions of horizons of possibilities ahead. In terms of ethnic positioning, we captured young people who identified as ethnic minority backgrounds, being significantly more engaged with issues of culture and identity compared to their peers who identified as belonging to the ethnic majority. Schools were constructed as inclusive places, though inclusion emerged as either being couched on single-dimensional, essentialistic notions of culture or superficially focusing on certain manifestations.

Overall pupils and teachers’ narratives revealed the limits of inclusivity in the school contexts through: (a) a lack of consideration of the multiple interplay of differences entwined in cultural belonging and (b) the deployment of essentialistic, ethno-cultural understandings, which yield a focus on accepting difference rather than putting forward a quest for more dynamic inquiry, in-depth understanding, recognition and incorporation of diversity at institutional level.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future (CHIEF) Country based reports: Cultural literacy practices in formal education
EditorsTinatin Zurabishvili, Elena Marmer
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Cultural Literacy Practices in Formal Education (UK)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this