Rethinking the Role of Pedagogical Assistants: Establishing Cooperation between Roma Families and Schools in Serbia
The aim of this paper is to examine the risks and challenges related to cooperation of pedagogical assistants (PAs) with Roma parents/families and working with Roma pupils, as well as to offer further insight into ways to overcome the risks and challenges. Roma pupils and parents/families face numerous difficulties in education, which are reflected in prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. The educational policy measure of introducing PAs, formerly known as Roma teaching assistants, to the educational system of Serbia, aimed to contribute to the learning and social participation of Roma pupils and establishing cooperation between school staff and Roma parents. The further segregation of Roma pupils and reduced engagement of the teachers in supporting Roma pupils and fostering communication with Roma parents are seen as the possible risks that could be related to the engagement of PAs. In order to minimize the risks we are proposing a framework for defining and understanding the roles of teachers and PAs from intercultural perspective. Relying upon two concepts ̶ intercultural sensitivity (IS) and intercultural competence (IC), we elaborate the necessity of perceiving cultural differences in accordance with the ethnorelative worldview, both by the teachers and PAs. In addition, we outline the cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of IC, which we believe they should possess. Further recommendations regarding the engagement of PAs and minimizing the risks and challenges are proposed.
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