Dealing with Culture in Schools: A Small-Step Approach Towards Anti-racism in Finland

  • Mélodine SommierEmail author
  • Anssi Roiha


This chapter discusses anti-racism education by focusing on how culture is used in educational discourses in Finland. More and more studies highlight the pervasive use of culture as a substitute for race, urging scholars to explore how and why cultural claims are made relevant (Breidenbach and Nyíri 2009; Piller 2011). Culture is present in numerous subjects (e.g. religion, literature, history, languages) and anti-racism education should therefore be understood from a holistic perspective. This chapter focuses on the Finnish context which is relevant to examine for two main reasons. First, Finnish school system is globally represented as high quality. Second, the new national curriculum, which reflects current ideas and values, will be applied in August 2016. Drawing on critical approaches to culture, this chapter (1) looks at limitations of the way culture is conceptualized within educational discourses, (2) proposes new ways of using the concept (3) and provides practical examples while considering limitations and challenges such as hidden curriculum and teachers’ personal values. This chapter will primarily deal with foreign language education since one of its main objectives, as stated by the new curriculum, is to “increase cultural diversity and language awareness” [Originally in the text: “Kasvu kulttuuriseen moninaisuuteen ja kielitietoisuuteen” (translation by the authors)] (Opetushallitus 2014, p. 219 & p. 349). Building on intercultural communication and educational research, and using the experience of one of the authors as a teacher, this study bridges the gap between theoretical insights and practical implications. With the aim of providing applicable findings, we argue for a variety of small changes in existing practices rather than the addition of a large anti-racism programme.


Anti-racism education Culture Critical intercultural communication Finland 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of Jyväskylä, Finland & City of Jyväskylä, Education ServicesJyväskylaFinland

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