Cross-cultural field experience as a pre-service teacher preparation strategy for teaching Roma pupils in Serbia Dr. Sunčica Macura and Bojana Dimitrijević
Summary: Discrimination, inadequate teaching quality, reduced expectations from teachers and passing or failing grades represent some of the barriers against high learning achievement and full social participation among Roma pupils in Serbia. Research regarding the attitudes of student teachers and in-service teachers towards Roma pupils indicates that their preparation for working with Roma pupils should be intensified. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to address a) whether cross-cultural field experience contributes to student teachers’ awareness of the barriers against Roma pupils’ learning and social participation in school and b) whether student teachers’ perceptions of these barriers inspire them to further reflect on the educational challenges that Roma children face. The sample consisted of 16 student teachers’ reports regarding cross-cultural field experience in the form of a home visit to a Roma family with a school-aged child. Based on the results of the qualitative analysis of the reports, the student teachers identified four categories of barriers: poverty, discrimination in the school context, prejudice from the wider society and a non-inclusive school culture. The fifth category identified, the attitudes of Roma parents towards education, can be interpreted as the expression of the student teachers’ prior beliefs and attitudes towards the Roma. Half of the reports included the student teachers’ further reflections on their field experience. The implications for pre-service teacher education and further research are outlined.