Research

Currently I am preparing research for my master thesis. I set up this page to provide information about what I am doing, especially for those who participate or are asked to participate in my research.

For participants: first of all, thank you very much for your cooperation. A large part of my research is based on the information only you can provide me with.

Don’t hesitate to contact me for clarifications or further questions!

  1. In short
  2. Background
  3. Research objectives
  4. Theoretical framework
  5. Methods used

1. In short
My research is concerned with cultural differences between Arab and Indian culture. The case study is set in the Arabian Gulf, where large Indian expat populations work, making up a large percentage of the Gulf’s teachers. I will look at the cultural differences between local Arab students and Indian teachers in the United Arab Emirates.

  • What are the cultural differences between India and the United Arab Emirates, specifically in teaching and learning?
  • Does this lead to cultural conflict in the classroom in the UAE between Indian teachers and their students? If so, how?

2. Background
Few places in the world show the consequences of globalization in more extreme ways than the Arabian Gulf. As a crossroads between Arabia, Asia and Africa, the region has always been relatively cosmopolitan: its history has been referred to as “the world’s first globalization.” The discovery of oil in the last century allowed for an extraordinary economic transformation of the region, unmatched in speed and scale, which was supported by a massive import of labor force and expertise. Today the majority of the population in the Gulf consists of immigrants, up to more than 85% in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Most of them come from Asia, especially India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, followed by Arab and Western countries. This has significant implications for the economical, political and social structure of the six Gulf states, together forming the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). I wrote more about this here.

GCC authorities increasingly recognize that local culture is under pressure. Not only are their citizens in almost all cases outnumbered in their own countries, they might also find themselves culture-wise disoriented in relatively young states which have rapidly and unrecognizably changed, while being tied between transnational Arab or religious affiliations and historical ethnic tribal identities. Concerns by national governments have led to efforts to foster tradition and nation building, protectionism against Western products under the banner of an “Islamic Cultural Exception”, conferences about national identity and policies to replace expatriate workers by locals. Authorities have in particular been said to worry about Asian nannies and foreign teachers (composing the majority of all school staff): they might not properly be able to educate children Islamic and Arab values. In spite of efforts to educate nationals to become teachers, the education sector has until now remained very dependent on expatriate labor from especially India and Arab countries.

3. Research objectives
The aim of this research is to come to a better understanding of the cultural differences between the Arab culture of the GCC countries and Indian culture (yet to be delimitated), and to observe how these show in the classroom between (Arab) students and Indian teachers.

4. Theoretical framework
The Arabian Gulf as an intersection where people from many different backgrounds live together is the perfect place to study what happens when cultures meet. One of the most influential theories for looking at cultural differences is developed by Dutch sociologist-anthropologist Geert Hofstede. He proposed a set of six ‘cultural dimensions’ consisting of scales with two opposites along which national cultures can be ranked and compared. An example is the dimension ‘individualism versus collectivism’: societies range from placing relatively much emphasis on individual values (for example Western Europe and the United States) to prioritizing group values (Arab countries score towards this end of the scale).

This research will use Hofstede’s framework to look at one particular meeting place of two different cultures: the classroom with an Indian teacher and GCC students. In this setting, cultural differences in the teacher-student interaction can be apparent in ways of teaching and learning. A better view on this interaction can contribute to understandings of cultural dynamics in education, cultural differences between the Gulf and India and the legitimacy of the authorities’ concerns over this topic.

5. Methods used
After literature and document research I will make use of participant observation and interviews. For this I need the help of students and teachers who are willing to help me with my research. Thank you very much if you are one of them!

Please contact me for any questions, comments or to request the full PDF of the proposal.