"This Alva Myrdal professorship is a good alignment both with my private and professional life"

May 31, 2018 | Research/Cooperation

Marie Parker Jenkins is the visiting professor in memory of Alva Myrdal. The professorship aims to honour Alva Myrdal’s achievements as a researcher, politician and a strong voice in public discourse. - I must say that I am enormously proud about this visiting professorship in memory of Alva Myrdal. She really was an outstanding woman! This professorship is a good alignment both with my private and professional life - a very good match! says Marie Parker Jenkins.

Alva Myrdal was a true advocate for human rights with a focus on European harmonisation and understanding cultural diversity. Marie Parker Jenkins has many things in common with Alva Myrdal. Her research and all of the books that she has written concern cultural diversity. Another theme that they have in common is a great interest in how to implement human rights in schools and at universities.

- I did my PhD in human rights in Strasbourg and my Master’s degree in human rights in Canada. My underlying themes in the human rights discourse are societal and educational settings. And in 1999 I published a book about children´s rights in the classrooms, says Marie Parker Jenkins.

Comes from a family who believes in education

One of the reasons why cultural diversity became the main interest in Marie Parker Jenkins´ research is her upbringing. Her father was a refugee from the Second World War and her experience in early life was therefore being the daughter of a refugee. She grew up in an Anglo-Ukrainian home. Through her upbringing she got an understanding of both the Ukrainian and British perspectives of life.

- I was very happy to be at school and England gave me a very good education. Later on I became a teacher, conducted academic work in many countries around the world and became a professor of Education, both in England and Ireland. I come from a family that believes in education and both my parents were delighted to attend the inauguration for my first professorship, says Marie Parker Jenkins.

Sensitive and sensible responses to cultural diversity

The thing that interests Marie Parker Jenkins the most is how we best respond to and handle cultural diversity, both sensitively and sensibly. The main thesis of her research is that there is no such thing as a best practice model for how schools should handle cultural diversity in their classrooms.

- It does not work to apply a certain method or model to all schools, classes or pupils regardless of context. We are looking for good practice, examples of methods that teachers have tried and that have really worked out well for that specific group. My colleagues and I are always looking for new pedagogical tools for this, says Marie Parker Jenkins.

Many good practices and examples

Marie Parker Jenkins has seen many good practices. She experienced one of them in an urban school in London with large numbers of immigrants in the classes. Many of the pupils who were around 5 or 6 years old did not know a single word of English.

- The teacher came up with the idea to create bracelets with pictures and words such as food, drink, toilets and playtime. When the child needed to address the teacher, he/she could use the bracelet for assistance. The children felt safer at their new school after a few days, despite their lack of English words. This also made the parents feel more secure about leaving their child at school. That is a useful example of good practice in responding to cultural diversity in the classroom, says Marie Parker Jenkins.

A visit all about meet and greet

Marie Parker Jenkins spent a week in April visiting MDH that was all about ‘meet and greet’ and putting faces to names.

- I have been speaking to colleagues about their own research and connections with my own, and I have been learning more about MDH. Now I want to connect colleagues here at MDH with colleagues at home in the University of Limerick, Ireland, says Marie Parker Jenkins.

Marie and her colleagues at MDH are now planning for the next visit which will be sometime in the autumn. She will then give a lecture for anyone who wants to come and listen, and she will, for example, hold a workshop for doctoral students.

- I will also visit the municipalities and schools in the region to learn more about their work in responding to cultural diversity. I feel sure I will find examples of good practice from the classrooms here that I can bring back to Ireland, says Marie Parker Jenkins.