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Study: Girls in Finland more open to different cultures than boys

Students who participated in the survey said that teacher training did not adequately address cultural diversity from different perspectives.

Walter ry:n projektikoordinaattori keskustelee Donnerin koulun neljän oppilaan kanssa liiikuntasalissa.
Nearly 16,000 students participated in the survey on attitudes to cultural diversity. Image: Kalle Niskala / Yle

A new study has found little change in young people’s attitudes to different cultures, despite Finland’s increasing exposure to the wider world and steep rise in the number of asylum seekers entering the country in recent years.

Commissioned by the National Agency for Education, the report found that for the most part, young people in Finland are open-minded and see multiculturalism as valuable in their own lives as well as in the wider society. Moreover, the study found that a majority of students attending middle and upper secondary school as well as vocational institutions thought of themselves as broad-minded.

The findings come from an online survey conducted in autumn 2017 that invited nearly 16,000 students from around the country to take part. The agency said that there were no major differences compared to a similar survey conducted in 2013.

According to the findings however, girls clearly self-reported as being more tolerant of cultural diversity than boys. Some 88 percent of girls described themselves as broad-minded to some extent. The corresponding figure for boys was 60 percent. Conversely, 10 percent of boys said they did not think of themselves as open-minded, compared to just two percent of girls who offered the same self-assessment.

Slight dip in enthusiasm for rising diversity

The results of the survey indicated a decline in openness to increased cultural diversity among both groups, although girls remained somewhat more positive about the development than boys. More than half of respondents said that they did not consider a rise in cultural intermingling to be as interesting or exciting.

Among boys, 17 percent said they experienced fear or irritation at the growing cultural mix, compared to eight percent of girls.

Apart from gender, educational background also appeared to influence respondents’ degree of tolerance for cultural diversity, with upper secondary school students more likely than vocational school students to describe themselves as open-minded. Members of the Swedish-speaking minority also appeared to be somewhat more welcoming of other cultures.

Survey respondents stressed the importance of school and their close circles in developing more liberal attitudes. They called on teachers to pay greater attention to coming to grips with human rights and gender equality issues. The survey revealed that students felt that teacher training did not adequately address cultural diversity from different perspectives.

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