Thursday, 17 April 2008

New Academics: Introducing Elena Papamichael

Elena Papamichael is a PhD student at the Institute of Education, University of London. She is specializing in the field of intercultural education, with a focus on the teachers' role in primary schools of Cyprus. Elena is particularly well placed to research issues of education teaching in Cyprus having received a master's degree in Education from the University of London and her BA in Primary Education from the University of Cyprus. Elena has also worked as a as a primary school teacher in Cyprus and as a headmistress at Greek community schools in London.

Elena is keen to provide more information over issues of racism and nationalism in Cyprus within the framework of the education system. In particular she focuses on the theories, policies and practices of intercultural education, teacher education, and provides qualitative research on these subjects. In the course of her studies up to now, Elena has also been a research officer for the European INTERACT project, for the University of London and a Conference Officer for the 5th Pan Commonwealth Forum at the University of London.

The area that Elena is exploring is under investigated; however, the few studies in the field of education and diversity identify nationalism, exclusion, racism and discrimination as key issues in the Cypriot educational system, and as problematic areas in need of research. Such research points to the responsibilities of the current policy for education and diversity in Cyprus, which is promoting assimilatory practices for diverse pupils. It also acknowledges the role of teachers and teacher educators as crucial and problematic since, at the moment, teachers are not equipped with the knowledge and strategies to work in multicultural environments. However, the role of teachers and their perceptions of diversity have not been extensively explored at a substantial level. This is where Elena's research is situated: it puts the role of teachers in the centre of its focus. The teachers are the ones working in the grassroots levels; apart from the policy level, we also need to work from below. We need deeper understandings of the teachers' perceptions of their everyday realities at the schools, and we need to gain insights into what actually happens when the classroom door closes, or after the bell rings at the corners of a schoolyard.

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