Multiculturalist or Assimilationist Education: A Comparison of Contact Theory and Social Identity Theory in Israeli Arab-Jewish Integrated Schools

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Uri SHWED, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Yuval KALISH, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Yossi SHAVIT, Tel Aviv University, Israel
We compare the predictions of contact theory with those of social identity theory (SIT) as pertaining to intergroup contact between Jews and Arabs in multicultural and assimilationist schools. We propose that in accordance with the scope conditions suggested by contact theory, multicultural schools ought to promote interethnic friendships by comparison to assimilationist schools where scope conditions are not met. According to SIT, multicultural schools in which ethnic identity is constantly acknowledged and therefore salient, ought to hinder interethnic friendships. We collected and analyzed student networks in 61 integrated classrooms, estimated the extent to which Arabs and Jews prefer ethnic homophily over inter-ethnic friendships, and compared homophily in multicultural and assimilationist schools. We analyzed the data using graph-level segregation and homophily indices and Exponential Random Graph (ERG) models. Contrary to expectations, findings reveal a minor degree of homophily in assimilationist schools and a much larger degree of homophily in multicultural schools, results that are robust to various methods of analysis and alternative explanations. Our results challenge the assumptions that multicultural education is conducive to intergroup contact. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.