Cultural diversity in popular culture: two case studies from a UK school-based television drama

Giovanna Fassetta, Emilia Pietka-Nykaza, Geri Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study is placed in the context of the continuing debate in Scotland as well as Europe, Australia and North America concerning the increasing ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity amongst school pupils’ population and the corresponding lack of diversity within the composition and supply of the teaching workforce which remains, in most ‘developed’ countries homogeneously female and from the majority ethnic and linguistic group of each society. The multilingual, multi-ethnic, and multicultural pupil population is frequently posed as a challenge to education systems that involves under achievement of students from culturally diverse backgrounds. The aim of this article is to add a further, distinctive dimension to this debate by providing critical analysis of the ways in which linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity within a school environment are represented in popular culture. Based on the textual analysis of two episodes of the TV Drama Waterloo Rd (BBC, 2006 - continuing) the article seeks to explore the ways in which the ‘Other’ is represented in a television drama targeted at a young audience. The authors use
Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model to investigate the properties of visual signs and language representation of linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity in a fictional secondary school. The article continues by exploring and discussing the circular way in which popular culture simultaneously expresses and reinforces the hegemonic understanding of linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity in schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages18
JournalIJE4D-journal: The International Journal of Education for Diversities
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity
  • popular culture
  • schools
  • television representations
  • television drama


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