Study in Greece and Saudi Arabia Reveals Teacher Attitudes on Forgiveness and Cross-Cultural Differences
Because school-based Forgiveness Education programs have been rigorously and repeatedly tested, there is little question about the effectiveness of such programs to provide significant reductions in student anger and depression as well as meaningful increases in tendency to forgive.
What is less certain—and, to date, barely studied—is what role a teacher’s personal understanding of forgiveness plays in influencing those outcomes. A just-completed scientific analysis, conducted by an international team of forgiveness researchers under the direction of Dr. Robert Enright, is providing some answers to that question.
“Teachers’ Views of Forgiveness Education: A Cross-Cultural Examination in Greece and Saudi Arabia” was published this month in the journal FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education (Vol. 7, Issue 3, 2023, pp. 99-116). FIRE publishes “internationally comparative education data and evidence-based achievement studies.”
The new study not only analyzed teachers’ views of forgiveness education but also explored cross-cultural similarities and differences with a total of 134 teachers participating—76 Greek and 58 Saudi. The two countries have unique and rich cultural histories and influences: Greece is part of the Eurozone and Eastern Orthodoxy is its main religion; Saudi Arabia is an Arab state, and its main religion is Islam.
Study participants completed a comprehensive online survey asking about the meaning of forgiveness, topics they felt should be included in forgiveness education, and their perceptions of the benefits and challenges of teaching forgiveness education. The questionnaires were then analyzed using a variety of assessment tools including two-tailed proportional testing.
Comparing Greek and Saudi Arabian teachers’ perspectives resulted in these findings:
- More Saudi than Greek teachers viewed forgiveness as reconciliation.
- More Saudi than Greek teachers viewed forgiveness as excusing an unjust act.
- More Greek than Saudi teachers viewed forgiveness as a merciful act.
- More Greek than Saudi teachers viewed calmer students as a benefit of forgiveness education.
- More Greek than Saudi teachers viewed conflict resolution skills to be a benefit of forgiveness education.
- More Saudi than Greek teachers thought students would take advantage of forgiveness.
“Those results reflect not only the cultural differences of the participants but also the fact that 31 of the Greek teachers had previously received several hours of forgiveness education training while none of the Saudi teachers had specific training or forgiveness teaching experience,” Dr. Enright observed. “This ground-breaking study is important because it emphasizes the influence teachers’ views can have on forgiveness education.”
Dr. Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), added that studies like this one can help him and other forgiveness researchers tailor teacher training and customize curricula to better reflect effective implementation techniques.
In 2002, Dr. Enright initiated a forgiveness education program in Belfast, Northern Ireland that has now been in operation for over 20 consecutive years. His Belfast work is featured in the award-winning documentary The Power of Forgiveness.
Dr. Enright started similar programs in Liberia, West Africa in 2011 and in Israel-Palestine in 2013. He now has such programs in more than 30 regions around the world and an IFI Branch Office in Pakistan at the Government College University Lahore (GCU-Lahore, Pakistan).
In addition to Dr. Enright, the cross-cultural study was conducted by Peli Galiti, John Klatt, Nahlah Mandurah, and Lai Wong—all affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Author bios and the complete teacher survey instrument are included in the study document.
Read the full study: Teachers’ Views of Forgiveness Education.