AJCR 2008/1

The Impact of Value-Orientations on Cross-cultural Encounters and Mediation

A Survey in Tanzania’s Educational System

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This article focuses on the impact of value-orientations on cross-cultural encounters and mediation in the Tanzanian educational system. The purpose of the article is to give an emic perspective on value-orientations in cross-cultural encounters and mediation situations in the educational system, to improve understanding of the conflictive aspects of these encounters. To achieve this purpose, the aim of the article is to identify which value-orientations lead to conflicts and how these conflicts are managed.

The article will, firstly, provide an overview on current value discourses and, secondly, prove the bilingual validity of value domains based on the Schwartz value model. Thirdly, methodology and empirical findings will be presented. The conclusion leads to recommendations for cross-cultural interactions between Europeans and Tanzanians.

1. Introduction

The research on values and value-orientation is following a well-established tradition in social psychology (Bond 1988, 1998; Oishi, Schimmack, Diener & Suh 1998; Rokeach 1973, 1979, 1985; Schwartz 1994; Schwartz & Sagiv 1995; Schwartz & Bardi 2001; Spini 2003), sociology (Inglehart & Abramson 1994; Inglehart & Flanagan 1987; Klages & Gensicke 2006), political sciences (Huntington & Harrison 2004), development psychology (Colby & Kohlberg 1978; Kohlberg 1976; Piaget 1979, 1984), cultural psychology (Hofstede 1985, 1993, 1997; Triandis 1972, 1980, 1994, 1995) and organisational psychology (Von Rosenstiel 2003).

Over recent decades, however, scientific debate on value-orientation has gained much prominence in educational sciences and educational practice (Bennack 2006). This discourse on value education in schools and educational contexts has recently become important with regard to multicultural educational settings in schools in Europe (Koppen, Lunt & Wulf 2003), as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa (Boness 2002; Mayer 2001). Even though discourses on value-orientations in European and African countries may have different historical backgrounds, contexts and motivations, they are equally important and justified. At the same time, African and Western1 value-orientations have experienced value shifts through globalisation which disintegrate a clear distinction between Western and Tanzanian values. Moreover, these concepts melt into each other due to historical factors and globalisation (Boness 2002; Mayer 2001).

Value discourses are particularly relevant to cross-cultural educational encounters in ‘cultural transition situations’ (Dadder 1987:21), which often arise through the differences in value-orientations of individuals or groups involved. Values – as a key player in cultural and educational settings – are seen as having a major underlying impact on cross-cultural conflict, cross-cultural conflict management and mediation (Mayer 2008a) in educational systems.

Values are essentially dialectic and contradictory (Stewart, Danielian & Foster 1998). Differences in values and value concepts often play an important role in conflict (Druckmann & Broom 1991; Moore 1996), because differences in value-orientations, and competing or incompatible values can lead to conflict (Berkel 2005). Clashing value concepts are common, particularly in diverse settings (Miller, Glen, Jaspersen & Karmokolias 1997), and are additionally interlinked with the cultural background of a person (Kitayama & Markus 1991). It has been established (Druckmann, Broom & Korper 1988) that parties are generally more willing to move further from their initial position and became more cooperative when they have talked about value-orientations before negotiations.

Conflict in the organisational context, as in schools, is often related to the negotiation of values (Berkel 2005; Bond 1998; Kluckhohn & Stroedbeck 1961; Wallace, Hunt & Richards 1999) and to value management (Agle & Caldwell, 1999; Gandal, Roccas, Sagiv & Wrzesniewski 2005; Smith, Peterson & Schwartz 2002).

Conflicts and value concepts are often managed through cross-cultural mediation. During the last decade, the interdisciplinary interest in theoretical approaches to cross-cultural mediation has increased (Busch 2006; Liebe & Gilbert 1996; Mayer 2005, 2006) without reaching a common definition or concept (Augsburger 1992; Myers & Filner 1994). It is common sense, however, that particularly in cross-cultural mediations, culture-specific Nicvalue-orientations are discussed. It is the creative act of re-constructing conflict realities and values through third party intervention (Mayer 2008b). Cross-cultural mediation is defined as ‘a situation where one or two individuals or a group would take a third party in to mediate between the parties’ (see Mayer 2005; Mayer & Boness 2004).

Especially in the last years, research on cross-cultural values has intensified, with an increasing focus on the African region (Burgess, Schwartz & Roger 1995; Schwartz & Bardi 2001; Schwartz, Melech, Lehmann, Burgess, Harris & Owens 2001). However, Sub-Saharan Africa is still underrepresented in cross-cultural value research, and research methodologies generally suffer from a Western bias (Noorderhaven & Tidjani 2001).

With reference to the importance of values, value-orientations and conflicts, this article will focus on value-orientations of Europeans and Tanzanians in cross-cultural school encounters.

As a result of these insights and the emergence of globalisation impacts in educational systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, the demand for intercultural value research with regard to conflict management has escalated. Therefore, there is a large need for collecting, analysing and evaluating values and their impact on cross-cultural conflict and mediation – interdisciplinary and interculturally. Focusing on this need, the purpose of this article is to contribute to the academic cross-cultural discourse on the occurrence and effects of value-orientations and their constellations which impact on cross-cultural encounters between Tanzanians and Europeans.

This interdisciplinary empirical survey accumulates new insights into the impact of value-orientations in cross-cultural encounters and their constructive management. By evaluating relevant value-orientations in interpersonal encounters between individuals of ‘distant cultural contexts’ (Hall 1976, 1981), and by surveying and working in education settings, empirical studies aim to develop cross-cultural awareness and conflict management techniques that may lead to a higher level of cross-cultural sensitivity, empathy, understanding and meta-communication on culture-specific values and conflict management, culture-synergetic models of conflict management and mediation (Mayer 2008b).

This article is linked to the aims of research of Boness (2002) and focuses on Tanzania as one important survey example in the African context, in which cross-cultural conflict management between Europeans and Africans takes place. In doing so, cognisance is taken of both Western and African approaches to conflict, and the value-orientations that influence cross-cultural situations described in the findings of the conducted survey.

This article provides insight into specific value-orientations underlying cross-cultural conflicts and mediation from an African perspective, which should contribute to an in-depth understanding of the values involved in conflict management processes in Tanzania.

The main aim of the article is:

  • to identify value-orientations and correlations in cross-cultural encounters and mediations in Tanzania’s educational system.

Sub-aims are:

  • to introduce how Schwartz’s value domains and dimensions can be linked to the research findings of the survey,
  • to determine in which culture categories cross-cultural interaction takes place, and
  • to establish which value-orientations are involved in cross-cultural conflict and mediation between Europeans and Tanzanians.

In the following, the article presents an overview of value discourses and proves the bilingual validity of value domains (Schwartz 1994). Subsequently, the article highlights the research methodology and discusses the empirical research findings. Finally, selected culture-specific value-orientations in cross-cultural conflict and mediation situations in the educational system in Tanzania will be presented.

2. Discourses on value-orientations

In the decade after the Second World War, value research gained much prominence. Interdisciplinary projects were implemented which contributed to value researches across different disciplines (Allport 1954; Inglehart 1971, 1977; Kluckhohn 1951; Kluckhohn & Stroedbeck 1961; McClelland, 1961; Parsons & Shils 1951). Since the 1970s, research on values has gained momentum, mainly driven by social and cultural sciences and the humanities.

Rokeach (1973, 1979) developed a theory of human values and the Rokeach Value Survey, and built the base of Schwartz’s and Bilsky’s (1987, 1990, 1994) and Schwartz’s (1994) value model which posed the question of a ‘universal theory of human values’, which will be introduced in the following section.

2.1 Value domains and dimensions

The broad interdisciplinary research interest in values and value-orientation led to a broad variety of definitions of the term and concept ‘value’ (Mayton, Ball-Rokeach & Lodges 1994). This survey uses the definition of values and their presentation according to the statements of Schwartz presented in this article.

Schwartz and Bilsky (1987:551ff) have defined ten value domains on account of their intercultural and empirical studies, and based on the concept of Rokeach’s (1973) seven universal value domains. The motivational domains of power, benevolence, universalism, achievement, as well as hedonism, self-direction, tradition and universalism present definitions with values of Allport and Vernon (1931) and Spranger (1921). These domains are regarded as universal value concepts and are expected to carry cultural implications and variations (Schwartz 1994:19ff).

Schwartz and Bilsky (1987:551) divide values into five main categories: ‘According to the literature, values are concepts or beliefs about desirable end states or behaviors (terminal and instrumental values), which transcend specific situations; guide the selection or evaluation of behavior; or order events according to relative importance.’ Values are cognitive representations, as defined by Kluckhohn and Stroedbeck (1961), which basically comprise three forms of universal human sources of values: the needs of individuals as biological organisms, the requisites of coordinated, social and interpersonal interaction, and the security of functions concerning the well-being and the survival of groups.

The natural cognitive and verbal requirements of values are transformed into cultural values and goals, constructed and defined by the members of a group. Through socialisation, values then become a socio-cultural concept of individuals, groups or societies, defined by Schwartz (1994:24) as follows:

Values are desirable trans-situational goals, varying in importance, that serve as guiding principles in the life of a person or other social entity. Implicit in this definition of values as goals is that (1) they serve the interests as of some social entity; (2) they can motivate action – giving it direction and emotional intensity; (3) they function as standards for judging and justifying action, and (4) they are acquired both through socialization to dominant group values and through the unique learning experience of individuals.

The following table shows the motivational value domains as formulated by Schwartz (1994:22) in regard to definition and aim, as well as exemplifying values.

Table 1: Motivational value domains

Definition and aim of values Exemplary values
Power: Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources Social power, authority and wealth
Achievement: Personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards Success, capability, ambition
Hedonism: Pleasure and sensuous gratification for oneself Pleasure, enjoying life
Stimulation: Excitement, novelty, and challenge in life Daring, varied life, exciting life
Self-direction: Independent thought and action-choosing, creating, exploring Creativity, curiosity, freedom
Universalism: Understanding, appreciation, tolerance and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature Broad-mindedness, social justice, equality
Benevolence: Preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact Helpfulness, honesty, forgiveness
Tradition: Respect, commitment and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional culture or religion provide Humbleness, devoutness, acceptance of my ‘portion in life’
Conformity: Restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms Politeness, obedience, Honour of parents and elders
Security: Safety, harmony and stability of society, of relationships and of self. National security Social order, cleanliness
Source: Schwartz 1994: 22

These value domains have been validated by different research teams: Oishi, Schimmack, Diener and Suh (1998), Schwartz and Bardi (2001), Schwartz and Sagiv (1995), and Spini (2003). Oishi and others (1998) provide support for the findings of Schwartz’s conception of values as higher order goals. These values serve individualistic (achievement, enjoyment, self-direction) or collectivistic goals (prosocial, conformity), which can be entangled. The value of security, for example, may be defined as a collectivistic value, but also contains, through the value of inner harmony, individualistic value-orientations. Using data from 88 samples from 40 countries, Schwartz and Sagiv (1995) have re-evaluated the propositions of the values theory and provided criteria for identifying what is culture-specific in value meanings and structure. They confirm the widespread presence of ten value types, arrayed on a motivational continuum, and organised on the following virtually universal, orthogonal dimensions:

Figure 1: Model of motivational value domains and dimensions

The impact of value-orientations on cross-cultural encounters and mediation-fig1
Source: Mayer (2001: 29), Boness (2002:180) adapted from Schwartz (1994: 24-25)

Values define themselves in dynamic interactions and dependencies on each other. Every action strives to fulfil the value requirements. Bordering value domains are more transparent than value domains that are in opposition. The relationship patterns of conflict and compatibilities between values and value priorities Schwartz (1994: 24-25) presented as follows:

  • openness to change: independent thoughts and actions, as well as change, self-direction, stimulation, hedonism;
  • conservation: self-restrictions, maintenance of traditional practices, protection of stability, security, conformity, tradition;
  • self-enhancement: sense and purpose of success and dominance over others: power and achievement, hedonism; and
  • self-transcendence: acceptance of others as equals and caring for the well-being of others: universalism and benevolence.

Schwartz and Bardi (2001) have found out that there is a widespread consensus regarding the hierarchical order of values, in spite of striking value differences in the value priorities of various groups. Average value hierarchies of representative and near representative samples from 13 nations exhibit a similar pattern that replicates itself with school teachers in 56 nations and college students in 54 nations. The authors have analysed that the values of benevolence, self-direction, and universalism are consistently most important to school teachers in 56 nations and college students in 54 nations; while the values of power, tradition, and stimulation are least important; and the values of security, conformity, achievement and hedonism lie in between.

Subsequently, with regard to the African context, Schwartz’s survey was carried out in 1989 in Zimbabwe among a target group of teachers and students. But Schwartz and Sagiv (1995: 101) experienced difficulties in having the value questionnaire completed: the data base evidently was not reliable to evaluation (Schwartz & Sagiv 1995:101).

2.2 Evidence of Schwartz’s value dimensions and domains in Swahili

With regard to this survey, it is relevant to assess if the value dimensions and domains in Schwartz’ value model are reflected in Swahili linguistic terms which refer to existing value-orientations in the Tanzanian cultural context.2 Most of the value domains can be translated into Swahili as shown in table 2, like the example of a value in a domain ‘mature love’ to ‘upendo’. However, some value domains are ‘untranslatable’ as indicated. Other value concepts can be translated only by using circumscriptions of the concept such as ‘ukosefu wa ubaguzi’

Table 2: Schwartz’s value domains and examples of values in Swahili

Value domains and examples of values in domains in the Schwartz Value Model Swahili translation
Self-direction muamuzi mwaelekeo
Creativity untranslatable
Freedom usalaama
Choosing own goals malengo
Curious mjuaji
Independent kujitegemea
Stimulation untranslatable
A varied life untranslatable
An exciting life untranslatable
Daring ushujaa
Hedonism untranslatable
Pleasure kuona raha
Enjoying life maisha yenye furaha
Achievement kufikia
Ambitious mwenye nia
Successful Faulu
Capable Mbinu
Influential mwenye uwezo
Power Nguvu
Authority Cheo
Wealth Utajiri
Social power mwenye mamlaka
Preserving my public image untranslatable
Social recognition utambuzi
Security usalaama
Social order kutegemeana
Family security kutegemeana kifamilia
National security usalaama wa taifa
Reciprocation of favours kupeana
Clean safi
Sense of belonging kuwa na
Health Afya
Conformity Kuungana na/pamoja na..
Obedient mtiifu
Self-disciplined untranslatable
Politeness tabia nzuri
Honouring parents and elders heshimu
Tradition mila na desturi
Respect for tradition heshima
Humble mnyenyekevu
Devout mnyenyekevu
Accepting my position in life untranslatable
Moderate mtaratibu
Benevolence ukarimu
Helpful Kujitoa, ushirikiano
Loyal Mfuasi
Forgiving sameheana
Honest mkweli
Responsible mwenye madaraka
True friendship undugu, urafiki
Mature love upendo
Universalism untranslatable
Broad-minded untranslatable
Social justice untranslatable
Equality usawa wa watu (ukosefu wa ubaguzi)
World of peace dunia yenye usalaama na amani
World of beauty dunia yenye uzuri
Unity with nature umoja wa asili
Wisdom ujuzi
Protecting the environment utunzaji wa mazingira
Spiritual life mwenendo wa kiroho
Source: Boness 2002: 122-124

Particularly ‘individualistic concepts’ such as ‘self-direction’ often do not have equivalent terms and concepts in Swahili (Boness 2002) and are ‘untranslatable’.3 However, values linked to basic needs can directly and easily be translated such as ‘security’ and ‘benevolence’ (Burton 1990).

These linguistic insights influence the interpretation of findings. Surely, the underlying meanings and motivations of value concepts mentioned in the critical incidents (CIs) need culture-specific interpretations, although they are assumed as being ‘human universal concepts’ (Schwartz 1994).

In the following, the research methodology and the empirical findings will be discussed.

3. Research methodology

The survey follows a positivistic research paradigm (Collis & Hussey 2003:47) in the tradition of critical hermeneutic approaches (Habermas 1999; Gadamer 1990; Adorno 1972) and was conducted as an explorative survey.

Using the critical hermeneutic approach, a permanently changing perspective of the researcher in approaching and interpreting the subject of survey is implied. Habermas (1973:261) calls this permanent self-reflexion on a meta-level, monitoring the process of analysis, a ‘movement of emancipation’. Precise and critical reflections of research are combined with hermeneutic statements on structures. They realise interpretations of realities regarding a hermeneutic initial position of inter-subjectivity and action-orientated understanding (Habermas 1973:241). In this regard, triangulation of methods, by using qualitative and quantitative methods, was used. Data were gathered by means of the Critical Incident Technique (Flanagan 1954) and focused interviews, which will be introduced in the following section.

3.1 Data collection

The main research instrument was a Critical Incident Research Questionnaire (see annexure), which used the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) developed by Flanagan (1954). Through this technique, deep insight in value-orientations of individuals is gained (Flechsig 1996, 2001). ‘The CIT is a set of procedures for collecting direct observations of human behaviour in such a way as to facilitate their potential usefulness in solving practical problems and developing broad psychological principles. The CIT outlines procedures for collecting observed incidents having special significance and meeting systematically defined criteria’ (Flanagan 1954:327).

The reliability of the questionnaire has been tested and validity controls have been undertaken in social systems such as the US Air Force, General Motors and other organisations (Flanagan 1954:336). The questionnaire was translated into Swahili, the official language of Tanzania, in order to obtain valid results within the social system of secondary education (Boness 2002). During the survey, the questionnaire was explained to the respondents in both English and Swahili, as well as through verbal explanations and role-plays.

In addition to the questionnaire survey, ten focused interviews were conducted with teachers and academics from the University of Dar es Salaam, as well as governmental employees from the Ministry of Education and Culture in Dar es Salaam, to gain information on the Swahili culture and the Tanzanian Secondary System. To collect background information on culture and politics, focused interviews were conducted with representatives from different organisations and educational institutions in Tanzania, Kenya, France and the United Nations on the topic of values in the Tanzanian school system. This information has influenced the interpretation of data in this article.

3.2 Sample

The survey was embedded in a three-year research project conducted under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) in Dar es Salaam and the University of Göttingen (UG) in Germany. The field research was conducted by a bi-cultural team of four researchers (two Germans and two Tanzanians)with academic background in education and cross-cultural didactics (Social Sciences). The team consisted of two male and two female researchers in the age group 25 to 50 years. All four were familiar with Swahili, as mother tongue or as foreign language speakers.

Nation-wide, 781 governmental and private secondary schools (Boness 2002:66) were invited to participate in the survey. The criteria on which schools were selected were accessibility, governmental schools,4 and willingness to participate. The number of participating schools varied in terms of region and district, based on the mentioned criteria, selected by the MEC. Altogether 19 schools finally participated, including a subtotal of 8 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) schools. Out of the 19 selected schools, 16 were secondary schools, two technical colleges, and one a Benedictine seminary. Gender-specific schools were indicated by the MEC (Boness 2002:229-230) to comprise 13 co-educative, four boys’ and two girls’ schools. The schools were located in nine regions in Tanzania as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Schools and zones in Tanzania

Zones Regions Districts
Eastern zone Dar es Salaam Coast Ilala Kisarawe
Northern zone Arusha Tanga Kilimandjaro Monduli, Arusha Tanga, Lushoto Moshi
Central zone Dodoma Dodoma
Southern Highlands Mtwara Lindi Mtwara Lindi-Kilwa
Zanzibar-Visiwani Zanzibar Zanzibar
Source: Boness 2002

The research route was defined as shown in Figure 2:5

Figure 2: Research itinerary

The impact of value-orientations on cross-cultural encounters and mediation-fig2
Source: Boness 2002

A total of 408 questionnaires were completed by students and teachers during school hours to secure a response of usable questionnaires from 179 teachers and 211 students in the 19 Tanzanian schools that participated in the survey.

3.3 Data analysis

After data collection and transcription, data were cross-analysed by the research team. Different procedures were aligned to the main analysis. One procedure was to identify three or more culture elements in every description of CIs. Excluded were questionnaires containing no information, doublets, and non-personal conflicts (such as descriptions of terrorist attacks in Kenya and Tanzania). These procedures which had been carried out and validated by two European and one Tanzanian academic, led to the subtotal of 358 analysable CIs (Boness 2002:264).

Culture elements were defined as comprising all basic manifest statements that explain a cross-cultural encounter. Through culture elements, culture categories were developed and provided a link to value domains. From the total of more than 250 culture elements identified in the 408 questionnaires, culture categories were inductively construed. Culture categories were defined as comprising areas of culture in which the European culture and the Tanzanian culture expose specific rules, norms, values and behaviours when they meet (see Table 5). An example of how this generating procedure took place is the following. In one CI a Tanzanian called a European a ‘thief’, because the European had taken a photograph of the Tanzanian without asking prior permission. The concept ‘thief ‘ is tightly linked to property or possession. So, this incident could be linked to the culture category ‘property and possession’. In total, 19 culture categories were analysed. A ranking of frequency distribution was carried out. All CIs were linked to culture categories, containing culture elements. Through inter-judge validation, culture elements were linked to Schwartz’s value dimensions and domains.

4. Research findings

Research findings refer to biographical data and empirical findings. The questionnaires were completed by a majority of respondents between 15 and 24 years; male persons represented more than two-thirds of the respondents; and 70 respondents originated from the Kilimandjaro region. The following table shows the age strata of the sample. More than 50% of the sample constitute the first decade age group, as Table 4 shows.

It is assumed that the first age decade of the sample is representing the mindset of the future generation with high educational standards in the society. Thus, the identified value-orientations and cross-cultural mediations narrated in this survey are indicators of future directions in a globalising world of cross-cultural encounters.

Table 4: Age groups

Age decade Age group in years Number of persons
1 15-24 217
2 25-34 61
3 35-44 65
4 45-55 43
1-4 No indication of age 22
Source: Boness 2002

Figure 3 gives a graphic representation of the gender proportions in the sample of 285 male and 119 female respondents. Gender equilibrium in governmental secondary school enrolments has nearly been achieved, but the sample included a number of single-gender schools. The high number of 285 male respondents reflects the fact that four boys’ schools and only two girls’ schools were surveyed.

Figure 3 Gender distribution

Source: Boness 2002

According to current national school policy, managing cultural and ethnic diversity is desired and stimulated in governmental schools, to avoid ethnic and language dominance and therefore power imbalance. The sample represents the ethnic diversity in governmental schools as shown in Table 5.

Table 5: Ethnic origin of respondents

Rank Ethnic origin Percentage number
1 Chagga >= 5% 70
2 Shambala 24
3 Tanzanians 23
4 Pare >= 3% 18
5 Mwera/Makua 14
6 Matengo 13
7 Ngoni 12
8 Nyamwezi/Sukuma 12
9 Maassai/Meru/Arusa 12
10 Haya >= 2% 10
11 Hehe 9
12 Nyakusa 8
13 Suaheli/Sansibar/Pemba 8
14 Makonde 7
15 Bena 5
16 Gogo 4
17 Yao 4
Source: Boness 2000

After the biographical data have been presented, the empirical findings will be outlined.

4.1 Cross-cultural critical incidents and value-orientations

The analysed CIs are clustered in 19 culture categories. The highest frequency of narrated CIs can be found in the culture categories of ‘foreignness and contact’, ‘possession and property’, ‘education’ as well as ‘outer appearance of a person’, as indicated in Table 6. This means that cross-cultural expectations in these categories are highly conflictive. ‘Possession and property’ is often a conflictive category due to the high awareness of material imbalances between ‘rich Europeans’ and ‘poor Africans’.

‘Education’ in Tanzania is highly valued, particularly if education is embedded in culturally accepted norms and morals and implied with culturally defined methods. Therefore, education and educational methods which are based on different value-orientations are met with scepticism and often lead to conflict.

In addition, the ‘outer appearance of a person’, the way of dressing and hairstyles are of concern: Tanzanians prefer decent dressing for both genders. If individuals are dressed extraordinarily, conflict arises easily.

Table 6: Critical incidents and culture categories

Rank Culture category Number of CIs
1 Foreignness and contact 89
2 Possession and property 52
3 Education 44
4 Outer appearance of a person 35
5 Sexuality 21
6 Language and communication 21
7 Consumption 21
8 Time and space 16
9 Health and illness 13
10 Environment and nature 11
11 Work and cooperation 11
12 Power and hegemony 10
13 Trade and economy 8
14 Religion 8
15 History 5
16 State 4
17 Community and neighbourhood 4
18 Family 3
19 Celebrations and feasts 3
Source: Boness 2002

After the culture categories are defined and ranked in importance, in the following, culture elements will be linked to the Schwartz’s value model to evaluate value-orientations in CIs.

4.2 Findings of Schwartz’s value domains and dimensions

Culture elements could be linked to value domains and value dimensions of the Schwartz’s value model. In the following, the article only refers to selected value domains, such as power and spiritual life. As shown in table 7, 442 of the culture elements mentioned can be linked to the value domain ‘power’ incorporated in the value dimension of self-enhancement. The culture element ‘photo, film, camera, picture’ scores highest comprising 116 culture elements. This might be caused by the fact that the use of cameras is handled and interpreted culture-specifically. Europeans take photos without building social relationships and personal contact. From the Tanzanian perspective photos can only be taken after a personal relationship has been created.

Table 7: Value domain ‘power’ in value dimension ‘self-enhancement’

Value dimension Value domain Culture element Number of culture elements
Self-enhancement Power Power and hegemony 7
Power 4
Possession and property 38
Money 104
Riches 6
Poverty 38
Theft 74
Acceptance and respect 2
Asking for something. 25
Begging 22
Photo, film, camera, picture 116
Exploit, suppress 6
Source: Boness 2002

With regard to the four value dimensions and the ten value domains, culture elements could be attributed to all Schwartz’s value dimensions and domains. In addition to these value domains and dimensions of Schwartz, the value domain ‘spiritual life’ could be gained inductively from the data. This newly developed value domain contains the culture elements of God, prayer, spirituality and religion (see Table 8). Referring to the 71 culture elements, 31 indicated a relationship to God, 23 were related to prayers and 17 to spirituality and religion. The relationship to God was emphasised as highly important with regard to church services, prayers and spirituality which led to conflict in cross-cultural encounters, as indicated in Table 8. Spirituality does not seem to be of importance for Europeans in the described CIs. However, spiritual values are guiding principles for the Tanzanians in cross-cultural interactions.

Table 8: Value domain ‘spiritual life’ in value dimension ‘self-transcendence’

Value dimension Value domain Culture element Number of culture elements
Self-transcendence Spiritual life God 31
Prayer 23
Spirituality and religion 17
Source: Construction by Mayer and Boness

After these selected examples referring to the value dimension of self-enhancement and value domain of power as well as of spiritual life, Figure 4 shows the distribution of CIs across the Schwartz value dimensions and domains (with ‘spiritual life’ added as a domain).6 Figure 4 gives an overview of Tanzanian versus European value-orientation frequencies in each value domain.

Figure 4: Critical incidents and value domains

Source: Construction by Mayer and Boness

In the value domain of ‘power’, the respondents ascribe 10 value-orientations in their CIs as being Tanzanian and 18 as being European value-orientations. Furthermore, the respondents ascribe the value domain of ‘spiritual life’ as being exorbitant in four Tanzanians, whilst value-orientations referring to the value domain of ‘spiritual life’ are not ascribed to Europeans. That means that the respondents either can not decode spirituality in Europeans, or that Europeans do not show their spiritual or religious values in the CIs.

Focusing on value dimensions in CIs significant differences could be found.7 Respondents ascribe ‘openness to change’ statistically significantly higher to Europeans than to Tanzanians (2 16,86). At the same time, they ascribe ‘conservation’ as being significantly higher in Tanzanians than in Europeans (2 55,54), as the following Table 9 shows. This means that the respondents view the basic image of the ‘Self ‘ in the dimension of ‘conservation’ whereas the basic image of the ‘Other’ European is depicted in the dimension of ‘openness to change’.

Table 9: Value dimensions: Openness and conservation

Value dimensions Europeans Tanzanians x2 Significance
OC (Openness) 149 37 16,86 ***
CO (Conservation) 28 180 55,54 ***
Source: Construction by Mayer and Boness

In the dimension of ‘self-enhancement’, there is a low statistical significance; in the dimension of ‘self-transcendence’, there is no statistically significant characteristic, as Table 10 shows.

Table 10: Value dimensions: Self-enhancement and self-transcendence

Value dimensions Europeans Tanzanians x2 Significance
SE (Self-enhancement) 126 87 3,37 *
ST (Self-transcendence) 65 60 0,06
Source: Construction by Mayer and Boness

Table 11 shows the statistical significance of value domains. The significances vary between different levels and across cultures. The European behaviour in the value domain of ‘self-direction’ is interpreted as threatening Tanzanian tradition and conformity, and is therefore experienced as conflictive.

Table 11: Statistical significance of value domains

Value domain Frequency Europeans Frequency Tanzanians x2 Significance
OCself-direction 116 23 30,22 ***
OChedonism 19 7 2,76 *
OCstimulation 14 7 0,82
COtradition 17 125 41,07 ***
COconformity 4 37 13,76 ***
COsecurity 7 18 2,77 *
SEachievement 42 41 0,01
SEpower 84 46 5,55 **
STbenevolence 44 15 6,53 **
STuniversalism 15 28 2,32
STspiritual life 6 3,00 *
Source: Construction by Mayer and Boness

The value domains ‘tradition’, ‘self-direction’ and ‘conformity’ were statistically highly significant. The respondents interpreted the behaviour of Europeans with regard to these value domains as being ‘selfish’ and ‘arrogant’. At the same time, they interpreted the behaviour of Tanzanians with regard to these value domains, as ‘conforming’ and ‘traditional’.

The value domains of ‘benevolence’ and ‘power’ were also statistically significant. Regarding ‘benevolence’, respondents defined Europeans as ‘generous’. With regard to ‘power’, respondents viewed European as being ‘interested in power and dominant behaviour’.

‘Spiritual life’, ‘security’ and ‘hedonism’ are low in statistical significance. Respondents view Tanzanians as very ‘religious’ and ‘led by religion’ (Boness & Mayer 2003), but perceived Europeans as ‘not spiritual’.8

Respondents see different value-orientation priorities in Tanzanian and European values and behaviour. These perceived differences are seen as multiple causes of cross-cultural conflicts. Simultaneously, respondents describe in their CIs how cross-cultural conflicts and value differences are managed in the Tanzanian context according to the culture-specific ways of conflict management and mediation.

4.3 Cross-cultural mediation in Critical Incidents

A total of 87 respondents out of 408 explicitly referred to mediation as a tool of conflict management. Considering the success of mediation processes, 77 mediations led to a positive outcome and were defined as being successful and ten led to negative outcomes.

With regard to culture categories (see Table 6) successful mediation was achieved in:

  • possession and property (20 cases were mediated: 14 successfully, 7 unsuccessfully),
  • outer appearance (14 cases were mediated: 13 successfully, 31 unsuccessfully),
  • foreign culture (11 cases were mediated: 11 successfully),
  • language (9 cases were mediated: 9 successfully),
  • Šeducation (8 cases were mediated: 7 successfully, 1 unsuccessfully).

In contrast to successful mediations, there are 10 CIs that show – in the eyes of the respondents – ‘unsuccessful’ cross-cultural mediations. These relate mostly to the value domains ‘possession and property’ as well as ‘power’. This may be related to the Tanzanian perception as being the ‘losers of possession’ with regard to land use and ownership as well as to ‘power’ – referring to administration and globalisation. Therefore Tanzanian mediators in cross-cultural mediations may tend to be not impartial, but rather promote their own ways of redistributing possession and power.

In the following, an unsuccessful mediation example of the value domain ‘possession and property’ will be given to provide an insight of conflictive value-orientations in cross-cultural conflicts and their management.

A Tanzanian teacher narrates a CI he has observed (Boness 2002:326):

A European tourist was taking photos of Swahili people walking on the street in Arusha city. They got upset about the photo-shooting, and called the tourist ‘a thief ‘. During that situation the European got slightly injured and was brought to hospital. His camera was taken away. A Tanzanian friend of the European tried to mediate, but without success. The situation is very emotional. The Tanzanian mediator came too late with his intervention. So he was not able to convince the people on the street that the European does not want to steal their personality by taking photographs.

The values underlying the CI in this example are linked to the dimension of ‘self-enhancement’ particularly regarding ‘power’. The domains ‘tradition’ and ‘conformity’ also do play a role in this CI to preserve a person’s public image. The respondents define values in the value dimension ‘conservation’ as very important for Tanzanians and the dimension ‘openness to change’, including the domains ‘stimulation’ and ‘self-direction’ as very important for Europeans. The European takes pictures and therefore – from the Tanzanian perspective – steals parts from a person’s personality and implies power. The European is seen as acting ‘self-directed’ without re-confirming this social interaction. The Tanzanians react by using physical power to fight the implied psychological power imposed on their personalities in public. In the following section, selected aspects of cross-cultural mediation will be presented to broaden the understanding of how conflict is managed in cross-cultural encounters in Tanzania in the educational context.

4.4 Aspects in cross-cultural mediation in Tanzania

According to the survey, the term cross-cultural mediation is used in the broad sense of ‘third party intervention’ in Tanzanian contexts. In these interventions, parties of different ethnic, cultural, language or national backgrounds attempt to resolve a conflict situation.

In all CIs, cross-cultural mediation situations aim at ‘win-win solutions’. Win-win solutions refer to mutual understanding, tolerance, peace and harmony. The mediation setting is seen as social interaction to exchange ideas and to promote comfort and harmony between the parties. The role of the mediator is to explain cultural concepts, values and norms of African cultures. The mediator does not necessarily consider culture-specific norms and values foreign to African concepts: foreigners are expected to adapt to the social and cultural situation by accepting local values and behaviours. Therefore, the mediator explains socio-cultural aspects, communicating analogies, idioms and metaphors. The mediator is defined as a culturally competent person who follows the aim of integrating all parties into the social order and the morals of African cultures. He/she is also a consultant advising the parties what to do and how to behave. Usually, key persons of the community are chosen as mediators, in light of their occupation, charisma, age or spirituality. Mediators are bishops, pastors, teachers, old and highly respected community leaders as well as spiritual leaders. Mediations take place spontaneously in private or public spaces, at the locus of conflict, in the context of family and friends (Mayer, Boness & Thomas 2003).

The mediator is expected to be fair and in harmony with the social norms and values. In most of the CIs, the mediator was accepted by the Tanzanian conflict party, but not necessarily by the European. After the parties have agreed on the mediation, the mediator tries to create a common basis referring to humanness, God, Ubuntu as a concept of humanity, family and relationship values, and respect for others and the ancestors. After the common basis is established, the parties give their perspectives on the conflict. The mediator advises the conflict parties how to manage conflicts. At the end, all conflict parties apologise and forgive each other. Social control mechanisms are set up to ensure sustaining peace.

5. Conclusion

The overall purpose of the article was to give insight into specific value-orientations underlying cross-cultural interactions and mediation from a Tanzanian perspective, and contribute towards an in-depth understanding of the values involved in cross-cultural encounters in Tanzania.

More specifically, the objective was to identify value-orientations in encounters and mediations in Tanzania’s educational system. The sub-aims were to introduce the Schwartz’s value model and interrelate it with the research findings, to analyse in which culture categories cross-cultural interaction takes place and to establish value-orientations which are involved in cross-cultural conflict between Europeans and Tanzanians.

In conclusion, the value-orientations of the Schwartz model could be elaborated through the applied research methodology. The Schwartz values could be identified and their culture-specific meanings could partly be revealed with regard to cross-cultural encounters and mediations in the Tanzanian educational context. The linguistic analysis showed compatibilities between the English and Swahili value terms referring to basic needs values. On the contrary, however, value terms could be assessed which were untranslatable and therefore showed the cultural bias of the Westernised value-orientations of the Schwartz value model.

The findings emphasise high conflictive potential in certain culture categories, such as ‘foreignness and contact’, ‘possession and property’, ‘education’ and ‘outer appearance of a person’. In addition, the value dimension ‘self-enhancement’, including the value domain ‘power’, indicated a high number of culture elements which can be highly conflictive in cross-cultural encounters between Europeans and Tanzanians. Moreover, it could be established that the value dimensions ‘openness to change’ and ‘conservation’ are highly significant. Respondents view Europeans as emphasising value domains in the value dimension ‘openness to change’ and Tanzanians in the value dimension ‘conservation’. These differences lead to cross-cultural conflicts which are often managed through culture-specific mediation procedures. Nearly 90% of cross-cultural mediations succeed. The success of cross-cultural mediation in the Tanzanian context seems to be bound to the parties’ acceptance of Tanzanian mediators and the culture category which is negotiated in the mediation session. Particularly, strong differences in culture categories and value-orientations lead to unsuccessful mediations, as assessed in the culture category ‘possession and property’.

6. Recommendations

With regard to the findings and the conclusion of this article, the following recommendations can be given to education institutions, cross-cultural trainers, consultants and researchers:

  • Individuals and groups meeting in cross-cultural encounters in the Tanzanian education contexts should be trained in cross-cultural and culture-specific competencies. These trainings should form an integral part of the school curriculum, to ensure proper preparations for cross-cultural exchange and globalisation processes.
  • Cross-cultural trainings should include the improvement of knowledge, sensitivity and awareness for culture-specific value-orientations and behaviour with regard to self-reflection and reflection of the others.
  • Cross-cultural learning and education referring to conflict management and mediation should be taught through theoretical and practical approaches. Teachers and students should be introduced to basic skills in cross-cultural communication and mediation.
  • Cross-cultural trainers and consultants need to focus on value-orientations in cross-cultural trainings and develop training tools and materials to prepare their clients for culturally adjusted and satisfying interaction on both sides.
  • Follow-up research, both quantitative and qualitative, should be done on value-orientations prevailing in East-Africa. Since a rapid globalising impact on the development in East Africa can be expected, the relevance of such research should be evident, especially if focused on other fields of societal interaction like economy, politics and leisure.

The implementation of these recommendations will contribute to the empowerment of individuals in cross-cultural encounters and to global peace building across the nations.


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Questionnaire on Critical Incidents in Tanzania

Institute of Ethnology, University of Goettingen, Germany

We would kindly like you to describe a “Critical Incident”, i.e. a conflict situation, which you experienced with Europeans.

Please don’t fill in any personal names due to data protection!

Personal Data

Sex: Male Female
Level of Education: A-Level O-Level University
Please specify the ethnic origin/cultural group (tribe) you belong to:
We would like you to remember a “critical incident” which you experienced with a person from another ethnic/cultural group (tribe). Could you please specify to which ethnic/cultural group your “incident partner” probably belongs?

The Critical Incident

Please define a main event which you experienced with a person from Europe. Please describe a conflict situation by answering the following questions:

  1. Please find a headline for this situation.
  2. Please describe the critical incident situation: what happened? Where and when did it happen? who was present (age, sex, cultural group, role)?
  3. Please write down the reason for the opening of the sitation: who did talk or act first? Remember please the way of opening: atmosphere, words, gestures, observation, communication style etc
  4. What was the conflicting point of the situation?
  5. How did the incident end? Did somebody help in finding a solution? Please outline the ending: mediating, crying, agreeing, hurting, laughing, talking etc.
  6. Did somebody else tell you about a similar incident he/she experienced? __Yes __No
  7. What was the cause of conflict?
  8. What do you think which cultural values influenced your behavior in the situation?
  9. What do you think which cultural values influenced the behavior of your conflict partner in the situation?
  10. What did you learn out of the incident? Please outline your intercultural experience!
  11. How did you feel in the situation? Please describe your emotions exactly.
  12. How would you try to solve the conflict?

Thank you very much for your support!

Note: In the version printed above, the spaces for entering responses have been left out.


  1. African refers in this article to Tanzanian and Western to European concepts.
  2. In Tanzania, 95% of the population are Swahili speakers.
  3. Other value concepts that could not be directly translated into Swahili include: self-direction, creativity, choosing own goals, independent, stimulation, a varied life, an exciting life, hedonism, achievement, ambitious, successful, capable, influential, preserving my public image, self-discipline, accepting my position in life, moderate, universalism, and broad-minded.
  4. The selection criteria were defined by the MEC together with the research group.
  5. Number abbreviations indicate the number of surveyed secondary institutions, letters represent the regions as follows: Do: Dodoma, D: Dar es Salaam, Z: Zanzibar, L: Lindi, M: Mtwara, P: Pwani/Coast, A: Arusha, Kili: Kilimandjaro, T: Tanga
  6. Tanzanian respondents differentiate between Tanzanian value-orientations (indicated in Figure 4 as T) and European value-orientations (indicated in Figure 4 as E).
  7. Significance indication: *** Highest significance, ** middle significance, * low significance, – no significance
  8. There were no statistically significant data in the value domains ‘universalism’, ‘stimulation’ and ‘achievement’.