The current investigation tested the efficacy of the Extended Class Exchange Program (ECEP) in reducing prejudicial attitudes. Three hundred and twenty-two 3rd and 4th grade students from both Israeli–Jewish and Israeli–Palestinian schools in the ethnically mixed city of Jaffa were randomly assigned to either intervention or control classes. Members of the intervention classes engaged in ECEP's activities, whereas members of the control classes engaged in a social–emotional learning program. The program's outcomes were measured a week before, immediately after, and 15 months following termination.
Results showed that the ECEP decreased stereotyping and discriminatory tendencies toward the other group and increased positive feelings and readiness for social contact with the other group upon program termination. Additionally, the effects of the ECEP were generalized to an ethnic group (i.e., Ethiopians) with whom the ECEP's participants did not have any contact. Finally, the ECEP retained its significant effect 15 months after the program's termination, despite the serious clashes between Israel and the Palestinians that occurred during that time. This empirical support for the ECEP'S utility in reducing prejudice makes it potentially applicable to other areas in the world, especially those that are characterized by ethnic tension and violent conflicts.
The study's findings support the use of a multi-theoretical approach when designing prejudice reduction programs and concur with similar conclusion found in the most recent meta-analysis pertinent to this domain specifically, these findings suggest that a comprehensive school-based prejudice reduction program that builds on a combined inter- group and individual approach may improve relationships between youth whose ethnic groups have been involved in an intractable long-term violent conflict.
More practically, given that evidence for its effectiveness was replicated and maintained over time, the ECEP could be a relevant intervention for reducing stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminatory tendencies among youth who live in areas affected by war, conflict and ethnic tension. our findings also suggest that it is particularly important to apply such a program with relatively young children (i.e., elementary school students) as it may have a significant impact on the development of their intergroup attitudes. because children who live in a conflict zone usually have no contact with children who belong to their adversaries, they may be exclusively exposed to stereotype- consistent information and their attitudes toward them may be ossified.
However, since direct contact is often impossible in areas where there is violent conflict between ethnic groups or where members of the out-group are physically not present, extended contact, para-contact or virtual contact may be the only viable alternative. Research examining the efficacy of a program combining one of these indirect contact modalities with our curriculum of promoting tolerance and acceptance of the “other” and with empathy and perspective-taking training is needed.
Based on our findings, we believe that a multi-component intervention incorporating ongoing contact under optimal conditions with curriculum of promoting tolerance and acceptance of the “other” and training in empathy and perspective taking would be beneficial for educators who are attempting to reduce stereotyping, prejudices and discriminatory attitudes toward outgroup members on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation as well as other circumstances. Thus, school desegregation that focuses exclusively on contact and cooperation between students would not be as effective as a school program that also provides students with the opportunity to improve their empathy and tolerance toward the other. Indeed, analysis of school desegregation suggested that contact alone is not a sufficient condition for positive effects.
Furthermore, because an active trainer who can constitute a role model for the students is an important factor in promoting intergroup attitudes, it is recommended that homeroom teachers, with whom the students have close relationships, administer the program within the school setting. Finally, given the fact that there are strong relationships between parent and child intergroup attitudes, eliciting parental support and involvement, like we did in our program, can be beneficial.