Following are Hofstede's four categories and what they measure:
Power Distance (PD) is the "extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally" (Hofstede 1998) with a small PD meaning more equality in the society, and a large PD meaning less.
Individualism (ID) defines whether the society expects people to look after themselves or not. Its opposite is Collectivism, which Hofstede (1998) defines as "the extent to which people in a society from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people's lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."
Masculinity (MA) defines the degree of distinction of gender roles. High MA means men are supposed to be "assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life" (Hofstede 1998). Its opposite is Femininity.
Uncertainty Avoidance (UA) measures how threatened a society's members feel in uncertain or unknown situations. In "uncertainty avoiding nations, people are more expressive; in uncertainty tolerating nations the expression of feelings is inhibited" (Hofstede 1998). Although it may be a cliche, Britain (stiff upper lip, no shows of emotion) would rank low in UA, while the Arab states would rank high, a fact borne out by Hofstede's research. Hofstede noted that a high UAI indicates the country has low tolerance for uncertainty, which, in turn, "creates a rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty" (Hofstede 2005). The opposite ranking indicates "the country has less concern about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance for a variety of opinions. This is reflected in a society that is less rule-oriented, more readily accepts change, and takes more and greater risk" (Hofstede 2005).
Influences on learning style derived from Hofstede's classifications very quick comparison of Australia, the Arab World (which Hofstede investigated monolithically) and a representative Asian nation (which will have great areas of commonality with the others) can help determine what the learning styles of each area are likely to emphasize.
Australia's cultural expectations
The Hofstede analysis for Australia puts its Individualism score at 90, the second highest country surveyed and right behind the United States, which is at 91. The concept of individuality is reinforced in daily life; privacy is the cultural norm and over-familiarity risk rebuff (Hofstede 2005). Moreover, the predominantly Australian religion, Christianity (50%), correlates with other Christian-based cultures; Individualism and Christianity correlate well (Hofstede 2005).
Power Distance (PDI) is low, at 36; the world average is 55. This means there is a great deal of perceived equality between societal levels, from families to government. "This orientation reinforces a cooperative interaction across power levels and creates a more stable cultural environment" (Hofstede 2005).
The Arab World's cultural expectations
This analysis includes Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and "demonstrates the Muslim faith plays a significant role in the people's lives" (Hofstede 2005). The region exhibits a high Power Distance score (80) as well as high Uncertainty Avoidance (68). Hofstede interprets these numbers to man that:
These societies are more likely to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its citizens. They are also highly rule-oriented with laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty, while inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society (Hofstede 2005).
Moreover, with both of these factors being high, it creates situations in which leaders are virtually all-powerful, and the rules they develop reinforce their control; armed insurrection, rather than diplomatic or democratic change, is the method by which rule is altered in these societies (Hofstede 2005). Hofstede also emphasizes that the high PD rating is not resented as it would be if a resident of a low PD nation traveled to one of high PD. "These populations have an expectation and acceptance that leaders will separate themselves from the group and this condition is not necessarily subverted upon the population, but rather accepted by the society as their cultural heritage" (Hofstede 2005), a factor which can have a significant effect on learning styles per se because the need for an authoritarian teacher would seem best suited to this population. The high UA rating means that, as far as students are concerned, strict rules and policies would be expected.
Most importantly for assessing cultural differences in learning styles, the Arab world scores third highest in the world on the Masculinity index; "This would indicate that while women in the Arab World are limited in their rights, it may be due more to Muslim religion rather than a cultural paradigm" (Hofstede 2005).
With its very low ranking on Individualism (38, against a world average of 64), the Arab world is a Collectivist society: this is "manifested in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', that being a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules" (Hofstede 2005).
Arab society is more likely than other cultures to follow a virtual caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility; that being the case, it can be assumed that for students still operating within the 'old country' paradigm, education would not be seen as the boon Westerners consider it to be. Therefore, the learning style that results, from those in the lower portions of the caste system, would be likely to regard achievement as less meaningful than it is to Westerners, or, arguably, those of higher expectations.
Thailand's cultural expectations
While it is in some ways representative of the rest of Asia, Thailand offers two equal Hofstede scores: 64 on both Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance. Hofstede proposes that the basis for the high PD score is different from the high score in the Arab world in quality. While it means that there is very unequal distribution of power and wealth in both societies, in Thailand, "This condition is not necessarily forced upon the population, but rather accepted by the society as a part of their cultural heritage" (Hofstede 2005). Moreover, "The ranking of 64 is slightly lower than the Asian average of 71" (Hofstede 2005). In being risk averse, Thailand ranks "slightly higher than the Asian average of 58" (Hofstede 2005).
Thailand's lowest score is in Individualism, 20. The society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist (Australia).
Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group," (Hofstede 2005), a factor which could also have a great effect on learning styles.
Thailand also has the lowest Masculinity score of the Asian nations studied: 34. The Asian average is 53 and the world average is 50. This, too, might have a significant effect on learning styles, being "indicative of a society with less assertiveness and competitiveness, as compared to one where these values are considered more important and significant. This situation also reinforces more traditional male and female roles within the population" (Hofstede 2005).
Finally, Thailand's religion is Buddhism, practiced by 95%, and requiring members to lead a "moral life, being mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom and understanding" (Hofstede 2005), attain with major potential impact on learning styles. (The rest of Asia tends to practice Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Taoism, Hinduism and their close relatives: all of these religions are seen as more pacifist than Islam, and even than Christianity.)
Amazingly enough, this factor allows Thailand and similar Asian nations to have a close correlation with the majority of the European Catholic countries, which are also able to withstand a great deal of uncertainty (Hofstede 2005).
A sign of resistance to accepting the new culture
From an analysis of the Hofstede material, it would seem that the Arab learners would have a more difficult time accepting the less authoritarian teaching styles of Australia and the greater demand for self-direction inherent in the teaching and learning styles of a highly Individual society. That can invite resistance. Mitchell (2000) examined the use of indigenous languages in rap music in "Zimbabwe, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Aotearoa/New Zealand" (arguably similar to Australia) and found that there were "resistance vernaculars" intended to re-territorialize use of language to conform to their home country expectations.
Factors involved in accepting the new culture
Positive psychological states are necessary for effective learning no matter what cultural styles a person brings to educational tasks. In that regard, "theory and research on acculturation suggest the importance of adaptation to the new society. The literature has generally shown integration, that is, simultaneous ethnic retention and adaptation to the new society, to be the most adaptive mode of acculturation and the most conducive to immigrants'…