The demise of racial segregation in the 1960s saw the emergence of cultural diversity with colored and non colored students now being taught under the same roof. From then on, schools have seen an increasingly diverse mix of students, matters having been complicated further by globalization, which has resulted in more diverse cultures making the United States their country of choice.
Diversity is good and must be appreciated; the only problem is that if not handled well it may have the potential of creating apathy between the different cultures making up the cultural mix so that instead of a system becoming a cultural melting pot, it becomes the crystallization chamber. The aim of this paper is to examine the role of culture in molding competent students. Cultural competence More often than not, competence is construed in its narrowest definition, which is mostly in reference to acquisition of the necessary skills for the performance of a job.
For this paper however, competence will be in reference to both culture and knowledge. Ahlawat and Ahlawat (2006) found the influence of globalization to be so enormous to the extent that multicultural diversity is now amongst the key ingredients for students aspiring for a global career. An equally important finding is by Thomas (2006), who emphasized the importance of cultural intelligence in the business environment. The role of culture within the organizations is captured by Berrell and Gloet (1999), who did a study on influence of culture in organizational culture and found it significant.
The study implies that for one to blend seamlessly in to an organization there must be a level of cultural competence because there seems to be a thin line between the culture within and without the organization. For instance, according to the study, an organization within Malaysia will most likely have a culture similar to that of Malaysian people. If one has problems adapting to the Malaysian culture then the person’s work output may be greatly limited. The role of the education system in such a scenario will be to create a culturally competent global citizen.
It cannot of course be expected that students will be trained to adapt to certain cultures only, instead, skills to adapt to diverse cultures will be imparted. Such a skill is given by Arizaga, Waldo and Castellanos (2005), who found that teachers who participated in multicultural enhancement program showed increase cultural competence in the form of listening and expressive skills. Evidently, these are adaptive skills that once acquired may be applied in any cultural setting. Educator’s role in promoting cultural competence The design of the education system should ensure that it produces tolerant people capable of adapting to any cultures.
One of the ways given by Arizaga et al (2005) is by having multicultural enhancement programs to promote listening and expressive skills. Pope and Mueller (2005) also emphasize the need to integrate diversity issues in designing education programs. This can perhaps be described as the cornerstone of achieving cultural competence because if its importance can be taken in to account in the training of educators then eventually the educators that will end up in the field preparing the students will know what it entails to be culturally competent, and will thereafter pass on the skill.
Pope, Mueller and Reynolds (2009) appear to agree with the importance of having culturally competent educators when it pays tribute to student affairs professionals for the increased number of multicultural scholarships in the last three decades. The emphasis should therefore be on getting culturally competent educators on board the educational system if substantial results are to be expected. . Further to that, the authors are also urging the educators not to simply embrace diversity; they should actually seek it proactively.
In addition to promoting cultural competence in as far as interacting with people from other ethnic, racial and national cultures, the education system should promote tolerance to homosexuals. This is according to Liang and Alimo (2005), who suggested that the education system could promote a more positive attitude of heterosexual students towards homosexual students by encouraging interaction between the two groups, something the study found to increase tolerance between the two groups.
An equally important aspect of attitude development in the education system is the acquisition of positive views of self worth and meaningfulness Coll and Zalaquet (2007). Its importance in promoting cultural competence may not be obvious, but it is not hard to imagine how a person with a feeling of high self worth and meaning will find it rational to respect other people’s rights. A challenge to achieving cultural diversity is presented by Salazar (2005) who cites challenges faced by counsellors of color.
Counselors of color according to the research are faced with prejudices in their interactions with white middle class students. Sadly, this may be an in built mentality, which may take some time to get rid of but fortunately, cultural competence presents one of the remedies to this inappropriate attitude. Implications of the findings Most people spend over two decades in school, meaning that the education system plays a big role in shaping the national psyche. Among other functions, Gay (2009) says that education plays an important role bringing up constructive students.
The element of constructiveness goes beyond cultural competence and ropes in other areas such as raw knowledge and social skills. In fact, according to the article the education system may play role in promoting democracy. The upshot of all this is that an educator must realize that the challenges and objectives of the education system are dynamic and for one to remain relevant, it is important to continuously adapt to the changes. For instance, a few years ago it would have been unthinkable that the education system would want to promote tolerance towards homosexuals; these were outcasts for whom there was little concern.
However, the reality of the output focused employment present today has ensured increased tolerance to such people and thus the need for a change in approach. An educator will be differentiated from any other knowledgeable person from their ability to produce all rounded graduates. Some of the important traits to be considered include cultural competence and tolerance. For example, if the task is to teach students mathematics without considerations to the other aspects then that can even be done by anybody with the basic knowledge needed to teach the particular subject.
The professional educator must be easy to differentiate from other people possessing the same level of knowledge, and one of the hallmarks of this is the ability to produce culturally competent students among other things. Conclusion From the study, cultural competence has proven to be a very important subject area for one’s development. Most people spend over two decades in school, meaning that they will acquire some of their lifelong traits there. Global occupational mobility is on the rise and one of the key ingredients to it is cultural competence.
People with less of it will have a very hard time adapting to the different work environments that will be made available by the increased mobility. One’s work output is not a function of skills competence only; it must also include the person’s ability to work with people, which means adopting the narrow minded definition of education will produce half baked students. References Ahlawat, S. , & Ahlawat, S. (2006, ). Competing in the Global Knowledge Economy: Implications for Business Education.. Journal of American Academy of Business, 8(1), 101-105.
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