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It is a fact that children from cultures other than white British under perform in the classroom. Even children from minority groups who have been born and fully educated in Britain still under-achieve in schools compared with their white counterparts. (Hill, D, 1976) With this in mind, the following pages will outline ways in which teachers and schools can develop their classroom activities to include British ethnic children, and children from other cultural diversities, by teaching a curriculum that acknowledges the wide range of influences from all around the world.
There are many theories and perspectives on the issue of multicultural education however, for the purpose of this essay we shall draw upon Hessari and Hill’s (1989) view that multicultural education is, That which enables children to develop towards maturity with the ability to recognise inequality, injustice, racism, stereotypes, prejudice and bias, and which acquires them with the knowledge and skills to help them challenge and try to change these manifestations when they encounter them (pg3)
Therefore, to open a child’s mind to the facts rather than the suppositions of cultural diversities will help them to recognise and value the beliefs and traditions of cultures other than their own, and ignore the deeply rooted Euro centric views of modern day society. Schools and teachers can achieved this by delivering a diverse curriculum that develops an understanding of not just different races and religions, but languages, traditions, customs, dialect and nationalities.
To deliver such a diverse curriculum, a practicing teacher must have recognised and erased any prejudices or bias’ that they themselves may have held towards any particular group, and be prepared to teach a wide variety of pupils from all social backgrounds and pupils of different ethnic groups as outlined in The National Curriculum document (2000, pp 30-38). As the same document requires multicultural education to be a statutory requirement (ibid), teachers must also understand that multicultural education needs to be an ongoing theme throughout each school term and, not just a special ‘one off’ topic whenever there is a gap in ‘ordinary’ teaching. Once these foundations have been laid, the school and the teacher have to develop ways in which a good, informative multicultural education can be delivered.
Celebrations are normally a good starting point to initiate multicultural thinking as, throughout the school year each culture has, at some point, reason to celebrate. Be it Christmas, birthdays, Passover, Divali or Ramadan, schools could use the theme of celebration and carry it throughout the year as different celebrations occur. Firstly, teachers should discuss why people celebrate and highlight any similarities or connections, such as family gatherings or giving and receiving, found between each culture. This may help pupils establish firm links between each other and strengthen their views on seeing everyone as having something in common.
Next, pupils will need to understand what and where each culture celebrates. Giving children the opportunity to visit various places of worship such as temples, synagogues or churches will offer children practical, first hand experiences of how different cultures celebrate births, marriages, deaths and religious landmarks such as Eid, Ramadan or Chanukah. Finally, back in the school, practical activities such as making cards, wearing ceremonial clothes, decorating selves and classroom, different prayers, festival music or preparing special foods provides a fun and informative way of establishing how each culture celebrates.
Pairing children of different cultural backgrounds and asking them to list any physical, mental or social differences/similarities and then comparing them with the rest of the class can help children understand how easy it is for people to be classed as the same or different according to a number of commonalities and not just colour, religion or accent. Once the teacher has built up a basic knowledge and understanding of cultural diversity amongst his pupils further activities built around all subjects can be implemented.