Education and Multiculturalism
One of the major goals of education is to bring about social transformation and to create a society based on equality, social justice and respect for all. Most societies are divided between the haves and have-nots, they are divided along gender, caste, ethnic, religious or linguistic lines. Such divisions are created by economic reasons such as poverty, inequitable access to resources or by social reasons such as prejudices against each other. However people living in a society need to work in cooperation to achieve the desired common societal goals. For the accomplishment of these goals it is not necessary that all people should have homogenous culture but it requires commitment to certain common values among all citizens. The divisions existing in society make it difficult for all to come together and work for everyone’s welfare. Moreover such divisions create barriers for disadvantaged groups to join the mainstream of the society and enjoy all benefits of the institutions and services existing in that society. It therefore further widens the gaps among different groups. Policy makers, educators and the people of the country as well as the world pin their aspirations to education for promoting values of composite cultural, national integration and global unity. NCF 2005 places major stress on education for peace.
The need is therefore felt to address these issues of inequality and create a society conducive to peaceful co-existence of all groups. The most powerful tool for such transformation is an education, that
inculcates values of tolerance, justice and equality
encourages learners to value and celebrate diversity
highlights the contribution of all groups to the society, most importantly the marginalised groups, in the curriculum and textbooks
dispels the prejudices and wrong notions prevalent in the society about certain groups
brings students from different groups together in a multicultural school and classroom environment
inculcates in students the value of cooperation rather than competition
Promote rational thinking
makes the student realise the need of living together and helps them to learn to live together
Factors effecting the inculcation of composite cultural values in students:
An educational infrastructure which considers inclusiveness a parameter of quality and therefore strives to make the school inclusive promotes the values of composite culture. School can be a model for understanding how different people can co-exist. School can also be the space which provides them an opportunity to celebrate that diversity. Such a school provides a rich learning experience in multiculturalism. Lessons learnt in this way stay with the students throughout their lives. Pedagogical tools, curriculum, teaching learning material, textbooks, teaching method and the teaching-learning process itself should be directed towards making education inclusive.
A curriculum which is representative of all the groups living in a society or nation, specially the linguistic, cultural and religious minorities and other disadvantaged groups, helps build respect for and tolerance for the diverse groups living within the society. Ignorance about each other creates divisions between different groups in a society. Moreover if a student’s language and culture is not represented or is represented negatively in a curriculum, they might feel alienated.
Civics In civics apart from political processes and institutions and their functions, it should be ensured that the students get to learn about:
Minorities, marginalized groups and other disadvantaged groups in the society and the issues related to them.
The need for affirmative action aimed at bringing the historically disadvantaged groups at par with others.
The Constitutional provisions for promotion of language and culture of the minorities, such as allowing them to establish educational institutions of their own, are taught along with the rationale behind such constitutional provisions.
Representation of all groups is necessary in the government for redressing their problems and for addressing the issues related to certain communities that might have special needs.
The students should also be enabled to reach the deep roots of injustice engrained in political processes, social practices, economic policies and traditions that maintain the privileges of some while marginalize others. The values of equality, justice, secularism, tolerance and democratic citizenship should be ingrained in the students through the study of civics.
History In many countries the history curriculum reflects a unitary narrative which emphasizes the common cultural heritage of a particular community and its connection to a national territory. The challenge is whether history curricula can encompass more complex and dynamic narratives, or allow young people to become aware of alternative perspectives on the past.
Geography In geography, the students learn about the different regions, their resources, communities living in the regions, their culture, language, food and customs. In this way geography familiarizes the students with different groups living in the country as well as in the world. Geography also teaches them interdependence between these regions, for instance the interdependence of industrial areas and raw material producing regions, and the contribution of each of the communities in the making of the national or global order.
Language Study of languages help students understand languages as means of communication. They should be made aware that all languages are equal. Teacher should made efforts to make classroom multilingual and to use the languages of all students in the class as far as possible.
Science and Mathematics Study of science and mathematics curbs superstitions and promotes rational and logical thinking. Most of our prejudices stem from illogical thinking about others and ignorance of others.
Teachers should adopt methods appropriate for teaching an inclusive classroom having children from diverse backgrounds and different abilities:
1. They should teach at a pace that is convenient to all. Leaving behind the students who take more time in learning the same concepts is not acceptable. If it requires extra time and repetition, this should serve as a lesson in cooperation for the fellow students.
2. If a student who seldom speaks in class answers a question, even if the answer is incorrect, the teacher should appreciate the effort and at the same time correct the answer.
3. If the medium of instruction is other than the first language of a student and if the student is facing problem in the language used as medium of instruction, for some time, they may be allowed to submit some assignments in their first language and they may be evaluated orally so that their grades in all the subjects do not suffer just because of the language problem. In the meantime remedial efforts should be made for improvement of the student’s performance in the language which is being used as medium of instruction.
4. Discussion method should be used to teach socially relevant controversial topics so that the students from marginalised groups are able to bring to the table the concerns and apprehensions of their communities.
Co-curricular activities and sports involving team work and joint effort help bring people from diverse social, cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds together and work in cooperation.
Evaluation should be done in such a way so as to promote the values of co-operation rather than competition. Methods such as group assignments, projects and working on one problem in groups are more likely to kindle the spirit of cooperation. Grading system helps curb the spirit of competition.
Inculcating values of composite culture is closely related to inculcation of values such as tolerance, cooperation, celebration of diversity and social equality and justice. The kind of bifurcation of school education that has taken place in India has made education socially divisive. The private-public school divide has social implications that are not conducive to promotion of composite cultural values in the students because even the quality education supposedly being provided in private schools lacks the rich cultural diversity that is required for learning composite cultural values.
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