The educational phenomenon in general and the multicultural education in particular represents one of the most important levers of restructuring of the Romanian society in order to successfully engage in the very complex process of European integration. By the conflict between national identity and multiculturalism, the evolution of contemporary society can follow, in terms of the absence of effective formative instructional approaches, unpredictable trajectories, with consequences sometimes bad and almost impossible to estimate. In order to avoid occurrence of such situations should be paid attention especially to the place and role held by education intercultural system in education and society as a whole.
Multiculturalism and interculturality
Long time, multiculturalism and interculturalism concepts of multicultural and intercultural education were considered perfectly synonymous. Educational practices revealed however that the two terms mentioned above have distinctive references.
Multiculturalism means the simple recognition of the existence of varied contemporary cultural societies and refers to all the steps taken in the sense of preserving and valuing individual and often individualistic aspects of this variety, namely the differences that characterize each culture. From this perspective, multicultural education should be designed to allow each culture in part to promote, through adequate instructive actions, formative values and its cultural specificity. In other words, multicultural education involves restructuring the educational phenomenon of its multiplicational activities, by various typologies of cultural societal identity.
The negative aspects of multiculturalism in general and multicultural education in particular refer mainly to the fact that, through the activities that are put into play, it only ensures the perpetuation, in strictly isolated frames, of the socio-cultural identity specific to a particular group, thus ignoring the possibilities of overcoming language barriers or cultural separation of various communities.
Multicultural education promotes, on last instance, only the differences existing between the various cultures and specific cultural identity of each of the communities that are part of a society. This fact can contribute in certain circumstances, in spite of the promoted educational ideals, to the ostentatious accentuation of the differences between the respective communities or even to the appearance of antagonistic relations between their cultures.
Unlike multiculturalism and multicultural education, the interculturalist orientation and implicitly, the intercultural education propose its own perspective on the relations between the different cultures, a perspective focused mainly on promoting the values and the specificity of any ethnicity, race or religion, in the wider context of universal values and on highlighting to the concrete possibilities of transgressing the boundaries that define the specificity of the different cultural areas.
Critics of intercultural education are generally based on unilateral approaches to this dimension of education and are concentrated in two distinct plans. On the one hand, objections are advanced regarding the fact that by highlighting the differences and by highlighting defining individual cultural characteristics, until then implicit, their prevalence could be involuntarily potentiated, as the cultural discrimination or even segregationism would be too.
The second criticism relates to the fact that promoting intercultural education would alleviate intercultural specificity of different cultures in a such extent that the emergence of cultural relativism would become inevitable.
Multicultural educational programs are based on the principle of cultural diversity and the openness of contemporary society; education and intercultural teaching are meant to focus students’ attention to their own identity, as well as to universal human values, the equalization of educational opportunities for all groups within the society. Multicultural education is considered to be, by the means of the antiracial, antixenophobic, antidiscriminative and relativizing measures of the existing cultures, the guarantor of a viable multicultural society, a factor of democratic stability and of diminishing conflictuality.
Therefore, educational institutions, and curriculum creators, enlist a variety of different techniques to meet multicultural education needs. Common multicultural concepts, as identified by Dr. James A. Banks, include the five dimensions of multicultural education. Of these five dimensions, reducing prejudice, increasing equity, and empowering school culture and structure are the more socially focused concepts. However, there is also an identified need to include content integration.
Using content integration to help with multicultural education includes providing educators with opportunity to expose students to a variety of cultures. As education product developers and publishers, creating content that clearly and deeply reflects cultural diversity helps to meet this need.
However, simply providing students and educators with multicultural content options is not enough.
To fully meet the need for diversity, content must reflect a full range of diversity. The only way to meet this need is to provide as many options as possible.
So how can education product creators help with multicultural content integration? Here is a closer look at some ideas to consider when choosing content.
Put Diversity in the Curriculum
In an interview, Dr. James A. Banks mentions that including diversity directly in the curriculum is the first step. Since curriculum and educational products are the foundation for all education, including clear representation directly in the content is essential. However, this is not just for the subject areas that seem easily achievable. Including diversity in content in as many subject areas as possible allows for more relatability for all students.
Additionally Dr. Banks also points out that simply identifying representations of minorities, women, or other cultures in a subject areas is not truly multicultural education. This is where the depth and authenticity of the content is essential.
Using realistic and authentic multicultural education content
Authenticity is the key to truly using content to help with multicultural education. In a paper by Reeba Sara Koshy, Koshy emphasizes that multicultural content should be as inclusive as possible. Koshy also mentions that multicultural content can be corrupted by the creators of education content, curriculum, and even the educators who use it. For this reason, curating exceptionally authentic multicultural content is extremely important.
According to Koshy’s study, authentic content includes descriptions of “histories, texts, values, beliefs, and perspectives” of different cultures. Texts and other assets should accurately represent the cultures present in the content. Publishers and product creators should work with writers and content creators who are knowledgeable of the cultures in question. Even more specifically, the content should come from individuals who represent the cultures.
Multicultural education content needs variety
Just like with all content needs in education, students need choice and variety in multicultural content. However, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to try and include as many different cultures in a product or curriculum as possible. In fact, it can be almost impossible to conceive.
Another difficulty with including a variety of cultural texts is to be able to fully understand and interpret the texts for students. The ability to curate content from different publishers who specialize in cultural texts helps with providing this variety. Publishers who provide truly authentic cultural content often have supplemental texts or detailed author information. These extra details help with content comprehension and in sharing the content with students.
Include multicultural content at many levels
James A. Banks’ research in multicultural content integration includes four different levels of integration. When choosing content for products, it is important to try to cover as many levels as possible. Banks mentions that this goes beyond representing a culture during a specific holiday or commonly identified time.
Other opportunities to include multicultural content are as an addition to current curriculum. This means including multicultural texts to further concepts in the preestablished curriculum. Banks identifies this as the first step to transforming a curriculum to be all-inclusive. The final level is to use diverse texts as social action in education.
Multicultural and intercultural education are defined by new dimensions of education, for the school training of European consciousness, cultivation of respect and solidarity towards the culture of other peoples, the development of behaviors and multicultural and intercultural attitudes, involving simultaneous affirmation of each culture with its own set of rules, but also the openness to other cultures, with the purpose of establishing a new common civilization.
Students are through multicultural and intercultural education conducted in the school in order to be able to contribute to the development of the community of which it is part, to build relationships with others, in a spirit of solidarity and of tolerance and in the same time being open to other cultures, able to accept and respect them.
By gathering some multicultural education elements, the acquisition of skills, attitudes and behaviors based on tolerance and respect for each other are necessary in building a developed social community.
1. Banks, J.A., & Banks, C.A.M. (Eds). (1995). Handbook of research on multicultural education. New York: Macmillan
2. Banks and Banks, eds. 2013. Multicultural Education, ‘Multicultural Education: Characteristics and Goals’, ‘Culture, Teaching and Learning’ (John Wiley & Sons).
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Professor Amalia Suflea
The Technological High School of Transport, Ploiesti Municipality