Multiculturalism and Diversity in Education

What is Diversity?

Equality and Diversity is the idea of accepting and promoting the differences between people. More specifically, equality is about ensuring that individuals are treated fairly and equally, no matter their race, gender, age, disability or religion. Diversity is about recognising these differences to create an all-inclusive atmosphere.

Societies rely on different models to address ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in education, with different potential consequences for the experiences young people have in schools and different implications for policy and identity. For example, countries like Germany, Greece and Ireland prefer interculturalism or intercultural education. On the other hand, places like Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and the US have historically worked with the concept of multiculturalism.

Why Multiculturalism is essential in schools

The reason why multiculturalism is so important in schools is because it acts as a way for students from different cultural groups to communicate and interact with each other. Students may distance themselves from other cultural groups because they may not know them well, their culture is different and may have questions about the other cultures. They may not understand the background, beliefs or where similarities and differences exist between two cultures. There may be a strong likelihood of creating an ‘us and them’ mentality. This will lead to children thinking and having doubts before mixing with children from different cultures. Promoting diversity and multiculturalism in education may be a way of clearing some misconceptions students might have towards certain cultural groups and it will remove any doubts in the minds of students regarding those groups. In turn, it will lessen the amount of bullying cases which target culturally different groups. Teachers can incorporate group projects or discussions in class when teaching topics on multiculturalism. This allows students to step out of their comfort zone and communicate with each other; inviting the culturally diverse students to speak of their festivities, music, food, and belief systems.

Promoting Multiculturalism and Diversity

Promoting diversity in education is very important for both teachers and students. The aim is to create an environment where all students can thrive together and understand that individual characteristics make people unique and not different in a negative way.

Multiculturalism and Diversity should be promoted in the classrooms and it is something children should be familiar with from an early age. There are many ways in which this can be done:

  • Setting clear rules on how people should be treated.
  • Challenging any negative attitudes.
  • Treating all staff and students fairly and equally.
  • Creating an all-inclusive culture for staff and students.
  • Avoiding stereotypes in examples and resources.
  • Using resources with multicultural themes.
  • Actively promoting multiculturalism in lessons.
  • Planning lessons that reflect the diversity of the classroom.
  • Ensuring all students have equal access to opportunities and participation.

There are also other ways to promote multiculturalism and diversity in classrooms. Teachers can identify opportunities for students to work collaboratively in diverse groups. Also, paying attention to the needs of students from different groups, ensuring that children’s needs are met if they are struggling with something and they get access to help. Lastly, making it explicit to students the standards of conduct that you expect in the way that they interact and deal promptly and appropriately with inappropriate behaviour.

Include activities in classrooms so children gain knowledge on all types of cultures, religions and traditions. There could be an “African week,” “Indian week,” “Islam week,” “Christianity week,” “Disability week” and so on. This way children will learn all sorts of different topics and they could also try different cultural food, listen to music, play games, learn facts and watch videos.

Educating people about the variety of cultures brings many other benefits. Creating an inclusive classroom environment where everyone feels comfortable and equal can help build confidence and encourage pupils to participate in group settings, answer questions and ask for help, all of which can help them to achieve academically. Children who learn about diversity and cultural awareness have better social skills, increased confidence and are often more accepting of people who are different from themselves. In the process of learning about diversity, children will learn valuable skills such as acceptance, inclusion and equality. This will help tackle issues like racism.

According to the Home Office, race hate crimes went up by 11{12e38f106f18400ea1da53be0017f974ee8051c2dd65ac8be2bbc14724cc2f4c} in 2019 compared to the year before. Providing early cultural diversity education to children whose personality traits and attitudes are still developing could be a potential solution to discrimination and this rise in hate crimes aimed towards minorities in the UK. Educating children in diversity increases creativity, encourages open-mindedness and provides a wealth of opportunities. It lays down the foundations for an inclusive society that embraces differences. This education needs to start at primary school so children can reap the benefits and grow to be part of a more inclusive generation.