Thursday 23 March 2017

What Are "Multiculturalism" and "Multicultural Education"?: Goals and Benefits

The present article discusses what multiculturalism stands for; what pluralistic societies or multicultural societies refer to, about macro-cultures, melting pot societies, distinct societies. It also deals with multiculturalism in classroom, cultural pluralism in education, and goals and benefits of multicultural education. Hope you all will enjoy reading this.


What is “Multiculturalism”?

Let’s start with an example. We all have heard about North America. There, multiculturalism has been a fact of life for many years, which is to say that, for many years, North American societies have been composed of a multitude of different cultures. 

In a layman’s term, multiculturalism means “having to do with many cultures”. A culture is the totality of the customary ways of behaving, the beliefs, the attainments, the stories, the songs, the dances, of an identifiable group of people, or of a specified period of time. 

Pluralistic societies (or multicultural societies)--that is, societies such as those in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that are made up of a large number of cultures--are often described by sociologists as having “macro-cultures”.

What is “macro-culture”? A macro-culture is a sort of umbrella culture made up of the combination of many different cultures in what are termed “melting pot” societies.

Within multicultural societies, there are typically also a large number of distinct micro-cultures--that is, identifiable groupings of people who share beliefs, values, and behaviors that are distinctly different from the mainstream ones. 

In Canada, another expression is sometimes used to describe the multiple cultures that make up the nation, that of “distinct societies”.

What is “Culture”? It signifies the customs, beliefs, achievements, art, and literature that is particular to a distinct group of people. 

What are “pluralistic societies”? Societies which are composed of many different cultures are called pluralistic societies. 

What is “macro-culture”? It refers to the type of culture that results from the melding of aspects of a variety of different cultures over time.

What are “melting pot societies”?  Geographical or political entities composed of a variety of cultures that are gradually assimilated to the dominant culture. The end result is that individual cultures are no longer identifiable, and the dominant culture becomes a macro-culture.

What is “micro-culture”?  Within a pluralistic society, identifiable minority groups who share a distinct culture different from that of the majority culture.

What is “distinct society”?  It is a metaphor used to describe the Canadian cultural scene where, theoretically, two distinct cultures coexist; neither has been assimilated to the other as would happen in a melting pot society. 

How a “race” is different from culture? We often think of culture and race as though they were largely synonymous. But, strictly speaking, a race is a major biological subdivision of individuals who share a common genetic ancestry and who are often identified on the basis of physical characteristics. 

The term “Ethnic” is another one which is frequently bandied about as though it meant both race and culture.

What ethnic signifies is membership in a racial, cultural, or language group where individuals share important things such as beliefs and values, history, or other characteristics. This causes them to have a sense of shared identity, or belongingness.

So when we speak of ethnic difference, we might be referring to language differences, cultural differences, or racial differences—or perhaps to all three.

What is a “race”? Race is a biological term referring to an attempt to classify humans in groups distinguishable in terms of their genetic ancestry; often identifiable on the basis of physical, mental, or personality characteristics. The concept is unclear, contradictory, and not very useful.

What is “racism”? It refers to the belief that identifiable groups of humans inherit different physical, mental, and personality characteristics.

What is “ethnic”? It refers to the sharing of beliefs, values, history, or other characteristics, as might happen with distinct cultural or language groups. 

What is “Multicultural Education”?

Multicultural education refers to the education that reflects an understanding and appreciation of different cultures and that accommodates to the needs of children from different backgrounds.

Multicultural Education

Multicultural education is three things, explain Banks and Banks (1997): First, it’s the idea that all children, regardless of their ethnic characteristics, should have an equal opportunity to learn and grow in school; second, it’s a reform movement that is trying to change schools to make this idea a reality; and third, it’s the ongoing, never-ending process of devising and implementing the changes that the reform movement requires.

Multicultural education is enormously challenging and also intensely controversial. This is clearly evident, for example, in the language issue that faces California.

Why We Need Multicultural Education:

As we have seen because of differing birth and immigration: rates, the demographic characteristics of North American societies are changing rapidly; as a result, increasing numbers of students come to school with limited English language proficiency. And it has repeatedly been shown that, such students are at serious risk of failing in school (Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1995).

In 1995, for example, more than 45 percent of Hispanic youths 18 to 24 years old, compared with only 18 percent of whites, were high school dropouts (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997). ‘
Brisk (1991) notes that the poor achievement of English as a Second Language (ESL) students in the United States was traditionally viewed as the students’ problem--a problem for which schools. need not accept any special responsibility.

In some instances, the problem would rectify itself with exposure to traditional schooling, but in many cases students would simply fail. In fact, Edwards and Redfern (1992) also report significant, and often unrecognized, under performance and failure among children from non-dominant cultures in both Canada and England.

These authors explain that although multiculturalism has long been a fact of life in these countries, through much of their history they have encouraged a sort of linguistic homogeneity. The clearest signs of this myth of homogeneity were found in schools where all instruction typically occurred in English and minority cultures and languages thus tended to remain largely invisible.

With the rapid demographic changes of the late 20th century, there has been increasing recognition and appreciation of the multicultural aspects of North American society. As a result, many school jurisdictions have begun to assume increasing responsibility for the growth and performance of all their students, now that an increasing number of them represent different cultures and languages.

The Goals of Multicultural Education: 

Multicultural education is a loosely defined concept that reflects the attempts of educators to take into consideration the cultural diversity of their classrooms and communities.

And because it is very difficult to separate culture from language, in the majority of cases, multicultural education is also multilingual--that is, it involves instruction in more than one language.
Goals of multicultural education

Banks and Banks (1997) describe several important goals of multicultural education. One of its major goals, they note, is to reform educational systems so that all children are treated equally by the schools, regardless of their cultural and language background. A second related goal is to rid school systems of unequal treatment of boys and girls.

Meeting these goals, note Banks and Banks, requires major changes not only in curriculum and teaching methods, but also in teachers’ and administrators’ attitudes. 

What is “Multicultural education”? Educational procedures and curricula that are responsive to the various cultures and languages of students. with the goal of assuring that all children experience high-quality education. 
What is “English as a Second Language (ESL)”?: An expression used to describe programs designed specifically for nonnative English speakers. 


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