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Multiculturalism in teaching and learning - Essay Example

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Education is reasonably considered one of the most important national priorities in Australia, while any innovative approach or method that may potentially affect the quality of education immediately becomes a subject for spirited discussions. The concept of multicultural education has recently turned into one of the most debated issues in this regard.
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MULTICULTURALISM IN TEACHING AND LEARNING 2006 MULTICULTURALISM IN TEACHING AND LEARNING Education is reasonably considered one of the most important national priorities in Australia, while any innovative approach or method that may potentially affect the quality of education immediately becomes a subject for spirited discussions. The concept of multicultural education has recently turned into one of the most debated issues in this regard.
The historical origin of this approach can be traced back to the civil rights movements when African Americans and other historically oppressed minorities challenged discriminatory educational practices in the 1960s (Davidman and Davidman, 1997). Since those days multicultural education has developed into a broad framework encompassing variety of models sharing the core principles of multicultural approach.
Multicultural education in Australia is believed to serve two main purposes: on the one hand, prepare all students to live in a multicultural society; on the other hand, ensure equal future opportunities for migrant and native students. Besides, multicultural education encompasses several dimensions. James A. Banks, one of the most influential and renowned multiculturalist, outlines five of them: integration, knowledge construction, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and an empowering school culture (Banks, 2003). These dimensions additionally emphasize the multifaceted and broad nature of multicultural education. Yet, it will be misleading to forget that the concept remains a relatively new one that continues to change: the key question is whether multicultural education is still relevant these days or new challenges produced by modern society has gradually turned it obsolete
The answers given to this question vary amazingly. Many believe that multicultural educational policies help students develop new human capabilities and new identities in order to properly respond to the increasing need to recognize cultural diversity. Multicultural education promotes the ideals of cultural and educational equity, social justice thus enabling students to reach their fully potential in learning the curriculum. Finally, it offers to revisit the traditional views on teaching/learning, student achievement, role of teacher, role of language and cultural background and many others (Kalantzis, Varnava-Skoura and, Cope, 2002). The broadness of multicultural framework is perfectly illustrated by the fact that the number of definitions given to it nearly equals the number of those whom make such attempt.
Obviously, the idea of multicultural education looks extremely attractive as an effective tool to reinforce the all-Australian society and at the same time respect the inclination of different ethnic groups to preserve their cultural traditions. However, practical application of this idea produced a series of publications questioning credibility of multicultural education.
Firstly, despite being praised as the most tolerant multicultural societies, the monocultural or ethnocentric tradition in Australian schools represents a very serious challenge to effectiveness multicultural education. For example, Australian authorities started to legally enforce multicultural approach in education back in the 1980s, but even these days Australian schools are criticized for not providing indigenous population the same opportunities as majority of other ethnic groups (Hudson, 2003: 387).
Secondly, there are serious doubts that multicultural education addresses its goals equally. Thus, the recent splash of violence in Cronulla has led many to believe that multicultural approach only emphasizes the differences between the ethnic group residing in Australia, while the need to reinforce the Australian identity and cultivate the feeling of belonging to the same group is not addressed at all (Donelly, 2005).
The example of multicultural education once again shows us the difference between theory and practice. On the one hand, multiculturalism definitely played a serious role in reducing discrimination and inequalities in the realm of education. On the other hand, multicultural education failed to address the difficult task of unifying Australia without neglecting the cultural and ethnic traditions of minorities. Moreover, the constantly changing society creates new challenges that can hardly be addressed within the existing framework of multicultural education.
However, failure to achieve certain goals does not mean that the concept of multicultural education is futile per se. On the contrary, it should create additional motivation for scholars and teachers to look for innovations and new opportunities to meet the challenges of these days and correct the previous mistakes. Multicultural education must be changed seriously to effectively respond to the needs of this epoch.
Davidman, L., and Davidman, P. (1997). Teaching with a multicultural perspective: A practical guide. New York: Longman.
Donelly, K. (2005) "Perils of Multicultural Education", The Australian, December 19
Hudson, A.H. (2003) "Multicultural Education and the Postcolonial Turn", Policy Features in Education, Vol.1, Num. 2: pp.381-401
Kalantzis, M., G. Varnava-Skoura and B. Cope (Eds) (2002). Learning for the Future: New Worlds, New Literacies, New Learning, New People. Common Ground Publishing
Banks, J.A. (2003) "Multicultural Education: Historical Development, Dimensions, and Practice". In: Banks, J.A., and C.M. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, 2nd Edition, Jossey-Bass Publishing: pp. 2-28
Ladson-Billings, G. (2003) "New Directions in Multicultural Education: Complexities, Boundaries, and Critical Race Theory". In: Banks, J.A., and C.M. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, 2nd Edition, Jossey-Bass Publishing: pp. 50-65 Read More
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