Every person not connected with schooling may think that there is nothing difficult in teacher’s job. This thought is a huge mistake as the number of challenges teachers face every new lesson is incredibly big and this happens in the classrooms where teachers and students speak the same language and understand each other perfectly.
Only imagine how many difficulties a teacher should overcome then if his students are from different countries, with opposite religious views and diverse educational background. However, there are thousands of such multicultural classes working on a daily basis and teachers have to overcome dozens of challenges to achieve the educational goals. Let’s see what these challenges are and how to cope with problems with multicultural education.
Multicultural education: definition, goals and problems
The educational process is known as multicultural if there are two or more students in one classroom have come from other countries or were raised in different customs and traditions.
Its main goal is to provide equal opportunities for school learning to students of different gender, race, social class, coming from different cultures and ethnic groups.
There are also some more specific goals of multicultural education:
- Promote cultural democracy in the society and schools in particular;
- Improve academic achievements of all students;
- Develop skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary for functioning in the community;
- Gain cultural competency etc.
It goes without saying that these goals are very important for all members of society but it is a fact that it will take years to achieve them with all those challenges faced by teachers in the multicultural classrooms.
Unlike customary classrooms, issues in multicultural education make the teaching and learning process a real trial for both teachers and students. All that happens due to the challenges faced by a teacher and influencing the learners.
- Language barrier
The main thing that differs multicultural classrooms from ordinary ones is a language barrier. Coming from different countries and even city districts children can speak the same language but never understand each other. This might be the influence of parents, environment, dialects etc.
However, the situations when students do not know the language of studying happen even more often. Young people get into the environment where a teacher speaks a foreign language they do not understand at all and their task is not only to understand what a teacher says but also gain new knowledge – twice harder than in customary classrooms.
- Domination of different learning styles
Despite the fact that students may differ in race, religion or family background, these young people can also absorb information in a variety of ways. They can be accustomed to other teaching approaches, methods, ways of material presenting so it will take time to get used to everything new.
A teacher should offer his students all the learning styles (auditory, visual, tactile etc.) for learners to grasp information better. Moreover, it is necessary to consider cognitive styles of particular concern like field-dependent and field-independent cognition, reflectivity and impulsivity, tolerance and intolerance for ambiguity.
- The cultural difference can also be noticed in the poorly formed speaker-listener relationships and diverse patterns of cooperation and competition. As a result, students might not know how to behave when a teacher is speaking, have no idea of group or pair work, will not understand the rules of games introduced.
One more important aspect is a prevalence of visual learning materials. As students can hardly understand the language, images can be more effective in acquiring new knowledge.
- Non-verbal behavior
Sometimes it is much easier to understand a foreign language than a body language of another ethnic group. If a teacher is not aware of the non-verbal behaviors characteristic of the society where his students are from, that might bring about a variety of troubles and difficulty of right interpretation. Such customary non-verbal behaviors as raised hands, eye contact, head nods can have a completely different meaning in another country let alone any other body signs.
- Presenting one topic from different perspectives
You may say that every teacher should present a topic from different prospective independent on the pupils’ nationality in the classroom. Of course, it would be great but a restricted number of school lessons does not always provide this opportunity.
In multicultural classes the situation is different. It especially concerns history lessons as some events can be defined by different populations as opposite ones. For example, some movements should be called not only an expansion of one country but also the displacement of another nation.
A teacher should be very careful in his formulations and expressions not to offend feelings of some students. Moreover, he should not try to persuade in the unquestioned truth of his words and views as it may result in a struggle or disappointment among students.
History should be presented as accurately as possible. There is no need to downplay any negative aspects but a task of the teacher is to avoid stereotypes and offer evidence from the primary sources to sound objective.
- Diversity of extracurricular activities
As children from other cultures have appeared in the classroom that differs from theirs it means that they should also get accustomed to new traditions, a way of life, relationships in this new society. In most cases, it is teacher’s job to show and tell about that. It is usually done in different extracurricular activities. Whether it is a holiday or some important date children should learn about it.
- Teaching communication skills
Apart from difficulties in using a foreign language students may feel shy or unable to express their viewpoint because of the horror not to be understood. In some Muslim countries, boys will avoid socializing with girls while in the new environment it is an absolutely normal experience.
Teachers should encourage students to discuss different issues, speak up their mind on a variety of topics and promote a pleasant atmosphere in the classroom.
- Constant work with parents
Every teacher should understand how a student feels in an absolutely new environment and communication with his parents can be helpful in that. It is important to understand how a child has been raised from the childhood, what traditions influenced his view of the world or what is absolutely inadmissible for him. This knowledge will help teachers to build their lessons more effectively and help students to find their place in the classroom.
Many people wonder ‘why is multicultural education important’ but there are many reasons to implement it in modern schools. Today, borders between countries become less and less noticeable as more states are happy to welcome citizens of other countries on their territory. So when a child comes to a new classroom this experience appears very useful both for him and his new classmates. The last ones learn to be tolerant, patient and open to new information, while a child learns to survive in an absolutely different environment and this experience is incredibly important.
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