Critical Multicultural Education: an overview

What is Multicultural Education

According to the leading Multicultural Education expert, James Banks (2021), Multicultural Education is  “an idea or concept, an educational reform movement, and a process” (pp.44) in which schools and teachers are tasked with creating opportunities for all students to learn and succeed in and out of the classroom. He goes on to explain that there are five dimensions to modern Multicultural Education;

What is the difference between Critical Multicultural Education and Multicultural Education?

Traditional Multicultural Education has long celebrated diversity and helped students to become aware of diversity in the classroom to promote student success and social empowerment. Critical Multicultural Education takes a step further to promote prejudice and privilege education, curriculum integration, identity formation, and opportunities for authentic partnerships and experiences.

Teachers and Critical Multicultural Education

Teacher identity and teacher reflection are an important part of Critical Multicultural Education

A teacher who engages with Critical Multicultural Education:

  • Recognizes students’ cultural knowledge, values, and ways of being as strengths
  • Is aware of their own privilege and bias
  • Has an open mindset and is constantly looking for ways in which to highlight alternative point-of-views outside of the dominant Korea-centric or West-centric worldview
  • Is sensitive to issues and topics that might be uncomfortable for students from more diverse backgrounds
  • Is knowledgeable about the unique cultural background of their students and works to understand the various diverse cultures that might be represented in the classroom

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

The pedagogical framework often cited alongside Critical Multicultural Education is “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy”.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy acknowledges and engages diverse learning and their experiences, cultural backgrounds, and communities.

In South Korea, this means that “teachers are integrating the cultures and identities of immigrant students, multicultural students, and North Korean refugee students into their instruction.” (Kim, 2020, pp. 88)

A culturally responsive teacher:

  1. Learns about students’ previous experiences and cultural background
  2. Uses this knowledge in the curriculum and in the building of a caring and diverse classroom that also challenges students to success
  3. Empowers students, especially ethnically diverse students, through academic success and cultural connections in the classroom via content and classroom culture

In essence, Multicultural Education should NOT be taught in a textbook only, but instead developed by each educator based on a particular student group. Teachers should encourage students to be proud of their heritage, create assignments that celebrate diverse backgrounds, incorporate Multicultural Education Approaches into their curriculum whenever possible and work towards being an introspective teacher who examines their own values, beliefs, and biases.

As Howard (2021) states,

“The mere understanding of culture cannot translate to effective teaching strategies”

(pp. 145)

Challenges in Critical Multicultural Education

Be careful to avoid…

Cultural Stereotyping

Making general assumptions or generalizations about a cultural group.

  • Example: “All American eat hamburgers”

Educators who seek to create cultural connections can do more damage than assistance.

  • Example: “You like hamburgers? So do Americans! All Americans eat hamburgers!”

“Single Story”

This is when only one “story” of a people group is portrayed, forgetting that most cultures have many sides and stories to tell. This is how stereotypes and prejudice start at the early stages of life, and get reinforced as students go through school.

  • Example: Showing students videos from YouTube about the poor students in Nigeria and how they cannot go to school easily. Without showing the major cities like Lagos where there are globally-accredited Universities and institutions like the Google AI research center.

Language

Language is powerful, and it can be a way in which students and teachers ostracize multicultural students, consciously or unconsciously. Avoid referring to students as ‘Other’ or ‘Foreign’, because this only reinforces the “Us versus Them” mentality. In Korea, students who are dubbed “multicultural” are often pushed to the outside of society as the non-Korean ‘Other’.

  • Example: In some schools, teachers were seen calling on multicultural students using derogatory words (J.H. Kim, 2018), ‘damhwa’, or even just the students’ home country (I.e “China” or “Vietnam”) (Park & Park, 2018)

Citations

Banks, J. A. (2021). Multicultural Education: History and Dimensions. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Transforming Multicultural Education Policy and Practice (pp. 42–52). Essay, Teachers College Press.

Howard, T. C. (2021). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Transforming Multicultural Education Policy & Practice (pp. 137–163). Essay, Teachers College Press.

Kim, H. A. (2020). Understanding “koreanness”: racial stratification and colorism in Korea and implications for Korean Multicultural Education. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 22(1), 76–97. https://doi.org/10.18251/ijme.v22i1.1834

Kim,  J.  H.  (2018,  July  29).  “Ya  damunhwa”…Damimsaemeun  nae  chingureul iruhkae  bulluyo [Hey,  damunhwa…my  homeroom  teacher  calls  my  friend this]. Seoul    Shinmun.    Retrieved    from http://www.seoul.co.kr/news/newsView.php?id=20180730013001&wlog_tag3=naver

Park,  S.  E.,  &  Park,  H.  Y.  (2018,  March  5). Umma, seonsengnimi  nareul ‘damunhwa’ra bulreuyo [Mom, the teacher calls me ‘damunhwa’]. Yonhap News. Retrieved from https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20180305102400797?input=1195m

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