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The importance of multicultural education

Group of multicultural educators smiling with arms crossed.

America has always benefited from the contributions and viewpoints of diverse people. Multicultural education emphasizes and celebrates the wide range of cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds that students bring to school and society. The multicultural classroom embraces equity and inclusion as a means of teaching global awareness and promoting student success. 1

This post will explore the benefits of multicultural education for fostering inclusion and understanding among students.

Celebrate cultural diversity

A classroom is a unique blend of students from different economic situations, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, ethnicities, and traditions.

Celebrating cultural diversity shows that you value all of them equally and appreciate the richness they bring to your classroom. It also gives you the opportunity to expose students to other cultures on a regular basis, a practice that has many academic and social benefits, including higher student achievement, cultural competence, and increased empathy. 2

Classroom teachers can celebrate cultural diversity in the classroom in the following ways:

  • Coordinate with special area teachers to explore the music and art of other cultures 2
  • Build a classroom or school library that contains books that feature characters from many different countries and living situations as well as books written by diverse authors 2
  • Encourage students to bring items from home that represent their culture and talk about them with the class 2
  • Celebrate holidays from around the world, not just the ones from the predominant culture and religion in your school 2

Foster inclusive learning environments

A culturally inclusive learning environment creates a safe and fair classroom where students from all backgrounds can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Social and cultural considerations can impact how a student learns.

Teachers can help students succeed by recognizing and adjusting for individual cultural differences among their students.

Culture is a broad term that includes the following elements:

  • Language differences 3
  • Family values 3
  • Family dynamics, such as multigenerational homes 3
  • Socioeconomic status 3

By getting to know students, teachers will be better able to predict issues that may arise with a particular lesson or activity. They can also tap into the cultural knowledge of their students as a learning resource for the entire classroom. 4

Global citizenship and interconnectedness

Global citizenship recognizes that we are all connected to each other through economic, environmental, social, and political factors. Multicultural education seeks to promote peace through learning and embracing our shared humanity. Global citizens understand the value of others and the interconnected nature of the challenges of inequality. 5

Teachers can promote global awareness by including a global perspective in the curriculum, organizing multicultural events, and establishing connections and partnerships with schools in other countries.

Technology provides a window into other countries, cultures, and perspectives through virtual exchanges and meaningful conversations. 6

Embracing diverse students

In the realm of multicultural education, where the tapestry of knowledge weaves together, embracing diverse students becomes a cornerstone of fostering an inclusive and dynamic learning environment.

Each student brings forth a unique mosaic of experiences, rich cultural backgrounds, and varied learning styles to the classroom. It is within this diversity that the true beauty of education unfolds.

Teachers, as architects of knowledge, hold the power to implement innovative strategies. An example of a classroom activity that embraces diverse students is "Cultural Carousel." In this activity, students rotate through stations that represent different cultures, engaging in activities such as art, music, or storytelling. This allows students to experience and appreciate various cultural expressions, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among classmates of all abilities and backgrounds.

By employing a diverse range of teaching methods that cater to different learning styles, educators create an atmosphere where every student's voice is heard and valued. The curriculum becomes a canvas, enriched with the vibrant hues of diverse ethnic groups' perspectives, offering students a profound understanding of the intricacies of our diverse world.

This approach cultivates well-rounded individuals, fostering an appreciation for the manifold tapestry that shapes our collective journey.

Nurturing the school environment

Crafting a positive and inclusive school environment is a pivotal endeavor in the landscape of multicultural education. Doing so extends beyond the confines of the classroom, enveloping the entire school community in an atmosphere of acceptance and celebration.

Schools, as nurturing gardens of knowledge, can organize vibrant events that pay homage to various cultural traditions, involving parents and students alike in the mosaic of multicultural activities that foster unity.

An example of nurturing the school environment with students is the "Global Friendship Project." In this project, students collaborate with peers from different cultural backgrounds to create a shared project, such as a presentation, artwork, or a story that reflects the diversity within the school community. This not only encourages collaboration but also promotes a sense of belonging and understanding among students of all abilities and backgrounds.

This endeavor involves not only the celebration of diversity but also the establishment of policies that sow the seeds of inclusivity and holistic growth, creating an environment where every student thrives academically, socially, and emotionally. In this nurturing space, the spirit of multicultural education takes root, promising a journey of learning that transcends boundaries and fosters a rich understanding of our interconnected world.

Enhance critical thinking and perspective-taking

By exploring diverse perspectives, multicultural education promotes critical thinking and the ability to look at issues from multiple perspectives.

Older students can examine current events through a more comprehensive lens that includes historical perspectives and social injustices, such as institutional racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. With these wider considerations, students are better able to understand the various factors at play behind some of today’s most controversial social issues. 7

Address social injustice and equity

A multicultural education promotes equity and inclusion for all students. Teachers can lay a foundation of respect and tolerance by facilitating meaningful discussions about racial justice and equity. Raising students’ awareness about inequalities in their daily lives can help them identify and stop patterns of discrimination and unfairness. 8

Educators can address social injustice by teaching students to relate to others as individuals and recognize stereotypes. Teachers can point out the unfairness displayed in individual interactions versus injustice at the institutional level. Students can analyze the impact of injustice in the world, both historically and currently. 9

Teach multilingualism and language diversity

The United States has a rich linguistic culture, with over 20% of children speaking a non-English language at home. Multilingual students maintain stronger connections with their cultural heritage and family, fostering broader social networks and cross-cultural understanding. Bilingualism enhances cognitive skills, such as task-switching, focus, and environmental awareness. Research indicates bilingual children excel in problem-solving and working memory tasks. 10

Dual language programs allow students to achieve better academic outcomes and English-language skills than English-only programs. Multicultural educational programs that promote multilingualism and language diversity lead to higher college attendance rates and better job prospects while fostering inclusive civic participation. 10

Measuring the impact of multicultural education

It can be difficult to assess the impact of multicultural education among diverse students. However, research has shown that multicultural education is highly beneficial in fostering understanding and tolerance among students from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in both low- and high-socioeconomic school districts. There is also evidence of associated improvements in student behavior and achievement that make the investment in creating multicultural classrooms worthwhile for both students and educators. 11

Become a leader in multicultural education

An online master’s in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Kansas will equip you with the skills you need to create future global citizens. Make a difference in your school, community, and world by developing policies and initiatives that foster justice and interconnectedness for all students.

Earn your degree in two years with our flexible, convenient online program. Contact a KU admissions outreach advisors today to get started.

  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from interculturalmontessori.org/multicultural-education-characteristics/
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from continentalpress.com/blog/cultural-diversity-in-the-classroom/
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from teachbetter.com/blog/celebrating-diversity-for-an-inclusive-learning-environment/
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from globallytaught.com/blog/8-powerful-habits-to-build-a-multicultural-classroom/
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from unesco.org/en/global-citizenship-peace-education/need-know
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from everydayspeech.com/sel-implementation/fostering-global-mindset-in-high-school-students-best-practices-for-educators/
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from culturalinfusion.org.au/6-reasons-why-multicultural-education-is-essential-in-our-diverse-world/
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from militarychild.org/upload/images/MGS%202022/WellbeingToolkit/AL_4_1_Social_Justice_interactiv.pdf
  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from learningforjustice.org/frameworks/social-justice-standards
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  • Retrieved on January 12, 2023, from jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/d97b93d2-7bcf-4490-bdd2-ffe874099c78/content

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The Importance of Multicultural Education

Conceptions of multicultural education, multiculturalism and curriculum development, reality/representation.

The Importance of Multicultural Education - thumbnail

Effectively managing such diversity in U.S. society and schools is at once a very old and a very new challenge. Benjamin Barber (1992) eloquently makes the point that America has always been a tale of peoples trying to be a People, a tale of diversity and plurality in search of unity. Cleavages among [diverse groups] . . . have irked and divided Americans from the start, making unity a civic imperative as well as an elusive challenge. (p. 41)
A hundred years ago, W. E. B. Du Bois (1994) proposed that the problem of the 20th century was conflict and controversy among racial groups, particularly between African and European Americans. He concluded that Between these two worlds [black and white], despite much physical contact and daily intermingling, there is almost no community of intellectual life or point of transference where the thoughts and feelings of one race can come into direct contact and sympathy with the thoughts and feelings of the other.
  • Creating learning goals and objectives that incorporate multicultural aspects, such as “Developing students' ability to write persuasively about social justice concerns.”
  • Using a frequency matrix to ensure that the teacher includes a wide variety of ethnic groups in a wide variety of ways in curriculum materials and instructional activities.
  • Introducing different ethnic groups and their contributions on a rotating basis.
  • Including several examples from different ethnic experiences to explain subject matter concepts, facts, and skills.
  • Showing how multicultural content, goals, and activities intersect with subject-specific curricular standards.

Banks, J. A. (1994). Multiethnic education: Theory and practice (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2001). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of research on multicultural education (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Barber, B. R. (1992). An aristocracy of everyone: The politics of education and the future of America . New York: Oxford University Press.

Bennett, C. I. (2003). Comprehensive multicultural education: Theory and practice . Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Boykin, A. W., & Bailey, C. T. (2000). The role of cultural factors in school relevant cognitive functioning: Synthesis of findings on cultural context, cultural orientations, and individual differences . (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 441 880)

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1994). The souls of black folk . New York: Gramercy Books.

Grant, C. A., & Gomez, M. L. (2000). (Eds.). Making school multicultural: Campus and classroom (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Hollins, E. R. (1996). Culture in school learning: Revealing the deep meaning . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Irvine, J. J., & Armento, B. J. (Eds.). (2001). Culturally responsive teaching: Lesson planning for elementary and middle grades . Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Lee, C. (1993). Signifying as a scaffold to literary interpretation: The pedagogical implications of a form of African American discourse (NCTE Research Report No. 26). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Lipka, J., & Mohatt, G. V. (1998). Transforming the culture of schools: Yup'ik eskimo examples . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Loewen, J. W. (1995). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong . New York: New Press.

McCarty, T. L. (2002). A place to be Navajo: Rough Rock and the struggle for self-determination in indigenous schooling . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31 (1), 132–141.

Moses, R. P., & Cobb, C. E., Jr. (2001). Radical equations: Math literacy and civil rights . Boston: Beacon Press.

Nieto, S. (2000). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (3rd ed.). New York: Longman.

Park, C. C., Goodwin, A. L., & Lee, S. J. (Eds.). (2001). Research on the education of Asian and Pacific Americans . Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishers.

Shade, B. J. (Ed.). (1989). Culture, style, and the educative process . Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wlodkowski, R. J., & Ginsberg, M. B. (1995). Diversity & motivation: Culturally responsive teaching . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Expert Commentary

Multicultural education: How schools teach it and where educators say it falls short

Below, we provide a sampling of academic research that looks at how multicultural education has changed in recent decades and inconsistencies in the way today’s teachers teach it.

multicultural education

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by Denise-Marie Ordway, The Journalist's Resource January 25, 2021

This <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org/education/multicultural-education-schools/">article</a> first appeared on <a target="_blank" href="https://journalistsresource.org">The Journalist's Resource</a> and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.<img src="https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/cropped-jr-favicon-150x150.png" style="width:1em;height:1em;margin-left:10px;">

As American public schools have grown more diverse, educators have introduced multicultural education programs to help kids understand and appreciate the differences among them — differences in terms of race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity and other personal characteristics.

Multicultural education, broadly, is a range of strategies educators use to help students “develop a positive self-concept by providing knowledge about the histories, cultures, and contributions of diverse groups,” according to the nonprofit National Association for Multicultural Education .

These programs, which vary by state and even within individual school districts, “should directly address issues of racism, sexism, classism, linguicism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, religious intolerance, and xenophobia,” the association explains on its website. One goal of multicultural education is developing the attitudes, knowledge and skills students need to function in different cultures and join a global workforce.

Below, we provide a sampling of academic research that looks at how multicultural education has changed in recent decades and inconsistencies in the way today’s teachers teach it. We also included studies that reveal problems in how U.S. colleges and universities train teachers to do this work.

At the bottom of this page, we added a list of resources to help journalists better understand and contextualize the issue, including federal data on how student and teacher demographics have changed over time and links to organizations with expertise in multicultural education.

It’s important to note there are significant differences between multicultural education and anti-racist education — two types of education discussed with greater frequency in recent years. Unlike multicultural education, anti-racism education focuses on race and race-related issues. Anti-racist teachers “create a curriculum with black students in mind” and “view the success of black students as central to the success of their own teaching,” Pirette McKamey, the first Black principal of Mission High School in San Francisco, writes in The Atlantic .

Many educators and researchers argue that schools serving predominantly white communities benefit tremendously from multicultural education. Sheldon Eakins , a former teacher and school principal who founded the Leading Equity Center, writes about this for the Cult of Pedagogy website:

“It’s not uncommon for White people to say, Oh, I’m just White. I don’t have a culture . We need to teach our White students about what their cultural background is and their ethnic backgrounds so they can understand and think about their language and religions going back to their ancestry. Lessons on their culture may help them start to understand how privilege and White supremacy began.”

At the same time, Eakins and others, including education professor Wayne Au of the University of Washington Bothell, have criticized multicultural education for falling short in preparing youth to confront and dismantle racism.

“Yes, multicultural education is important, but in the face of the hateful violence being visited on so many of our students and communities, it is simply not enough,” Au writes in a paper published in Multicultural Perspectives in 2017.

A brief history of multicultural education

Thirty Years of Scholarship in Multicultural Education Thandeka K. Chapman and Carl A. Grant. Gender & Class Journal , 2010.

This paper offers a broad overview of what multicultural education is in the U.S. and how it changed over three decades. The authors rely on academic research to chronicle the trend, beginning in the 1960s, when scholars argued that the histories and contributions of people of color should be part of the public school curriculum.

Thandeka Chapman , a professor of education studies at the University of California, San Diego, and Carl Grant , a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explain how multicultural education evolved to include discussions about gender, physical disabilities, age and sexual identity and orientation.

The authors also describe how critics of the trend actually helped it.

“Advocates used these attacks to develop more meaningful and appropriate ways to help teachers and students in classrooms,” Chapman and Grant write. “These criticisms of MCE [multicultural education] have further advanced discussions of equity, equality, and social justice in ways that would not be possible if opponents had remained silent.”

Challenges in teaching multicultural education

Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness Angelina E. Castagno. American Journal of Education , November 2013.

In this yearlong study, the author spotlights problems in the way an urban Utah school district teaches multicultural education. She finds that instead of dismantling “whiteness” — she defines this as “structural arrangements and ideologies of racial dominance within the United States” — multicultural education, as offered in this school district, protects it.

Angelina E. Castagno , an associate professor of educational leadership and foundations at Northern Arizona University, writes that her findings should not be surprising considering the teachers she observed and interviewed “were predominantly White, middle-class individuals who, for the most part, have little reason to disrupt the status quo and the current relations of power.”

“Most educators are well intentioned and want what is best for their students, but whiteness is protected despite (and sometimes through) even the best intentions,” Castagno writes. “Part of the problem is that most educators are not aware of whiteness. But in addition to this lack of awareness, most educators are also invested in the status quo of whiteness.”

She notes the importance of getting a better understanding of how teachers are teaching the topic.

“All teachers, administrators, multicultural education scholars, and teacher/administrator educators need a better understanding and awareness of how multicultural education is understood by teachers in schools across the country,” Castagno writes. “While there is much research highlighting the efforts of some teachers who seem to have embraced more critical forms of multicultural education, these teachers probably do not represent the majority of teachers in most schools.”

Problems in how colleges train teachers

Supporting Critical Multicultural Teacher Educators: Transformative Teaching, Social Justice Education, and Perceptions of Institutional Support Paul C. Gorski and Gillian Parekh. Intercultural Education , 2020.

This study looks at how college instructors teach multicultural education to students in the U.S. and Canada who are studying to become schoolteachers. It finds that college instructors who teach a more conservative version of multicultural education perceive their higher education institution to be more supportive of their work.

The researchers analyze data collected from a survey of 186 people who teach multicultural education to future teachers, conducted in 2015 and 2016. Researchers recruited participants by reaching out to instructors individually and by posting invitations on social media platforms used by instructors. About 90% of survey participants taught at institutions in the U.S.

Instructors answered questions related to the ideological approach they took in their multicultural teacher education courses — whether they took a conservative, liberal and critical approach.

The authors explain that the conservative form of multicultural teacher education, or MTE, “is assimilationist; it prepares teachers to help marginalized students conform to ‘mainstream culture and its attending values, mores, and norms.’” Meanwhile, liberal MTE “prepares teachers to celebrate diversity but, like conservative MTE, fails to prepare them to understand or respond to ways power and inequity are wielded in schools,” write Paul Gorski , founder of the Equity Literacy Institute, and Gillian Parekh , an assistant professor of education at York University. “Critical MTE prepares teachers to participate in the reconstruction of schools by advocating equity, confronting issues of power and privilege, and disrupting oppressive policies and practices.”

Gorski and Parekh find that multicultural teacher education classes “tend to have a conservative or liberal orientation, focused on appreciating diversity or cultural competence, rather than a critical orientation, focused on preparing teachers to address inequity.” That might be because instructors believe their institutions are less supportive of courses that take a critical approach, the researchers write.

“Our results indicate that multicultural teacher educators’ perceptions regarding whether the values they teach in their MTE courses are supported by their institutions is correlated with the criticality with which they design and teach those courses,” Gorski and Parekh write.

Instructors who take a conservative approach “pose no real threat to the injustices MTE ought to disrupt, perceive significantly greater institutional support for the values they teach in their MTE courses,” according to the authors. “Contrarily, those who employ a critical approach perceive significantly less institutional support.”

What We’re Teaching Teachers: An Analysis of Multicultural Teacher Education Coursework Syllabi Paul C. Gorski. Teaching and Teacher Education , 2008.

This study, which Gorski also authored, looks at course syllabi to see how U.S. colleges were teaching multicultural education to future teachers. Even though it is an older study, it offers insights into how colleges approached the issue at the time. The gist of Gorski’s findings: “The analysis revealed that most of the courses were designed to prepare teachers with pragmatic skills and personal awareness, but not to prepare them in accordance with the key principles of multicultural education, such as critical consciousness and a commitment to educational equity.”

Gorski analyzed 45 class syllabi from college courses designed to train teachers in multicultural education. Of them, 30 were undergraduate courses and 15 were graduate courses. Gorski finds that “only twelve syllabi (26.7%) seemed designed to prepare teachers to be what might be called authentic multicultural educators.”

Social Foundations and Multicultural Education Course Requirements in Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States Richard Neumann. Educational Foundations , Summer-Fall 2010.

In this study, Richard Neumann , a professor of education at San Diego State University, looks at whether teacher colleges in the U.S. require students to complete coursework in multicultural education. The key takeaway: At the time, fewer than half of the 302 universities studied required students wanting to become teachers to take a course in multicultural education.

Among programs that train students to work as elementary school teachers, 45% required at least one course in multicultural education. For programs that train secondary school teachers, 45% required students to complete at least one multicultural education course. Neumann learned that a larger percentage of public university programs required a multicultural education course than did programs offered at private universities.

Self-Efficacy and Multicultural Teacher Education in the United States: The Factors That Influence Who Feels Qualified to be a Multicultural Teacher Educator Paul C. Gorski, Shannon N. Davis and Abigail Reiter. Multicultural Perspectives , 2012.

This paper looks at which educators feel most qualified to teach multicultural education to students studying to become teachers. The analysis, based on a survey of 75 college instructors, indicates that Black educators tend to feel less qualified to teach multicultural teacher education courses than their counterparts of other races and ethnicities.

Heterosexual educators felt more qualified to teach multicultural teacher education courses than their LGBTQ counterparts, according to the paper, of which Gorski is the lead author. The other two authors are Shannon N. Davis , director of the PhD program in sociology at George Mason University, and Abigail Reiter , an assistant professor in the sociology and criminal justice department of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

The study also indicates that instructors’ experience working in schools — as elementary, middle or high school teachers — or their work as education activists “had no significant influence on their feelings of being qualified to teach MTE [multicultural teacher education] courses.”

Key resources

  • This May 2020 report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows how student demographics have changed over time and are predicted to change by 2029.
  • This February 2019 report from NCES finds that in fall 2015, the majority of white public school students were enrolled at schools where minority students comprised 25% or less of the student population.
  • This September 2020 report from NCES examines public school teacher demographics. More than three-fourths of teachers working in U.S. public schools — 79% — were white as of 2017-18, the most recent academic year for which the federal government has complete data.
  • Here is a list of the country’s top education schools , ranked by U.S. News & World Report .
  • Kansas State University’s Tilford Group is a research organization that focuses on multicultural education.
  • The National Education Association , one of the nation’s largest teacher unions, offers educators various types of training through its Center for Social Justice .
  • The nonprofit National Association for Multicultural Education provides a range of relevant resources. The organization’s president is Lisa Zagumny , who also is the dean and director of doctoral studies at Tennessee Technological University’s College of Education.

About The Author

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Denise-Marie Ordway

What Is Multicultural Education? An Educator’s Guide to Teaching Diverse Students

A group of students use their electronics while sitting at their desks.

The United States has always been a multicultural country. As a result, the US education system is made up of students from a variety of backgrounds. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 50.7 million students attended public elementary and secondary schools in 2018, bringing a variety of backgrounds, languages, perspectives, and cultures to the classroom. Since culture and education have an impact on each other, it is important for people of all cultures to value education and for the education system to value all cultures.

Educators can use different teaching methods to promote multicultural education. They can cultivate learning environments that benefit diverse student populations. Even though instruction often relies on the contents of specific curricula, teachers can infuse multicultural education into every element of their instruction, from the projects they assign to the lessons they teach. Teachers in the US education system should be willing to ask what multicultural education is and how they can incorporate it effectively.

What Is Multicultural Education?

Multicultural education values different student cultures and prepares students to thrive in a diverse world. At its core, multicultural education fosters equality, justice, and equity, and it establishes the reality of philosophical ideals in classroom environments. Multicultural education is what schools implement to establish equitable educational opportunities for all their students. It is also an ongoing process of helping students succeed in their academic and personal lives.

Teachers, administrators, and school leaders play an important role in ensuring the incorporation of multicultural education by selecting and managing policies, curricula, and teaching styles. The practice relies on educators who value the histories and experiences of diverse groups of students. Schools and teachers can approach multicultural education in a variety of ways, supporting students as they develop positive perspectives of their own cultures as well as the cultures of their peers. By incorporating culturally responsive pedagogy in curricula and teaching practices, teachers can create an inclusive classroom that values all students.

Four Ways Educators Can Implement Multicultural Education in the Classroom

There are many ways educators can promote social justice and equity in schools, from working to hire a more diverse teacher workforce to mindfully selecting assigned readings that reflect broad cultural diversity. Additionally, teachers promoting equal learning opportunities for students of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds can implement multicultural education in the classroom in the following ways:

Be Aware of Biases

For educators to understand what multicultural education is and implement it in their classrooms, they need to be aware of potential biases. While teachers may be open minded and want to deliver equitable instruction, they may have underlying biases they may not be aware of.

Further, teachers should understand they may be working with students from many backgrounds who may have biases against one another for cultural, racial, ethnic, or religious reasons. To cultivate safe and productive learning environments, teachers should be aware of any bias and work toward dissipating it. Teachers can also challenge the status quo by inspiring students to address social and school-based inequities that create unequal experiences for marginalized people. Students can be taught to recognize inequities in their classroom and community and use the classroom to discuss real problems their students identify.

Value Life Experiences

It’s important for educators to value their students’ experiences. Students bring unique perspectives to the classroom and can share their own stories or those of family members. Allowing students to share these experiences with their classmates can accomplish at least two goals: providing validation for the students who share similar experiences and introducing students to new perspectives. Teachers can also incorporate the history, values, and cultural knowledge of students’ home communities in the classroom instruction. This transformative practice validates students’ identities and communicates the importance of learning about others’ experiences.

Understand Student Learning Styles

Teachers can promote equitable learning by being aware of their students’ various learning styles, which can be influenced by their backgrounds and upbringing. Some students may be visual learners, others tactile learners or auditory learners. To embody what multicultural education is, teachers can vary their methods of instruction to reach all of their students. Teachers should design lessons that allow students to express their thoughts and experiences in their own voices. Teachers can encourage students to learn from one another’s experiences and ask questions that promote understanding.

Assign Multicultural Projects

Teachers can emphasize the importance of different cultural backgrounds represented in their classrooms through lessons and assignments. They can highlight different cultures in their curricula embedding the study of diverse cultures and peoples in their core academic content. All students can engage with this authentic reading, writing, and problem-solving experiences. Students can write about their family histories or interview family members. They can work with each other to learn about new cultures.

Benefits of Implementing Multicultural Education

Teachers who ask themselves “What is multicultural education?” can develop curricula around their students’ cultural backgrounds. Students in multicultural educational environments can learn how to value all cultures, bonding with peers over what makes them similar as well as what makes them unique. If students learn from a young age to be comfortable with differences, they are less likely to develop biases toward people of a different race or ethnicity. Ideally, they may become inclusive adults, free from racial or ethnic biases.

Implementing multicultural education benefits not only individual students but also society as a whole. Multicultural education has long-term benefits for students because those who learn to appreciate and value the cultural diversity of their peers will ideally grow up to be adults who likewise promote equality and justice.

Pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching or Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership

To apply effective teaching practices with diverse student groups, teachers should understand how to create equitable learning environments and multicultural education classrooms. Teachers interested in implementing multicultural education techniques in their classrooms can pursue advanced degrees to understand how laws, policies, and leadership play a role in establishing curricula and coursework that positively impact students. Throughout their coursework, they can train as a classroom teacher through placement in an actual school setting. Teachers interested in honing their skills as multicultural educators can pursue a Master of Education in Education Leadership at American University, choosing from courses including Education Program and Policy Implementation and Educational Leadership and Organizational Change. The American University program prepares teachers to become leaders in education and gain insight into legal education policies and programs. They develop research skills to help organizations enact legal and economic policies.

Educators can also further their academic journeys by earning a Master of Arts in Teaching, choosing from courses such as Effective Teaching for Diverse Students and Theories of Educational Psychology and Human Development. They learn how to develop evidence-based coursework in order to help establish multicultural education classrooms.

Advance Your Career Today

American University’s School of Education prepares graduate students who want to transition to a career as a classroom teacher, students who are teaching assistants, and current teachers who want to earn an advanced degree while teaching. They learn how to create equitable and effective learning environments in which students from diverse backgrounds can flourish. Explore how American University’s Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership degree programs can help you gain insight into what multicultural education is and further your goals as an educator.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies: Importance, Benefits & Tips

EdD vs. PhD in Education: Requirements, Career Outlook, and Salary

Transformational Leadership in Education

Classroom, “Pros & Cons of Multicultural Education”

The Edvocate, “6 Things That Educators Should Know about Multicultural Education”

The National Association for Multicultural Education, “Definitions of Multicultural Education”

National Center for Education Statistics, “Digest of Education Statistics”

National Center for Education Statistics, “English Language Learners in Public Schools”

Studies Weekly, “On Education: Creating a Better Multicultural Curriculum”

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Multilingual education: A key to quality and inclusive learning

african grandfather reads a book with granddaughter

Language is more than a tool for communication; it’s a very specific human cognitive faculty and the foundation of our shared humanity. It enables the transmission of experiences, traditions, knowledge and identities across generations.

Languages play a crucial role in promoting peace, fostering intercultural dialogue and driving sustainable development. They permeate every facet of our lives—from family and work to education, politics, media, justice, research and technology. Our values, beliefs, knowledge, identities and worldviews are intricately shaped by language, reflecting the richness of the human experience.

Languages are at risk and must be championed

But languages are under significant threat. UNESCO data indicates that around 600 languages have disappeared in the last century. If current trends continue, up to 90 per cent of the world’s languages may become extinct by the end of this century.

International Mother Language Day, observed annually on 21 February, underscores the urgent need to champion linguistic diversity and multilingual education rooted in mother tongues.

For more than seven decades, UNESCO has promoted mother language-based and multilingual education as fundamental to achieving quality, inclusive learning.

Why multilingual education matters

Enhanced learning.  First, and most obviously, students learn best in a language they understand. Yet UNESCO data shows that 40 per cent of the world’s population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Our research documents the benefits of being taught in learners’ native languages: in upper-middle- and high-income countries, children who speak the language they are taught in are 14 per cent more likely to read with understanding at the end of primary, compared to those who do not.

In France, children who speak French at home are 28 per cent more likely to be able to read with understanding at the end of primary than children who do not. This share rises to over 60 per cent more likely in countries such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, Slovakia, South Africa and Türkiye.

At the end of lower secondary, adolescents speaking the language of instruction are over 40 per cent more likely to be able to read with understanding compared to those who did not. This ranges from a 4 per cent gap in Canada to around 40 per cent in Germany and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and over 60 per cent in Thailand.

Improved access and inclusivity through mother tongue education.  Adopting a mother language-based, multilingual education improves access to and inclusion in education, particularly for population groups that speak non-dominant, minority and indigenous languages. Studies have shown that such approaches can boost classroom participation, improve retention rates and encourage family and community involvement in education. They also play a vital role in mitigating the challenges faced by migrant and refugee learners, promoting a sense of safety and resilience. Yet—at a time of record displacement—over 31 million young people who have fled war or crisis situations are learning in a language that differs from the official language of their country of origin.

Contributing to peace and sustainable development.  The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is intricately linked to linguistic diversity and multilingualism. The  Global Action Plan of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032) , spearheaded by UNESCO, underscores the importance of language choice for human dignity, peaceful coexistence and sustainable development. Commitment to these ideals drives UNESCO support for building inclusive and equitable, quality education opportunities in indigenous languages in both formal, non-formal and informal educational settings.

Helping mother language education thrive

The potential of multilingual education is enormous, but realizing its full benefits requires a commitment to lifelong learning and a deeper appreciation of the value of linguistic diversity.

To foster thriving multilingual education, we need robust policy support, advocacy and innovation. This includes adopting policies that promote mother language education from early childhood, as seen in diverse countries such as Ghana, Peru, Singapore and South Africa. It also involves recruiting and training teachers and community members competent in learners’ mother tongues, as well as exploring innovative solutions, such as partnerships with digital platforms, to meet diverse language needs.

Partnerships and cooperation at all levels, including across universities, academic centres and institutions that support language development, can also enhance capacity, and expand access to teaching and learning materials in local languages in both print and digital forms. This must be accompanied by formative and summative assessments that are appropriately designed to monitor the learning outcomes of multilingual learners.

Mother language-based, multilingual education must be part of our efforts to address the learning crisis and learning poverty facing many countries around the world.

In an increasingly globalized world, UNESCO remains committed to promoting multilingual education and cultural and linguistic diversity as cornerstones for the sustainability of our societies.

This article by UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, was originally  published in the UN Chronicle on 20 February 2024, ahead of International Mother Language Day. 

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Inclusive intercultural education in multicultural societies.

  • Rocío Cárdenas-Rodríguez Rocío Cárdenas-Rodríguez Universidad Pablo de Olavide
  •  and  Teresa Terrón-Caro Teresa Terrón-Caro Universidad Pablo de Olivade
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.013.803
  • Published online: 29 November 2021

Cultural diversity is a characteristic of plural societies, and the way that each society approaches that diversity determines whether or not the societies evolve or stagnate, whether cultural groups remain segregated or integrate, and whether social inequalities grow or if communities affirm the value of diversity and promote equality.

For this reason, it is important to analyze the cultural diversity management system that guides our interventions because the socioeducational methods and practices designed for any given plural context depends on them. Research refers to the assimilationist, multicultural, and intercultural cultural diversity management models, and the conclusion appears to be that the intercultural model is the framework that [best] accounts for an integrated and inclusive society.

Interculturalism requires the establishment of policies that champion equity, in order to achieve equality at the legal and social levels, and that promote genuine equality of opportunity. At the same time, it demands pedagogical practices based in civic education. An intercultural education should help us learn to live together and should educate people, to grow their knowledge, understanding, and respect for cultural diversity.

Intercultural education is a reflective, socioeducational practice focused on social and cultural transformation through equal rights, equity, and positive interaction between different cultures. Intercultural education is characterized by an acknowledgment of cultural diversity, a positive valuation of egalitarian relations, equal educational opportunities for all, and moving beyond racism and discrimination.

Fundamentally, intercultural education can be understood as an educational model that champions cultural diversity and the advantages it offers within an education context, such as the values of human rights and equality, and a rejection of cultural discrimination.

  • cultural diversity
  • ethnic minorities
  • assimilationism
  • multiculturalism
  • interculturalism
  • social inclusion

A version of this article in its original language

Culture, Society, and Processes of Acculturation

The evolution of human beings over the course of centuries has been possible because humans are social beings. They live in societies, share a common habitat, solve problems together, fight together for survival and for their own wellbeing. They share cultures and a specific way of living and being in the world. For this reason, the concepts of culture and society must be analyzed together.

Tylor’s definition of culture comes from the last part of the 20th century and has remained in use owing to its simplicity, defining culture as “that complex whole made up of understandings, beliefs, art, morals, laws, customs, and any other abilities or habits acquired by man as a member of a society” (Tylor, 1977 , p. 19). However, Rochel ( 1985 ) defined society as “all of the organizational relations generated by the individuals within a social system.” In other words, while society refers to forms of organization, culture is better defined as ways of doing, feeling, and thinking (Cisneros Britto, 2009 ).

All human groups have developed their own culture, which is, ultimately, everything that they have learned or invented to better adapt themselves to the needs of their time and ecosystem. Cultures are diffused throughout a society by individuals, they are shared from one individual to another, in a specific context, and within the society in which they develop. Depending on the society, we will find that cultural transmission is preserved and transmitted in an identical form from generation to generation, or that, through the process of transmission, cultures adapt to a changing reality. Everything depends on the level of openness of the society in question, whether it is a closed, static society, or if it is a society open to change and intercultural exchange.

It is important to note that, in reality, culture serves two functions: an ontological function that allows human beings to define themselves in relationship to others, and an instrumental function that facilitates adaptation to new environments by producing specific behaviors and attitudes, which is to say, a cultural reconstruction. In the most closed societies, much more importance is given to the ontological function of culture: that of belonging to a group and the preservation of cultural practices. However, in more modern societies, the instrumental or pragmatic function of culture is more developed than the ontological function in order to respond to the material needs of these societies: increased (intercultural) contact, rapid changes, and growing complexity.

When a series of continuous (direct or indirect), contacts occurs between groups and individuals from different cultures, the result is a process of acculturation. During this acculturation process, depending on whether we maintain our culture or if we want to engage with other cultural realities, Berry ( 1990 ) established four strategies of acculturation that have inspired the management models for cultural diversity (assimilationist, multiculturalist, and interculturalist). Along these lines, the acculturation strategies Berry proposed are:

Assimilation: The individuals of the dominant group reject the cultural diversity of the ethnic minorities and only engage with them if they adopt the dominant cultural model. Assimilationist Management Model for Cultural Diversity.

Separation: The cultural groups want to maintain their original culture, but they do not seek positive relationships. Multicultural Management Model for Cultural Diversity.

Integration: The cultural groups seek to maintain their culture and also to engage with and learn about the new culture. Intercultural Management Model for Cultural Diversity.

Marginalization: The individuals from the dominant culture don’t respect the culture of the minority groups and don’t want to engage with them.

The three models developed from these acculturation strategies are models that are being developed today in specific countries, and that determine the integration policies targeting the ethnic minorities that live in these countries.

By their very nature, democratic societies must commit to following the intercultural model of integration because it is the only model that affirms the right to be, to think, to express oneself, and to act differently, and because it combines that right with the right to not be treated as a minority. That is to say, within an intercultural model, everyone should have the same rights as the majority. When a group of the population, such as ethnic minorities, isn’t afforded the same moral, political, and legal opportunities as the majority, a robust and active defense of integration becomes necessary.

Management Models for Cultural Diversity: Assimilationist, Multiculturalist, and Interculturalist

The word multicultural refers to a situation within a society, group, or social entity, wherein several groups or individuals from different cultural backgrounds live together, whatever their chosen lifestyle. In general terms, we can say that a multicultural society is one in which groups can make distinctions between one another on the basis of criteria with significant and divisive social force, such as an ethnoracial, ethnonational, religious, and/or linguistic background: all criteria of belonging. Now, in every society, there is usually a dominant group that controls a majority of political and economic power.

Depending on the acculturation strategies the dominant group develops, from a cultural perspective, we can encounter societies that view cultural diversity in negative terms and enact strategies to eliminate or reduce cultural differences. In contrast, there are societies that consider cultural diversity in positive terms and enact strategies to protect cultural groups.

Based on these two positions, as seen in Table 1 , we can establish three management models for cultural diversity: the Assimilationist model, the Multiculturalist model, and the Interculturalist model.

Table 1. Management Models for Cultural Diversity

Source : Prepared by the authors.

Next, we present the three management models of cultural diversity currently being developed in democratic societies.

Assimilationist Model or Assimilation

We can define assimilation as a model based on the belief that there is a cultural code that sustains the dominant and/or majority group, which is socially superior to the rest: in other words, the belief that there is a way of doing things and organizing life that is the most correct, appropriate, and convenient for all of society.

The assimilationist model tries to absorb diverse ethnic groups into a society that is supposed to be relatively homogenous, imposing the culture of the dominant group onto others. Advocates of this model believe that advanced societies trend more toward universalism rather than particularism, and they conceive of ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity as a problem that threatens social integrity and cohesion. This model encourages cultural uniformity: it suggests and assumes that groups and minorities will adopt the language, values, norms, and identity markers of the dominant culture, and likewise, that they will abandon their own culture in the process. This process takes place between a majority with power (the host society or dominant culture) and a minority without power (foreigners and or ethnic minorities). The latter are expected to adopt the culture and customs of the host society and to change their own identity in order to be fully integrated into the dominant culture. This is a process that demands adaptations and transformations on the part of ethnic minorities, but not on the part of the supposed cultural majority.

This model has been strongly criticized because of its negative view of cultural diversity and its efforts to eliminate it. Additionally, it is a model that wrongly assumes that societies are culturally homogeneous in origin and does not account for cultural diversity within groups. It has also been criticized for unilateralism in its approach to change because it only works to change the cultural minorities.

The Multiculturalist Model or Multiculturalism-Interculturalist Model or Interculturalism

Interculturalism is a model that, according to Schmelkes ( 2001 ), works to go beyond multiculturalism and that affirms that a multicultural society cannot be truly democratic if it does not transition from multiculturalism to interculturalism by approaching cultural exchange as a mutual enrichment of cultures in relationship with one another.

It is a model grounded in the idea that cultures are not static, but rather, are dynamic entities that are enriched and energized as a result of intercultural exchange, this interculturality.

The term intercultural is a sociopolitical concept that emerged in response to multiculturalism’s failure to reflect social dynamics. Its first iteration came as part of an action plan in the field of education, where pluralism, understood as the coexistence of all cultures, was an insufficient framework to account for the intensity of the relationships between different peoples. The term intercultural emerged in response to the need for education curricula that were not monocultural, that did not silo individual groups, that did not present cultures as monolithic, that capitalized on the potential for different cultural knowledge and experiences to enrich the educational field, and, ultimately, to provide an education-focused intervention that prioritizes intercultural coexistence within societies. Interculturality is not a concept, it is a practice. It is not a theoretical framework; it is an ethical project. More than an idea, it is an attitude, a way of living and being in the world (Tubino, 2004 ).

The intercultural project is focused on exchange and reciprocal influence. It promotes a positive attitude towards interaction between people from different cultures. Because we know that cultures are dynamic, not static entities, they are enriched and energized as a result of cultural exchange and thus, interculturality. Interculturalism conceptualizes cultural identity as something that each person actively constructs throughout their life. In this way, the instrumental function of culture is prioritized, facilitating a constructivist approach to cultural identity.

In fact, interculturalism suggests that it is not cultures that come into contact with one another, but rather individuals with their own cultural knowledge and understanding who engage with one another. As noted, interculturalism adopts a constructivist approach to cultural identity, wherein no one belongs to any one single culture, but rather, culture belongs to people who use, manipulate, and transform it throughout their lives. Therefore there is no reference culture used to measure others, and there is no established hierarchy between cultures.

As we have indicated, interculturalism focuses on individuals with their cultural knowledge and understandings as open to one another and capable of mixing and producing new cultural syntheses. However, there is one major problem: intercultural interaction almost always takes place in a context of inequality, unequal power relations, and ethno-racial hierarchies.

To develop interculturalism, it is necessary to establish two kinds of strategies: political strategies and pedagogical strategies. This is referred to as “the pedagogical-political approach to interculturalism” (Figure 1 ), which posits that, to develop interculturalism, it is necessary to establish a politics of equity, to achieve legal and social equality for all people. It is also necessary to establish intercultural pedagogical practices and intercultural education, and through education, to learn to live together and to foster knowledge, understanding, and respect for cultural diversity.

Figure 1. The pedagogical-political approach to interculturalism.

For interculturality to become a reality, there must be legal and social equality between people from all cultures. An intercultural education is also necessary to educate citizens in knowledge, understanding, and respect for the different cultures present in their society. Intercultural education imagines cultural exchange on equal terms as well as the establishment of a dynamic cultural reality in constant transformation, where diversity is viewed by all as a source of enrichment.

As Essomba ( 2008 ) reminded us, interculturalism works towards a stable society, with a common understanding of culture shared by all, which means that each citizen should be interested in understanding the other and communicating with them. Interculturality is grounded in the need for participation, coexistence, and mutual exchange between people on equal terms, as well as the potential for each cultural group to contribute something to the rest of society.

It’s about “finding a shared project” rather than creating a uniform society, a model for social relations, aimed at overcoming racism, that focuses its efforts on influencing how people are socialized from an ethical perspective, with special attention to reasoning and sensitivity towards the other.

Inclusive Intercultural Education

School, as an entity whose function is the socialization of individuals to turn them into participatory citizens, doesn’t just communicate basic knowledge. It offers students comprehensive development with the goal of educating them to be informed citizens. Therefore, education today should encourage dialogue as well as equality in opportunities and exchange in order to promote a quality and equitable education for all, without excluding cultural minorities or foreigners. It should account for the heterogeneity of its student body and recognize its diversity in gender, ability, interests, tastes, rhythms and learning styles, functional diversity, languages, races, etc., and within all of this diversity, cultural diversity. School has never been homogeneous, but today it is essential that educators establish strategies for teaching in multicultural environments.

Strategies for approaching diversity within schools have gone through various phases until finally arriving at Inclusive Education. As indicated in Table 2 , these strategies correspond to the different management models for cultural diversity.

Table 2. Approaching Diversity in Schools

Source : Authors, based on data from García and Goenechea ( 2009 ).

Initially, the term inclusion was closely linked with the special education needs of some students, but more recently it has been applied to education as a whole, promoting the idea that education is for everyone, independent of individual characteristics or educational needs. Inclusive education affirms that all boys and girls can learn in a school environment in which diversity is understood to be an added value.

Inclusive education, “recovers the authentic meaning of integration as a process of mutual adaptation which allows the minority to incorporate itself into the host society on equal terms with native citizens, without losing their culture of origin” (García Medina et al., 2012 , p. 21). In other words, and as indicated by the intercultural model, it is a process that impacts both the host society as well as the minority group.

Intercultural education is

a practice, a way of thinking and doing that understands education as cultural exchange and cultural creation. It promotes educational practices geared towards each and every member of society as a whole. It puts forth a model of analysis and implementation that impacts all dimensions of the educational process. The objectives of this education are equality in opportunities (.|.|.), overcoming racism, and the acquisition of intercultural skills. (Aguado Odina, 2003 )

Intercultural education recognizes the values and lifestyles of all peoples and promotes respect and tolerance for different cultural norms, as long as they do not violate the basic human rights of other people. It involves an education centered in difference, diversity, and cultural pluralities, as opposed to an education for those who are culturally different. But it does not stop with respect and tolerance, rather, in contrast to multicultural education, intercultural education seeks out exchange, interaction, and a shared project that everyone can contribute to.

In other words, intercultural education is grounded in a respect for other cultures, seeks out contact and exchange on equal terms, avoids ghettoization, segregation, and assimilation, and promotes a critical view of all cultures.

The goal of an intercultural education is to foster an open-mindedness toward the world, in a way that eradicates mechanisms of exclusion in all their dimensions and allows the subjects to establish themselves in relationship to others beyond fear of feeling one’s identity is threatened. According to Ander-Egg, “It is not enough to say, ‘I am tolerant,’ one must say ‘I respect’ and ‘I take pleasure,’ in difference and multiplicity, because they enrich me” ( 2001 , p. 11).

However, intercultural education should not glorify cultural differences. Glorification overvalues cultural difference in a way that reifies human beings within cultural groups and runs the risk of falling into a misleading form of passive tolerance that can lead to exclusionary and culturally essentialist racism. Interculturalism values cultural pluralism, but its fundamental element is exchange and contact between people from different cultures, a reciprocal interaction and creative negotiation. Maalouf defined the process thus:

I would like to speak first to “some of you”: the more you immerse yourself in the culture of your host country, the more you will be able to imbue it with your own[. A]nd now to “the rest of you”: when an immigrant perceives that you respect their culture of origin, the more open they will be to the culture of their host country (.|.|.). It is, at its core, a moral contract, in which the parties involved gain more from learning about one another’s specific contexts: within the host country, what is the baseline level of knowledge and understanding that everyone must acquire, and what can legitimately be negotiated or even rejected. The same goes for the culture of origin of the immigrants: what cultural components deserve to be integrated into the adopted country as something of great value, and what components can be put away in the closet? (Maalouf, 1999 , p. 56)

As Sáez ( 2006 ) suggested, we should encourage interaction between culturally diverse people and members of society, rather than fostering an exclusive and exclusionary, closed off cult of original cultural identity.

According to Medina et al. ( 2004 ), intercultural education is based on the following principles:

Recognition, acceptance, and appreciation of cultural diversity.

A refusal to label or define anyone according to their culture. Not segregating people into groups [according to their culture].

A defense of the values of equality, respect, tolerance, pluralism, cooperation, and shared social responsibility.

Fighting racism, discrimination, prejudices, and stereotypes by fostering positive values and attitudes towards cultural diversity.

Approaching conflict as a positive tool for coexistence and providing students with strategies to resolve conflicts in a constructive way.

Involving the entire educational community’s participation in the democratic management of the [educational] center.

Curricular revision to eliminate ethnocentrism through universal models of human knowledge and an appreciation for different languages and cultures.

Mandate that educational professionals be trained to work with diverse populations and to utilize cooperative teaching methods together with appropriate resources.

Specific attention should be paid to students still learning the language of their host country. Educators should focus on the communicative aspects of teaching in order to help them succeed.

These principles of intercultural education work to improve quality of life and to strengthen cultural identity through acknowledgement of and engagement with diversity. They promote a nuanced understanding of cultures, and therefore, train students to be cognizant of cultural pluralism.

Interculturality, according to Soriano ( 2011 ), was designed as a pedagogical strategy that works to improve the quality of life of all members of the educational community, and it does so by deepening the value of education, and by valuing education in and of itself. We should bear in mind that teaching and learning processes are multidirectional, and that the pedagogical practices within an intercultural school should affirm diversity and foster spaces for intercultural exchange. It is not a matter of bringing isolated cultural activities into a school, reading a story from another culture, or presenting classes in world music; rather, it is a process of demonstrating the importance of intercultural emotions, values, and skills (Escarbajal, 2015 ). As indicated in Table 3 , sometimes schools carry out activities that they call intercultural, but they are actually isolated events.

Table 3. What Is and Isn’t Intercultural Education?

To summarize, intercultural education is clearly tied to processes of exchange between diverse persons and groups. Intercultural education promotes intercultural communication and interconnection, and this is possible because the cultures are not so static that they can’t evolve, and the people that belong to them are capable of reinventing them and recreating them to adapt to new challenges and improve their lives. As we noted earlier, the instrumental function of culture makes this intercultural connection possible, together with the establishment and evolution of individual cultural identity.

As Sáez reminded us,

this enriching exchange is the product of a relationship between people with diverse cultural roots; me and the other or the others. Not just me. Not just the other. It is a relationship with the other, conceived of individually and collectively as diverse and not as a foreigner or enemy. This exchange and interaction between the I and the Other are the engine that drives intercultural education. (Sáez, 2006 , p. 870)

Living together requires openness to the knowledge of other cultures and the decentralization of one’s own perspective. That is to say, it requires us to learn about other cultures and to think critically about our own cultural norms. It also requires us to understand that cultural diversity is a process of hybrid living, the active cultivation of respect and tolerance for the different ways that other people think and live. In other words, it requires us to develop the intercultural skills that Aguado Odina ( 1996 ) defined as a combination of specific and general skills that facilitate the formation of a citizenry, specifically:

Cultivating a positive attitude towards cultural diversity and expanding one’s understanding of the traditions and beliefs of others.

Fostering verbal and non-verbal communication skills that will facilitate effective communications in contexts where two or more cultures are in contact with one another, learning to recognize and negotiate the tensions that arise from ambiguous intercultural situations.

Developing the ability to understand one’s own culture through action and reflection, and to carry out a critical assessment of one’s own culture.

Regarding the work of interculturality in schools, according to the work of Astorgano ( 2000 ), we can establish four specific areas (see Figure 2 ): (a) Critical analysis of the inequalities in the world, understanding the causes of economic, social, and cultural inequalities, as well as the role we play in maintaining them; (b) The development of communication skills and intercultural dialogue focused on each and every student, and on the acceptance of cultural differences; (c) Basic values such as tolerance, respect, equity, and participation; (d) Constructive intercultural conflict resolution, working for a negotiated resolution through intercultural mediation.

Figure 2. Intercultural education. Areas of development.

Intercultural education involves the implementation of new educational guidelines and practices aimed at preparing students to live in diverse societies. It fosters cultural critique to highlight the ethnocentrism of current curricula, it emphasizes communication, exchange, appreciation for, and acceptance of other cultures, and it works to overcome prejudice and racism.

Furthermore, Essomba ( 2008 ) noted that this kind of education necessitates a curricular transformation, to make sure that the changes made in the classroom make their way out into the world. This curriculum should help students understand the cause and effects of migratory flows, social inequalities, specific prejudices and stereotypes, and should foster an understanding of the broader relationship between identify and place.

By way of example, we indicate some issues [that are always at play] within an intercultural education project:

Respect for and sensitivity to different ways of acting and understanding life: In intercultural relationships it is important to bear in mind that cultural norms such as the concept of time, physical contact, non-verbal communication, etc., are not always interpreted in the same way within different cultures.

Valuing people as individuals: It is important to appreciate everyone’s cultural attributes and language, as we are all cultural intermediaries, but we must avoid stereotypes and, ultimately, treat people like individuals and value their unique characteristics.

Assuming ignorance: To interact with the other, an attitude of sustained humility is necessary, of questioning oneself and one’s own motivations, as opposed to a confident arrogance or a belief that one already knows everything there is to know about the other.

An attitude of openness: To be open to the other and to others, and to be personally and culturally enriched, it is important to be able to listen, to have a large capacity for empathy, to be capable of putting yourself in another person’s shoes, and to know how to engage in dialogue.

Identifying and overcoming prejudices against people and groups of different ethnic backgrounds: This is a baseline skill within intercultural relationships and is an essential starting point because it both acknowledges and resolves anxieties about difference that can sometimes complicate the integration of people from minority groups.

Knowing how to be critical of your own culture in addition to others: We believe all cultures are equal, but we don’t believe that all cultural norms have the same value. For this reason it is necessary that we learn to be critical of cultural aspects that violate basic human rights. Radical relativism and an unconditional praise of difference can lead to ghettoization and the marginalization of certain groups.

Openness to self-acculturation: Within intercultural relationships, we are all simultaneously subject and object. In other words, we have to be open to experiencing personal change.

As Sáez noted ( 2006 ), the goal of intercultural education is not simply to learn about the culture of another person, as interesting and necessary as that may be, but rather, to learn through interaction with another human, as the individual and diverse subject that he/she/they is/are, keeping in mind, that they are above all a member of the human race. Intercultural education must be taught, and for this reason, we all must learn it.

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Multicultural Education: Dimensions And Goals

Multicultural Education

Multicultural education is an approach to teaching and learning that values diversity and promotes inclusivity.  It recognizes the importance of acknowledging and celebrating different cultures, languages, beliefs, and experiences within our society.

In today’s globalized world, where people from various backgrounds interact with each other on a daily basis, multicultural education has become more relevant than ever before. 

The aim of this article is to explore the dimensions and goals of multicultural education. We will examine how it can be integrated into all subject areas, as well as its potential benefits in reducing stereotypes and biases. 

What is Multicultural Education?

Multicultural education involves the incorporation of diverse cultural perspectives and experiences into educational practices. This type of education is important because it promotes equity, inclusivity, and social justice in learning environments. Multicultural education recognizes that students come from different backgrounds with varying beliefs, values, and attitudes.

The goal is to create an environment where all students feel valued and understood.  One challenge of multicultural education is curriculum integration. Teachers must ensure that they are incorporating a variety of perspectives into their lessons. This can be difficult as some teachers may not have experience with cultures outside their own. 

The Dimensions of Multicultural Education

The facets of a diverse student body can be explored through the incorporation of various perspectives and cultural backgrounds into the curriculum.  This is where multicultural education comes in, as it aims to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity towards ethnic diversity among students.

It recognizes that each individual comes from a unique background and has different experiences, beliefs, and values that shape their identity. An inclusive curriculum is an important dimension of multicultural education . It involves incorporating content from different cultures into academic subjects such as history, literature, science, and math. 

This helps students understand the contributions made by different cultures to society and fosters respect for diverse ways of life. To achieve its goals successfully, multicultural education also requires sensitivity training for teachers .  Teachers play a critical role in shaping students’ attitudes towards diversity; therefore, they must possess the necessary skills to create an inclusive classroom environment that promotes acceptance and tolerance towards all individuals regardless of their ethnicity or culture.

By embracing this approach to education fully, schools can create an environment where students feel valued for who they are while building a foundation for future success based on mutual understanding and respect amongst diverse groups of people.

Can Multicultural Education Be Integrated into All Subject Areas, or Is It Limited to Specific Disciplines?

Incorporating diverse perspectives and cultural backgrounds into all subject areas can enhance students’ understanding of the contributions made by different cultures to society, fostering respect for diverse ways of life. This approach to education is known as multicultural education, or an educational strategy that aims to promote diversity and equity in the classroom. 

While some may argue that multicultural education is limited to certain disciplines like social studies or language arts, others believe it can be integrated into all subject areas with careful curriculum adaptation. Subject integration involves incorporating diverse perspectives into every aspect of the curriculum.

For example, history lessons could include contributions from historically marginalized groups, while science classes could explore the ways in which different cultures have contributed to scientific discoveries.  Engaging students in multicultural education also requires parental involvement.

Parents play a crucial role in helping educators understand their children’s unique cultural backgrounds and providing insight on how best to integrate these backgrounds into the curriculum.  By working together, teachers and parents can create a more inclusive learning environment that values diversity and promotes equity for all students.

What Research Supports the Effectiveness of Multicultural Education?

Research has shown that students who receive culturally responsive instruction have higher academic achievement and greater social-emotional well-being than those who do not.  Studies have found that multicultural education, when integrated into classrooms, results in increased student engagement and a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives.

This approach encourages students to critically reflect on their own cultural identities while also learning about the experiences of others.  Inclusive classrooms are essential for implementing multicultural education. Teachers should create an environment where every student feels valued and respected regardless of their race, ethnicity, or culture.

In addition to creating inclusive environments, teachers need to be trained in strategies that promote multicultural education. Professional development programs can help teachers develop these skills so they can effectively implement culturally responsive instruction in their classrooms.

The long-term impact of multicultural education is significant as it prepares students to become responsible global citizens who are capable of interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Multicultural education promotes empathy, respect for diversity, and critical thinking skills which are important traits for success in today’s interconnected world. 

Research findings show that culturally responsive instruction enhances academic performance and prepares students with the skills necessary for future success both academically and socially.

How Can Multicultural Education Help Reduce Stereotypes and Biases?

Culturally responsive instruction is an effective way to reduce stereotypes and biases in the classroom.  By challenging assumptions and promoting empathy, multicultural education encourages students to think beyond their preconceived notions of different cultures.

This approach fosters inclusivity by creating a safe space for all students, regardless of their background. Encouraging critical thinking is another important aspect of multicultural education.  Students are encouraged to question their own beliefs and assumptions about different cultures, which leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of diversity.

Through this process, students develop cultural competence, becoming more knowledgeable about other cultures and able to interact respectfully with people from diverse backgrounds.  Multicultural education also helps to promote social justice by empowering students to become agents of change in their communities. 

By learning about historical injustices and contemporary issues faced by marginalized groups, students become more aware of the systemic inequalities that exist in society. This awareness can inspire them to take action toward creating a more equitable world for all people.

Six Ways Educators Can Implement Multicultural Education in the Classroom

This discussion will focus on six ways that educators can implement multicultural education in the classroom. The first key point is to be aware of biases and work towards eliminating them in order to create a safe and inclusive learning environment.

1. Be Aware of Biases:

Awareness of biases is a crucial aspect to consider in fostering multicultural education. Recognizing biases and overcoming prejudice requires cultural humility and diversity awareness.  Educators must be aware of their own unconscious biases, which can manifest in the form of stereotypes or assumptions about certain cultures.

To overcome these biases, educators must engage in intersectionality exploration, which involves recognizing how different aspects of one’s identity intersect with each other and influence one’s perspectives. 

2. Value Life Experiences:

Recognizing and valuing the life experiences of students from different backgrounds is paramount to creating an inclusive classroom environment that fosters mutual respect and understanding. Sharing traditions, cultural perspectives, and personal narratives can help students appreciate diversity and develop global awareness.

By exposing students to different cultures, they can broaden their horizons and learn to appreciate differences instead of fearing them. Incorporating multicultural education into the curriculum allows students to gain knowledge about other cultures while also feeling validated in their own experiences.  

By providing opportunities for students to share their own cultural backgrounds, teachers can create a safe space where all voices are heard and respected.

3. Understand Student Learning Styles:

By gaining an understanding of student learning styles, educators can create a more effective and engaging classroom environment that caters to the unique needs of each individual learner. There are several approaches to identifying students’ learning styles, such as visual aids, group activities, technology integration, hands-on learning, and differentiated instruction.

Visual learners depend heavily on illustrations and diagrams to process information effectively. Group activities are ideal for students who thrive in social settings while working with others to solve problems.

4. Assign Multicultural Projects:

Assigning projects that explore diverse cultures can broaden students’ perspectives and foster a deeper understanding of the world around them.  Multicultural project ideas can range from research assignments to creative expressions, such as music and art.

These projects not only teach students about different cultures but also encourage critical thinking skills and group collaboration . A great way to enhance multicultural education is by incorporating cultural immersion activities into these projects.  

For example, asking students to interview people from different cultures in their community or visit local cultural events can provide a deeper level of understanding.

5. Organizing Open Discussions:

One effective approach to promoting cross-cultural understanding in the classroom is through organizing open discussions that allow for the exchange of diverse perspectives.  These discussions can take many forms, such as role-playing scenarios, debate competitions, small group discussions, mock trials, and brainstorming sessions. 

The goal is to create a safe and inclusive space where students from different cultural backgrounds can share their experiences and viewpoints. During these open discussions, teachers must be mindful of creating an environment that encourages respectful dialogue and active listening.

It is important to establish ground rules beforehand that promote respectful communication and discourage any form of discrimination or prejudice. By facilitating these types of conversations in the classroom, educators provide an opportunity for students to learn from one another’s unique perspectives while also building essential skills like critical thinking, empathy, and effective communication.

6. Promoting Cultural Storytelling:

After organizing open discussions, another effective way of promoting multicultural education is through storytelling techniques.  Cultural traditions can be preserved and passed on through intergenerational communication, and in this case, stories serve as a medium for community engagement and diversity appreciation.

Storytelling allows individuals to share their experiences, values, beliefs, and perspectives with others who may have different backgrounds and cultures. Cultural storytelling can take many forms such as oral narratives, written stories, songs, dances, or even artwork. It is not only an effective tool for sharing cultural knowledge but also helps create empathy towards other cultures which could lead to a better understanding of one’s own culture. 

By incorporating these techniques within the curriculum or classroom activities teachers can promote cultural sensitivity among students leading to greater acceptance and respect for diversity in the society at large.

Benefits of Implementing Multicultural Education

The implementation of multicultural education can lead to numerous benefits, including increased cultural awareness and understanding among students, improved academic achievement for all students, and the promotion of social justice and equity in schools.

The first benefit is that multicultural education enhances empathy by encouraging students to understand diverse perspectives and experiences.  This helps them develop a deeper appreciation for the complexities of human experience, which is an essential skill for living in a globalized world. In addition to enhancing empathy, implementing multicultural education also leads to enhanced critical thinking skills. 

By exposing students to diverse viewpoints, they are better able to evaluate information critically and make informed decisions.  This skill is particularly important in today’s society where we are constantly bombarded with conflicting information from various sources.

Implementing multicultural education promotes greater tolerance and expands worldview among students. It encourages them to appreciate diversity as a strength rather than a weakness while promoting social justice and equity in schools.  Multicultural education creates an environment where everyone feels valued regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status .

Students who attend culturally inclusive schools develop an expanded worldview that enables them to interact positively with people from different backgrounds throughout their lives.


Multicultural education is a vital component of modern education that seeks to promote diversity and equal representation in all subject areas.  The dimensions of multicultural education range from content integration, knowledge construction, equity pedagogy, and empowering school culture.  Research supports the effectiveness of multicultural education in reducing stereotypes and biases while promoting cultural awareness and understanding among students.

Multicultural education can be integrated into all subject areas through various approaches such as incorporating diverse materials, encouraging critical thinking, creating inclusive classroom environments, and promoting student-centered learning.  In essence, implementing multicultural education in the classroom has numerous benefits for both students and educators alike.

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importance of multicultural education essays

Multiculturalism in Education Essay (Critical Writing)

The question, hypothesis, and purpose, review of the literature, methodology and results, reliability, validity, and limitations.

Tonbuloglu, Aslan, and Aydin (2016) conducted research focused on multiculturalism in education. The authors engaged teachers, as they are held responsible in regards to matters that pertain to the environments of learning, to correct stated negative views. The abstract is well-written and gives a summary of the research. The reader is able to understand the critical details about the research study from the abstract.

The general flow of the research is also good. Additionally, the work is detailed with facts and verifiable sources and facts. The article is well-written as the researchers provide a clear definition of terms, making it easier for non-technical readers to still understand the research. The researchers give details on multiculturalism and race and age, proposing that even within one race, one can find several types of cultures.

This study was well-written. The purpose of the identified study was to determine the nature of the views of the teachers in regards to multicultural education, the associated diversity of learning environments, and the efforts teachers have put in place to include multiculturalism in their yearly plans of the school syllabus. Even though the significance of the study was not evident, the reader was able to deduce it in the introduction of the paper. The research questions are highlighted as:

  • How the teachers reacted to the system of multicultural education?
  • What was the teachers’ first evaluation concerning the multicultural type of education and the associated sphere surrounding the activity?
  • What are the teachers’ suggestions concerning the multicultural type of education?
  • What are the associated proficiency levels of the respective teachers in line with the yearly involvement of the multiculturalism system in the school syllabus?

The literature review is detailed. The authors used several scholarly articles and journals to explain their premises. For example, the argument that teachers also have to be taught multiculturalism is supported by several other scholars and authors. They also included citations that criticized some of their premises. For instance, the scholars quote Kaya (2015), who argued that multiculturalism should not be taught within a classroom set-up.

The addition of the sources that critique the proposed arguments ensured a rich and informing literature review. Interestingly, the researchers combined the literature review with the introduction part of the paper. It is more common to have the two sections separate. Sources were also used in other sections of the paper to both support and criticize different arguments.

Tonbuloglu et al. (2016) employed a qualitative design for their research. In the study, the teachers presented their views concerning a multicultural type of education. Towards the end, the teachers reflected on the respective schools’ plans for the introduction of multiculturalism in their curriculums, thus, fulfilling their purpose. A purposeful sampling strategy was used to select the sites and participants. In this study, the study group for this research consisted of six teachers employed at a primary school in the Istanbul province during the 2012-2013 school years. Purposeful sampling techniques were selected because participants had the needed experience and ability to respond to the research questions.

Data analysis was comprehensive and reliable. The data were analyzed using the content analysis technique. During analysis, it was realized that the actual knowledge of every teacher in line with the multicultural type of education, together with the diversity of the system, was adequate. The respective opinions from the teachers towards the multicultural kind of training were identified to be positive. However, the teachers appeared confused in regards to the multicultural type of education, which made them experience some problems due to certain inadequacies. Moreover, a yearly analysis was conducted, and it showed that the efforts applied to the multicultural education system were not enough. The results were appropriate and complete for the research design.

The presentation style and the general flow of the study, including proper sentence construction and grammar, allows for an easy read. Additionally, one can quickly pick out various views concerning the multicultural education system. The in-depth questions also allow the reader to note the proficiency levels of the teachers. The data collection and analysis approach also go hand-in-hand due to the many variants of study that were identified. From a research design perspective, the study gives refined data, which increases reliability.

One weakness of the study is that the teachers lacked the required skills and knowledge that are necessary for multicultural education. Thus, the teachers also have to be culturally competent to engage in multicultural education processes with their students.

The research is reliable. The authors explained their process well. There appears to be no sign of bias in the study, as well. The purposeful random sample size also ensures the reliability and validity of the data. It is important to also note that the reliability and validity of the research, to academics, lie in its impact on globalization. In a culturally diverse world, students should be molded on competency amidst differences.

The researchers proved the importance of multicultural education, and in so doing, demonstrated its usefulness in real life. Additionally, multicultural competency allows for personal growth. A limitation of the study is that a good number of the teachers did not know what multiculturalism involves. Such participants could not be avoided due to the methodology and sample selection design used in the study.

Kaya, Y. (2015). The opinions of primary school, Turkish language, and social science teachers regarding education in the mother tongue (Kurdish). Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 2 (2), 33-46.

Tonbuloglu, B., Aslan, D., & Aydin, H. (2016). Teachers’ awareness of multicultural education and diversity in school settings. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research , 64 , 1-28.

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IvyPanda. (2020, October 27). Multiculturalism in Education. https://ivypanda.com/essays/multiculturalism-in-education/

"Multiculturalism in Education." IvyPanda , 27 Oct. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/multiculturalism-in-education/.

IvyPanda . (2020) 'Multiculturalism in Education'. 27 October.

IvyPanda . 2020. "Multiculturalism in Education." October 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/multiculturalism-in-education/.

1. IvyPanda . "Multiculturalism in Education." October 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/multiculturalism-in-education/.


IvyPanda . "Multiculturalism in Education." October 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/multiculturalism-in-education/.

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Home / Essay Samples / Culture / Multiculturalism / Embracing Diversity: The Vital Role of Multicultural Education

Embracing Diversity: The Vital Role of Multicultural Education

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  • Topic: Education System , Importance of Education , Multiculturalism

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