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Britain Has Become A Multicultural Society. How Can Schools/Teachers Develop Their Pupils' Awareness Of The Values Of Other Cultures?

2702 words - 11 pages

Multicultural Education can be defined in terms of preparing pupils to exist in a multiracial society by providing them with an understanding of the culture and history of different ethnic groups. Multicultural education should therefore allow both minority and majority pupils to be acquainted with and investigate the multifaceted interconnections and gaps that transpire between their own and other cultural and social identities. This essay will examine the methods schools and teachers can use to develop cultural awareness in the classroom.It is important to understand exactly how Britain has become imbued with a cosmopolitan multicultural heritage because as Roy Todd argues (1991) "education has developed in response to the ethnic diversity and "multicultural" nature of contemporary British society". Cultural change is a gradual evolution, an on-going process that is not static, monolithic nor homogeneous. Britain has and continues to be shaped by this evolution from the time of the Romans and Anglo-Saxons through to post-war post-colonial times. As Paul Gardner (2001) observes "We have a history that has provided us with the rich legacy of diversity".Modern Britain is a vibrant blend of diversity and plurality in search of unity but unfortunately "Prejudice against people who are different from oneself is, regrettably, a common phenomenon" (Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association 1987). Britain has had different and often conflicting methods for educating its masses. First was the "assimilationist" phase of multicultural education which naively looked to assimilate migrants into society by teaching them English. "Integrationist" methods followed which paid brief lip service to the cultural background of immigrants. "Cultural pluralism" (Cohen and Cohen 1986) then followed which recognized the need to integrate the multicultural veracity of Britain into broad curriculum themes and topics. However, anti-racist educationalists argued that multiculturalism "leaves unaltered the racist fabric of the educational system". (Institute of Race Relations 1980). In contrast, R Grinter (1985) argues that "multicultural and antiracist education are essential to each other. They are logically connected and each alone is inadequate".In 1985 the Swann report was published. It dismissed previous methods of multicultural education as " misguided and ill-founded" (Department of Education and Science 1985). The main tenets of the report were that Britain is a multi-racial and multi-cultural society and all pupils must be educated to understand what this entails and that multi-cultural knowledge has to infuse all aspects of a school's work. It was a turning point because "people at all levels of education were involved in the redesign of education to take into account the ideas and examples of good practice in multicultural and anti-racist education" (Roy Todd 1991). The 1980's also heralded the arrival of the 1988 Education Reform Act and the 1989 National...

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