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Multicultural Curriculum and a Multicultural School Environment


Citizenship is a state of having the rights, privileges and duties of being a member of a given country. It is also defined as the character of an individual viewed as being a member of a society i.e. his or her behavior in terms of the duties, obligations and functions as a member of a nation. In political and legal terms citizenship is defined as the rights, privileges and duties of a member of a nation or a country. In historical terms it referred to as any member of a city or a town that had immunity against the demands of the state. In Greece, citizenship was used to refer to the free men who were entitled to the right of participation in political debate and contributed to the development of the country through military activities. Democracy in various nations has led to the expansion of the definition of citizenship to include more rights than obligations regardless of sex, age or ethnicity. In sociological terms Citizenship was defined by Marshall (1998) as the status enjoyed by a person who is a full member of a society. This paper will discuss the benefits of multicultural curriculum and multicultural school environment on effective understanding of citizenship.

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General view of curriculum

Before discussing the multicultural curriculum effects on the learners understanding of citizenship, it is important to first understand what a curriculum really is. Pedagogy normally uses the curriculum to guide the learning process. Curriculum is a collection of courses to be studied in a school, college, university or any other learning institution. It has also been defined as all the planned learning activities which are controlled by the school; take place either inside or outside the school; and are normally carried out in groups or at individual levels. A theory of curriculum show that learning is planned and guided, implying that the curriculum should be aimed at achieving a specific objective (Smith, 2000).

In understanding the theory of curriculum development, Aristotle’s classification of knowledge can be used. Aristotle grouped knowledge as theoretical, practical and productive. In the curriculum theory, the syllabus or the body of knowledge is normally regarded as very important; the process and practice are closely related to the practical knowledge while the product element of the syllabus is close to Aristotle’s classification of knowledge as productive. Curriculum as a praxis is an improvement of the process model. In this method, the curriculum is based on the interactions and experiences of both learner and the teacher; the curriculum in this context is a set of plans which have been gathered through a rigorous process of planning, evaluation and acting. This approach focuses on curriculum as a body of knowledge and in this case education is referred to as the process through which this body of knowledge is transmitted to the learners effectively and efficiently.

Syllabus refers to the table of content showing a series of lectures to be covered in a given course. The syllabus normally shows the order in which the content is to be covered and the degree of importance of each of the topics (Smith, 2000). This approach focuses on curriculum as a body of knowledge, in which case education is referred to as the process through which this body of knowledge is transmitted to the learners effectively. If curriculum is equated with the syllabus then it means that the teacher is likely forget that there is more to learning than the simple remittance of the body of knowledge. Curriculum can also be regarded as a product; the emphasis is laid on the change of behavior patterns by the learners. When looking at a curriculum as a process, one assesses the interactions between the learner, the teacher and the body of knowledge to be studied. Curriculum in context pays attention to the social context in which the curriculum was prepared. In this context, curriculum can be defined as an ongoing social process consisting of the interactions between the teachers, the learners, the knowledge and the environment (Coelho, 1998, p. 78). By paying attention to the impact of the environment on the curriculum, one is able to get a better understanding of the influence of the structural and sociocultural process on teachers and students. For instance, gender relations have an effect on the structural context of the curriculum and normally influence the classroom activities, curriculum theory and activities in the classroom (Smith, 2000).

Ways through Which a Multicultural Curriculum and a Multicultural School Environment Will Benefit the Students in Effective Understanding of Citizenship.

In a multicultural school environment, the role of the school management and the teachers is to take interest in the management of various cultures present and respond to them if necessary, since it is only through this that the full benefits of citizenship will be realized (Neuburger, 2006). In a diversified school environment, it may be important that learners are taught about the diversity of regional, religious, national, gender and ethnic identities in the school. It is also important that these learners are taught on the need for mutual respect and understanding amongst themselves. In these multicultural schools, it is possible to form a mutual understanding between the ordinary multicultural, indigenous culture and political organizations (Neuburger, 2006).

Children learn a lot from each other during their interactions with each other. This kind of peer to peer learning is known as horizontal learning. Children are normally more willing to throw in their ideas when they are with their peers than in vertical learning where the instructions come from the teacher to the learners. Sometimes, it may be very beneficial to have a child learn in such multicultural institutions since it gives the child a sense of belonging in the multicultural world; it gives them a wider perspective of issues such as equality or racism; it encourages them to develop interest in understanding other languages and their meanings; it also exposes the child to a lot of issues as he or she shares his or her experiences with fellow learners from other regions. A multi lingual environment allows the learners to understand the flexibility and approximation of language; this would not be easy to develop in a monolingual environment. Hence this allows for the understanding of the cultural assumption present in the language. It is very important and valuable to have the learners to interact with each other and share their experiences. This is because, it enables them to extend their home lives to school and as a result, they develop a feeling that their lives at home are relevant and valued. It also makes the school have some relevance in the lives of the learners outside the school (Neuburger, 2006

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It is never an easy task organizing learning in a multicultural environment; unlike a single culture school environment where only monocultural identities are present, the school has to consider incorporating all the cultural identities when planning school activities in such an environment. If the school does not take into consideration all the cultures involved, then cases of racial or religious segregation will arise among the learners which is likely to hinder learning in the school. In an environment where the learners are of diversified economic backgrounds, the teacher should use adaptive teaching in which the cognitive and capabilities are taken into consideration. This may involve the integration of all the different cultures in the school so as to come up with a unified representation of all the learners (Maloney and Topping, 2005, p. 145). The educational system should be diversified and should be able cater for all children from different cultures; it should take into account all the sub cultural identities in the school so as to equitably represent all the learners. It should not assume that the learners will naturally conform to the new culture and be absorbed into it (Gundara, 2000 p. 53).

During the time of the slave trade when slaves were being taken from Africa and the Caribbean islands into other countries, a lot of racism was experienced by these new immigrants. This resulted into a massive black flight into the outskirts of towns and cities, those who remained within the cities continued to undergo ghettoization, which even increased their discrimination. In other countries, the middle class white people were being forced to move out of regions that were undergoing racial integration; this was referred to as white flight. Like in the case of England which has learners of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, African-Caribbean and the whites; the curriculum need to address the demands of all these cultures so as to enhance effective learning. This was never done because of the britishness of the natives of British Empire who were not willing to interfere with their culture for the sake of the new inhabitants and as a result there has been a lot case of racism and discrimination of learners from other cultures (Houlton, 1986, p. 149).

The feeling of citizenship enables the learners to have a sense of belonging to the country, it also gives them the motivation to work hard and enjoy the finer things that are enjoyed by the citizens of the country. A feeling of citizenship also encourages cooperation and collective responsibility towards the achievement of the given goals in a nation.

A multicultural curriculum therefore comes in to enable the learner have a better understanding of citizenship by educating the learners on the educational goals of the nation; this will make the learners aspire to work together towards the achievement of these goals. These goals are normally uniform for all the races, schools and ethnic backgrounds and they tend to unite the learners as members of the same nation. The goals normally include a call to the learners to be responsible members of a nation. In addition, they also encourage the learners to aspire to be part of the country’s development. A multicultural curriculum should come in handy to make each of the learners from the different races understands that they are part of the nation and these goals are to be achieved by all of them (May, 1999 p. 173).

A multicultural school environment is one that has learners from varied cultural backgrounds and it should not generalize the universalism of the different cultural practices and behaviors. This means that, the school should assume that the beliefs and practices are universal to all the races of the world. It is therefore important for the school to introduce the teaching of a multilingual curriculum, for instance, an English teacher should be able to speak the different types of English language and not necessarily the Standard English (Coelho, 1998, p. 51). There are some schools that admit learners from various cultures but then end up discriminating them. Some schools even go to an extent of refusing to admit learners from certain backgrounds. This kind of discrimination is detrimental to the development of a sense of citizenship in the learners. The learners should be provided with equal opportunities to learn and they should also be treated equally (Russell, 1999, p. 105). Therefore a multicultural school environment is likely to promote citizenship if the learners are treated equally.

A multicultural curriculum should not be biased against any given culture. This is to say that, it should not only focus on discussing a given culture negatively while giving very positive opinions about the other as it is likely to create inferiority complex in learners whose culture is described negatively thereby hampering their understanding of citizenship. For instance, the use of terms such as Negroes to refer to the blacks in America distorts a learners understanding of citizenship. It paints a picture of slavery in the children which will make them feel like they are not really part of the nation (May, 1999, p. 167).

In the past, states and nations designed a national curriculum which was meant to promote one culture, language and a unifying national policy (Curren, 2003, p. 506). The multicultural curriculum in this case should incorporate content that promote national unity among various learners from different ethnic backgrounds. This could mean, including Information about how each of the cultures present in the country have made important contributions towards national development. This will make the learners have a sense of belonging to the country and may even make them put a lot of effort in their studies. This feeling of one’s culture having contributed positively towards the countries achievement tends to unite the learners with a likelihood of to enhancing their understanding and appreciation of citizenship.

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In some systems of education with multicultural population, the focus was placed on the subject content and the classroom management, no attention was paid to the differences among the learners, with the aim of eliminating the minority groups. This resulted in the structural exclusion of these groups in planning of the school activities and program (Tomlinson, 1990 p. 46). Curriculum in context discusses the interactions of the learner, the teacher, the knowledge and the environment. Learners normally come from various cultural, economic, religious and social setups; these are the issues that determine the learners’ attitudes and motivation in school activities. A multicultural curriculum in this case should be able to address the challenges that each of the learners face. When the issues are looked into, then the learners will be able to learn well without the feeling of being disadvantaged due to their economic, social or religious backgrounds. It is therefore the responsibility of the educators to ensure that the instructional materials address the diversity of the learner population (Banks, 2006, p. 275). This will enable the learners to acknowledge themselves as citizens of the given country enjoying the rights and the privileges just like other citizens.

Relativism explains that the criteria of judgment depend on the individual and the environment they are in. It may therefore not be complete to use just the level of performance in class in judging a child’s potential. Curriculum, when looked at as a product means that attention is paid to the behavioral changes in the learner after going through the educational process. This model lays emphasis on the assessment of the success of the educational process. Since various communities are endowed with different talents, emphasis put on education is unique to every culture. A multicultural school environment and curriculum should endeavor to tap on these unique talents from various cultural backgrounds (Melenmar, 1995, p. 34). The mode of assessment if possible, should be diverse such that it is based on the community’s educational values and objectives. This will actually give the real potential of the each of the learners and this will enable the learners to know that their values are taken into consideration by the national curriculum thus promoting citizenship (Robinson, 2006, p. 123).

A multicultural school curriculum should be able to address the issue of gender. In most of the world cultures, the girl child’s place is still in the kitchen. The girls are normally expected to help with household chores after schools while the boys are normally left to play or study. Despite the fact that most communities allow their girls to attend school, the girls are still burdened with the house hold activities. This is likely to affect their lead to poor performance of the girl child at school. The multicultural curriculum in this case should be able to address these issues and provide the girl child from such cultural communities an equal chance and right to education (Modood, 2005, p. 64). This too will promote an understanding of citizenship.

Curriculum as praxis lays emphasis on the experiences and the interactions between the teacher and the learner and at the same time, it pays attention to the practices, understandings and the structural questions.These addresses the issues about the effects of the interactions in the school. The practices in the school should be healthy and should promote learning as well as citizenship. A multicultural curriculum should allow those experiences and interactions that promote citizenship by making all the learners feel safe, respected and protected by the school, they should be allowed to have a sense of belonging instead of being marginalized (Gundara, 2000, p. 65). The curriculum should therefore ensure that its activities and programs are diversified to cater for the demands of each of the different cultures. This should also include the introduction of bilingual teaching so as to cater for all the languages since if this is not done then learning will be marginalized (Blair, 1998, p. 210).Catering for each of lierne’s languages therefore promote an effective understanding of citizenship.

One of the goals of education is to enhance self reliance. The curriculum normally provides the learners with the basic knowledge they need in order for them to attain the necessary skills. The country should be able to provide equal learning and employment opportunities to the learners (Ponterotto, 2006, p. 185). This will encourage the learners to go through the school without of any worries of unemployment and this will promote citizenship. In the real sense the educational system should be a meritocracy for it to enhance the learners understanding of citizenship.


In certain multicultural societies like Britain, the educational program should be drawn with the minority groups in mind since they assumed that the blacks will soon get assimilated into the Whiteman’s culture (Arora, 2005, p. 67). A multicultural curriculum and a multicultural school environment are very important in enhancing the understanding of citizenship. Citizenship refers to the rights, privileges and duties of any member of a nation. The curriculum therefore aims at making the learners realize that they have roles to play as members of the nation towards the development of the country. The curriculum and the school environment should therefore instill in the learners a sense of responsibility towards the building of the nation

The curriculum should also endeavor to have the learners know and enjoy their rights as members of a nation. In a multicultural school set up; the curriculum should be diversified enough to cater for all the cultures involved. It should show discrimination towards other cultures. All the learners should have equal rights to do courses of their choice and join schools of their choice too without any discrimination (Grugeon, 1990, p. 27).

The multicultural curriculum is therefore very important in enhancing citizenship in the schools. The schools having learners from different cultural backgrounds should therefore come up with a curriculum that is comprehensive and diversified. It should among other things be a unifying factor of these various cultures. It should be able to have all the learners work together as a unit towards the achievement of the national educational goals, while at the same time enhancing the rights of these learners. The teacher should also enhance intercultural competence. In which the learners are engaged in sharing information about their daily lives (Byram, 2001, p.29. This will definitely enhance an understanding of citizenship).

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Reference List

Arora, R. K. (2005) Race and ethnicity in education Burlington. Ashgate Publishing ltd.

Banks, J. A. (2006) Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives. London, John Wiley.

Blair, M. (1998) Making the Difference: Teaching and Learning Strategies in Successful Multi ethnic Schools. DfEE publication.

Byram, M. (2001) Developing Intercultural Competence in Practice, Multilingual Matters. Clevedon, Multilingual matters ltd.

Coelho, E (1998) Teaching and Learning in Multicultural Schools. Toronto, Pippin publishing co.

Curren, R. R. (2003) A companion to the philosophy of education. Volume 27. Berlin, Blackwell publishers.

Grugeon, E. (1990) Educating All: Multicultural Perspectives in the Primary School. London, Rutledge.

Gundara, J. (2000) Intercultural, Education and Inclusion. London, Paul Chapman

Houlton, D. (1986) Cultural Diversity in the Primary School. Batsford, London

Marshall, G. (1998) Citizenship: A Dictionary of Sociology. Web.

May, E. (1999) Critical Multiculturalism: Rethinking Multicultural and Anti Racist Education. London, Routledge Falmer.

Merelman, R. (1995) Representing Black Culture. London, Sage publisher’s ltd.

Miles, R. (1989) Racism. London, Routledge.

Modood, T. (2005) Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship. London, Routledge.

Neuburger L. (2006). The pleasures of multiculturalism: How children learn better in Multicultural class rooms. Institute of Education, University of London. Pages 64-76

Ponterotto, J.G. (2006) Preventing Prejudice. London, Sage.

Robinson, K. H. (2006) Diversity and Difference in Early Childhood Education. London, Open University Press.

Russell, J. (1999) Teaching Racism or Tackling it? London, Macmillan. Open University Press.

Smith, M. K. (2000) Curriculum theory and practice: the encyclopedia of informal education. Web.

Tomlinson, S. (1990) Multicultural Education in White Schools. London, Batsford.

Topping, Keith and Maloney, Sheelagh (2005) The Routledge Falmer reader in inclusive Education.” NY, Routledge.

Woods, P. (2004) The happiest days? How pupils cope with school. New York, Routledge Falmer.

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