Online Degrees Blog The importance of multicultural education

The importance of multicultural education

29 January
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 cultures2
  • 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 authors2
  • Encourage students to bring items from home that represent their culture and talk about them with the class2
  • Celebrate holidays from around the world, not just the ones from the predominant culture and religion in your school2

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 differences3
  • Family values3
  • Faiths3
  • Family dynamics, such as multigenerational homes3
  • Socioeconomic status3

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.