The concept of multicultural education is a relatively new one that developed with the rise in popularity of globalization. The increase in contact between different countries and cultures through sophisticated communication networks and opening of borders resulted in cultural exchange that eventually influenced the nature and quality of education. While for some gregarious cultures such as the Western world, embracing new elements of a foreign culture is relatively easy, this phenomenon is still a challenge for other conservative cultures. Within the learning context, multicultural education emerges as an effective solution towards most of the cultural ad institutional challenges that exist in the current century. This paper is concerned with examining the importance of multiculturalism in education with a special focus on the impact of its absence within the Saudi Arabian education system.
By definition, multicultural education refers to a set of approaches and materials in developed to guide instructors when dealing with the numerous obstacles emerging from the rapidly transforming demographics among the students. It furnishes students with information about the different backgrounds, cultures, and involvement of diverse groups. This school of thought assumes that society is pluralistic (Omer 12). It development borrows heavily from insights collected from diverse disciplines including anthropology, history, politics and gender studies (Omer 15).
Importance of Multiculturalism in Education
As mentioned above, globalization has made it possible for interstate and intercultural contact in the world. The result is that people travel from all continents of the world including Asia, Africa, South America and even Europe in pursuit of higher quality economic and social conditions. The education sector has witnessed its fair share of the massive influx in the form of unfamiliar traditions, norms and languages within the classroom (Omer 34). This cultural melting pot has serious consequences for the quality of instruction and the amount of resources used to counter these problems (Aldridge, Kilgo, and Christensen 56). Weak relationships among the races and along economic cohorts imply that it is possible for the education sector to witness an equal form of disarray (Omer 77).
Multicultural education comes in to offer a long-lasting solution to this social problem by creating a perfect environment for academic achievement as well as generating a crop of ethical and socially conscious individuals that are ready to embrace a pluralist society. It is imperative for learners to gain a better understanding of the diverse cultures. Additionally, they also need to understand the impact of multicultural issue on the society and economy (Omer 15). At a personal level, students need to know how to deal with these different cultural considerations without affecting their relationships (Bekerman 76). At the core of multicultural education is the need to ensure that all the students comprehend the realities of a pluralistic society and their role in perpetuating them. In the past, curriculum developers have been inflexible in including cultural considerations in their instruction approaches, instruments and practices. A wide number of social and ethnic groups have made massive contributions at a global level and many curriculums have all but overlooked this rich history (Aldridge et al. 34).
The relevance of all these efforts toward promoting multiculturalism in education is evident in the 21st century classroom that contains a diverse classroom. The current curriculum lacks an immediate and closed connection with the students. There is a high possibility that students can learn better and become more focused on academics when they function in a familiar environment. Foreign and minority students have the most challenging time as they are forced to come to terms with irrelevant learning situations that further worsen their learning experience (Aldridge et al. 31). Multicultural education intercedes on behalf of this group of learners by introducing various cultural considerations in the form of culturally sensitive instructional techniques. Students experiencing a sense of safety and significant are likely to be more engaged in the learning process (Bekerman 24).
Impacts of Resisting Multiculturalism in Arab Education
Within Saudi Arabia, the attitude towards multiculturalism and cultural diversity in general is responsible for limiting the positive effects of the practice within the education sector. Several misconceptions exist within Saudi Arabia and the Arab world concerning multicultural education that has affected its popularity and implementation. Arguing from a historical perspective, the endorsement ofmulticulturalism has only served to create additional tensions and problems between Muslims andChristians that affects the quality of education (Aldridge et al. 67).Consequently, the majority of Muslims, not all of them, harbored a fundamentalsuspicion andloathing for European Christians (Gay 78). The resulting learning environment within Saudi Arabia is largely influenced by religious fundamentalism. The following sections discuss the resultant situation within the education sector as far as resistance to multiculturalism is concerned (Bekerman 23).
The resistance to embracing foreign concepts of learning that involve adopting Western cultures has made the Arab education sector seem recessive, outdated and obsolete in many areas (Gay 44). Saudi Arabia has opted to embrace the hundred-year-old religious principles and administer their education systems using these ideologies. The impact of the religious fundamentalism is evident in the impractical and tarnished ideas being adopted in the classrooms. Rather than giving the students the freedom of working in a conducive environment, Saudi Arabian education systems operate on tyranny, low competition and stability in the society (Bekerman 54). Principles guiding the religion-based education system produce a learning environment that is significantly undervalued since the culture categorizes women as inferior to men. Consequently, the education system within Saudi Arabia is responsible for creating and perpetuating gender inequality (Gay 12). In the long term, the reluctance to embrace foreign cultures implies that the economy suffers significantly from insufficient contribution of women.
The reliance on religious fundamentalism as the key guiding principle the major areas of the society means that secular and rational ideas have little value and space. The Saudi education environment has been affected negatively in that the students go through the stages with the hindsight that their skills and certification would not be useful in the Arab market. It is very difficult forintelligent people in both genderswith the potentialto contribute towards development of the societyto limit themselvesbecausethey can be punished by execution. The Saudi Arabian education systemlacks academic security since the majority of the populationlives in the school environmentunder a veilwhile the other half go through their academic plans with little value for excellence and application of their skills (Gay 19). It is virtually impossible for education systemto operate efficiently when they run on century-oldreligious concepts that are entirely inappropriate to the contemporarycontext (Bekerman 25).
For instance, it is imprudent to coerce students to follow the ancient practice of disrupting their daily schedules to pray on five occasions daily. The restricted and oppressive education system ensures that the resultant situation discourages competition and creativity (Ahmad and Muhammad, 56). This is because, having being guided by religious principles, the Saudi curriculum prohibits liberal debates on topics such as politics while the permitted areas of learning are equally stifled by a heavy presence of the Quran in addition to an ideology that abhors change (Bekerman 56). At the national level, the impact of education and sensitization is hardly because of the resistance to change. This challenging work environment is destructive to the efforts of school administrators and other education stakeholders who are forced to comply with backdated teaching approaches (Gay 25). Students are also forced to embrace a passive approach in handling their education even at the university level where academic flexibility is expected and encouraged.
effect of the restricted culture within Saudi Arabia is that their education
system generates less competent and under qualified students that lack the
ability to contribute towards improving the society or the economy. For
instance, Muslims studying aboard in American and British schools have the
hardest time settling down and participating in academic activities (Bekerman
33). This difficulty is caused by a culture shock in processing Western values
and traditions that are very different from their domestic ones. This cultural
divide is caused by years of conflict and distrust between the Western and
Islam civilizations. This difficulty in assimilating and embracing new practices
is reported home as a negative experience that reinforces the negative
attitudes about American culture and lifestyles.
Ahmad, Saeed, and Muhammad, Riaz Khan. “A Study of the Inter-Cultural Sensitivity among the Faculty of English Language Centre of Jazan University, Saudi Arabia.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature 5.7 (2016): 226-232.
Aldridge, Jerry, J. Kilgo, and L. Christensen. “Turning culture upside down: The role of Transcultural education.” Social Studies Research and Practice (2014).
Bekerman, Zvi. “Israel: Unsuccessful and limited multicultural education.” Education and Ethnicity: Comparative perspectives (2010): 100-118.
Gay, Geneva. “The importance of multicultural education.” The curriculum studies reader 315 (2004): 320.
Omer, Tagwa. “Research utilization in a multicultural nursing setting in Saudi Arabia: barriers and facilitators.” Journal of Nursing Research 20.1 (2012): 66-73.
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