3.2 Examine curriculum in cultural and social contexts.
Meaning of Culture
Culture is the sum total of a child’s or family’s ways of living. Their values or beliefs, language, patterns of thinking, appearance and behaviour it includes the set of rules that form a family’s behaviour and are passed or learned from one generation to the other. A multicultural curriculum is one which actual challenges, prejudice and stereotyping and presents an opportunity for the development of mutual respect, mutual sharing, and mutual understanding .It is crucial to establish an early education environment that establish children to make connections to their reality as well as the larger world, to develop positive self-esteem and to receive approval, recognition, and success. It is important to understand that exploring and implementing a multicultural anti-bias curriculum become a continuous journey of growth and change. Multicultural education is more than teaching information directly. It means providing a classroom that includes materials depicting people from many different places doing many different things. It also encouraging children to think and talk like members of their own culture. It’s helping children like themselves just the way they are.
The language through which the school curriculum is communicated is not neutral and neither is the selected content of that curriculum. They are defined and shaped by historical and cultural processes and ideas and by a unique set of historical antecedents, which vary from country to country. Likewise there is no one ‘right’ way of teaching and learning – approaches to pedagogy are defined by social and cultural factors at specific points in time and vary from country to country. The content of the curriculum, language and pedagogic approaches will affect the degree to which learners feel they can identify with what is being taught and the degree to which they feel ‘insiders’ or ‘outsiders’ in the learning process. Each learner is unique and will bring their own experiences, preferences and learning styles to the learning process.
The culture of a school is also influenced by the cultural understandings that the adults who work there bring with them. Pupils have to negotiate meaning and to accommodate new understandings in order to become effective learners. There are differences between school cultures in different countries. Children’s backgrounds and experiences will vary but they will impact on the their perceptions of themselves, on their sense of identity, on their sense of belonging and their ability to learn. Teachers cannot know about the home cultures of all the children they teach but they need to understand how the home culture may impact on the child’s ability to learn in the context of school and their classroom.
Teachers need to avoid making assumptions based on stereotypical views, be sensitive to different ideas, values and beliefs and seek information about pupils’ backgrounds and experiences. Moll refers to the ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll, 1992; Moll et al, 1992) that are contained in the communities of pupils and that are waiting to be drawn on to enhance children’s learning, bridging the gap between home and school and between pupils and their educators.
The debate between traditionalists and progressives over curriculum is essentially a debate on how best to prepare students to live in society. Differences of opinion about curriculum stem from deeper differences about the nature of learning, the nature of society, and the purpose of schools in a democracy. Traditionalists structure schools to prepare students for filling roles in society not for transforming it. They do not see that traditional approaches may contribute to maintaining the inequity and injustice that exist in our society. Progressives see society as needing improvement and the schools as serving the function of helping students become thinking citizens who can contribute to creating a more just society. John Dewey, the leading progressive educator of the century, wrote that “education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”