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Over 20 years ago South African schools were segregated because of its huge cultural diversity. White learners were taught in ‘white only’ schools and black learners in their respective schools. The quality of education for black people and people of other races was not the same as those of that the white learners were receiving. Black learners were taught the Bantu Education Act of 1953, Indian learners were taught the Indian Person’s Education Act of 1965 and the Coloured learners the Coloured Education Act of 1963 which included the objectives and guidelines for the teaching that should take place at those schools and those educational systems were inferior to that of the white learners. Whites received a better quality of education in South Africa.
When democracy came into effect then a lot of changes happened in South Africa including in the schools. Segregation in schools were abolished in the democracy and learners from different cultures are able to learn together in the same schools and receive the same quality of education irrespective of their diverse cultures.
Cultural diversity is different cultures and different ethnic groups that live in a community or society. Cultural diversity is important because at all stages of our lives we will meet different people with different cultures and beliefs for example at schools, universities, workplaces and even our churches. Because of cultural diversity we get to learn about the different ways of living of other cultures and we will be able to understand each other better and to work together successfully.
South Africa has 11 official languages and therefore it has many different cultures. Because of this diversity it has always been a challenge for teachers trying to accommodate all learners from different backgrounds and cultures, as they should have a little bit of background knowledge so as to not offend the learners and to manage and teach them in the correct ways. A lot of teachers do not really know how to deal with cultural diversity in schools and therefore they need to find ways to deal with that issue of cultural diversity. I will further discuss culture, multicultural education in South Africa, social enrichment, diversity in education/curriculum, aspects of diversity, common beliefs and dealing with diversity in schools, where the terms will also be explained in the text.
I think that South Africa still has a long way to go in dealing and solving this issue. In all of this different cultures there are sports and extra mural activities where you do not really see cultural diversity as everyone does the same thing and this is where learners are usually united, and all are accommodated.
Cultural diversity is the existence of a variety of cultures or ethnic groups in a society. Cultural diversity usually takes into account language, religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, age and ethnicity and an examples of cultural diversity is when people who speak Sesotho move into a predominantly Afrikaans speaking neighbourhood.
Culture is ideas, customs and social behaviour that takes place in a society, meaning that people in a certain society have their own beliefs of what is right and what is considered wrong or disrespectful behaviour in their community. For example, some societies will think it is disrespectful to kiss someone on the cheek as a greeting, whereby it is appropriate and respectful to do so in other societies or communities.
Multicultural education is said to be any form of education and teaching whereby the histories, values, beliefs and perspectives of people from different cultural backgrounds are incorporated. For example, in classrooms, teachers may change the lessons a bit to reflect the cultural diversity of the learners in that classroom.
Multicultural education may be seen as a human tights and comprehensive reform philosophy and process that aims to change the entire educational environment so that different learners from diverse cultures, races, genders, ethnicity, socio-economic status and traditions can receive equal opportunities and equal quality of education.
The reasons for implementing multicultural education in South Africa include social enrichment, diversity in education/curriculum, aspects of diversity, common values and how to deal with diversity in schools which I will discuss into details later on in the text.
It’s important to implement multicultural education as it provides social enrichment between students and teachers and they get to learn more about each other and their cultures because of their interaction with each other. School can reach social enrichment through activities where learners must showcase their culture, religions and beliefs. In this activities they will tell the class about them and the class can also ask them questions that they need to know about their cultures, or they can even tell how they celebrate occasions like weddings, birthdays or any other special occasions. Through these engagements they will learn to respect each other’s cultures and beliefs and take pride in their cultural diversity and they will learn to respect the culture of the classroom. An advantage of cultural diversity is that when learners learn about different cultures at school and it prepares them for the diverse life after school, for example when they start working then they will be comfortable working and communicating with people from different cultures
The curriculum must be formulated in such a way that it caters for everyone irrespective of their culture and must embrace the uniqueness of each student. A multicultural curriculum must encourage the teachers to learn about the different cultures and backgrounds that learners may possess and they should be equipped to deal with all these cultural differences and they should teach the students to embrace and love their own cultures but to also respect and recognise the cultures of others. Curriculum workers favouring society as a source, believe that the school is the agent of society and that the curriculum design should be preceded by analysis of society. Some curriculum designers draw their inspiration from religious texts, although it is not applicable at public schools it may still be applicable in faith-based private schools, like Kingdom Academy School. When knowledge is a source of curriculum the curriculum designer gets knowledge from different fields of study as knowledge is ever changing. With the learner as a source in curriculum the curriculum design focuses on the learner and their attitudes and ideas and also what they value and deem fit to be taught. It encourages them to work more on their own.
Sexuality should be included in the curriculum with regards to homosexuality so that they should understand that there are homosexual people and that they should treat them equally and respect them, just as the respect other learners. Homosexual culture is not really being dealt with in schools and therefore homosexuals are being abused and bullied in schools. Teachers should act on learners who bully homosexual learners and call them names like istabane and moffie, instead of just laughing at them. Teachers don’t know what to do in such situations and therefore they should get training on dealing with such issues. (Francis, 2017) says that teachers and school management who don’t act on homophobic bullying show their complicity and this shows that these actions or abuse are acceptable. And this cause these learners to drop out of school or commit suicide.
A culturally diverse curriculum should be used by teachers in all school and they should promote equality amongst all races. (Biraimah, 2016) says that in practice topics and characters should mirror a cross-section of the different cultures and population and she further believes that culturally inclusive practices are critical for different learners and must respond to ethnicity, location, gender and socio-economic class. This means that the curriculum will portray the everyday lives of different cultures and different standards of living like poverty and wealth, sickness and health etc. these lessons must be entertaining so that they may spark an interest in the learners. Poverty, inequality, age, race, gender, language and disabilities will be covered in the curriculum.
Diversity has many different aspects such as age; the differences in age between the people, race; different races of people and also people of different colours, religions; many people have their own beliefs and are free to worship who they want to worship and to also attend any church that they wish to attend, and languages; people are free to speak in their native languages and to be taught in their languages at schools.
Across all races and cultures, you will find some common ground which we call shared values. Values guide us towards what is considered as wrong and right in a society. They also help us grow into better beings. We learn values from our families and surroundings. A few common values that we share amongst different cultures are respect, empathy, compassion, love, honesty and integrity. As much as we are different we all experience the same feelings, love, pain, fear etc.
In South African schools’ language diversity is broad because we have 11 official languages, therefore it becomes a problem when teachers especially in urban schools have to conduct classes and accommodate learners individually because of their different cultures and languages. In rural areas it is much easier to accommodate and teach those learners without having to consider much cultural and language diversity as those students are mostly from the same place and speak the same language. So teachers are able to easily conduct those classes. The problem is in the urban areas especially in former white schools, many different races (Coloureds, Blacks, Whites, Muslims and even Chinese) usually attend those schools and this is where there is a variety of cultures, ethnicity and language diversity in both teachers and learners. Teachers struggle to accommodate everyone when they come from different backgrounds, because they do not always know what is right and what is offensive to all these learners as they do not know what their different cultures and religions entail. They also do not always know which culture to use as a base when conducting classes to make examples of the content that is being taught.
When teaching children at schools especially at primary school levels it is important to have pictures to show learners of what you are talking about if they haven’t been exposed to it yet for example people in central rural areas may not know what dolphins or crabs are because they have never been to the see, they may know more about goats and other farm animals that they have seen. The reason that you will show them pictures is in order to broaden their knowledge so that they may be familiar with other things when they grow up and encounter them and also to broaden their imagination.
In conclusion, I agree with the implementation of cultural diversity as we are a democratic country. All languages and cultures and races should be considered when drawing up a curriculum. Teachers should recognise and make provision to incorporate the different cultures in the lessons that they conduct. Maimona Salie (2020) says that South African classrooms have become diverse because learners from diverse backgrounds and cultures are in the same class. Teachers must find ways to successfully implement multiculturalism in the classrooms and therefore they as well as learner representatives should be included in the development of the curriculum. Teachers should know and understand that their own values and identities influence the way that they teach their learners in the class and they should always remember that learners look up to them for values of what is right and wrong and they should also remember that learners look up to them and mirror them when they show respect, compassion, love, honesty, integrity and other shared common values. With the implementation of cultural diversity, teachers promote equality making sure that all learners feel equally important despite the culture, race and where they come from. When other cultures are appreciated by teachers then they are more easily understood and accepted by those teachers. The attitudes of teachers need to be positive to successfully implement multiculturalism in their classroom. Teachers should have workshops and be equipped with resources to build their multicultural relationships and knowledge. South Africa with its many diverse cultures still has a long way to go in successfully implementing multiculturalism in schools and getting rid of prejudice.
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