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Teaching in a multicultural region

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The borders that once defined countries, religions and races are shrinking daily and here we find ourselves in Dubai, UAE where multiculturalism is an entrenched reality (Orwin, 1996).

July 23, 2014 5:15 by



By Samantha Malkoun, Director of Future Kids

 

I can tell you, from experience, that raising children in a society with a predominant ethnicity very clearly, and very early on, defines ‘the odd one out’.  A concept that plagues media and school systems all over the world when, it morphs into bullying, racist taunting and discrimination. The borders that once defined countries, religions and races are shrinking daily and here we find ourselves in Dubai, UAE where multiculturalism is an entrenched reality (Orwin, 1996).

Our children’s future can be accurately described in one word ‘globalized’, this attributes far greater meaning than having an office in Japan, colleagues from Alaska and the knowledge of how to make good san choy bow. It is an interchange of worldviews, products, ideas and culture and can be used as a currency that testifies to the relevance of your education. An understanding and respect of the cultural values of your peers whilst upholding your own values and beliefs is the basis of a 21st century education and as an educator it is my duty to prepare children for this.

A multicultural learning environment must omit the natural inclination of the teacher to assess or deliver a curriculum based on their own beliefs and understanding of the world. The way we view the world is determined wholly or partly by the structure of our native language, and according to the Sapir- Whorf hypothesis, this can be particularly problematic when a teacher is from a different ethnic or linguistic background. Our local make up however, is that of such a plentitude of cultures that the feeling of racial isolation is hard to come by.

To pick a thorn on a rose would be to discuss the access and cost of tuition in this region. Unlike in Australia, in Dubai we do not have access to government-funded public schools. Many families depend on the ‘salary package’ to determine their ‘school fee allowance’ which in turn dictates where they will apply. This however holds no ground as many schools are running at capacity with over 18,000 children on waiting lists (The National, March 25 2014). Many families send their children back to their native countries, as there is no other alternative. This in itself leads to the transient atmosphere (The National, September 9, 2013) of the sector and the mental approach that teachers adopt is often one with no longevity teaching in this region.

We see the benefits of ‘long term teachers’ or the practice of Looping, in systems employed by schools like Waldorf Astoria, where the improved standardized test scores and higher emotional intelligence are a direct result of having the same teacher for many years. This approach would greatly benefit the young learners of the region as well as shift the mindset of the teachers and board of education. Looping in Dubai would see teachers embracing the diversity of language, values, traditions, historical tales and local rhymes and song, stories told by each member of the classroom, this would add depth to classrooms and further engage students.

Focusing on the blossoming rose, families in this region have access to American, UK, IB, Indian, French and many more curriculums. Parents can choose a curriculum that best suits the needs of their children. Although there is much literature on the differences of each curriculum, as a teacher I suggest American for children who need the extra emotional support and development of critical thinking skills and the UK for routine, structure and academic attainment. Regardless of what you choose, one thing remains consistent, communication and unity between educator and parents and playing an active role in your child’s learning journey is the key in academic success.

There is omnipresence in the classroom; an urge to be patriotic to a region that we now call home and it isn’t difficult. This region stands for children from 10 different countries learning harmoniously in a small classroom, sharing ideas and taking turns talking. I cannot imagine a better wrapping paper for the gift of education.



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