Multicultural education in classrooms has failed to produce a deeper understanding across cultures, according to a Concordia University researcher. Education professor Adeela Arshad-Ayaz blames teacher training for failing to address issues of diversity and equity. Her recent presentation at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, in Montreal, calls for an alternative approach.
"The way we currently teach multiculturalism fails to bring divergent groups together," says Dr. Arshad-Ayaz. "Our present approach is alienating minority groups and failing to engage teachers from dominant groups by not validating the world view of both groups and bringing meaningful dialogues into the classroom".
Professor Arshad-Ayaz suggests that mere recognition of "other" cultures is clearly not enough and sometimes even divisive, creating feelings of guilt and perhaps even oppositional resistance from students. Rather, students need to be engaged in active learning about local and global processes that create inequality. Instead of just looking at differences in culture, Arshad-Ayaz proposes the intercultural curriculum also integrate discussion of global politics, environmental issues, local, regional and global agreements and treaties that are linked to creation of social class and power.
"We need to remember the end goal, which is to create a more equitable society and more equitable world," says Arshad-Ayaz. "Only by addressing issues of justice and equity do students from both dominant and non-dominant groups become engaged. This discourse will lead to social empathy which is a good beginning to understanding the issue of difference and diversity."
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