The rise in Hispanic and Asian student enrolment in America’s education system (5 million since the 1990’s1) has shaped the demand for a reformed and inclusive syllabus; despite 38.73 percent of the United States consisting of non-white citizens (2016)2, curriculums and teaching staff continue to sustain discriminatory stereotypes and colonist prospects. The benefits of a diverse learning environment initially dictated learning and societal development discourse in the 1960’s, making it a ‘buzzword’ among parents and the educational administration. The academic and social benefits of a diverse education broadly fall under the categories of improved confidence, increased empathy, reduced prejudiced attitudes, better concentration within school and more toleration of marginalized groups3; a diverse education also directly correlates with increased academic achievement with the Queens University of Charlotte confirming that students achieve higher test scores on average4. Increased exposure to cultural and socioeconomic differences subsequently better prepares students for a globalised workspace and the global economy.
But what actually is a diverse education? And how is it established? While diversity is usually associated with racial integration, a truly diverse environment promotes open dialogues about race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and being able-bodied; it is more than just encouraging the integration of different students and requires constant development in order to achieve a legitimately safe, inclusive and equitable learning environment. When establishing a diverse learning environment, the education and active involvement of teachers and parents is integral for success; this includes familiarising teaching staff with material such as the Anti-Racism Resource List5 (written by Tiffany Bowden, diversity and inclusion leader), asking for feedback from BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) students and parents, ensuring BAME pupils feel included and represented and addressing prejudiced attitudes within the school community. The distribution of resources like the ‘Parents Guide to Black Lives Matter’ is also fundamental in educating guardians and provoking beneficial discussions outside of a learning environment.
Decolonisation of the school curriculum is another critical element in creating a diverse learning environment. It is imperative that schools address the role of ‘white-washed’ syllabuses in fostering prejudiced opinions and underrepresenting people of colour. Topics such as successful BAME figures, black history and British imperialism/ colonialism should be taught in school all year round, with libraries being stocked with ethnically diverse books and BAME authors; the assimilation of topics such as racism, privilege and prejudice should similarly be integrated into the curriculum and made available to students at all ages. In order to establish a genuinely diverse institution, success is equally contingent on the teaching body as it is on the syllabus; consequentially, a conscious effort must be made to employ teachers from BAME backgrounds and educate staff on the importance of representation within the school community.
By 2044, the U.S. Census predicts that over half of America’s population will be people of colour6; despite two out of three Americans agreeing that students should be taught how to function in a multicultural society7, a diverse education still fails to be genuinely implemented in an equitable and effective manner. In our increasingly diverse society, it’s more important than ever for educators to incorporate culturally responsive instruction in the classroom and provoke dialogues which extends outside of the learning environment. Fostering inclusion and awareness as well as taking a culturally responsive approach to teaching not only creates greater multicultural awareness but encourages acceptance and prepare students to thrive in our increasingly diverse society.
Written by Sofia Castro (Username: Sofiaastro), a student learning on LessonWise.