The culturally inclusive classroom

With reference to a wide range of appropriate background reading, identify and critically discuss the key issues which need to be addressed in order to facilitate the creation of a culturally inclusive classroom which reflects and promotes the diversity within society.

From the onset we must determine what is derived from the term ‘culturally inclusive’, it is presumed to include all, a whole host of cultures, therefore what is meant by the term ‘culture?’ The Oxford Dictionary (2003:119) defines the word simply as,

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“The customs, institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or group.”

However it is difficult to succinctly summarise such a broad ‘umbrella term.’ Education for Race and Equality, (2005) describe the term ‘culture’ as a group of people sharing a complete range of social values, religious and moral beliefs and behaviours along with the traditions which both influence and characterise the members of that group’s society.

The Hillgate Group, (1989) explains that the term multi-cultural conjures up immeasurable view-points and despite the plethora of ideas surrounding the term nobody really knows exactly what it means, overall it is considered to be a positive term, which recognises that minorities are part of British society, which should be reflected in the National Curriculum. Rex, (1989) however, negates this theory, arguing that the term ‘multi-culturalism’ possesses discreet, negative connotations which is in danger of dividing society and furthermore, penalising the ethnic minorities from as early as childhood.

Rex goes on to say that LEA’s1 use the term loosely in order to address social control, by means of tokenistic views and ideas without addressing the real issue of community racism. (ibid). Phillips as cited in Jasper, (2005) supports the claim that the term multiculturalism should be annihilated as it suggested separateness. Conservative critics however believe that multi-culturalism panders towards the minority demands in an attempt to politicise the education system. Alibhai-Brown, (1999)

The 1973 Bullock Report proved to be a landmark document recognising for the first time, Britain as a multicultural and multilingual society. Recommendations were, that this was taken into account when planning the school curriculum. (Chan et al 2002)

Given the vast range of immigrant and ethnic minority groups in the UK for this assignment I will concentrate principally on the achievement and treatment of Black-Caribbean pupils, social class and gender.

Parekh quoted in Gillborn (1990) that to accommodate all children, the National Curriculum dictates, values, aims and purposes in order to promote racial equality. It is expected that to achieve QTS2, all teachers must practice in the same way, promoting equality and diversity for all. DfEE/QCA (1999) and OFSTED (2000b) advocate this view, promoting the development of an inclusive curriculum as a statutory requirement of the National Curriculum.

The Commission for Racial Equality, in its commentary on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (1999) acknowledges that education plays a key role in eradicating racism and recommends that the National Curriculum should better reflect the needs of a diverse society. A further recommendation requires anti-racism strategies to be adopted in all schools and that valuing diversity and challenging racism should be central to every schools practice.

The anti-racist approach to education emerged as a reactive stance to address racial inequalities identified by black parents and teachers as a major factor in the under achievement and disaffection of black pupils. The anti-racist education movement propelled debates regarding the ‘individualised’ racism of some teachers to examine structural components of education as an institution and to make vital connections between institutional discriminations and equalities of race, class and gender. (Mullard, 1982.)

Building on the many examples of good practice which already exist, all schools should make the goal of challenging racism and valuing diversity central to their practice. Why is it then a history lesson in the UK concentrates principally on British history? Surely to develop an understanding of the world we live in, would it not further enhance a child’s learning and understanding to be educated about Wars occurring outside of the UK such as, The Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka, The Somalian Civil War or The Darfur Conflict?

Furthermore the QCA, (2004) recommends that teachers organise activities and experiences that reconstruct the past, an example of which is to reconstruct, a multi-sensory environment such as a London Blitz night. However is this itself not is some way culturally biased?

The Swann Report, (1985) stated that many ethnic minority groups live in poverty and deprivation, where unemployment is high and housing is of a poor standard. These children carry a heavy burden even before entering the educational environment. The report, attempted to address some of the factors that may have accounted for ethnic minority underachievement, including material and cultural deprivation of the family structure, racism in society and school, and also the school itself who may be failing to facilitate the child with a positive school ethos. The report also discussed how the education system failed to respond to many ethnic groups. The Rampton Report, (1981) also found significant underachievement in African-Caribbeans confirming the existence of racism and prejudice in schools.

The DfES, (2003) state that ‘all’ children regardless of culture or background should be able to achieve their full potential irrespective of the school they attend. Montgomery, (2000) shares this view, advocating that culturally inclusive classrooms should specifically acknowledge the needs of a wide range of diverse pupils. It is the teacher’s responsibility to accommodate these pupils enabling vital connections to be made with the subject matter

Qualitative research by Gillborn and Mirza, (2000) proved that expectations and aspirations for black females were high, furthermore African-Caribbean girls achieve comparatively well alongside their white male and female peers within the locality of their schools. Additionally evidence shows that gender specific strategies have been put into force in these schools in order to oppose racism and overcome disadvantage.

Fuller, (1980) found that a sample of lower-class black girls in London distanced themselves from Black-Caribbean boys because they had high aspirations for themselves and did not want to be ridiculed or held back by them. Statistics demonstrate that Black-Caribbean boys are failing in school and one must question why? (Gilborn & Mirza, 2000)

Wright, (1985) concludes in his study how African-Caribbean pupils and their white teachers nurture a volatile, hostile relationship bordering on discipline enforcement rather than that of praise. This relationship creates a lack of enthusiasm and an aversion to learning. Mac and Ghaill, (1988) believe that schools are deficient and under-representative of black teachers. Ross, (2002) supports this claim maintaining the significance of ethnic minority teachers. Because we are part of a diverse population encompassing an extensive range of cultures, customs, languages, faiths and beliefs, the teaching profession must accommodate all.

Phillips as cited in Jasper, (2005) supports the claim that Black and Asian people are underrepresented in every aspect and therefore for black boys to achieve in our education system it is paramount that black teachers require a more prominent status acting as role models who can relate to individuals allowing pupils to feel acknowledged and valued in an attempt to break the cyclical effect. Mamon, (2004) supports this argument believing that Black children tend to be perceived as a homogeneous group of low achievers and as undisciplined troublemakers. Regrettably, this develops into a self-fulfilling prophecy to fail, as pupils live up to the negative expectations of the teachers. Low esteem results from ‘lack of teacher attention’ and therefore there is a need for black teachers to work in the more challenging areas to meet the needs of Black pupils. (Ibid)

Bhattacharyya et al, (2003) highlighted how Black-Caribbean pupils are three times more likely to face school expulsion and statistics show a high percentage of these pupils to be segregated into specialised units in an attempt to avoid expulsion and to raise achievement. Furthermore, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, (2002) lobbied towards the segregation of Black pupils following claims that the education system was in a state of crisis and desperate measures were needed in order to raise achievement. Phillips as cited in Muir, (2005) strongly disagrees with segregating pupils stating this it-self to be stigmatising and racist.

The Swann Report, (1985) took into account evidence from six LEA’s showing a high Ethnic-Minority presence. The evidence concluded that in examinations West Indian Children on average faired poorly in comparison to their white peers, however Asian children achieved as well as their white peers with the exception of White-English pupils. Research by Gilborn and Mirza, (2000) revealed that Black pupils begin school with high achievement levels, on average their attainment is 20% above average but during the course of time in comparison to other ethnic groups, faired the worst, leaving school trailing 21% behind other pupils. (See figure 1). This dramatic slump has been blamed on institutional racism within education. (Holloway, 2004) It is easy to quote that ‘Black-Caribbean children underachieve failing in our educational system,’ however is it not the underachievement of the educational system that is failing these children?

Gillborn and Mirza, (2000) discovered that Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils start school lower than any other group, however they improve throughout their education. A final report carried out three years later found that West Indian pupils had shown a slight improvement and it was hoped that this was down to progression in social and educational integration.