Promoting and Advancing Multicultural Dialogues in Education

This article addresses debates around current multicultural dialogues in education. It also plots the journey of the promotion of an edited collection on this which has been supported by The Dialogue Society (Race, 2018). The article begins with contextual sections on the concepts of multiculturalism and interculturalism in education. Contemporary and relevant events such as Brexit, Prevent and the Shamima Begun case are applied. Several academic events, one organised by The Dialogue Society, are examined to see how dialogues are promoted within the academy to underline the continued importance of multicultural dialogues in education.

Multiculturalism and Education

In 2019 it seems that it is becoming harder to see where multiculturalism resides in English education, despite the fact that society is becoming even more culturally diverse. The disconnect, as it has been called, between what is actually going on socially or educationally, and the unknown consequences of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union at the end of March 2019 is a major issue (UN, 2018). In a wider context, Brexit is a monocultural movement towards a more nationalistic interpretation of culture and society. In an educational sense this should not be a surprise as England and Wales has had a national curriculum for over thirty years. Even though Programme’s of Study exist within different core and foundation subjects that have culturally diverse curricula, the issue remains on whether professional practitioners have been taught a more multicultural and anti-racist curricula focus. Have colleagues had relevant diversity training within a wider, coherent professional development plan, which gives them the pedagogy to teach within a culturally diverse classroom or lecture theatre?

Interculturalism and Education

If intercultural education focuses upon different people and cultures and includes how interculturalism is taught in all settings including the diversity of all communities being the norm rather than exception then, we need as we do within multicultural education practice, to question what is being delivered in classrooms and lecture theatres. That reorientation of focus is important when we examine majority or minority communities and cultures. ‘Inter’ is also defined as ‘between’ which should be seen as a positive opportunity to explore spaces and issues between cultures in society. Shamima Begum, who left London at 15 to join Islamic State and who reappeared in February 2019 requesting to return home raises many intercultural issues, including her citizenship and whether she can return home or be refused entry to the United Kingdom based on security risks. The complexity of this and other cases like it raises intercultural issues but needs to be considered in relation to how this case and these issues can be taught in education settings. This returns to the issue of how we prepare our professional practitioners for delivering content and the knowledge that can be objectively presented to students.

International Dialogues on Multicultural and Intercultural Education

In relation to Dialogues, a Newton Fund / British Academy Research Workshop took place in Mahidol University, Thailand in June 2018. The edited collection was a key text for this event. This brought together early career researchers from England and Scotland and Thailand alongside international mentors who came together to talk about multicultural and intercultural education (Race, 2015; Arphattananon, 2018). What was particularly interesting where the trips to schools in Thailand to see how both majority and minority communities are schooled in both the public and private sectors. When you are informed about the history of Thailand alongside the development of its educational system, you begin to look at similarities and differences of your own system of education.

Race Equality and Anti-Racism Practice.

There are wider issues at play in relation to the police and their relationships with Black London youth. Knife murders were higher in London than they were in New York City in 2018. It is debatable whether racial profiling and stop and search, when considering a reduction in the number of police officers since 2010 in London is working. There are wider social, cultural and educational issues here, the Shamina Begum case study touches on some of them. One of the biggest issues in education is student performance. The continued work of Feyisa Demie and colleagues on achievement and underachievement remains important work when examining student performance and racial stereotypes. This work is crucial when teaching anti-racism within a more culturally diverse curriculum. This mixed methods approach needs to be used as part of diversity training within a wider system of continuing professional development for all practitioners (Demie, 2019; Demie and McLean, 2017; 2018).

Reflecting and Promoting Advancing Multicultural Dialogues in Education

The aim of the edited book was to bring colleagues from all over the world to reflect upon multicultural dialogues in education. Shirley Steinberg and Leena Robertson have both talked about their research at both The Dialogue Society (March 2018) and Roehampton University (February 2019). They discussed White Supremacy and Patriarchy, as well as Early Childhood Policy and Practice respectively. Both of these papers are applicable to the Shamina Begum and Prevent / Channel case study mentioned earlier in this paper. It is how multicultural and anti-racist education can address some of those complex issues and provide a more contemporary pedagogical practice that is ultimately more relevant to children, young adults and mature students. The promotion of multicultural and anti-racist education continues. The next event / project with The Dialogue Society is to arrange another symposium, bringing colleagues together for all levels and settings to continue advancing multicultural dialogues in education.

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Dr Richard Race

Dr Richard Race

Senior Lecturer in Education at Roehampton and Visiting Professor in Education at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy

Dr Richard Race is Senior Lecturer in Education at Roehampton and Visiting Professor in Education at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy. He is the editor of the collection, Advancing Multicultural Dialogues in Education (2018, Palgrave Macmillan) and author of the monograph, Multiculturalism and Education (2015, 2nd Ed., Bloomsbury).

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