The Advantages and Disadvantages of Learning in a Multicultural Environment
In modern life a person must learn to live in a multicultural community, and it is possible, as the intercultural socialization often starts in early childhood, when absorbed by the rules and norms of native culture of the society. While learning in multicultural environment, young people get the experience with the right approach to training, which can facilitate further adaptation to foreign culture. The postulate of multicultural education is the idea that the diversity of society must find its reflection in learning of the academic disciplines. Learning in a multicultural environment has both pluses and minuses. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the importance, risks, advantages and disadvantages of learning in multicultural environment and the ways to improve it.
The advantages and disadvantages
On the one hand, dialogue with other cultures can enrich the inner world of any student, to promote his spiritual development, to broaden horizons, enhance adaptive capacity. People who were learning in a multicultural society are easier to adapt to life in any country or working group. One of the main advantages of multicultural learning it is being continuous and dynamic. Secondly, it is a process associated with the building of relationships between people. Empathy and understanding that teachers share with their students, often play a more important role than the facts and figures that teachers are aware of the demographic proportions and ethnic groups. Moreover, it is a process drawn to such intangible values as a learning environment, student learning styles and other cultural indicators, which are important for the success of all students.
The most important advantage is learning more languages. However, it can easily turn into disadvantage. In young age, being surrounded by many languages creates a turmoil and decreases the learning of own language. On more plus of such environment is to help students to develop decision-making skills and participation in social processes. Intercultural approach puts high diversity, promotes critical thinking, reflection and action that prepare students to active positions in society.
On the other hand, a life in a multicultural society can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination and racism. There is also the possibility that multiculturalism is a utopia that can not lead to any good. Multicultural environment and learning in it can greatly contribute to any student’s development but only with the condition that each person of different culture is treated with respect. When different cultures exist in the same space there happens a mixture of different cultures. As a result, it can bear controversies even inside a personality. The multicultural environment in learning is similar to what is happening now in world due to globalization processes, which create multicultural world. The number of problems that exist in a multicultural environment is much lower if there is a cultural integration that is the process of increasing interdependence between people of different cultures, leading to the formation of a harmonious system. In contrast to integration, that may lead to certain problems of assimilation or absorption of a cultural group with a complete loss of identity of its members and the adoption of identity of the absorbing group. As a result of the assimilation of those who assimilate, they lose their language, culture, traditions, identity change their ethnicity. Same may happen while learning in the multicultural environment: on a personal level the assimilation often has adverse impact as students are more susceptible to losing their culture, but not always adapts to someone’s else, which leads to negative emotions and stress. Sometimes in a multicultural learning environment there is segregation, which also reflects badly on the personal development of students. Segregation is an expression of the separate existence of different cultural groups, often unfriendly toward each other. The multicultural class can split into such groups that are not willing to work or study with each other. Growing up in such an environment creates many prejudices.
Ways to get more advantages from learning in multicultural environment
To prepare the student to learn in an intercultural (multicultural) environment, the educational system should pursue the following goals and objectives: to promote awareness of social and cultural changes taking place in the environment. Then, to promote awareness of intergroup and intragroup differences, which in turn should help to achieve greater mutual understanding. It is necessary to promote the improvement of interactions between groups within and through the involvement of students in contact with students from different cultural groups, and training them to different types of cultures and communication. One more way is to contribute to the development of mutual understanding between students – representatives of different cultures and communication skills in the world of cultural diversity.
In practice, it turns out that the exact purpose of multicultural education is not always clearly defined and available resources (financial institutions, literature) are often lacking. Thus, a high degree of social security is often coexists with tolerance, and where xenophobia is eradicated. In the intercultural society the principle of social justice has to be achieved. For this there were created seven basic principles of education in multicultural environment. First, multicultural learning is anti-racist education. Both teachers and students need to critically analyze causal relationships and interactions between events, people, etc. The word “racism” is seldom mentioned in schools. Nevertheless, it is impossible to stay away from the impact of racism, sexism, discrimination against older people, anti-Semitism and ethnocentrism in a society in which all these aforementioned phenomena exist. Thus, the mission of school officials is to create an environment in which prejudices about racism and discrimination would be left out.
Then, multicultural learning must be a basic education. Competence in the field of cultural diversity is as vital in the modern world as the ability to read, write, count and work with computer. It should be “open” training program for different views and experiences. Alternative to multicultural education is studying in monoculture environment. It is more conservative, however, it has a significant drawback as it reflects only one reality, and directed to the benefit of the dominant group. It is because the views of many people remain outside of the education system, the formation of monoculture is considered incomplete. It deprives the diversity of schoolchildren, which has become part of our world.
Learning in multicultural environment should reflect the diversity of all students present and participating in the process. The objective of should be the general enrichment, both of moral and academic side of participants with the use of alternative and not just the traditional teaching methods. The training program should include the experiences and views of different peoples, and both male and female view of the world. Additionally, learning in multicultural environment strives to achieve social justice. The basis of multicultural philosophy is to learn to think bigger, be more open, to reflect on what was learnt, and translate knowledge into practice. The class should not only allow the discussion about social justice but should encourage them. At the center of these discussions there may be problems that are directly related to those groups that differ culturally: religion, poverty, discrimination, war, the state budget, and the possibility of students to act in order to influence the situation.
In sum, learning in the multicultural environment is a complicated process. Strictly speaking, it involves many challenges connected to the essence, and features a variety of different cultures and their relationship; the dynamics of change and convergence of cultures. Students may have problems with communication and cultural barriers and should use the theory of communication, diversities of cultural perception, primary language and non-verbal communication, languages and the diversity of ways of thinking related to culture. Multicultural environment presupposes specific multi-ethnic space and its demographic characteristics. Moreover, students have to learn more additionally to standard things – aspects of cross-cultural communication and psychosocial identification: understanding and stereotypes. Often multicultural environment has to deal with ethnocentrism and racism, treatment of minorities, their rights and freedoms.
However, learning in multicultural environment meets the needs of modern world. Globalization penetrated all spheres of our lives, leaving traces in the way students should be learning. The major advantages of learning in multicultural environment are gaining the tolerance, understanding of culture, gaining adaptation skills, learning new languages, increasing overall intelligence and mobility.