The NSW Cultural Diversity and Community Relations policy (NSW DET 2005: online) is a document which aims to outline the responsibilities which NSW schools have to provide teaching and learning programs which will enable students across many different cultures and communities the opportunity to be able to identify with, and as, Australians. This policy should aid schools in developing students from all cultures and communities across NSW to develop the knowledge, skills and values for participation as active and involved citizens throughout their schooling and professional lives.
However, does this policy aid the students who are directly affected by the policy, or does it remove these students even further from the schooling community making it even harder for them to be accepted or supported within a multi-cultural community?
The NSW DET has recognised the ever changing cultural and community relations which have taken place, and continues to take place within school communities across NSW. To ensure that students from culturally different backgrounds are accommodated and thought of at school, the NSW DET has developed a policy named “Cultural Diversity and Community Relations Policy: Multicultural education in schools.” (NSW DET 2005: online)
Aims and strategies of the policy
The aims and objectives of this policy appear to be rather broad and upon further study of the policy and other related documents, it appears that there is a need for the policy to be more specific in regards to exactly what changes need to be implemented within the school curriculum. For example, the policy statement 1.1 states that “community harmony is promoted through school policies and practices.” (NSW DET 2005: 1.1) School communities need to examine the level of multiculturalism within its school community and become aware of important dates, traditions and celebrations of these communities, rather than just learning about and celebrating the typical and accepted Australian ones. (Nieto 2000: 360) By doing this the school is showing an acceptance of things outside the dominant class norm, while at the same time demonstrating to the minor class that their customs and traditions are a welcome asset to the school community.
Although statement 1.2 of the policy recognizes that Australia is now well and truly a multicultural society, this statement also implies that even though the school may accept the fact that there are many different cultures imbedded within any one school, the curriculum still revolves around the Australian culture. It also implies that the curriculum will focus on aiding students to become active “Australian” citizens rather than active “Chinese/Australian” citizens or “Lithuanian/Australian” citizens for example.
For a school to effectively encourage cross-culture acceptance and harmony within the same schooling environment, all aspects from all cultures need to be considered within the school curriculum. As Nieto (2000: 355) argues, a multicultural curriculum needs to be developed to ensure that all students are given the best and most opportunities to succeed and achieve their goals, no matter what their background.
Statement 1.3 is a strategy which is responsive to the dramatic social and economic changes occurring globally within today’s society. Teaching practices need to evolve with today’s society and the type of cultures with which they are faced. Long gone are the homogenous classroom days when a teacher could presume or expect the entire class to be filled with one ethnic background or one religious belief. (Richmond & Andreoni 2004: 91) Today’s teachers need to be prepared and committed to teaching a wide range of culturally diverse students. They also need to be aware of the different learning styles of these students, and the many issues these students face on a daily basis. Teachers need to adopt an “open and tolerant attitude towards different cultures, religions and world...
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