Multicultural Perspectives in Early Childhood Education

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B341: Multicultural Perspectives in Early Childhood Education

20120825 Paula Ann Signal

The purpose of this essay is to critically examine the multicultural perspectives of Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education [MOE], 1996), the early childhood education curriculum of Aotearoa. In order to accomplish this, I will examine the term ‘multiculturalism’, its place in early childhood education and its historical context, and the concepts of individualistic and collectivist approaches to childrearing practices. I will explore the diverse cultural values and beliefs of Te Ao Māori, Pasifika people, and Indigenous people of Australia, and endeavour to unpack such cultural practices in regards to Te Whāriki (MOE, 1996). Helder Cāmara (1971) once stated “Keep your language. Love its sounds, its modulation, its rhythm. But try to march together with men of different languages” (p.61). Not only is Aotearoa babbling with a number of different languages, but it consists of a myriad of cultures, and Ramsay (2004) perceives the term ‘culture’ to be that which “profoundly affects how we perceive the world and relate to people, objects and nature” (p.104). Multiculturalism is defined by languages, religions, diverse cultures, and also in the forming of reciprocal relationships in order to comprehend, and acknowledge, each other’s beliefs and values (Pluto, 2010). It is suggested in Te Whāriki (MOE, 1996) that multiculturalism is evident in Aotearoa, through its “diversity of beliefs about childrearing practices, kinship roles, obligations, (and) codes of behaviour” (p. 18). A sense of such cultural relationships surely would have been in place in Aotearoa by the estimated first migration of Polynesians and Te Āo Māori in the mid 1200’s (Irwin & Walrond, 2012). The diverse cultures in society tend to either bat for the individualistic team – where self expression and independence is nurtured and promoted (Gonzalez-Mena, 2005), or for the collectivism team, where a vision is upheld that people “see themselves... as a member of the group rather than a


B341: Multicultural Perspectives in Early Childhood Education

20120825 Paula Ann Signal

separate self” (Gonzalez-Mena, 2002, p. 14). More often than not human beings will stick like glue to their cultural heritage and according to Chan (2006), “peoples perspectives of the world are influenced by their culture, values and beliefs about themselves and others” (p.35).

In terms of migration, the concept of ‘cultural hegemony’ is always in danger of taking place among society – in that the beliefs and values of one culture are overwhelmed by those of another (Jackson Lears, 1985). Early childhood kaiako/teachers of Aotearoa need to be aware of this concept as it can not only influence cultural beliefs and values, but diminish the roots of a tamaiti/child’s belief in their uniqueness and where they fit, as a culture, in this immense universe (Gomez, 1991). Ramsey (2004) suggests that “the relationships within and among cultural groups evolve” (p.105), and that we, as kaiako, need to acknowledge such changes and not just from our own cultural perspective (Ramsay, 2004, p. 110).

People hold a myriad of views in regards to the diverse cultures of our world, and Maybury-Lewis’s study (cited in Nativeweb, 2011) defines Indigenous people as those whom “claim their lands because they were there first or have occupied them since time immemorial.. (and).. groups that have been conquered by peoples racially, ethnically or culturally different from themselves”. An indigenous culture of Aotearoa, Te Āo Māori, places huge importance on maintaining their identity from that of other cultures, and Hoyt (2013) believes that “although some of the beliefs and traditions have been diluted due to outside influence over the last 150 to 200 years, many are still revered and commonly practiced”.

The cultural values and beliefs of Te Āo Māori generally revolve around ‘wairua/the spirit world’, and the...
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