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Multiculturalism in education: York academic sets out benefits

Posted on 11 November 2016

A University of York academic has written a book setting forth the benefits of a multicultural education based on his experiences of teaching African asylum seekers in Malta.

Dr Damian Spiteri, Lecturer in Social Work in York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, was inspired to write a book providing advice for improving the international student experience after listening to the difficulties experienced by some students.

He suggests teachers and lecturers should adopt more inclusive teaching pedagogies and promote integration in all aspects of school and university life.

Using case studies from all over the world, he provides practical recommendations for educators to improve the international student experience.

These include:

  • Ensuring students are aware of global issues such as migration, human rights, the elimination of poverty, and solidarity.
  • Encouraging students to be more vocal in lessons by talking about their background and exchanging views. Increased dialogue in lessons will lead to better understanding between students and teachers.
  • Empowering teachers to talk openly about how drop-out rates are often caused by student unhappiness, prompting them to think about ways they can enhance integration. Educators should ensure any examples used when teaching are relevant to everyone and not country-specific, discouraging cultural stereotypes.
  • Ensuring there are adequate language provisions for students who are not taught in their native language
  • Discouraging images and words that can prevent students from reaching their life goals. For example, the image of a white male scientist in a lab coat may preclude certain students from seeing themselves as scientists in the future.

Dr Spiteri has worked as a social worker, teacher, and college and university lecturer in multicultural settings and classrooms for over twenty years.

He explains: “Throughout my career I have researched different aspects of the life-course transitions of young people, including minor asylum seekers and young people in care. An overarching theme in ensuring students have a positive, beneficial educational experience is predominantly about encouraging a collective, collegiate atmosphere for all students, from all backgrounds.

“It is vital that students have a solid grounding in an accepting, multicultural educational environment as we live in a multicultural world. With the rise of international students in higher education across the globe it is crucial that institutions promote multicultural education for their wider communities.”

“This book adopts a strengths-based student-centered perspective and offers practical illustrations of how multicultural education can instigate students to understand each other and relate to each other meaningfully.”

Multiculturalism, Higher Education and Intercultural Communication: Developing Strengths-Based Narratives for Teaching and Learning is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

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