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Tuesday, November 19, 2013



An Initial Thought


A multicultural country merupakan sebutan yang sangat cocok untuk Indonesia. Betapa tidak, keragaman agama dan kepercayaan, suku yang terpencar di lebih dari 17.000 pulau, keunikan bahasa daerah yang menempati jumlah terbanyak di dunia (lebih dari 500 bahasa daerah) dan sejumlah keragaman lain adalah potensi dan keunikan yang dimiliki oleh bangsa Indonesia sebagai bangsa yang besar. Akan tetapi keragaman dan keunikan tersebut selama ini tidak mendapatkan tempat dalam proses pembangunan bangsa, terutama dalam dunia pendidikan. Paradigma pembangunan pendidikan kita yang sangat sentralistik telah melupakan keragaman yang sekaligus kekayaan dan potensi yang dimiliki oleh bangsa ini. Perkelahian, kerusahan, permusuhan, munculnya kelompok yang memiliki perasaan bahwa hanya budayanyalah yang lebih baik dari budaya lain adalah buah dari pengabaian keragaman tersebut dalam dunia pendidikan kita. Dalam tulisan yang merupakan sebuah pemikiran awal tentang multicultural education ini, penulis menguraikan berbagai pandangan tentang apa sebenarnya pendidikan multikultural itu, sejarah, tujuan, serta prinsip-prinsip kunci pendidikan multikultural.

Key Words: multicultural education, diversity, plurality, society,
social justice, equity.

I. Introduction

Students of many religions, races, cultures and languages, ethnic backgrounds, and economic situations fill today's schools. Gollnick and Chinn (1994) stated that a
multicultural society comprises class (structure, stratification and socioeconomic status), ethnicity and race, gender, exceptionality, religion, language, and age. But this diversity should not be a problem, especially when we consider that multicultural education is all about plurality. Many educators believe that multicultural education can help students learn about other people and about cultures different from students' own.

Multicultural education means different things to different people. It also means rich diversity of a society. The rich diversity of today's society is clearly evident in many classrooms today. It is no longer enough to educate some of our children. Schools and
learning environments must work for all and must reflect the cultures of the communities they serve.

Multicultural education has as its purpose the development of citizens of a more democratic society through provision of more accurate and comprehensive disciplinary knowledge and through enhancement of students'
academic achievement and critical thinking applied to social problems. It seeks to promote the valuing diversity and equal opportunity for all people through understanding of the contributions and perspectives of people of differing race, ethnicity, culture, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and physical abilities and disabilities.

II. Definitions of Multicultural Education

Definitions of multicultural education vary. Some definitions rely on the cultural characteristics of diverse groups, while others emphasize social problems (particularly those associated with oppression), political power, and the reallocation of economic resources. Some restrict their focus to
people of color, while others include all major groups that are different in any way from mainstream of society. Other definitions limit multicultural education to characteristics of local schools, and still others provide directions for school reform in all settings regardless of their characteristics. Bennet (1995) stated that multicultural education is based upon democratic values and beliefs, and seeks to foster cultural pluralism within culturally diverse societies and interdependent world in which the definition includes the dimensions of the movement toward equity, the multicultural approach, the process of becoming multicultural, and the commitment to combat prejudice and discrimination. The goals of these diverse types of multicultural education range from bringing more information about various groups to textbooks, to combating racism, to restructuring the entire school enterprise and reforming society to make schools more culturally fair, accepting, and balanced. For this reason, the field of multicultural education is referred to interchangeably as multicultural education, education that is multicultural and antiracist education.

The following are the most frequently used definitions of multicultural education:

. An idea, an educational reform movement, and a process intended to change the structure of educational institutions so that all students have an equal chance to achieve academic success.

. A philosophy that stresses the importance, legitimacy, and vitality of ethnic and cultural diversity in shaping the lives of individuals, groups, and nations.

. A reform movement that changes all components of the educational enterprise, including its underlying values, procedural rules, curricula, instructional materials, organizational structure, and governance policies to reflect cultural pluralism.

. An ongoing process that requires long term investments of time and effort as well as carefully planned and monitored actions (Banks & Banks, 1993).

. Institutionalizing a philosophy of cultural pluralism within the educational system that is grounded in principles of equality, mutual respect, acceptance and understanding, and moral commitment to social justice (Baptiste, 1979).

. An education free of inherited biases, with freedom to explore other perspectives and cultures, inspired by the goal of making children sensitive to the plurality of the ways of life, different modes of analyzing experiences and ideas, and ways of looking at history found throughout the world (Parekh, 1986, pp. 26-27).

. A humanistic concept based on the strength of diversity, human rights, social justice, and alternative lifestyles for all people, it is necessary for a quality education and includes all efforts to make the full range of cultures available to students; it views a culturally pluralistic society as a positive force and welcomes differences as vehicles for better understanding the global society (ASCD Multicultural Education Commission, in Grant, 1977b, p. 3).

. An approach to teaching and learning based upon democratic values that foster cultural pluralism; in its most comprehensive form, it is a commitment to achieving educational equality, developing curricula that build understanding about ethnic groups, and combating oppressive practices (Bennett, 1990).

. Acquiring knowledge about various groups and organizations that oppose oppression and exploitation by studying the artifacts and ideas that emanate from their efforts (Sizemore, 1981).

. Policies and practices that show respect for cultural diversity through educational philosophy, staffing composition and hierarchy, instructional materials, curricula, and evaluation procedures (Grant, 1977).

. Comprehensive school reform and basic education for all students that challenges all forms of discrimination, permeates instruction and interpersonal relations in the classroom, and advances the democratic principles of social justice (Nieto, 1992).

These various definitions contain several points in common. Advocates agree that the content of multicultural education programs should include ethnic identities, cultural pluralism, unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, and other sociopolitical problems stemming from long histories of oppression. They believe that, at best, multicultural education is a philosophy, a methodology for educational reform, and a set of specific content areas within instructional programs. Multicultural education means learning about, preparing for, and celebrating cultural diversity, or learning to be bicultural. And it requires changes in school programs, policies, and practices.

III. A Brief History of Multicultural Education

As conceptualizations of multicultural education evolve and diversify, it is important to revisit its historical foundation -- the roots from which it sprang. What did the earliest forms of multicultural education look like and what social conditions gave rise to them? What educational traditions and philosophies provided the framework for the development of multicultural education? How has multicultural education changed since its earliest conceptualization? The answers to these questions provide an important contextual grounding for understanding the various models of multicultural education evolving today.

The historical roots of multicultural education lie in the civil rights movements of various historically oppressed groups.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the women's rights movement joined this push for education reform. Women's rights groups challenged inequities in employment and educational opportunities as well as income, identifying education as a primary contributing factor in institutionalized and systemic sexism. Feminist scholars and other women activists, like groups of color before them, insisted on curricula more inclusive of their histories and experiences. They challenged the discrepancy low number of female administrators relative to the percentage of female teachers (Banks, 1989).

The 1980s saw the emergence of a body of scholarship on multicultural education by progressive education activists and researchers who refused to allow schools to address their concerns by simply adding token programs and special units on famous women or famous people of color. James Banks, one of the pioneers of multicultural education, was among the first multicultural education scholars to examine schools as social systems from a multicultural context. He grounded his conceptualization of multicultural education in the idea of "educational equality." According to Banks (1981), in order to maintain a "multicultural school environment," all aspects of the school had to be examined and transformed, including policies, teachers' attitudes, instructional materials, assessment methods, counseling, and teaching styles.

So as the 1980s flowed into the final decade of the twentieth century, multicultural education scholars refocused the struggle on developing new approaches and models of education and learning built on a foundation of social justice, critical thinking, and
equal opportunity. Educators, researchers, and cultural theorists began to further deconstruct traditional models in both the K-12 (SD to SMA) and higher education arenas from a multicultural framework.

Today, literally dozens of models and frameworks for multicultural education exist. While theory and scholarship has moved from small curricular revisions to approaches that call for full transformations of self, schools, and society, many implementations of multicultural education still begin with curricular additions of diverse sources. But with a fuller understanding of the roots of the movement, we are better equipped to follow the transformative path laid by many educators, activists, and scholars. And it is important to remember that multicultural education is a relatively new concept that will continue to change to meet the needs of a constantly changing society.

IV. Major Goals of Multicultural Education

The expected outcomes of multicultural education are embedded in its definitions, justification, and assumptions; and they exhibit some clearly discernible patterns. While specific goals and related objectives are quite numerous, and vary according to contextual factors such as school settings, audiences, timing, purposes, and perspectives, they fall into seven general clusters. They cover all three domains of learning (cognitive, affective, and action) and incorporate both the intrinsic (ends) and instrumental (means) values of multicultural education. These goal clusters are ethnic and cultural literacy, personal development, attitude and values clarification, multicultural social competence, basic skills proficiency, educational equity and excellence, and empowerment for societal reform. Each one is discussed briefly below.

4.1. Developing Ethnic and Cultural Literacy

One of the primary and persistent reasons for the movement to include cultural pluralism in school programs is to correct what advocates call "sins of omission and commission." First, we must provide students with information about the history and contributions of ethnic groups who traditionally have been excluded from instructional materials and curricula; and second, we must replace the distorted and biased images of those groups that were included in the curricula with more accurate and significant information. These goals continue to be major concerns of multicultural education, because many students still know too little about the history, heritage, culture, languages, and contributions of groups of diverse society in their own country.

Thus, a major goal of multicultural education is to learn about the historical backgrounds, languages, cultural characteristics, contributions, critical events, significant individuals, and social, political, and economic conditions of various majority and minority ethnic groups. This information should be comprehensive, analytical, and comparative, and should include similarities and differences within and among groups.

This goal is appropriate for both majority students and for those who are members of various ethnic minority groups. A mistake frequently made by educators is to assume either that members of ethnic minority groups already know their culture and history or that this kind of knowledge is relevant only to them. Multicultural education argues to the contrary. Membership in an ethnic group does not guarantee self-knowledge or exclusive ownership of knowledge about that group. Acquiring knowledge about the history, life, and culture of ethnic groups is appropriate for all students because they need to learn more, with greater accuracy, about their own cultural heritages and those of others. Furthermore, knowledge about ethnic pluralism is a necessary foundation for respecting, appreciating, valuing, and celebrating diversity, both nationally and internationally.

4.2. Personal Development

The psychological underpinnings of multicultural education explain its emphasis on developing greater self-understanding, positive self-concepts, and pride in one's ethnic identity. Emphasizing these areas is part of multicultural education's goal of contributing to the personal development of students, which contends that a better sense of self contributes to the overall intellectual, academic, and social achievement of students. Students who feel good about themselves are likely to be more open and receptive to interaction with others and to respect their cultures and identities. This argument is further justified by claims made about the reciprocal relationship between self-concept, academic achievement, ethnicity, culture, and individual identity.

Many students have internalized the negative and distorted conceptions of their own and other ethnic groups, a process that has been promoted in larger society. Students from groups of color may be convinced that their heritages have little of value to offer, while those from dominant groups may have inflated notions about their significance. Developing a better understanding of their own and other ethic groups and cultural experiences can correct these distortions. Multicultural education also helps educators to fulfill the goals of maximizing human potential, meeting individual needs, and teaching the whole child by enhancing feelings of personal worth, confidence, and competence. It creates a psychosocial state of readiness in individuals and learning environments, which has a positive effect upon academic efforts and task mastery.

4.3. Attitudes and Value Clarification

Multicultural education promotes the core values that stem from the principles of human dignity, justice, equality, freedom, self-determination, and democracy. The intent is to teach youths to respect and embrace ethnic pluralism, to realize that cultural differences are not synonymous with deficiencies or inferiorities, and to recognize that diversity is an integral part of the human condition. Clarifying ethnic attitudes and values is designed to
help students understand that some conflict of values is unavoidable in ethnically and racially pluralistic societies; that conflict does not have to be corrosive and divisive, when managed well it can be a catalyst for social progress; that there is strength in ethnic and cultural pluralism; that ethnic allegiance and national loyalty are not irreconcilable; and that cooperation and coalition among ethnic groups are not dependent upon having identical beliefs, values, and behaviors. Analyzing and clarifying ethnic attitudes and values are key steps in the process of unleashing the creative potential of individuals for self-renewal and of society for continuous growth and development.

4.4. Multicultural Social Competence

It is imperative that students learn how to interact with and understand people who are ethnically, racially, and culturally different from themselves. Our world is becoming increasingly more diverse, compact, and interdependent. Yet, for most students, the formative years of their lives are spent in ethnically and culturally isolated or encapsulated enclaves. This existence does not adequately prepare them to function effectively in ethnically different environments and multicultural settings. Attempts at cross cultural interactions are often stymied by negative attitudes, values, and expectations; cultural blunders; and by trying to impose rules of social etiquette from one cultural system onto another. The results are often heightened interracial and interethnic group frustrations, anxiety, fears, failures, and hostilities.

Multicultural education can ease these tensions by teaching skills in cross cultural communication, interpersonal relations, perspective taking, contextual analysis, understanding alternative points of view and frames of reference, and analyzing how cultural conditions affect values, attitudes, beliefs, preferences, expectations, and behaviors. It also can help students learn how to understand cultural differences without making hasty and arbitrary value judgments about their intrinsic worth. Attaining these goals can be expedited by providing wide varieties of opportunities for students to practice their cultural competence and to interact with different ethnic peoples, experiences, and situations.

4.5. Basic Skill Proficiency

A major goal of multicultural education is to facilitate the teaching and learning of basic literacy skills of ethnically different students. Multicultural education can improve mastery of reading, writing, and mathematical skills; subject matter content; and intellectual process skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution by providing content and techniques that are more meaningful to the lives and frames of reference of ethnically different students. Using ethnic materials, experiences, and examples as the contexts for teaching, practicing, and demonstrating mastery of academic and subject matter skills increases the appeal of the tools of instruction, heightens the practical relevance of the skills to be learned, and improves students' time on task. This combination of conditions leads to greater focused efforts, task persistence, skill mastery, and academic achievement.

Another aspect of multicultural education that contributes directly to the attainment of higher levels of basic skills achievement is matching teaching and learning styles. Disjuncture in how different students learn in their cultural communities and how they are expected to learn in school cause much time and attention to be devoted to resolving these conflicts instead of concentrating on academic tasks. Teaching students as they are accustomed to learning minimizes these conflicts and channels more energy and effort directly into the academic tasks to be accomplished. Thus, culturally contextualized teaching for making the educational process more effective for ethnically diverse students is a fundamental principle of multicultural education.

The kinds of social climates that exist in classrooms also affect students' performances on academic tasks. This influence is particularly true for ethnic groups that consider social relationships and informal settings imperative to the learning process. When teachers respond to these needs by including ethnic symbols, images, and information in the classroom decorations, curriculum content, and interpersonal interactions, ethnic students feel validated, at ease, and have greater affiliation with the school. These feelings of personal affirmation and comfort create the backdrop of personal connectedness that is essential to students' taking ownership in learning, which, in turn, leads to more sustained attention, effort, time on task, and improved task mastery and academic achievement.

4.6. Educational Equity and Excellence

This goal of multicultural equity is closely related to the goal of basic skill mastery, but is much broader and more philosophical.

In order to determine what constitutes comparability of learning opportunities, educators must thoroughly understand how culture shapes learning styles, teaching behaviors, and educational decisions. They must then develop a variety of means to accomplish common learning outcomes that reflect the preferences and styles of a wide variety of groups and individuals. By giving all students more choices about how they will learn, choices that are compatible with their cultural styles, none will be unduly advantaged or disadvantaged at the procedural levels of learning. These choices will lead to closer parallelism (e.g., equity) in opportunities to learn and more comparability in students' achieving the maximum of their own intellectual capabilities (e.g., excellence).

Other aspects of this goal include teaching accurate information about society; developing a sense of social consciousness, moral courage, and commitment to equality; and acquiring skills in political activism for reforming society to make it more humane, sympathetic toward cultural pluralism, morally just, and egalitarian. Therefore, the multicultural goal of achieving educational equity and excellence encompasses cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills, as well as the principles of democracy (Banks, 1992).

4.7. Personal Empowerment for Social Reform

The ultimate goal of multicultural education is to begin a process of change in schools that will ultimately extend to society. This goal will be accomplished by cultivating in students attitudes, values, habits, and skills so that they can become social change agents who are committed to reforming society in order to eradicate ethnic and racial disparities in opportunities and are willing to act upon this commitment. To do so, they need to improve their knowledge of ethnic issues as well as develop decision making abilities, social action skills, leadership capabilities, a sense of political efficacy, and a moral commitment to human dignity and equality. That is, they not only need to understand and appreciate why ethnicity and cultural pluralism, but also how to translate this knowledge into decisions and actions related to key sociopolitical issues, events, concerns, and situations.

This goal and related skill development are designed to make society more genuinely egalitarian and more accepting of cultural pluralism. They also are intended to ensure that ethnic and cultural groups that traditionally have been victimized and excluded will become full fledged participants at all levels of society, with all of the attendant rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Multicultural education contributes directly to developing skills for democratic citizenship in the global village. This function of multiculturalism is what Banks meant by his proposal to use a social action approach to multicultural education, which teaches students how to become social critics, political activists, change agents, and competent leaders in a culturally pluralistic and ethnically diverse society and world. It is also similar to Grant's conception of multicultural education for social reconstruction. This approach focuses on oppression and social structure inequalities, with the intention of creating a society that better empowers and serves the needs and interests of all groups of people. It builds personal empowerment in students by establishing relevance between school learning and social living, providing practice in applying knowledge and taking action to direct their own lives, and demonstrating the power of knowledge, collaborative efforts, and political action in effecting social change.

V. Key Principles of Multicultural Education

Multicultural education is based on some commonly asserted principles. The frequency and consistency with which these principles are declared across time and advocates are other strong indications of the consensus that exists about some essential, baseline features of multicultural education and a convincing counterargument to claims that the field lacks conceptual clarity.

A principle is a basic or essential quality that determines the intrinsic nature of something. Multicultural education includes several characteristics or traits that, as a composite, distinguish its inherent nature and quality from other educational innovations. Parekh (1986) sets the overall tone of multicultural education in his judgment that multicultural education is good education for all children. To endorse multicultural education is not to imply that the entire education system should be destroyed or that the Anglo centric cultural dominance existing in schooling should merely be replaced with the dominance of other ethnic cultures; neither is it to deny the need for a common national culture. Rather, it simply says that the education system needs to be improved by becoming less culturally monolithic, rigid, biased, hegemonic, and ethnocentric. The prevailing norm in educational decision making and operating procedures should be cultural pluralism and heterogeneity, instead of cultural hegemony or homogeneity.

The general principles of multicultural education are supported by several more specific ones. Multiculturalists describe the most salient "personality traits" of multicultural education as follows:

. A personally empowering, socially transformative, and pedagogically humanistic process

. Correcting and rehabilitating some of the mistakes that schools have made in educating culturally different children, especially those of color and poverty

. A search for scholarly honesty and truth by giving due recognition to the contributions of diverse groups and cultures to the collective accomplishments of humankind

. Fundamentally an affective and humanistic enterprise that aims to achieve greater understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures and peoples

. Both content and process, structure and substance, action and reflection, knowledge and values, philosophy and methodology, an educational means and an end

. For all students in all grades, subjects, and school settings

. A means of achieving parity in educational opportunities for diverse students

. A process of systematic and systemic change that is developmental, progressive, and ongoing

. A confluence of diverse cultural heritages, experiences, perspectives, and contributions

. Has inherent merit for its own sake, as well as instrumental value for facilitating other educational goals

. A bridge for making meaningful connections between the abstractions of schooling and the actual life experiences of ethnically and culturally different students.

. A vehicle for and conduit of relevance, equity, excellence, and personal meaningfulness in education for culturally diverse students.

. An acceptance and celebration of diversity as a normal fact of human life and schooling.


Multicultural education seems to be an important part to be discussed nowadays since we are now living in a global a society. People coming from certain places and different cultures can now easily interact with those who live in other places and cultures. This means that we have to understand other's cultures to be a part of the global society. Multicultural education enables our students to live and adjust with different cultures and understand other people.

Multicultural education means a reform movement that changes all components of the educational enterprise, including its underlying values, procedural rules, curricula, instructional materials, organizational structure, and governance policies to reflect cultural pluralism. This means that the content of multicultural education programs should include ethnic identities, cultural pluralism, unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, and other sociopolitical problems stemming from long histories of oppression.

Therefore, multicultural education sets for some important goals. The goals are developing ethnic and cultural literacy, personal development, attitude and values clarification, multicultural social competence, basic skills proficiency, educational equity and excellence, and empowerment for societal reform.


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