Tanja de Vos, January 2023

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

Education aims at the growth of children into productive citizens who use their knowledge, talents and learned skills to sustain themselves and help others. This is done while pushing humanity forward in the areas of equality, equity, and harmony. The aim of education should be to enable individuals to live according to social values and traditions. Education is necessary for the self-actualization of the individual. The aim of education is to promote national progress, a sense of common citizenship and culture, and to strengthen national integration. However, education should also aim at learning about other traditions and cultures. Children sit and learn with individuals from diverse backgrounds. This is the key factor in diversity in education. Diversity in the classroom has several aspects. Students come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Moreover, some students come from far-off places and bring their culture along. So, competent educators must be prepared to meet such diverse needs in classrooms.

Students’ diversity in education has a direct impact on their performance. Studies show that students work better in a diverse environment. Such an environment enables them to concentrate and push themselves further when there are people of other backgrounds learning and working alongside them. (“Benefits of Diversity in Schools | Queens University Online – qnstux”) It has many benefits. This promotes creativity, as well as better education. As a result, students learn concepts or solve problems from differing viewpoints and can work together to develop creative ideas. When children of distinct cultures and backgrounds come and learn together, they leave an influence on everyone around them. Culture includes what people do and what they believe. Culture influences how we see the world, how we try to understand it and how we communicate with each other. (“How Does Culture Shape And Influence Yourself – Livelaptopspec”) Therefore, culture determines, to a certain extent, our learning and teaching style.

Diversity is a cheap, negative word… variety is much more meaningful and refreshing.

Obviously, in education, variety means a fresh path to learning… another way to widen our awareness and sense of truth and beauty.

Why is diversity so crucial in a classroom?

Great question. It underscores a fundamental divide. There are those that believe that diversity means including ‘others‘. To me, diversity means an opportunity to show that we are fundamentally the same.

Even though we all have the same number of fingers, there are many differences between us that can’t be determined by our outward appearances. Although this fact is known to us, simple-minded adults teach children NOT to ignore it.

To put it another way, being exposed to children of different appearances, cultures, and abilities prepare them for life in the real world. This is also a significant part of their education and preparation for living in a democracy with others.

To oppose diversity in education is to prefer a segregated society. Therefore, colleges and universities are doing more on this subject than is required. They understand that their knowledge product, the output of prestigious academic papers, has zero to do with skin colour.

With respect to diversity, all educational institutions promote learning about distinct cultures in the social sciences (predominantly). Some of the material I used as a teacher was quite effective, while a lot of it was not. The problem was how to avoid activities or units that had a clear bias.

If by diversity you mean intellectual diversity, then this is a much more serious challenge. The most effective teachers will always try to surprise their students with facts, not just opinions. Try to craft your lesson plans with ideas that stimulate conversation. It doesn’t always have to be controversial. If, for example, a student makes a comment, then provide the student with a unique perspective. In other words, play devil’s advocate, but never forget to remind the kids that your style is a tactical manoeuvre.

Keep your guard up and don’t show favouritism – which I know is challenging. Teachers should promote cognitive growth for every student, not groupthink. Kids want to be independent thinkers, so help them.


Published by De Vos

I am an educator at heart and I love what I do.

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