What is Multicultural Education? by Jenny van Proctor

History and its role in Multicultural Education and Multicultural Competence

An unexpected insight has emerged from developing a project to record the history of various world religions: in a multicultural country like Australia, we do not explicitly teach Multicultural History or a version of World History through the lens of religion and culture.

Having taught in multicultural classrooms for more than two decades, I have come to realise that the history of the many religious traditions represented in Australia may hold the key to providing intercultural or multicultural competence and a vital foundation in multicultural knowledge.

Education has always played a role in the acculturation process of citizens as well as in the task of improving the life chances of each individual. History and Literature particularly have been acknowledged to impart cultural knowledge to imbue young people with a sense of regard for their country and its values. Does not also Multicultural History have a role to play in educating for intercultural understanding and cross cultural harmony?

In 2013, I created a visual and annotated timeline showing the history of many surviving religious traditions of the past 4000 years. I found that this resource helped students to explore and grasp the big picture of world religious chronology and to delve into improving their understanding of cultural differences, historiesand interrelationships.

The NSW Syllabus presents this Rationale for the study of History:

"History provides opportunities for students to explore human actions and achievements in a range of historical contexts. Students become aware that history is all around us and that historical information may be drawn from the physical remains of the past as well as written, visual and oral sources of evidence.

The study of History from K to 10 investigates the actions, motives and lifestyles of people over time, from individuals and family members, to local communities, expanding to national and world history contexts. It introduces the idea that History contains many stories and that there is never only one uncontested version. There are many differing perspectives within a nation's history, and historians may interpret events differently depending on their point of view and the sources they have used. The study of History strengthens an appreciation for and an understanding of civics and citizenship. It also provides broader insights into the historical experiences of different cultural groups within our society.... History encourages students to develop and understanding of significant historical concepts such as cause and effect, change and continuity, significance, empathy and contestability.

History as a discipline has its own methods and procedures. It is much more than the simple presentation of facts and dates from the past. History provides the skills for students to answer the question 'How do we know?'  An investigation of an historical issue through a range of sources can stimulate curiosity and develop problem-solving, research and critical thinking skills."                    (NSW BOSTES, Syllabus K-10 Syllabus:10).

The question that I am flagging is how we can improve our multicultural competence as a nation and why not use the History of World Religions as the basis for an educational foundation in Multicultural History as a basis for establishing multicultural competence.

I am hoping to find some similar minded thinkers on this topic: what do you think?