Handling Cultural Diversity in Learning
Cultural diversity is the variety that arises from the various languages, religions and beliefs that individuals have. Globalization has facilitated interaction of individuals from diverse cultures leading to cultural interaction. Institutions of learning are some of the places where culturally diverse individuals have to interact and even work together during the course of study.
Acculturation is often a difficult process that is experienced by people visiting a foreign country for the first time. They struggle to understand the language, the food and the social conduct of the citizens of the new country. The process of fitting in is made even more challenging by the unwillingness to let go of the old culture and learn the new one openly. According to Lum (2011) acculturation fails to take place because of deeply rooted beliefs and the unwillingness to adopt to change.
For a student in a foreign land, the biggest challenge is language and communication (Lum 2011). A student from a non-Anglophone country studying in an Anglophone country will have difficulty learning the language to a level fit for learning, especially at an advanced stage like masters or PhD. A student may come from a country that speaks a similar language but there could be differences in accents and pronunciation. To help such a student, I would have to share as much academic information as I can to compliment what they learn on their own. If they are learning the language while studying, I would expose them to additional situations where they learn the language such as local music, television, movies and social events.
Students from different cultural backgrounds usually have conflicting world views. Others may believe that science and technology is the future while others believe that religion and a supreme being holds the future. During class presentations, such differences emerge very clearly. In the absence of an accommodating learning environment, different viewpoints can be used by other students as the basis of ridicule. The learning environment should be sensitive to the cultural biases that are present in all students. It should promote diversity by allowing different levels of interaction among all students (Sidanius 2008).
Another issue faced by individuals in a culturally diverse learning environment is cultural intolerance (Sidanius 2008). This negative attitude can be expressed by the host and the visitor at the same time. Many Americans hold a misguided fear against Muslims because recent terror attacks have been blamed on Islamic terror groups. A Muslim student from an Islamic country has to deal with this new form of discrimination and suspicion in order to fit in. The same student could also carry his own forms of discrimination into the new country be refusing to interact with female students during the learning process. To help such a student, one would need to respect their beliefs and help them through the systemic segregation that may exist in the new country.
Lum, D. (2011). Culturally competent practice: A framework for understanding diverse
groups and justice issues. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Sidanius, J. (2008). The diversity challenge: Social identity and intergroup relations on
the college campus. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.