More than bindis, bangles, bhajis, and bhangra

Following the brutal killing of George Floyd in USA last year, important questions related to cultural diversity, race equality and community cohesion. Isabelle Mukadi, a BlackLivesMatter British activist said in an interview on BBC that it is high time that there should be a revision of the National Curriculum (BBC News, 2020). This is due to the increasing awareness among students from ethnic minorities who are interested in a curriculum, which can link to their lived experiences and identities. The Curriculum is currently a reflection of the dominant social group in Britain which has paved the way for a narrow, monocultural expression of the world in which the ‘others’ in the society are side-lined.

It is essential to answer questions about the inclusivity of the education system for children belonging to ethnic minority communities in the UK. This issue is particularly pertinent in areas of historically low diversity like Plymouth, which has more recently experienced a rise in its minority population and where inclusive growth was highlighted as a challenge in two consecutive Plymouth Reports of 2014 and 2019. Hence, it is necessary to support children from ethnic minorities by recognising their diversity. I believe that simultaneously, there is a need to educate children across all communities on diversity as differences can be appreciated only when they have this knowledge.

Multicultural education might be incorporated to facilitate the inclusion of these children. Multicultural education involves two essential elements: equity and cultural awareness, which are, fulfilling the educational requirements of the ethnically diverse children and preparing pupils across all communities for a multiracial, multicultural society that Britain is. While the National Curriculum today is the centre point of the educational enterprise, the teachers are the curriculum framers who put the curriculum in motion inside the classroom. A revised look at the Curriculum can be the starting point in which the teachers might play a significant part. The task design is crucial where teachers can place equal importance not only on ‘how’ the task is taught but also on ‘what’ and ‘why’ it is taught as all these three are intricately interwoven. The teachers might use the curriculum as machinery to create students’ conception of a multicultural Britain breaking the stereotypes. This will help in providing a plural and hospitable dimension to national identity for the ethnic minorities, telling the national story where they see themselves as important characters as well, thus creating “ a common identity in which all can see themselves, and giving all a sense of belonging to each other”. A sense of belonging thus fostered among students of diverse backgrounds might help to boost their self-esteem and confidence building. My research aims to explore attitudes of students, practitioners and parents towards multiculturalism in primary schools.

Amidst COVID-19, I have designed a remotely conducted research study. I will adopt a qualitative case study research design in multiple primary schools located in Plymouth. I will draw on various approaches from several established methodologies.

There are very few studies in Plymouth (Knight’s research thesis, 2018). The 2013 Cotton et al. project did not study settled ethnic minority communities exclusively. Until the primary education system introduces a multicultural curriculum embracing all communities, the children from ethnic minorities will continue to live in an ‘invisible state’ in their shell, and more so, in Plymouth, where these people are comparatively fewer.

The originality lies in attempting a holistic exploration of multiculturalism in Plymouth, possibly for the first time and that too, through the socio-cultural theory lens. We are passing
through a phase of alienation due to the ongoing pandemic, and in the aftermath of the BLM movement and Brexit. My research is, possibly a timely topic of study. It can help to understand the prevailing trend on multiculturalism in other schools with similar demography in terms of low diverse population and location in terms of remoteness and poor connectivity with the rest of the country as Plymouth.

My research may contribute to the ongoing studies supporting a multicultural curriculum. Thus, it may have a wider appeal to a broader audience with the national interest. My findings may also guide policymakers to identify potential areas where culturally relevant intervention programs can be directed (Whitfield, 2017).

References

BBC News. (2020). BBC News Channel, 8 June.

Chetty, D. (2020) ‘A personal journey into decolonising the curriculum and addressing white fragility’ BERA, no.142, Spring issue, pp.10. 

Cotton, D., George, R. and Joyner, M. (2013). The gender and ethnicity attainment gap research project. Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory (PedRIO). 

Department of Education and Science (1985) Education for All. London: HMSO. Hargreaves, J. (2018). ‘What impact does an ethnocentric curriculum have on a child’s identity?’ Warwick Globalist, Warwick. [online] [Accessed on 20 June 2020]. 

Harris, R. (2020). ‘Decolonising the history curriculum’, BERA, no.142, pp.16-17. 

Lander, V. (2014). ‘Initial Teacher Education: the practice of whiteness’ in Race, R. and Lander, V. (eds) Advancing race and ethnicity in education, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.93-110. 

Modood, T. (2014) ‘Multiculturalism and Integration’ in Race, R. and Lander, V. (eds) Advancing race and ethnicity in education, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.145-161. 

Plymouth Report. (2019). Plymouth: Plymouth City Council. [online]. [Accessed on 19 December 2019].

Shires, L. and Hunter, M. (2020). Exploring Task Design as an Enabler of leading Teaching in Secondary Schools, BERA, no.142, Spring issue, pp.6-7.

Troyna, B. and Edwards, V. (1993). The Educational Needs of a Multiracial Society. Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations. Coventry: University of Warwick. [online] [Accessed on 21 October 2020].

Whitfield, Lynn. (2017). Culturally Specific Interventions to Support Adolescent Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health. School of Social Work. [online]. Retrieved from Sophia, the St. Catherine University repository website [Accessed on 23 January 2020).

 

I am a Doctoral Teaching Assistant at the Institute of Education, Plymouth University, UK. I am presently researching on multiculturalism in primary schools in Plymouth. I am a trained compassionate ambassador, a community champion, and a certified faith speaker. I am passionate about humanitarian causes involving cultural diversity and race equality. As a member of the University’s Race Equality Charter, I completed my training and volunteer as a dignity and respect advisor. I am a member of the Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council under whom I completed my race equality training. I hope to pursue a career in academia after completing my Ph.D. and continue working for humanity, especially the BAME community. Outside my work, I am a trained Indian classical dancer and singer who has performed professionally across two continents.

<p>Suparna Bagchi</p>