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Critically discuss the statement that to better match beliefs about

diversity with practice, we must examine how our own intercultural


sensitivities about difference and diversity might impact upon students
learning.

In Australia there are a variety of different and diverse students who attend
schools with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. As a result teachers
must be aware of these different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and need
examine their own intercultural sensitivities as this may have an impact on
students learning. The following essay will argue that teachers intercultural
sensitivities can have an impact on students learning. This essay will also
argue and demonstrate how different policies are implemented by the
government, and practiced in the classroom. Using various theories this
response will focus on the particular social justice issue of ethnicity and race
to demonstrate intercultural sensitivities displayed by teachers and also how
education policies are put into practice as this can affect a students success.
Diversity, in this context educational diversity is an important aspect when
taking into consideration students learning. Teachers when using their
pedagogy do not just take into consideration students learning styles; they
must also consider students cultural backgrounds as this can impact on how
a student learns in the classroom. Introducing a new curriculum can seem
very daunting and new to a student who is new to the country. As an
educator in order to make the student feel comfortable, teachers need to
integrate other ways of introducing their content. An example of this is
through the case study of Mount Claremont Primary where they have
eighteen year 6 and 7 students from Beijing that are hosted by families in

the community and they participate in a variety of different programs during


their stay as highlighted (Department of education Western Australia, 2015).
This example demonstrates an acceptance of diversity in schools as it shows
different ways of integrating different programs in facilitating other cultural
and ethnicity groups. Not only do these foreign students learn Australian
culture but those students that are visiting get an idea and also participate in
programs designed to introduce them to Australian education.
The social justice issue related to diversity that will be discussed in this essay
is Race and ethnicity. L. Naidoo categorises race and ethnicity into two
distinctive groups. Race is a socially defined category based on real and
perceived differences between groups of people, whereas Ethnicity is based
on common language, religion, nationality, history, or other cultural factors
(personal communication, 2H 2015). Understanding the difference between
race and ethnicity is an important aspect of being a teacher. Due to
migration schools have now been fluctuated of different ethnic groups. A
theory that supports race and ethnic diversity in Australian education is
ethnic pluralism. Ethnic pluralism is defined as Mutual respect on the part of
all cultures, both dominant and subordinate, creating a multicultural
environment of acceptance (Openstax college, p. 241). This can be applied
to the classroom as a teacher you must be accepting of students regardless
of race, culture, and ethnicity. The theory serves as an important aspect of
this social justice issue as it highlights the acceptance of all cultures and
ethnic groups and negates all negativity and prejudices.

Cultural insensitivities can influence a students learning. The author of this


paper came from Loyola Senior High School a diverse and multicultural
school situated in Rooty Hill. The school accommodated to a majority of
ethnicities particularly students who recently had come to the country.
Though the school had accommodated these students some of these
students were put at a disadvantage due to their lack of schooling in
Australia. Though these were the circumstances that some students faced it
did not exempt them from standardised tests and exams. As a result Loyola
Senior High School introduced the trade trainee centre. The trade trainee
centre was specifically designed for students who did not want to partake in
the traditional academic route, but rather give students another opportunity
and explore other options in regards to their education and future
endeavours. . A theory that is evident in this case study is critical race
theory. Critical race theory is the interest and study of how to transform the
relationships of race, racism, and power (Richard, Delgado & Liendo, p. 3) by
introducing the trade trainee centre Loyola Senior high school broke all
traditional barriers of the academic system and transformed the relationship
of the academic system and students that were at a disadvantage.
Though Australia is a growing multicultural society it is evident that the
dominant discourse within the social justice issue of race and ethnicity is a
post colonial viewpoint. This dominant discourse has a strong influence on
society in particular regards to race and ethnicity. This influence is evident
within how the skin colour of being white is framed as having a dominant

position in society. The concept of whiteness in particular regards to


education can have an impact on a students learning. This cultural
insensitivity can marginalises a particular racial group or individual. This can
be a damaging to a students self esteem and also perception of the
schooling system. This marginalisation can be seen as concept of post
colonialism. Post colonialism is a theory and perspective derived from within
how society is built from the foundations after the colonialist period (Childs &
Williams, p. 1). This post colonial perspective can be detrimental to a student
of another ethnicity as they may feel ostracised due to this white
authoritative viewpoint. As a result teachers need to self examine
themselves and also examine their racial socialisation surroundings in order
to work towards transforming both teachers and students attitudes,
consciousness and practice.
This perspective is a dominant viewpoint that is experienced by a variety of
students around Australia. An example of this dominant discourse is through
the case study that was conducted by researcher Naomi Priest from Deakin
University who presented her findings to the Australian institute of family
studies. Priests research concluded that four out of five children experienced
racism in schools at least once a month. However what is prevalent to note
as Marriner (2014) states that One in 10 students thought their teacher did
not think they could do something because of their cultural background
(Marriner, 2014). This statement made by Priest is important when
understanding this social justice issue. Evidently students look to teachers as

role models and guardians outside of their family in the school environment.
However, if a student does not feel that they have this guardian and or
person to stand up for them this could be detrimental to their schooling
experience and also may affect their life chances. By doing so, teachers can
engage and also gain trust within students and lead by example amongst the
students.
A theoretical framework that is evident within this case study is everyday
racism. Everyday racism is a form of racism that connects the structural
forms of racism in society with everyday life (Essed, p. 2).The example
mentioned in the previous paragraph highlighted that students believed that
teachers could not stand up for them due to their ethnic background. This
form of everyday racism is a reflection of structural forms and or beliefs of
students that they are left to be helpless. Though the teacher does have
power in his or her position, evidently it can be seen that the student feels
disconnected to approach the teacher, thus it can be seen that everyday
racism effects power relations amongst teachers and students. The students
in this case study were seen to be afraid and as a result teachers were
unaware that students had been experiencing racism. The shift in power in
turn goes back to the perpetrators. Critically teachers and also schools need
to be aware of whats happening to their students outside their classroom. If
teachers are not made aware of students experiencing everyday racism it
can be detrimental as this could marginalise these students and ultimately
affect their learning experience.

A school policy that will be a central focus on the social justice issue of race
and ethnicity is the policy on Bullying. Bullying is defined by the New South
Wales department of education as a Repeated verbal, physical, social or
psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by
an individual or group towards one or more persons (department of
education New South Wales). This policy implemented by schools can
effectively negate racism being experienced students. By implementing this
policy this prevents students from being marginalised. This bullying policy
does not only refer to students but also teachers. As teachers the New South
Wales education system states that staff must respect and support
students, model and promote appropriate behaviour, have knowledge of
school and department policies in regards to bullying behaviour, and respond
in a timely manner to incidents of bullying according to the schools antibullying campaign (department of education New South Wales). Though this
policy highlights that teachers need to be following up on cases of bullying it
does not take into consideration social conditions that influence this type of
behaviour. An example of how this policy can be seen as being more
effective is evident within how Gendron et al (2010) concludes in his
research report that
By nature, bullying involves social interaction between two or more parties
within a context of ongoing social interaction. Hence, person-in-context
interactions should be anticipated, and the failure to address these
interactions may limit our understanding that bullying involves not just

personal but also social dynamics. (p. 161).


The authors of this article conclude that though it is prevalent to note a
students self esteem, teachers however must also assess the social
dynamics that may influence this type of behaviour. This is a very important
aspect when understanding intercultural insensitivities. As teachers may
deem a bully a bad student; however its important to understand the social
dynamics that may influence this students hostile behaviour. The student is
not a bad student but rather just exhibiting bad behaviour.
A theoretical framework evident in this educational policy is symbolic
interactionism. Symbolic interactionist theory is based on the examination
and meaning of individuals and their reciprocated interaction with one
another (Aksan, Kisac, Aydin, & Demirburken p. 902). The symbolic
interactionist perspective is highly regarded to focus on the influences of
social interactions and experiences. As seen in week 2s lecture
understanding diversity through sociological theories; L. Naidoo stated that
symbolic interactionist would argue that in society particular individuals have
a role to play (Personal communication, March 1 2016). In the perspective of
education, teachers, principals, and staff at the school have the role to play
as carers of students within school grounds. In regards to the educational
policy of bullying, it is a teacher and principals role to embody that policy by
putting it to practice. This can be done by starting anti bullying campaigns,
and make students aware of the consequences of bullying whether it be
racially driven or not.

Though this may be a positive form of implementing the policy through


embodying the police, however it ignores the factor of social dynamics that
may influence a students behaviour. This criticism of the education policy is
a reflection of the effectiveness of symbolic interactionist theory. Wood &
Wardell (1983) criticised symbolic interactionism stating that this theory
Fosters an uncritical acceptance of the existing social order because it does
not grasp the external and constraining character of social structure (Wood
& Wardell, p. 91). Evidently it can be seen that though this education policy
is important to be implemented in schools, however its important to note
that teachers must take into consideration of social dynamics that may be
influencing a students discriminatory behaviour.
In conclusion it is evident that there a variety of ways that a teachers
intercultural insensitivities can influence a students learning. An aspect of
awareness that teachers need to be aware of is their approachability in
regards to racism in school. Students can feel alienated and sometimes
afraid to talk to their teachers as they may feel that they are inferior to their
subordinates. However, teachers need to make themselves open to this and
be spatially aware that there are students who are experiencing racism and
as an authoritative figure teachers need to rectify this issue and stand up for
what is right. Through the writing this essay the author of this paper has also
come to the realisation that racism is a common problem in schools.
Education policies are in place, however they are not being implemented and
being followed up effectively enough in order to prevent acts from occurring.

As mentioned throughout the whole essay teachers need to have awareness


of social dynamics that may influence a students behaviour. This in turn can
influence the way in which teachers teach particular students as this could
be an insensitivity that can be a major impact on a students learning.

References
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