It goes without saying that one of the major all-encompassing events of the last part of the second millennium was undoubtedly the advent of globalization, as a clear political expression of the triumphing capitalism and market economy theories, following the end of the Cold War and the bi-polarization of the world.
The concept of globalization, itself, was not something new to mankind, it was a dream nurtured over the centuries, by various thinkers and statesmen who failed to see it materialize in such a magnitude as is the case today. However, this hope was rekindled in modern times by a thought crafted, that the rapid technological advances achieved by humanity will ultimately result in the world becoming a “planetary village”.
After the short-lived euphoria that followed the birth of the globalization, soon fear and mistrust ensued and many a nation saw in it Trojan horse for hegemony and control carefully and intelligently mounted with the intention to impose a McWorld1 way of life on humanity at large. The diplomatic denunciation of this concept came from France that saw in this act an Anglo-Saxon drive to control the world and consequently destroy progressively all other cultures, languages and civilizations. To thwart this veiled aggression on cultural values of humanity; the French called on the world to respect the “other” and his culture2 and to defend it from the onslaught of the global uniformity.
Nowadays, however, the rejection of globalization has taken an unfortunate turn, for each international conference attended by the world main powers or G8 meetings is marred by bouts of violent clashes between the security forces of the host country and anti-globalization militants who congregate to the site of the meeting from all over the world. The last of these saw the death of the young Italian protester Carlo Giuliani (23 years) in the city of Genoa where G8 leaders were meeting lately in July 2001. According to political analysts and observers, these international events are tuning more into occasions for the celebration of anti-globalization than what they were meant for in the first place.
The legitimate fear expressed by the rejectionists of globalization worldwide, whether peaceful or violent, means that if this phenomenon is left unchecked it will destroy everything around it in a flash, and especially vulnerable cultures with no economic strength. This may not be the ultimate reason for which globalization was set up for in the first place, but it is an outcome that has to be taken into consideration.
Globalization would not be seen today as an overwhelming danger to humanity by many, if it were not for its ability to stifle the local cultural expression for the sake of uniformity at the global level.
Education, more than ever before, is solicited today by everyone to prepare the individual to face the challenges of the future and the uncertainties of tomorrow with determination, responsibility and faith. To achieve this, education is called upon to display, in no doubtful terms, openness and flexibility towards what is different and unknown, with a view to achieving fully the overall objective of learning to live together.
Learning to live together is an integral part of the ongoing life exercise of constructing meaning, for there is no such a thing as absolute truth and it should be emphasized that expressing the wish to live together involves much affectivity and a great deal of emotions.
Education, to be relevant, has to help the individual construct his own “structure of meaning” by helping him and providing him with the necessary tools for building painstakingly his values, ethics, attitudes and behaviour as well as his own personal code of morality, obviously in tune with that of his society, which will constitute his own natural baggage in life. As such, the individual is required to learn self-esteem and self-respect which are the basis for accepting the “other” in his “otherness” and showing solidarity, respect and empathy for him. Self-respect and self-esteem are the basic qualities that make coexistence, cooperation, mutual understanding, and conflict resolution something achievable and possible.
Intolerance, hatred and rejection of the “other” by means of violence and/or ostracism are generally the end result of ignorance and stereotyping. So, expressing the wish and the willingness to learn to live together entails unequivocally knowledge.
Armed with knowledge, the individual pushes further daily the limits of fear and broadens the field of mutual understanding and acceptance. And, likewise, investigates one’s strengths and weaknesses and learns to discover other people’s passions, fears, customs, beliefs, expectations, motivations, suffering as well as needs and aspirations.
The learning process is a matter of faith in humanity as a whole and faith in the individual, and the desire to work together towards carrying out joint projects and ultimately fulfilling common dreams and aspirations for a better future for everyone.
To achieve these lofty ideals and to give the education a new meaning and a new lease of life, the learning process has to reach out to common values and cultural diversity to overcome ethnocentric tendencies.
For the sake of an education that mirrors cultural diversity:
In the last century, ignorance and its corollary that is fear have been at the origin of much distrust and violence between individuals, communities and nations. This tendency cannot for the moment, unfortunately, be scratched out from the human psyche, but it can certainly be contained, by encouraging human beings through education to construct a common meaning, common objectives and aspirations and work together towards achieving them.
Likewise, tremendous progress has been gladly achieved in our perception of education3: in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was written in gold, for the first time, that education is an undeniable right of every human being. In 1990, at the World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien in Thailand, this concept was further clarified and enriched, in the sense that every person ought to benefit from a basic education which meets his basic needs. Last but not least, at the World Forum on Education in Dakar, Senegal (2000), emphasis was put on the objective of providing quality education for all human beings, by taking better stock of its complexity and this was stated clearly in the Final Report of the World Forum on Education4:
“The movement toward more open and democratic societies has created a need for learning that goes beyond the academic curriculum and factual knowledge to emphasize problem-solving and open-ended enquiry. The expansion of communication and information technologies necessitates more interactive and explanatory forms of learning, and the increased pace of change has put a premium on the need to engage in continuous learning over a lifetime. There is also a new urgency to ensure that education at all levels and in all places reinforces a culture of peace, tolerance and respect for human rights.”
Education is not an isolated phenomenon within society and within the lives, passions and experiences of human beings. It is constantly in confrontation with the hard realities of its environment at the local, national and global levels. So, it is duly expected to overcome numerous tensions, these have been identified by the report of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty First Century5, three of which are of capital interest to workshop 3 on the topic of : “Common Values, Cultural Diversity and Education: What and How to reach?”. These are as follows:
- “The tension between the global and the local: people need gradually to become world citizens without losing their roots and while continuing to play an active part in the life of their nation and their local community”;
- “The tension between the universal and the individual: culture is steadily being globalized, but as yet only partially. We cannot ignore the promises of globalization nor its risks, not the least of which is the risk of forgetting the unique character of human beings, it is for them to choose their own future and achieve their full potential within the carefully tended wealth of their traditions and their own cultures which unless we are careful, can be endangered by contemporary developments”;
- The tension between tradition and modernity: how is it to adapt to change without turning one’s back on the past, how can autonomy be acquired in a complementary fashion with the free development of others and how can scientific progress be assimilated? This is the spirit in which the challenges of the new information technologies must be met”.
The tensions stated here above sum up the state of humanity today, it is confronted to the reality of learning to live together in the face of the unbearable pressure between belonging to a “world culture” and supporting cultural diversity.
It is an established fact that the dissemination of cultural expressions, forms and experiences is as vital and important as social, political and economic manifestations and processes6.
If today, globalization is raising fears within societies worldwide, it is simply because it is seen as a destructive world phenomenon that is one way only and exclusively in the service of one language (English) 7, one culture (Anglo-Saxon) and one market (America), which leads to the imposition of the McWorld syndrome. And with this in place, cultural uniformity will become the norm and diversity the unacceptable exception or the world social taboo.
Essentially, the man of the present century has to have deep roots in his own culture and civilization and show, at the same time, a tremendous degree of receptiveness of the “other”.
To achieve this, he has to drop off his misconceptions and fallacies about the “other” and his “otherness” and accept to understand his culture in its environment with its own rationale and salient features tracing their origin in beliefs and various aspects of material culture.
It is, also, a known fact among educators and anthropologists that slipping into a stereotype is as simple as breathing, but finding one’s way out of it is quite a task. It is likewise true that stereotyping is a prominent manifestation of our human weakness, but it is also and most importantly, a blatant and an unacceptable expression of our ignorance, presumption and self-indulgence that verges on racism and egocentrism.
There is no such a thing as a good and/or superior culture or stupid and/or culture, for these unfortunate qualifiers are the reflection of self-adoration and self-love and infatuation, not to say, of course, feeling of superiority.
Human beings of the twenty first century have to learn to accept what is different or alien with humility and that all cultures share in grandeur as well as failings. What is important, though, is working together with the “other” towards forging a “multicultural common identity” on bedrock of diversity and common values and ethics.
To reach this noble objective in education and move on with it to an all-inclusive new reality, several questions, all important and vital, impose themselves at his juncture:
- What philosophy and approach to adopt in order to improve educational output in the light of cultural diversity and the development of new shared values?
- How can the community be implicated in an educational effort aiming at establishing complementary and intercultural states of being in order to make plurality a value enabling mankind “to learn to live together”?
Philosophy and approach:
To achieve cultural diversity in education, it is important to adopt an attitude based on the idea of reshaping vision. The new vision ought to be broad and creative or rather an “expanded vision” as stated in article 2 of the World Declaration on Education for All8:
“To serve the basic learning needs of all requires more than a recommitment to basic education as it now exists. What is needed is an “expanded vision” that surpasses present resource levels, institutional structures, curricula, and conventional delivery systems while building on the best in current practices.”
This entails broadening the scope and most importantly enhancing the environment for learning and increasing the potential of partnership. This is further highlighted in the above-mentioned Declaration in the following words9:
“The realization of an enormous potential for human progress and empowerment is contingent upon whether people can be enabled to acquire the education and the start needed to tap into the ever-expanding pool of relevant knowledge and the new means for sharing this knowledge”.
Tapping into the pool of “relevant knowledge” presupposes that this knowledge has been identified, researched, studied and “digested”, or to be able to undertake this daunting and ambitious task properly, people have to fulfil the following conditions:
- Be receptive to other opinions, realities, experiences and approaches;
- Be open to other truths and philosophies;
- Conceive of plurality and diversity in life and in learning practices;
- Overcome ethnocentric inclinations and social arbitrariness;
- Adopt an intercultural attitude to the realities of the world;
- Seek complementary status and commonality between visions that are opposed and contradictory;
- Instill curiosity and respect for “otherness” and difference in future positive and responsible society;
- Help build a world based on common concerns and shared values;
- Shape our dormant and boring diversity into an active and electrifying experience enabling individuals “to learn to live together”.
A curriculum for creative diversity:
In 1989, Jean Marie Domenach, a French philosopher and political and social scientist, published an insightful book entitled: Ce qu’il faut enseigner (What should be taught)10, which he devoted exclusively to educational matters.
Domenach’s opinion is that societies today undergo incredible changes at great speed and so do educational systems, but because they are moving at different speeds in different directions, the gap between the two is widening alarmingly to the extent that there is a profound malaise among teachers and anxiety among pupils who question the validity of the curriculum taught.
Domenach’s advice is clear, today’s schools must impart today’s knowledge, which is synonymous to saying that curriculum has to be in tune with the expectations of society, on the one hand, and the world, on the other. In other words, societies around the world are gradually getting rid of their monolithic legacy of the past to become plural and multicultural. So if Domenach’s view is adopted, their curricula ought to become multicultural to avoid incongruity.
According to Giovanni Gozzer, an Italian renowned educator11, the world because of migrations and population movements, has changed so much and with it education which is gladly taking a multicultural coloration:
“There is now an irreversible trend towards transcending national frontiers, in both the economic and the cultural fields (and to a certain extent as regards political, ethnic, linguistic, scientific and technological exchanges). Large community groupings are now taking place in Europe, as well as emerging in other continents, breaking down not only the barriers of politically homogeneous states, but also those of countries aligned in other blocs with opposing ideological and military policies. The fact that this situation has come to stay had an enormous impact on “teaching structures” (which seems a more appropriate term than the increasingly ambiguous word “education”). Until recent times the theory that the content of school curricula was a kind of automatic adjunct to the idea of the nation-state, similar to nationality, possession of a passport, a national language and a constitution, was admitted readily and without reservation. Today, this comparison seems less evident, not only as a result of the existence of the communities and groupings already mentioned, but also because of the reciprocal influences which economies, culture, and trade exert on individual national groups”.
Because of this new reality created by migration and population movement all over the world and especially in the West, many countries adapted their educational policies gradually to this new situation, by taking measures to bring in new players into the fold, such as international organizations, NGOs and community leaders. Curriculum must not, anymore, be centrally-imposed, as it is the case unfortunately in many developing countries; it has to be the result of a consensus, so that every ethnic or cultural group can identify with it. It has to be a sort of educational melting pot that erases emotional borders, but takes in all cultural ingredients as a form of recognition of the cultural diversity of a given society.
And given, also, that societies are not anymore what they were in the past: monolithic in their composition and their aspirations, curriculum has to follow suit and attempt to reflect, as faithfully as possible, the needs of the people taking into consideration their language, their origin, their culture and most of all their legitimate aspirations.
It is important, first and foremost, to identify the potential players needed today to take part in curriculum design, in its diverse and all-encompassing version:
- government officials (curriculum departments of ministries of education);
- Ideologues (partly officials in one-party system countries (Communist bloc)).
This curriculum often had catastrophic results on the learners, the educational system and development in general. It is so rigid and so un-educational that it fails miserably, in the end, because of the following mishaps:
- No field-testing undertaken prior to using the curriculum, to determine its educational validity, if any;
- No attempt to encourage feed-back from educators, teachers, pupils and parents on the material and its educational content;
- This curriculum does not reflect the cultural diversity of the learner and, as a result, it does not enhance his spirit of creativity;
- This curriculum encourages school failure and the drop-out syndrome;
- This curriculum develops authoritarianism in society and non-democratic values.
- no government officials,
- community leaders;
- religious leaders;
- International Organizations;
This final output can in no way be considered as a “sacred” output, it is constantly open to new ideas and new input. Therefore, its life expectancy ought to be as short as possible to allow introduction of new ideas and concepts.
Another important feature of the modern approach is that is does not work towards transmitting information to the learner. It strives to build his skills and to prepare him for action by exposing him to tried data, in mock situations, and allowing him to review and discuss, in his own manner, every aspect of it.
Now, to make curriculum a fruitful investment, it is important to implicate the parents, from the very beginning, because their input is of vital importance for the future success of their offspring.
Aware of the importance of this issue, the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization –ISESCO- has published in the year 2000 a book entitled Parental Education12 in its working languages Arabic, English and French, which it has distributed to its Member States. This publication deals with the different aspects of parental supervision of the education of their children and suggestions to improve its impact and results.
All in all, parental education has to be taken more seriously than what there is now, especially if there is interest in devising a relevant and quality-motivated curriculum, that takes into consideration the multicultural concerns of the society at large.
Educational content and methodology:
Educators and teachers worldwide are always asking the same relevant question, to which obviously there is no easy answer:
- What to teach and how to teach it?
Obviously, if the traditional curriculum is changed in favour of a new curriculum aiming at positive diversity, new material has to be introduced, as well as, new players and a new approach.
In addition to the traditional subjects that have showed their relevance and effectiveness, in economic terms among the learners. The following subjects ought to be introduced in the new curriculum, if they had not been taught yet;
- Specific studies:
- Civic education;
- Health education;
- Environmental education;
- Population education;
- Human rights subjects;
- Nutrition education;
- Women’s studies;
- Ethnic studies;
- Community Development studies; and
- Anti-racist education.
- Cultural studies;
- Urban anthropology / Cultural anthropology;
- Comparative religion / religious studies;
- Mother tongues;
- Area studies; and
- International education13.
There is to be, also, interest given to extra-curricular learning as a vital supplement for “building the skills” of the learner rather than “stuffing his head with information”.
The objective of extra-curricular education is to put the skills acquired in school to use through personal experience acquired in vivo.
The Americans, aware of the importance of extra-curricular knowledge, have, decades ago, introduced such courses in their educational system. Some of these are:
- Volunteer work abroad: students go abroad to do volunteer work for the benefit of native populations in developing countries, where they provide help with development projects and learn the language and the customs of the local population in return;
- Semester abroad: students go to a foreign country to study a given number of subjects for a semester and write papers on their experience to their schools;
- Gap-filling experience: before embarking on university studies, students go abroad to teach a subject of their choice and learn other skills in return. This experience helps them broaden their horizons and see the world afterwards from a different perspective.
- Exchange programmes: students from different countries exchange their families for a cultural experience;
- Semester at sea: students travel on a “floating university” around the world for a semester to improve their educational skills, polish their knowledge and discover the world.
If the content is modernized to take into consideration cultural diversity, then the methodology has also to undergo a similar operation. As such, teaching methods have to be reviewed to adapt to the new reality.
The new methodology has to meet the following procedural requirement:
- Be relevant;
- Be effective;
- Be quality-oriented;
- Be community-minded;
- Be multicultural-oriented;
- Be skills-motivated.
And make use constantly of such tools as the following:
- Evaluation techniques;
- One on one situations;
Likewise, teachers and administrators have to undergo frequently in-service training, during which they will be exposed to the multicultural curriculum in different areas and to methods to approach it in the classroom, highlighting the educational fact that the student is not anymore a passive element but an active player who can have an important input in the educational game.
To the highly important question: “Can we conceive of diversity in school and in curriculum in terms of being complementary rather than in state of opposition?” The answer is “yes”: this is possible and feasible provided all the concerned players: government officials, teachers, pupils, parents, NGOs and international organizations do engage seriously in a cultural dialogue on the best way to make multicultural education a reality in our schools and an enjoyable experience, too.
The fact is that the idea of a “global village” is attractive to the majority of the inhabitants of this only inhabitable planet in the known universe, as of today. But, it is, also, an established truth that without cultural diversity this village will be a boring place and our life a tedious experience imposed on us.
There is an urgent need for human beings “to learn to live together” by accepting the “other” in his difference and “otherness” and overcoming our ethnocentric tendencies, jingoistic madness, racist foolishness and cultural selfishness in favour of a true multicultural society.
To achieve this noble ideal, the starting point is undoubtedly education. Through education, human beings can easily overcome their societies’ arbitrariness and lack of values and build a world based on shared values, one such value being the diversity that has always characterized humankind.
1. A world dominated and regulated, at will, by US multinationals such as McDonald’s, that is denounced vehemently in Europe for marketing junk food and junk culture, by such vociferous opponents of globalization as José Bové, the head of the French Trade Union of Farmers.
2. This French worldwide campaign was conceived and articulated around the concept of l’exception culturelle (cultural difference) which defends the notion of spécificité culturelle. The indirect outcome of this campaign was the creation of a political organization to defend francophone culture and interests.
3. Cf. UNESCO, World Education Report 2000. The right to education: towards education for all throughout life, Paris, UNESCO Publications, 2000.
4. Cf. World Forum on Education, Final Report, Dakar, UNESCO, 2000, p.20.
5. Cf. J. Delors et al., Learning : the Treasure Within, Paris, UNESCO Publications and Odile Jacob, 1996, p.12 onwards.
The tensions identified by the commission are as follows:
a) The tension between the global and the local;
b) The tension between the universal and the individual;
c) The tension between tradition and modernity;
d) The tension between long-term and short-term consideration;
e) The tension between, on the one hand, the need for competition, and on the other, the concern for equality of opportunity;
f) The tension between the extraordinary expansion of knowledge and human beings’ capacity to assimilate it;
g) The tension between the spiritual and the material;
h) The tension between the market economy and the market society.
6. Cf. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar et al.,Our Creative Diversity, Paris, UNESCO Publications, 1996. (Report on the World Commission on Culture and Development).
7. A proof of this is the supremacy of the English language in the material found on the net. It was estimated in the year 2000 at about 60%.
8. Cf. WCEFA Inter-Agency Commission, Final Report of the World Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs. New York, UNICEF Publications, 1990. p. 44..
9. Ibid, p. 44.
10. Cf. Jean-Marie Domenach, Ce qu’il faut enseigner, Paris, 1989.
11. Cf. G. Gozzer, « School curricula and social problems » in Prospects 73: vol XX, n°1, 1990:9-19, Paris, UNESCO. P. 11.
12. Cf. ISESCO, Parental Education, Rabat, ISESCO Publications, 2000.
13. ISESCO has published in the year 2000 a book for this purpose entitled “Islamic Perspective of International Education”. (Cf. Hassan Mohammed Hassan, Islamic Perspective of International Education, Rabat, ISESCO Publications, 2000).
Please Donate Today
Did you enjoy this article? Then please consider donating today to ensure that Eurasia Review can continue to be able to provide similar content.