The Importance of
Multicultural Education
Geneva Gay
An e-presentation by Brenda Dillon and Celia Kim
“Canada's experience with diversity
distinguishes it from most other countries.
Our 30 million inhabitants reflect a cultural,
ethnic and linguistic makeup found nowhere
else on earth. Approximately 200,000
immigrants a year from all parts of the globe
continue to choose Canada, drawn by its
quality of life and its reputation as an open,
peaceful and caring society that welcomes
newcomers and values diversity.”
(Canadian Heritage, 2004, Jan. 20)
Two-thirds of Canada's population growth over the past five
years was fuelled by immigrant newcomers, according to the
2006 census data released Tuesday.
Canada saw its native-born populace climb by a modest
400,000 souls between 2001 and 2006. It was the addition
of 1.2 million immigrants that helped push the country's
enumerated population total to 31.6 million.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007 | 09:28 AM ET CBC NEWS
•What is Multicultural Education?
•Why is Multicultural Education important?
•Conceptions of Multicultural Education
•Multiculturalism in the Curriculum
•Connections to Classroom Teaching
•Some Current Instructional Activities in Canada
What is Multicultural Education?
"Multicultural education is a field of study and
an emerging discipline whose major aim is to
create equal educational opportunities for
students from diverse racial, ethnic, socialclass, and cultural groups. One of its important
goals is to help all students to acquire the
knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to
function effectively in a pluralistic democratic
society and to interact, negotiate, and
communicate with peoples from diverse groups
in order to create a civic and moral community
that works for the common good."
(Banks & Banks, 1995, p. xi)
What is Multicultural Education?
•A progressive approach for transforming
education that holistically critiques and
addresses current shortcomings, failings, and
discriminatory practices in education.
•It is grounded in ideals of social justice,
education equity, and a dedication to facilitating
educational experiences in which all students
reach their full potential
•Multicultural education acknowledges that
schools are essential to laying the foundation
for the transformation of society and the
elimination of oppression and injustice.
The Importance of Multicultural
Geneva Gay believes that “as the challenge to
better educate underachieving students
intensifies and diversity among student
population expands, the need for multicultural
education grows exponentially.” (320)
The Importance of Multicultural
Multicultural Education is essential in
allowing all students to reach their full
potential as learners and as socially aware
and active beings, locally, nationally, and
Gay believes that the demographics, social
conditions and political circumstances in
multicultural education have important
implications for educators.
But why the difficulty in implementing
Multicultural Education?
Conceptions of Multicultural
Obstacle 1: Multicultural education is
not a central part of the regular
“Educators have relegated it
primarily to social studies, language
arts, and the fine arts and have
generally targeted instruction for
students of color” (Gay, 316)
Conceptions of Multicultural
Consequence: Cultures are merely visited in a
curriculum dictated by months or seasons of the
year. e.g. Native Americans during Thanksgiving,
Chinese during Chinese New Year
“These attitudes distort multicultural
education and make it susceptible to
sporadic and superficial
implementation” (Gay, 316)
Conceptions of Multicultural
Obstacle 2: Teachers and educators do
not see the value of multicultural
“Another obstacle lies with teachers
themselves. Many are unconvinced of
its worth and its value in developing
academic skills and building a unified
community.” (Gay, 316)
Conceptions of Multicultural
Consequence: Academic success denied to
students of color. Lack of preparation for
“democratic citizenship in a pluralistic
“As disparities in educational
opportunities and outcomes among
ethnic groups continue to grow, the
resulting achievement gap has reached
crisis proportions” (Gay, 316)
“A fallacy underlies these conceptions
and the instructional behaviors that
they generate…” (316)
Fallacy: Multicultural Education should be
taught as a separate subject.
“The perception of multicultural
education as separate content
that educators must append to
existing curriculums as separate
lessons, units, or courses.”
(Gay, 316)
Truth: Multicultural Education is an approach
that promotes education that is multicultural
“In its comprehensive form, it
must be an integral part of
everything that happens in the
education enterprise.”
(Gay, 316)
Truth: Multicultural education can assist society in
being more tolerant, inclusive, and equitable,
recognizing that the whole is rich with many
contributing parts.
“Teachers need to use multicultural
education to promote such highly
valued outcomes as human
development, education equality,
academic excellence, and
democratic citizenship.” (Gay, 316)
Multiculturalism in the Curriculum
Gay suggests that high quality educational
experiences will not exist if some ethnic groups
and their contributions to the development of
history, life, and culture are ignored or demeaned.
Multiculturalism in the Curriculum
curriculum virtually overlooks the
contributions of the many ethnically diverse
people. School curriculums need to reverse these
trends by including equitable representations of
diversity” (Gay, 318)
Multiculturalism in the
“A key factor in establishing educational
relevance for these students is cultural
similarity and responsiveness” (Gay, 319)
Multiculturalism in the
In order to establish “educational relevance”
for students of color, instruction must include
“content about the cultures and contribution of
many ethnic groups.” (Gay, 320)
Multiculturalism in the
Through the teaching practice of “cultural
similarity and responsiveness” (319), Gay
believes that students will “perform more
successfully on all levels” (320).
Multiculturalism in the
“Students perform more successfully on all levels
where there is greater congruence between their
cultural backgrounds and such school experiences as
task interest, effort, academic achievement, and
feelings of personal efficacy and accountability.” (320)
Connections to the Classroom
James A. Banks' Dimensions of
Multicultural Education is used widely
by school districts to conceptualize and
develop courses, programs, and projects
in multicultural education.
The five dimensions are:
(1) content integration;
(2) the knowledge construction process;
(3) prejudice reduction;
(4) an equity pedagogy; and
(5) an empowering school culture and
social structure.
Content Integration
Content integration deals with the extent to which teachers use
examples and content from a variety of cultures and groups to
illustrate key concepts, principles, generalizations, and theories in
their subject area or discipline. The infusion of ethnic and cultural
content into a subject area is logical and not contrived when this
dimension is implemented properly.
Make the conscious effort to include various ethnic and cultural
groups within the context of core curricula rather than as an addition
throughout the year. For example, many primary classroom teachers
use snow as a core integrated theme during the winter months.
Prejudice Reduction
The prejudice reduction dimension of multicultural
education seeks to help students develop positive and
democratic racial attitudes. It also helps students to
understand how ethnic identity is influenced by the context
of schooling and the attitudes and beliefs of dominant social
Ask yourself if there are children in your class who are
marginalized by other children. If so, why? Ask yourself
what you can do to eliminate the problem. Our students look
to us for reinforcement. Your positive interaction matters.
Equity Pedagogy
An equity pedagogy exists when teachers modify their teaching in
ways that will facilitate the academic achievement of students from
diverse racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and language groups. This
includes using a variety of teaching styles and approaches that are
consistent with the range of learning styles within various cultural and
ethnic groups, such as being demanding but highly personalized when
working with American Indian and Native Alaskan students. It also
includes using cooperative learning techniques in math and science
instruction to enhance the academic achievement of students of color.
Knowledge Construction
The knowledge construction process describes teaching
activities that help students to understand, investigate, and
determine how the implicit cultural assumptions, frames of
references, perspectives, and biases of researchers and
textbook writers influence the ways in which knowledge is
Multicultural teaching involves not only infusing ethnic content
into the school curriculum, but changing the structure and
organization of school knowledge. It also includes changing
the ways in which teachers and students view and interact
with knowledge, helping them to become knowledge
producers, not merely the consumers of knowledge produced
by others.
Empowering School Culture
and Social Structure
This dimension involves restructuring the culture and organization
of the school so that students from diverse racial, ethnic,
socioeconomic, and language groups experience equality. Members
of the school staff examine and change the culture and social
structure of the school. Grouping and labelling practices, sports
participation, gaps in achievement among groups, different rates of
enrolment in gifted and special education programs among groups,
and the interaction of the staff and students across ethnic and racial
lines are important variables that are examined and reformed.
Canadian Education Trend Report: Anti-racism and Multicultural Education
Current Instructional Activities in Canada
•PCH published a Resource List of educational materials in 1998. PCH has published two
teacher's guides (1 & 2) as part of the March 21 campaign.
•The Public Service Commission published a comprehensive listing on resources on diversity
in 1998.
•The Western Canadian provinces and territories have established a shared set of learning
outcomes for aboriginal education and on heritage languages. The Western Canadian
Protocol on shared learning outcomes in includes a section on aboriginal perspectives.
•Citizenship and Immigration Canada has sponsored a web site with a collection of
educational resources depicting the historical contribution of Canada’s many diverse cultures.
•PCH has funded a research project into Canadian secondary school curricula and cultural
differences (Blades, Johnson & Simmt, University of Alberta).
•PCH has funded research into the effectiveness of human rights education on changing
youth attitudes and beliefs (Covell & Howe, University College of Cape Breton).
•PCH has funded research on how to integrate antiracist education into teacher education
programs in universities (Solomon).
Canadian Education Trend Report: Anti-racism and Multicultural Education
Current Instructional Activities in Canada
•An optional is offered in Quebec CEGEP’s for minority students and others to understand the
diversity of Quebec. The Ontario education ministry has authorized additional qualification
courses for teachers in multiculturalism and in teaching aboriginal students. The ministry has
also published resource guides on religion and diversity, the use of the Mohawk language
and other aboriginal languages.
•The Manitoba education ministry has an Aboriginal Education Directorate that is infusing
aboriginal perspectives into all Manitoba curricula, promotes the Native Studies program,
offers summer professional development institutes, has published a bibliography of
educational resources on aboriginal education, a bibliography of educational resources on
anti-racist education and on Black History, Conflict Resolution, multicultural library services,
the holocaust, human rights, multicultural perspectives in math, and collections of resources
in multicultural education and native studies. The ministry has also established policy
guidelines on ESL instruction at all grade levels and published resource guides for teaching
German and Spanish. More recently, the Manitoba ministry has announced new distance
education courses in international languages, and published online bibliographies on Spanish
education. The ministry maintains several different sections of its website that are relevant to
multicultural/antiracist education.
Canadian Education Trend Report: Anti-racism and Multicultural Education
Current Instructional Activities in Canada
Provincial (Continued)
•The Saskatchewan education ministry requires that multicultural aspects be integrated within
its social studies curriculum. As well, respect for other cultures is part of the Common
Essential Learnings that guide all curricula in the province., including Language Arts, Art
Education, Communications Studies and others. Students receive a course credit for
multicultural education. The ministry offers an infused Native Studies program at all grade
levels with full courses at the senior high school level. Similarly, heritage language learning is
infused at all grade levels and senior high school courses are offered.
•The Alberta education ministry requires that its social studies curriculum, family studies
curriculum address cultural diversity. Respect for others and diverse cultures is part of the
provincial standards of teaching. Alberta offers optional senior high courses in Cree and
Blackfoot and in German, Ukrainian, Japanese and Spanish. The ministry has published a
discussion paper on heritage languages and a policy directive on aboriginal education. A
guide to ESL programs has been published to accompany a ministry ESL policy directive. The
ministry has a policy directive on how schools and teachers should deal with controversial
Canadian Education Trend Report: Anti-racism and Multicultural Education
Current Instructional Activities in Canada
Provincial (Continued)
•The BC education ministry requires that multiculturalism be addressed across most curricula,
including history, math, languages arts, physical education etc. Each course has an appendix
that addresses diversity. Multiculturalism is required study for all BC students. There is a
student evaluation component that assesses student progress in acquiring the knowledge
and skills required. The ministry has a similar curriculum infusion goal for aboriginal
education. The ministry authorizes courses in Punjabi, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese,
German. All BC students are required to study a second language. The BC education ministry
has published a policy framework on ESL that is supported by the development of ESL
standards and guidebooks for regular teachers and ESL specialists.
•The BC Safe School Centre maintains a list of educational resources on diversity.
•The BC Community Learning Network, funded by the education ministry maintains a list of
online educational resources.
•The NWT education ministry is implementing two aboriginal language education programs
(Inuit and Dene).
•The Yukon education ministry follows the BC Native Studies curriculum.
Canadian Education Trend Report: Anti-racism and Multicultural Education
Description of Some Current Activities in Canada
•The Canadian Council on Multicultural and Intercultural Education (CCMIE) has published a
1999 study on teacher education, is sponsoring a youth education report project designed to
help students with high debt loads, has published a list of educational materials available on
loan, as well as an annotated bibliography of educational resources and publishes a journal
on Multiculturalism. The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation has published a listing of
educational resources.
•The Canadian Race Relations Foundation has funded the publication of annotated
bibliography on educational resources.
•The Bronfman Foundation sponsors heritage fairs with students that include multicultural
•The Toronto Board of Education published a guide for adult educators on antiracist education
in 1991.
Canadian Education Trend Report: Anti-racism and Multicultural Education
Description of Some Current Activities in Canada
NGP (Continued)
•The BC Teachers Federation has published a task force report on aboriginal education and
sponsors a specialist teachers council.
•A collection of educational resources in French can be found at an antiracism web site
sponsored by the B’nai Brith.
•The National Film Board has published a list of films and videos.
•TV Ontario has published a list of resources and educational strategies.
•A list of French language resources and Internet sites can be found at a web site hosted by
the University of Laval.
•The SchoolNet Grassroots program has funded over 60 class or school Internet projects that
relate to multiculturalism.
•The CSQ in Quebec has published a action guide on human rights and has supported
antiracist education for several years.
•The Canadian Education Association published a review of Heritage Languages in 1993.
Banks, James A. 2001a. Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum and Teaching,
4th edition.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Banks, James A.; CORTÉS, Carlos E.; Gay, Geneva; Garcia, Ricardo L.; and Ochoa, Anna S.1991.
Guidelines for Multicultural Education. Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies.
Gay, Geneva. 2003/2004. “The Importance of Multicultural Education” Educational Leadership 61:
Canadian Heritage. (2004, Jan. 20). “Canadian diversity: Respecting our differences.” Multiculturalism. Retrieved
April 6, 2007, from <>
Communities and Schools Promoting Health. (n.d.). “Canadian education trend report: Anti-racism and multicultural
education, description of some current activities in Canada.” Trend reports/News updates. Retrieved
April 6, 2007, from <>

Marie Clay