Multicultural education is a whole school process that prepares children and young people for their roles and responsibilities in an interdependent and highly globalised world. It places students at the centre of all school practices that promote multiple perspectives and an appreciation of cultural, linguistic and religious diversity within a democratic society.
Victoria is a culturally and linguistically diverse state. The population is characterised by increasing mobility and social interaction based on dynamic communities of varied geographic, cultural and social networks. Victorians originate from over 200 nations, with one person in every four being born overseas. Victorians speak approximately 260 different languages and follow at least 135 different faiths.
Schools are at the forefront of the effort to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful Victorian and global citizens, who are able to appreciate and interact with people of all backgrounds.
The principles of multiculturalism
The principles of multiculturalism in the Multicultural Victoria Act 2011 recognise that Victorians come from diverse cultural, religious, racial and linguistic backgrounds. Parliament supports the obligations of citizenship and promotes the diversity to which it refers by recognising the following principles:
- all individuals in Victoria are entitled to mutual respect and understanding regardless of their cultural, religious, racial and linguistic backgrounds
- all individuals and institutions in Victoria should promote and preserve diversity and cultural heritage within the context of shared laws, values, aspirations and responsibilities
- all individuals in Victoria (regardless of background) have shown that they can work together to build a positive and progressive future and this cooperation is to be encouraged so as to enhance Victoria as a great place in which to live, work, invest and raise a family.
For information on this and other key pieces of legislation related to Victoria’s multicultural community, including the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, see: Victorian Multicultural Commission – Legislation
What is multicultural education?
The Department is committed to a learning and development system where all students have the skills and knowledge they need to thrive and participate in a complex and challenging economy and society. Just as racism and prejudice cannot be permitted to hinder the progress of any individual, all young people are entitled to benefit from the richness of our multicultural society and to develop the understandings and skills they need to contribute as confident world citizens.
Multicultural education is not a discrete learning area, or simply the provision of Languages and English as an Additional Language (EAL).
Multicultural education makes sure that all students have access to inclusive teaching and learning experiences. These experiences will allow students to successfully take part in a rapidly changing world where cross-cultural understanding and intercultural communication skills are essential.
In a school context, and with the support of school policies and programs, multicultural education helps students develop:
- proficiency in English
- competency in a language or languages other than English
- in depth knowledge and awareness of their own and other cultures
- an understanding of the multicultural nature of Australia’s past and present history
- an understanding of, and skills to interact in, intercultural settings
- an appreciation of the importance of local, national and international interdependence in social, environmental, economic and political arenas and an understanding that mutual support in these areas is vital to local and global harmony.
Schools should make sure multicultural perspectives are incorporated into all aspects of school life by:
- promoting diversity as a positive learning experience
- incorporating multicultural perspectives across all learning domains
- incorporating multicultural, anti-racism, and human rights perspectives in school policies and practices
- enhancing teachers’ and students’ intercultural understanding and cross-cultural communication skills
- making sure all school policies, including three year strategic and annual plans, codes of conduct, dress codes and discipline policies reflect the diverse nature of the school community.