Culture is basically the customs, beliefs and the way of living shared by a particular society/community/country. It refers to the values and norms shared by a specific group of people.
Culture influences how we see the world, how we see the community that we live in, and how we communicate with each other. Being a part of a culture influences our learning, remembering, talking and behaving. Therefore culture determines to a great extent the learning and teaching styles also.
How is culture important for the child?
· Culture teaches values, beliefs and traditions.
· It influences the social interaction with parents, siblings, peers and teachers.
· It influences their language and communication.
Culture-based education is an approach in which teaching and learning happen based on the values, norms, beliefs and practices that are the foundation of any culture. Harvard Professor Jerome Bruner notes “Culture shapes mind, it provides us with the tool kit by which we construct not only our world but our very construction of ourselves and our powers”.
This is why culture-based education gains importance.
In education, students with diverse backgrounds and cultures are often marginalised because they are exposed to a curriculum with one predominant cultural bias. It does not cater to the culture that they are familiar with and are a part of. This is why it is important to create a curriculum that incorporates diverse perspectives. The teaching and learning process must respond to physical, social and cultural preferences of the children.
Teachers are the most important aspects of culture-based learning as they should work towards motivating students to achieve not only academically, but also socially, culturally, psychologically and spiritually. The influences of cultural environment are necessary for the educators because of its role in learning. They need to find mechanisms to incorporate cultures and languages in their teaching practises.
Culturally-responsive educators should recognise the full potential of each student irrespective of their cultural background and provide the challenges necessary for them to achieve their full potential. They must be aware of their students’ primary languages, background, and culture to construct a curriculum that will be relevant to their students’ lives. They need to modify their curriculum to include their students’ different cultural backgrounds to create a more positive and productive school experience for them. Building upon students’ culture and heritage not only benefits students’ academic progress but also empowers them as individuals. Teachers need to engage their students in team-building activities in the class rooms where students can learn about each other’s different cultures and learn to respect them too. Children are able to reflect upon not only their culture but culture in general.
A culturally responsive class room is one where the students feel respected and safe to learn and participate. It is a place where they develop a sense of pride and self-esteem. When they view their cultures being promoted at school they feel included in their school community empowering them and creating a sense of pride for their cultural heritage. Students here perform better academically and also grow up to be more independent and active citizens when they learn in an environment where their language and culture are valued.
Now that nearly all universities across the world have international students, educators are now becoming increasingly aware of how different cultural backgrounds of the students affect their learning and hence the urgent need for culture-based learning is now felt more than ever.