Understanding Cultural Diversity in the Early Years
Publication Year: 2010
Taking the discussion about cultural diversity beyond the usual topics of anti-racism and inclusion but without overlooking these issues, Understanding Cultural Diversity in the Early Years considers current debates around the alleged failure of multiculturalism, and encourages practitioners to utilize their own cultural backgrounds and experiences as a way of developing their teaching.
With an optimistic outlook, and focusing on the advantages for learning that cultural diversity can offer, the book discusses the concepts of culture, multi-culturalism and inter-cultural competence, and describes the principles that underpin good practice. It is packed full of case studies from a variety of early years settings, with ideas to try out and interactive exercises to aid reflection.
Issues covered in the book include:
addressing cultural diversity in staff meetings, and on short ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: What is Your Culture?
- Chapter 2: Multiculturalism and its Alleged Failure
- Chapter 3: The Idea of Intercultural Competence
- Chapter 4: The Background to Daily Practice: Curriculum Guidance, Discussion with Interested Parties and Twinning with Settings Abroad
- Chapter 5: Daily Practice with the Children: Resources, Sources of Support, Festivals and Dealing with Prejudice
- Chapter 6: The Inclusion of Children from Minority Communities
- Chapter 7: The Overwhelmingly White British Setting
- Chapter 8: The Setting that is Not Primarily White British
Education at SAGE[Page ii]
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© Peter Baldock 2010
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For Tempest and Maija[Page vi]
About the Author
Some of the material in this book first appeared in slightly different form in a series of articles I wrote for Nursery World in 2005 and 2006, and I am grateful to the editor for her generous permission to use it again here.
I have been for some time a member of the management committee of a voluntary organization called the Development Education Centre for South Yorkshire DEC(SY) and since 2004 I have had particular responsibility for the organization's work in the early years field. That work has been undertaken primarily by a group of staff called ‘cultural mentors'. Many of the ideas in this book have come out of the work of that team and I want to acknowledge in the fullest possible terms my debt to the staff in DEC(SY) who been involved in that work over the last few years: Hlabera Chirwa, Valerie Garvey, Duraiya Kupasi, Rimas Tankile Morris and Rob Unwin. (One of the appendices gives a brief description of the work of DEC(SY) and its Cultural Mentor Service.)
I am also grateful to other friends and colleagues who contributed ideas and information, or who provided me with useful comments on earlier drafts. My thanks, therefore, to Sharon Curtis, Helen Griffin, Celia Mather, Glòria Rubiol, Judy Thompson and Janet Uwins who have helped to make this book better than it would otherwise have been. I remain, of course, responsible for the book itself.[Page xii]
Walk into any early years setting in the United Kingdom and you will not be surprised to see a notice in Reception bidding you welcome in several languages, a wok in the home corner, a copy of Handa's Surprise on the book shelf or evidence that the setting is planning for Divali. The celebration of cultural diversity is pretty standard now, recognized by staff as part of daily practice, expected by childcare inspectors and others in authority.
When something is part of the routine it is always a good idea to pause in order to question why this is the case and how things are working out in practice. Even if you end up continuing to support the objective and taking a positive view of current activity, critical examination will help you think more clearly on how an issue is being tackled. This book is intended to encourage you to re-examine your commitment and that of your setting (if you are currently working in one) to cultural diversity. It is important to do this not only because it is always a good idea to review what may be in danger of becoming routine, but also because the commitment to celebrating diversity is under attack in the wider world, with many assertions in the media that ‘multiculturalism’ has failed.
It is useful to remember that this commitment to cultural diversity is relatively recent in the early years professions and is a reflection of wider changes in British society. The origins can be sought in measures taken towards the end of the 19th century. At that time the largest immigrant communities in Britain were those of Irish Catholics and East European Jews. The leaders of those communities were often concerned that the new services for children that were developing (the universal school system, children's homes and adoption agencies, pioneering early years services) would drag the children of their communities into Protestant Christianity. They argued successfully for measures that would protect the wishes of parents in such matters as religion. Acceptance of this principle became part of further legislation on work with children. When the Conservative government reformed several services in their 1989 Children Act they [Page xiv]consolidated this aspect of the law, making it a requirement that those who provided services for children gave ‘due consideration … to the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background'.
This fairly straightforward re-framing of the law took place, however, in the context of a particular political situation. People from South Asia or the Caribbean had first arrived in the UK in large numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s they were becoming much more assertive in their resistance to racism and were winning support in the professions of the welfare state. At the same time there seemed to be a real threat that economic and political instability were encouraging the growth of organizations of the far right. Those engaged in the regulation of early years services or with training and development extended in practice the implications of the clauses in the 1989 Act. They argued that practitioners should not be content with being sensitive to the needs of the individual child from a minority culture whose parents were making use of a service. They should be helping all children to learn how to live in a multicultural society. This approach was endorsed when Ofsted took over the task of regulating early years services in England. In 2001 the promotion of equal opportunities was made one of the national standards for early years providers. This development was, of course, part of a broader move to promote multiculturalism by the Labour Party, which had come to power in the general election of 1997.
The new emphasis was underpinned by two kinds of publication for early years practitioners. On the one hand, there were books that spelled out the damage done by racism and the action that could be undertaken to tackle it in early years settings. Many of these were produced in the period when the Labour government was beginning to put its strategy on early years services into place. Leading examples were Brown (1998), Lane (1999) and Siraj-Blatchford (2000). Their advocacy of explicitly anti-racist strategies was underpinned by earlier research demonstrating that discriminatory behaviour by staff in early years settings was often more frequent than they themselves recognized. (See, for example, Ogilvy et al., 1990, cited in Siraj-Blatchford, 1994, pp.43–4.)
Texts such as these provided a valuable service, but their impact was sometimes to unnerve practitioners who became more conscious of what they might get wrong than confident they knew how to get things right. One response to this was the production of books and films offering practical suggestions on relevant activities, particularly the celebration of the festivals typical of various communities. These were also useful. However, there was always the risk that, where children were celebrating festivals from communities other than their own, what was happening would simply be [Page xv]a form of tourism, looking at exotic cultures from the outside. It could be entertaining and, perhaps, encourage a positive view of those communities. It might, nevertheless, do comparatively little to foster real understanding and communication (Derman-Sparks, 1993).
Now seems a good time to address the issue again. There are several reasons for this:
- We have had several years’ experience of attempting to respond to cultural diversity in early years settings. It is time to review how that is going.
- The cultural mix in the UK has become even more complicated with increasing numbers of people from black Africa and Eastern Europe joining the longer established and larger communities from the Caribbean and South Asia. Some of those who have come here recently are migrant workers entitled to be here under the rules of the European Union. Others are refugees and asylum seekers. In both cases their situations are different from those of the people from countries of the former British Empire who now have a well-established presence in this country.
- The process of constitutional devolution has underlined the fact that the ‘white British’ themselves do not constitute a simple entity. To the relatively new issues that attracted the attention of authors in the 1990s we now have to add longer-standing questions, such as those of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland or bi-lingualism in Wales.
- The language of the argument has changed. In the 1970s and 1980s both those who were against racism and those who had some sympathy for it normally discussed the issue in terms of race and colour. Racism has not gone away. However, in public discourse at least, it is now more likely to take the form of suspicion of the impact of other cultures on that of this country and, in particular, the form of hostility to Islam.
I cannot claim to be an expert on all those aspects of the issue. I have some impressions of how work on cultural diversity is going, but have not conducted a piece of systematic, evaluative research. Like many, I am still getting to grips with the developing cultural diversity of the UK. I am an Englishman whose work in early years has all been in England (in fact, nearly all in Yorkshire and Humberside). Thus, while I am interested in what is happening elsewhere in the UK and say something about it here, I cannot speak on it from direct experience. It is on the fourth of the factors outlined above that I will concentrate.
You may be surprised, even disappointed, that the first part of this book is not about work with children. The focus is on broader social and political questions. This is because I am convinced that we cannot help children live in a world of cultural diversity until we have begun to manage that ourselves. What is more, we cannot do that until we have a reasonably clear [Page xvi]notion of our own cultural identity (including the fact that our cultural identity may not be very clear cut).
The first three chapters deal with the general context:
- Chapter 1 asks you to consider your own cultural identity and to use that reflection to think about just what is meant when we speak of someone's culture.
- Chapter 2 addresses the issue of multiculturalism and its alleged failure, suggesting different ways in which policy on this matter can be understood.
- Chapter 3 introduces the idea of inter-cultural competence and argues that the changing situation in which we find ourselves makes it necessary to develop skills in responding to cultural differences rather than just to acquire information about the cultures we expect to meet.
The middle section of the book deals with aspects of early years practice:
- Chapter 4 describes some of the background to practice, including both curriculum guidance and discussions in staff groups and with parents.
- Chapter 5 addresses aspects of daily practice.
- Chapter 6 is concerned with the inclusion of children who are not white British.
The last two main chapters deal with two particular types of situation:
- Chapter 7 speaks about the relevance of the issue to settings in areas that are overwhelmingly white British.
- Chapter 8 speaks about the particular situation of the setting where the majority of staff and users are not white British.
There is also a brief Conclusion and there are two appendices, one of which gives advice on finding resources for work on cultural diversity.
Throughout the book there is a number of activities to help you think through the issues under discussion. All of them can be used by groups of practitioners or students during in-house training or other events. Most of them can also be used for individual reflection, and for that reason should be useful for childminders as well as those working in day care.A Note on Terminology
It is a central proposition of this book that people do not usually belong to ‘cultures’ with fixed and essentially unchanging boundaries. To the extent that something like this ever happened, modern communications [Page xvii]and economic inter-dependence are undermining such situations. Thus to a large extent I have chosen to speak of ‘cultural background’ or used similar phrases. However, sometimes – for the sake of brevity – it is useful to speak of a particular ‘culture'. I hope that the reader will not see in this a deviation from the basic point being made.
In the 1960s there was a fierce debate about the propriety of the term ‘race relations'. It was argued that to use the term at all was to concede that there were quite separate ‘races’ which had to be in some kind of relationship with each other. Others argued that there was, after all, an issue and that ‘race relations’ was a convenient shorthand term that could be used to refer to it. In the 1990s a way out of the dilemma was sought in referring to ‘ethnicity’ rather than ‘race'. That term appeared to embrace both physical and cultural characteristics. Some objected to it for that very reason, arguing that the problem of racism had to be confronted head-on and that the term ‘ethnicity’ blurred the issue. Talk of culture, they claimed, fudged the issue even further. After all, we have had some race riots over the last few decades. No one has ever spoken of ‘culture riots'. The issue was particularly critical for people whose parents came from different ethnic backgrounds. Some of those people argue that the struggle against racism requires that they identify themselves unambiguously as black (as Barrack Obama has done in the United States). Others argue that they should take pride in their ‘mixed heritage’ and see in it a sign of hope for the future. I have no way to offer out of the problem of the best language to employ. In some contexts I have spoken of people who are ‘not white British’ because the topic in hand has been the response of the majority population to people some see as not belonging to it. Similarly, I have sometimes spoken of ‘black and Asian people’ where it seemed more relevant to use that language than to employ a term that also covers white minorities. I have also used the conventional term ‘black and minority ethnic’ although I appreciate that to emphasise the minority status of a group can be a way of reinforcing their separation. All the language available to us on this issue has disadvantages. To speak bluntly of people who are different in appearance is to risk reinforcing the notion that these differences are and should be of great significance. To avoid speaking of them is to risk dodging the issue of the crucial place of racism in modern British society. Some day it may be possible to speak of cultural diversity without encountering these difficulties.[Page xviii]
The commitment to the celebration of cultural diversity over the past thirty years or so has produced some excellent practice in early years settings as in other spheres of public service. There have also been some ham-fisted interventions and decisions that have brought the whole commitment into disrepute. When respect for other people's culture becomes timidity it ceases to be respect. Those who back away from their duty to protect children or vulnerable adults for fear that their intervention will be seen as racist are setting some people up as beyond the boundaries of the law and avoiding real engagement in a way that is itself racist. Those who try to ban the English flag or pictures of Santa Claus on the grounds it will offend minorities ascribe a failure of understanding and a lack of respect for others to those minorities in a way that is itself offensive.
Bad practice and ill-advised interventions such as those just mentioned have helped to generate over-generalized criticism of the commitment to intercultural dialogue. They help explain the unthinking assertions that multiculturalism is a failure or – worse – a menace. And while there has been good practice, there has also been mediocre practice that does not do enough to offset prejudice. The celebration of certain festivals and other gestures are not to be condemned, but they can remain mere gestures that do too little to help children cope with the multicultural world they are entering.
Those who condemn all manifestations of multiculturalism are running away from the world in which we live, a world of increasing contact between societies, economic inter-dependence and migration. This is not a new situation. Globalization began when the first clans left Africa to migrate over the Earth's surface before the dawn of recorded history. Contact between societies with different cultures has been happening for centuries. It began to grow ever more rapidly from the 16th century onwards. Technological advance will only serve to increase the scale and consequences. At the same time people all over the world are looking for frameworks in which to live that go beyond the mechanisms of the market place. Some of the manifestations of this may be unwelcome. It often takes the form of ideologically-driven strict adherence to local traditions, and those traditions can entail the unjust subordination of many. Nevertheless, the search for local identity and cultural diversity are both driven as well as opposed by globalization.[Page 122]
We cannot cope with these developments by:
- attempting to resurrect a traditional British culture, the features of which will be matters of controversy even among those who are white British
- wholesale commitment to a single global culture based exclusively on one version of what technological modernization entails or
- the establishment of quite separate cultures living side by side, but with minimum communication between themselves even if open hostility is avoided.
All those three solutions to the problem of cultural diversity break down because they are all based on the idea that ‘cultures’ are fixed entities with clear and distinct boundaries. The contrary is the case. We always need cultural devices in order to cooperate. Shared sentiments, mutually comprehensible gestures, key icons, rules of behaviour – all these things are ‘cultural’ and also essential to real cooperation and communication, which cannot happen without them. However, cultures are constantly in interaction with each other and changing as a result. This has nearly always been the case. Some very isolated, small societies may have avoided outside influences and remained unchanged as a result for centuries. That was never the normal situation, and is becoming increasingly rare. Cultural diversity and the changes that result from it have become an unavoidable aspect of our lives.
This is not just something that circumstance forces us to accept. It is something to be welcomed. The attempt to understand other people who do not share the assumptions and signs that go with our culture (whichever culture that is) takes us into a new realm of understanding. It is not just the acquisition of new ideas that is at stake. It is a new sensitivity to others – something that is essential if the human species is going to survive the changes that its ingenuity has engendered.
It is in this slightly daunting context that work on cultural diversity in early years settings has to be seen. One of the great discoveries that nearly all children make in their early years is the discovery that people see things from different perspectives and that we need to understand what those perspectives are to have effective relationships with them. The early years setting is a particularly important context for opening up minds to the reality of cultural diversity. This is not just because it is important to take action against prejudice at the earliest possible stage. It is because it is in the period that lies approximately between the third and sixth birthday that children develop the understanding that lies behind all of their ability to [Page 123]cooperate with others. This is, therefore, the best time to help them learn how to cooperate across potential cultural barriers.
This is why the principal resource for work on cultural diversity cannot be explanations of what various religions believe or various artefacts or stories that have their origins outside white British culture. It must be in the ability of early years practitioners to understand how young children learn and what are the best ways of supporting them in that.
It also depends on the ability of practitioners to reach intelligently across cultural boundaries for themselves. If they are merely making gestures because this is what is required in the curriculum guidance, the children will spot the artificiality of the exercise and draw their own conclusions.
That ability does not come easily and can have costs. If you attempt real communication and cooperation with people whose cultural backgrounds are different from your own, then sooner or later you will get it wrong and tread on someone's metaphorical toes. And you will not always be lucky enough to do this to someone who has the perception and generosity to forgive you for it easily. This is as much a problem for someone from a minority community as it is for those who are white British.
We have one source of encouragement in this. Next time you see a recently born child, study the expression on her face. There are likely to be signs of caution, but the dominant feature will be an intense curiosity, an eagerness to learn. Perhaps before we devote time to working out what we need to teach children about the diversity of the human race, we should spend a moment wondering what we have to learn from them.
Appendix I: Resources and Further Reading[Page 124]Publications for Practitioners
The items for further reading recommended at the end of Chapter 5 are useful starting points for ideas on activities:
Brightwell & Fidgin (2005) To Begin At The Beginning
Garvey, Giffin & Unwin (2007) Developing Global Learners
The Child's Eye two-DVD set on Festivals
Another book that provides ideas on activities with small children is:
Milord (1992) Hands Around the World
However, the fact that it was published a while ago in the US may make it difficult to locate a copy.
I would also recommend:
Taylor (2006) Start With a Difference
This has the interesting feature of speaking from the standpoint of an ethnic minority.
There are many books offering information on different religions.
Cole (1991) Five World Faiths offers a helpful digest of information about the five major world religions.
Alexander (ed.) (1994) The World's Religions is particularly comprehensive. Bowker (2006) World Religions is a more recent book and one that is lavishly illustrated.
There are books on this subject that are aimed at young children. For the most part these have children at Key Stages One and Two in mind, but they can also be helpful for work by practitioners with younger children. One good example is provided by the books in the Red Rainbow Religion collection published by Evans Brothers in London, each with a similar title (My Sikh Faith, My Muslim Faith and so on).[Page 125]
A good introduction to the story of immigration to the United Kingdom is offered by:
Winder (2005) Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain
The history of Islam in the United Kingdom is covered in:
Ansari (2004) ‘The Infidel Within': Muslims in Britain Since 1800
A useful overall guide to cultural diversity is provided by:
Johnson (2003) The Cultural Diversity Guide
There are a few books that deal with the education of children from specific minority communities. Examples include:
Kahin (1997) Educating Somali Children in Britain
Tyler (2005) Traveller Education. This includes one chapter on improving access to early education for traveller children and another describing resources that can be used at the Foundation Stage and Key Stage One.Novels
Novels often provide a good route into beginning to understand things from the perspective of someone whose cultural background is different from your own. Among the many novels dealing with the experiences of people from minority communities in this country are:
Monica Ali (2003) Brick Lane
Buchi Emecheta (1974) Second-Class Citizen
Andrea Levy (2004) Small Island
Marina Lewycka (2007) Two Caravans
Meera Syal (1999) Life Isn't All Ha-ha, He-he
Novels, such as those mentioned above, that give some idea of the experience of living in this country as a member of an ethnic minority tend to be about the experiences of adults and rarely concentrate on the experiences of young children or those caring for them. This limits their value in this context to some extent. They still provide a useful way of helping white British people to understand their experiences.Books for Children
The number of books suitable for use with children at Foundation Stage and Key Stage One is growing all the time. What follows is just a selection. [Page 126]Some of the resource centres that are named later will be able to offer assistance with making choices.
There are many picture story-books that can be recommended. Among those that can be recommended are:
Bernard Ashley (1992) Cleversticks
Eileen Browne (2000) Handa's Surprise
Niki Daly (2000) Jamela's Dress
Ruth Davies (2006) Telling Stories
Barbara Joosse (2005) Papa, Do You Love Me?
David Mills & Derek Brazell (1999) Lima's Red Hot Chilli
Sandhya Rao (2006) My Mother's Sari
Na, imh bint Robert & Nilesh Mistry (2002) The Swirling Hijaab
Several of these are already well known, reflecting the fact that they are very engaging and based on a clear understanding of what young children need from stories. Some of them now have associated games, posters or Big Book versions (particularly useful for story-telling with groups of more than two children). The book by Ruth Davies includes stories from different countries and also has advice on story-telling and on activities that can be built on the foundation of those stories.
The BBC website has a section on stories from around the world for young children: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/storycircle/worldstories
There are some good collections of nursery rhymes from around the world that you can add to the standard ones that are probably already in use in your setting:
Asian Nursery Rhymes (by Itchykadana) in Bengali, Gujerati, Panjabi and Urdu in the original versions and English translations, published by Mantra in 1996. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, but you may be able to track down a copy in a public library.
Floella Benjamin (1995) Skip Across the Ocean
As in the case of different religions, there were until fairly recently few nonfiction books addressing issues related to other aspects of cultural diversity and aimed at pre-school children, although it was often possible with careful planning to make use of books aimed at primary school children. There are now more of these.
A particularly good example is:
Beatrice Hollyer (1999) Wake Up, World! A Day in the Life of Children Around the World. It features children from the UK, the US, Brazil, Russia, Vietnam, [Page 127]Australia and India. The fact that it presents children from both ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries is a particularly strong aspect, subverting the notion that cultural diversity is about how ‘we’ look at Asia, Africa and Latin America. The photographs are excellent. There is also a photo-activity pack Your World, My World compiled by Teresa Garlake and published in 2001 by Oxfam that is based on the book.
Other examples include:
Emma Brownjohn (2002) All Kinds of Bodies. This is part of a series with similar titles ‘All Kinds of …'. The whole series can be recommended.
Lisa Bruce & Stephen Waterhouse (2001) Engines, Engines is a counting rhyme in an Indian setting.
Lisa Easterling (2007) Our Global Community Games
Cindy Gainer (1998) I'm Like You, You're Like Me is a picture book celebrating similarities and differences between children around the world. The same author has also published a guide with helpful advice to adults on how to talk about the book with children and design follow-up activities.
Beatrice Hollyer (2004) Let's Eat is about food enjoyed by children from five different countries.
Thando McLaren (2005) My Day, My Way gives accounts of a day in the life of children from four different countries.
Catherine McNamara (2003) Nii Kwei's Day describes a day in the life of a Ghanaian boy told in photographs; it has the advantage that this is a story about an African living in a modern city.
Ifeoma Onyefulu (2000) Ebele's Favourite is about children's games in Nigeria, some of which have equivalents in British games.
Kate Petty (2007) Around the World Hair describes different hairstyles around the world.
Jo Readman & Ley Honor Roberts (2004) The World Came to My Place Today about the origins in other countries of many everyday products; it is a good basis for activities.
Gwenyth Swain (1999) Eating, describes different types of food eaten in different countries.
Melanie Walsh (2004) My World, Your World is an excellent book for illustrating differences and similarities in the lives of children from around the world.Music
Most of the larger CD shops will have sections on so-called ‘world’ music. Many of the CDs available are produced by the World Music Network, which is associated with the Rough Guides to travel: http://www.worldmusic.net[Page 128]The principal company offering music from around the world for young children is the American firm Putumayo: http://www.putumayo.comPosters
Some posters come as part of the package with picture story-books along with other materials. One example is offered by the posters that accompany the two-DVD set on festivals by Child's Eye Media.
Probably the most widely used poster is Hello published by Mantra. It presents greetings in a range of languages.
Other posters that can be recommended include:
Everyone Smiles in the Same Language from Trend Enterprises
Friendship Posters, set of six in the MILK collection published by
Festival Shop (http://www.festivalshop.co.uk)Sources of Advice and Resources
There is a number of development education centres across the country (not all of them using that title). Your nearest one will be able to provide you with advice and access to resources. They vary among themselves in the extent to which they cater specifically for the needs of practitioners working in early years settings, but even those that do less in this field than some others should still prove a useful source of assistance.
You can find your nearest centre from the following national organizations:
Development Education Association (England) – http://www.dea.org.uk
International Development Association of Scotland (IDEAS) – http://www.ideas-forum.org.uk
Cyfanfyd (Wales) – http://www.cynfanfyd.org.uk
Centre for Global Education (Northern Ireland) – email@example.com
Other organizations where resources can be found include:
Articles of Faith (Bury, Lancashire, supplies artefacts relating to major world religions) – http://www.articlesoffaith.co.uk
Books & More (Bradford, supplies books and other resources relating to cultural diversity and world religions and black history covering all [Page 129]areas of the curriculum at primary and secondary levels) – http://www.books-and-more.co.uk
Eduzone (London, general educational suppliers whose resources include ones particularly relevant to cultural diversity) – http://www.eduzone.co.uk
The Parrotfish Company (Maldon, Essex, offers a wide range of resources on the subject matter covered in this book) – firstname.lastname@example.org Primary Colours (Huddersfield-based organization that provides a number of services, including teachers’ packs and consultancy arrangements related to cultural diversity. Possibly their most original contribution lies in the interactive theatrical events they put on in schools and elsewhere. Much of their material is intended for older primary school children, but they do offer services related to Foundation Stage and KS1 as well) – http://www.primarycolours.net
Soma Books Ltd (London, specializes in materials from India) – email@example.com
Starbeck Educational Resources (Ripon, North Yorkshire) – http://www.starbeck.com Sterns (London, source for world music on CD and DVD) – http://www.sternsmusic.co TTS Group Ltd (Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, educational suppliers with stock designed for early years) – http://www.tts-shopping.com
You should also be able to look to the ethnic minority education service in your Local Authority for advice and possibly for access to resources.
Appendix II: The Development Education Centre of South Yorkshire and its Cultural Mentor Service[Page 130]
As was said in the Preface, many of the ideas in this book come from the work of the Development Education Centre in South Yorkshire (DEC(SY))and its Cultural Mentor Service.
DEC(SY) was established in 1984 and is a registered charity (no.517354). Its basic objective is to work with teachers and others involved in education throughout South Yorkshire to promote understanding of development issues and a global perspective in the curriculum. It is one of a number of such bodies across the country (not all of them calling themselves Development Education Centres). The organization is affiliated to a national network, the Development Education Association, and to a regional body, the Yorkshire and Humberside Global Schools Association.
DEC(SY) has a small number of paid staff who – together with volunteers – engage in several kinds of work, including training and information sessions for teachers and others, the production of booklets and resource packs on various issues and the management of several projects. It is based in Scotia Works, a building in the centre of Sheffield that is shared by a number of voluntary organizations with interests in international cooperation and education. It uses some of the space there as a resource centre offering books addressed to professionals in education, picture story-books for children, CDs, films, posters and artefacts which are available for sale or on loan.
There has sometimes been in the past an assumption that development and global education issues are not suitable subjects for young children. DEC(SY) is one of several DECs that have argued for several years that the foundations for an appreciation of the serious issues involved in global citizenship have to be laid at an early stage. From the early 1990s its resources were being used successfully by early years settings.[Page 131]
In the year 2000, members of the Pre-School Learning Alliance and the National Day Nurseries Association got together with representatives of DEC(SY) and the Young Children's Service in Sheffield's Education Department to consider new ways of promoting an appreciation of cultural diversity in early years settings in the city. These discussions led in 2001 to the launching of the Cultural Mentor Service within DEC(SY) under the umbrella of the Early Years Development & Childcare Partnership (EYDCP) in Sheffield. The basic idea was that more use should be made of the knowledge that some practitioners had of particular cultures, usually because they came from those cultural backgrounds themselves. They would be given the opportunity to visit settings other than their own to advise and support colleagues there with activities designed to foster better understanding of the communities from which they came. The EYDCP provided funds for cover for those people when they were visiting other settings and the funding of a staff member within DEC(SY) who was to coordinate this work.
The scheme did not go as well as had been hoped. It proved difficult to identify enough practitioners with the necessary knowledge and when they were identified releasing them for this work was not always easy even if funding for cover was available. As a result of this experience the Cultural Mentor Service was altered in several ways:
- The idea of recruiting people working in settings was dropped and replaced by the establishment of a small team of ‘Cultural Mentors'.
- As well as working in settings, the team designed and ran a number of short courses, the most substantial of these entailing 20 hours class contact time, 10 hours individual tutorial time and self-directed study and practice within settings.
- The scheme, which had at first dealt exclusively with pre-school day care settings, expanded into work with childminders, summer play schemes, after-school clubs and parent support groups.
There was another development. The original project had envisaged people with expertise going into settings to help their practitioners understand cultural backgrounds with which they were not familiar. The team that was appointed saw a need to get beyond this and address the issue more fundamentally. Somewhat to their surprise, practitioners were asked during visits to settings or at training sessions to identify their own cultural background. As Hlabera Chirwa, one of the team, expressed it, ‘You cannot approach another culture in an open and friendly way until you are confident about your own cultural identity'. The idea of getting people to think [Page 132]about their own cultural identities putting English culture on the same footing as others may have come as a surprise at first, but it has proved very invigorating in practice. Practitioners, students and parents of young children have all spoken warmly of the impact that the work of the Cultural Mentors has had on them and the way that it has enabled them to re-examine and develop their approach to cultural diversity.
My experience of working with this team of people provides the basis for much of what is said in this book.
For further information on DEC(SY) visit http://www.decsy.org.uk
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