Welcome to the Solution Across Borders blog. Not only for members, this blog is a a Baruch-wide initiative to keep our campus involved in global affairs. Feel free to comment and participate in our discussions here or to come to our meetings on Tuesdays in at VC11-160.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Multiculturalism and Diversity in New York City Classrooms

       There is no need to look further than New York State when identifying the effects immigration has on public education and the integral part multicultarism plays in the classroom. It is estimated that nearly one third of the total student poulation of New York City schools are immigratnts, and this proportion is rising. These students enroll in schools with the same hopes of equal access to opportunities and success. However, there are others who do not engage in the school environment with the same enthusiasm. The lack of financial security and English skills are just a few examples acting as stumbling blocks for these immigrant children.

        The lack of English skills makes the transition process very difficult for these students, this also directly effects their performance on comprehension exams. Many children today can afford to enroll in language courses outside of school, but in the late 90's, the poor socio-economic status of these immigrants did not make this possible. Parents were not able to financially support their children, or provide academic assistance at home. Parent involvement in a child's academic process is very important, the lack of involvement due to their helplessness effected the way these children performed in school as well. More educated parents on the other hand are more likely to help their children with their homework or prepare for exams. This aid helps to design a plan for academic success, which is also very helpful and important.

       The results of impoverishment is negative. Similarly, immigrant students in general have higher dropout rates than the native-born. But then again, it is also important to identify the different types of immigrant groups which exist. Newer immigrant children perform differently in school in comparison to acculturated immigrants. Research shows that the offspring of immigrants have the higher dropout rates and the newer immigrant children are highly motivated to attend and succeed in schools instead. A possible reasoning for this may be because newer immigrant children use their good performance in school to serve as a tool in influencing upward mobility.

        The challenge for many public school teachers today has become how to teach immigrant students who are from completely different backgrounds and barely speak any English. This is increasingly becoming the situation inside many schools because school are required to enroll students regardless of their immigration status and are prohibited from even asking about it.

        In today's economic situation and while keeping in mind the changing accepting nature of America as a nation of many worlds, it is important to educate immigrants. Except for the indigenous people, everyone in the United States descended from immigrants, and what America is today is because of immigrants. When keeping this in mind, it becomes increasingly important to encourage tolerance of diversity within the classrooms and welcome those wanting to enter with open arms. The education of immigrant students is a smart investment, and also a way for the U.S. to uphold its image as a nation who has transitioned out of an era of intolerance.

        Multiculturalism and diversity in classrooms has also been increasing at the same rate as immigration. As interdependence among nations is limiting cultural barriers, the movement between countries is also becoming more fluid. Competition for talented global workers is increasing the demand of immigrants to migrate with their families. This mass migration is becoming the reason of largening classrooms with children from all different backgrounds. It is interesting to see the change in the way large companies work today as well. Many companies are noticing the importance of cross cultural training, as it is becoming an integral part of employee training to better equip them with skills that will help in building successful business relationships. Now the bigger question is why wait till a child reaches that level to make them globally aware? If they grow up in diverse classrooms, should it not be the responsibility of teachers and the schools to educate these kids about the multiple different cultures before them?

        Many teachers today are becoming away of the increasingly diverse classrooms, and finding it difficult to reach out to these children who speak little or no English. Changing times and conditions, make it more important than ever to be attentice about how student's family cultures can be very different from the dominant culture which once existed in schools. This is not an easy task, it will in fact take time and effort to learn about unfamiliar cultures. The role of teachers extends outside of the classroom as they have to excel in the realm of creativity in order to adjust to teaching practices to fully include children of different cultures. The only way to approach students who come from these different backgrounds would be to build bridges to non-mainstream cultures and make sure to include teaching technique which include traditions and contributions of all cultures. This will help a child grow both socially and academically, because he or she will be comfortable in this new environment.

        It is also important for teachers as educators to have cultural awarwness of the students' lives and backgrounds to help them connect with their students. Without this awareness, teachers would not be sensitive and have compassion for each child and help them develop. Sometimes understanding anthropological aspects such as elements of child-raising, beliefs, concepts of self and religious rituals help to approach the problem face down. This is a process which on the most part includes the self-reflection of each individual teacher. I think this so called “investigation” may help teachers to realize their core beliefs, hidden biases and religious perspectives. The easiest way to get a better understanding of the best techniques of teaching a diverse student body is to learn about the student's lives outside of the classroom. Yes, this does require an extra step on the teachers part, but this additional step makes the process of educating easier and smooth.

      A student begins to be brainwashed with a very unclear concept, Americanism. Till date I still am unaware of what exactly americanism is, and I have grown up here my whole life. Is standing in the beginning of the school day to say the pledge, being “American?” or is eating hot dogs from the food carts at baseball games a part of the American lifestyle? The answer to these questions most will say is open ended, but the fact of the matter is that children grow up with these ideas being directly associated with being American, American values and American culture. Not for a second do I reject any of these ideas as American, but I do also believe that a part of America are the many other cultures that make up this country and have helped to shape the social makeup of the nation as we know it to be today.

      The increasing amount of diversity in city school's is on the rise, but at the same time it is interesting to come across schools like Stuyvestant High School which is amongst the top city school's and having a constant problem with lack of diversity. Many critics complain that it is the specialized high school admission test that is inadequate, and that this is an unfair means of accepting students for admission. I quote from the New York Times, “the department has tried to increase the number of black and Latino students admitted to the top schools by hosting an intensive test preparation institute, but even the students who participated have shown lackluster results.” Why is it that only the Latino and Black communities are experiencing these problems? Are these programs actually providing these students with adequate aid or is it just a show? These are all questions which only the elites in education have the answers to.

      In order for us to find answers and solutions for ourselves, parents must actively partcipate in their children's educations and invest in the opportunities that will help them in the future. In addition, it is necessary for the government to help students who desire to enroll in these specialized schools receive the aid and preparation in math, verbal and critical thinking in the pre-existing years before the examination.

-Suveen S.


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