Culturally inclusive practice is important at the whole school level and the curriculum, or classroom, level.
At the whole school level, culturally inclusive practice focuses on:
- inter-group relations among students
- relationships between the school, parents and community
- communication and consultative decision making strategies
- representative student voice and leadership
- acceptance of diversity as normal and comfortable.
Culturally inclusive schools and learning environments
- all students, staff and community members equally
- all students' self-esteem and promote respect of others. For example, learn to pronounce unfamiliar names correctly
- the culture, language and beliefs of each student and family. For example, allow opportunities for students and families to share information about cultural and religious practices and events
- a range of perspectives and variety of educational experiences that students, parents and carers bring to learning.
- consistent, fair and high expectations for all students
- respectful relationships, for example, establish school and classroom rules and practices for respectful behaviour and communication which reflect an openness to differing attitudes, beliefs and world views
- collaboration, for example, staff work collaboratively as a model to students and the community
- supportive, prejudice-free, anti-discriminatory behaviour.
- for inclusion across policies, practices and cultures within the school
- activities that provide all students with opportunities to express their voice within the school
- professional learning that supports staff to respond to diversity positively and plan curriculum content and delivery to teach about, and counter, discrimination
- for parent and family engagement that draws upon community resources.
- strategies which identify and act upon any barriers to student participation in leadership, sport, music, academic, social and other school activities - developing the skills of all students to ensure representation from diverse cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds
- a range of communication strategies, including using interpreters and translations if needed, to ensure effective communication with parents and community members from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds
- strategies that involve parents and community members from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds in all stages of the school planning cycle
- community harmony strategies which promote positive community relations and partnerships based on mutual responsibility, trust and respect.
Culturally inclusive curriculum
A culturally inclusive curriculum reflects the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of society. Students learn in a supportive environment free from prejudice and discrimination. Opportunities are available for students to identify as Australian and explore cultures and beliefs that may be different from their own.
Culturally inclusive practice encompasses curriculum content and pedagogy at classroom level. Materials and examples challenge stereotypes to avoid prejudice and bias. Teaching and learning activities provide students with equal opportunities to learn, share experiences and succeed at school.
In developing culturally inclusive content, teachers:
- differentiate the curriculum to suit all learners, including students learning English as an Additional Language or Dialect
- use a wide variety of texts, pictures, videos and experiences
- reflect upon the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of students and consider all students when planning lessons
- identify and examine bias in words and visual images
- incorporate appropriate assessment practices.
- accurate information and different perspectives
- teaching materials which reflect the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of the school community, broader Australian community and beyond
- information about under-represented groups
- anti-racist perspectives.
- assumptions and challenge any assumptions.
In delivering culturally inclusive content, teachers:
- become aware of one’s own perspectives, biases and prejudices
- demonstrate being comfortable with difference
- promote a pluralist, just and inclusive society
- show a readiness and interest in learning about different perspectives, ideas, opinions and ways of doing things
- avoid building a ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ picture of a culture
- value and draw upon the different knowledge, skills and experiences that each student brings
- make connections to students' lives to ensure relevance.
- monitor how people from diverse backgrounds are referenced
- counter the attitudes and values that underpin racism and prejudice as they can manifest as discrimination and racist behaviour
- encourage negotiation skills to bring about fairness when there are different points of view
- use inclusive language (monitor the use of ‘we', ‘us', ‘them', ‘they' and positioning of people to these words)
- establish rules to assist effective discussion of controversial issues
- provide the opportunity for all students to identify as Australian
- encourage critical thinking and questioning in relation to ‘information' and ‘knowledge'
- include collaborative learning experiences to develop behaviours that help build relationships.
- build a knowledge and understanding of Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity
- explore the complexities of culture and identity and the changing nature of these
- explore a range of cultures and beliefs including various cultural contexts, world views and perspectives - including Aboriginal, migrant and refugee experiences
- provide opportunities for investigating one’s own and others' cultures, backgrounds and circumstances but avoid calling upon students to be ‘experts' about a particular culture
- explore how people of similar cultural backgrounds can express culture differently
- develop students' understandings about the social nature of the production of knowledge and an appreciation of the values underlying ‘objective’ knowledge.
The following criteria and key questions provide guidance for teachers when making choices about which resources to use.
- Do the resources present accurate and contemporary information?
- Do resources reflect the cultural diversity of Australian society?
- Do they help students understand and respect people from cultures different from their own?
- Do they make generalisations or over-simplifications which may lead to stereotyping?
- Are there indications of racial bias or stereotyping?
- Are appropriate or biased messages conveyed by illustrations and photographs?
- Do the resources reflect a wide range of perspectives?
- Do they include a cross-section of people in diverse cultural contexts both within Australia and other places?
- Do the events, topics or issues presented reflect a range of historical, social and cultural perspectives?
- Is there an overemphasis on differences between cultures?
- Is there a focus on the exotic or extreme?
- Is there an over-emphasis on problems?
- Do the resources illustrate intercultural sharing and understanding?
- Do they address significant and relevant contemporary issues?
- Do the resources present positive images of people from diverse cultural backgrounds
- Do the resources accurately reflect Australia’s Indigenous and colonial past and history of migration?
- Do resources stress the equality of all Australians in a democratic society?
- Do they address issues of social justice?
- Are minority groups introduced in a natural way?
- Do they create a feeling of pride in cultural heritage?
- Do they complement other material on similar topics?
- Is the portrayal of minority cultures tokenistic?
- Are different points of view presented or is any one point of view more prominent or more favourably represented than others?
- Are some cultural groups represented in limited settings or contexts?
- Are significant aspects of history and culture omitted?
- Where there is reference to significant cultural information, is sufficient detail included to foster inter cultural understanding or promote understandings of the complexity of one’s own and others’ cultures?
- Do they provide opportunities for all students to identify with a variety of characteristics and situations?
Use of language
- Is appropriate terminology used?
- Does the language used reinforce stereotypes?
- Does the language used in resources foster biased interpretations and views?
Research shows that students have better outcomes when schools, families and the community work together to support learning. Schools and families benefit when creating strong, respectful family-school relationships and sharing responsibility for student learning.
The Multicultural Education Policy requires schools to promote positive community relations with parents from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and encourage their participation in school life.
Interpreting and translation services are available to support communication between schools and families who don't speak English well, or are deaf or speech impaired. The department has translated documents and publications for schools to use to communicate with parents and build strong family-school relationships.
Resources to support community engagement in NSW Public Schools include:
- Family and community engagement – guidelines and strategies to support engagement by families and communities from all backgrounds.
- Opening the school gate: Engaging migrant and refugee families (PDF 2.6MB) – provides teachers and school staff with a range of strategies to support migrant and refugee parents/carers to fully participate in school life.
- Strengthening community harmony: Advice and resources for schools (PDF 653KB) – provides advice to schools about building and maintaining school community harmony. Includes suggested responses for managing community disharmony.