Every person should be equal in dignity and rights, regardless their race, gender, class, sexual identity, and ability or disability. This rule refers to the issue of education, as well. However, people do not always follow this rule, and tend to forget that free access to education should be provided for everyone and it should be done on the highest level. Such conditions have caused the appearance of multicultural education. In spite of the fact that the term “multicultural education” was conceptualized in the 1960s, scholars even nowadays cannot put definite interpretation on this subject (Gorski, 2010).
From our perspective, multicultural education is an approach to the educational process which eliminates discrimination of every kind; is based on principals of social justice and education impartiality, and is aimed at providing the highest level of teaching in order to enable students to fulfill their true potentials. In such a way, the theory of multicultural education lies in the following principles: the opportunities in studying should be equal for all students; students should be ready for cooperation with others in our intercultural society; school administration should take measures against oppressions in school walls; teachers should adapt the curriculum in order to meet the needs of every individual student; the process of education should become more student-orientated, and public awareness of multicultural education should be raised.
According to Banks and Banks (2001), “Multicultural education is an idea, an educational reform movement, and a process the major goal of which is to change the structure of educational institutions so that male and female students, exceptional students, and students who are members of diverse ethnic, racial, language, and cultural groups will have an equal chance to achieve academically in school” (p. 1). In such a way, the system of multicultural education comprises different practices, courses and programs pointed at ensuring equality in education for various social groups: ethnic groups, language minorities, low-income groups, and also people with disabilities (Banks, 2001, p. 6). The definition of multicultural education offered by Nieto (1996) is also noteworthy as she described it as “an antiracist education” and emphasized on its importance for all students (p. 307).
The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) (2013), on its part, provides such a definition, “Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity as acknowledged in various documents, such as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, constitutions of South Africa and the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations” (p.1). According to NAME, the main goals of multicultural education are: to train students for various responsibilities which may be lain on them in the modern world; to develop the system of proper values which is so important for a democratic society; to value cultural differences and to affirm the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers reflect; to exterminate all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice (Ozturgut, 2011).
Having substantially advanced his definition, James Banks (2004) stated five dimensions of multicultural education. To them belong: equity pedagogy, knowledge construction process, content integration, prejudice reduction, and empowering school culture and social structure. Equity pedagogy is a good incentive for teachers to modify their teaching styles with the aim of increasing students’ achievements in studying. Knowledge construction process lies in critiquing by students the social positions of groups in such a way that knowledge is presented. Content integration implies inclusion of various intercultural phenomena in the curriculum. Another important dimension is prejudice reduction, which involves different activities introduced by teachers in order to maintain a positive attitude to ethnic groups and to encourage intergroup cooperation. The last dimension – empowering school culture provides for restructuring of institutional practices aimed at creating access for all social groups (Banks, 2004).
Various definitions and theories just disclose different sides of such complicated phenomenon as multicultural education. However, there is something that unites all these different theories, and it is the transformation in the system of education, which is aimed at making substantial changes to society. Comparing different views of prominent scholars, we come to the conclusion that our definition has a lack of concretization, in contrast to Banks’ definition, and borrowing the theoretical basis of NAME’s definition would be a great improvement to ours. It goes without saying that such amount of scientific views on this issue only contributes to its better understanding. Therefore, the research that we have conducted deepens the knowledge in this sphere and inspires to further investigations. In order to raise our awareness of multicultural education we have to continue studying the works written by the experts in this sphere. Furthermore, our plans include observation of how the principles of multicultural education work in practice in different regions and making, on the basis of this research, suggestions for possible improvements in the system of multicultural education. All in all, many affords should be taken in order to turn multicultural education into general practice all over the world. However, people should remember that even a small contribution made for the sake of a big goal will bring about great changes.