Multiculturalism in Physical Education

Introduction

Multicultural education is an “education that values diversity and includes the perspectives of a variety of cultural groups on a regular basis” (Santrock, 2001, p.171). Within recent years the population of schools have become more culturally diverse. According to Lievesley, (2010) one fifth of UK’s population will be from an ethnic background by 2051. However, there are not enough equitable experiences for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) pupils. This can be put down to the lack of ethnic teachers in the teaching profession (DfE, 2018) and the lack of cultural competency of current white professionals (Harrison, Carson, & Burden, 2010). White professionals, can be unaware of their own disruptive behaviours, critical whiteness and unconscious bias when interacting with BAME pupils, the curriculum and the ‘hidden curriculum’ in school cultures (Duncan, 2019; Flintoff & Dowling, 2019; Richardson, 2015). BAME pupils often notice this blindness and can lose motivation to study and attend school and don’t feel they can discuss their health and well-being matters with teacher. Ultimately, they will disengage in the education process (Lac & Baxley, 2019). However, if multicultural education is conducted then BAME pupils have a greater purpose, attainment level and sense of belonging with their learning and enhanced wellbeing. Although, this is an issue for the whole education system, this article will look at it from a Physical Education viewpoint.

A PE lesson is the starting point of many athletes’ careers. Teams within PE and sport will be multi-cultural and need to coexist to be successful. Moreover, PE allows children to put multiculturalism into practice, rather than it being restricted to the theoretical material of PHSE. PE can increase emotions and heighten ethnic and religious differences which can serve to normalize ‘racialised notions of Whiteness= Normal; Blackness=Otherness’ (Wilkins & Lall, 2011, p. 374). Consequently, PE teachers need to have the knowledge and understanding of how to meet culturally diverse students’ needs and the multifaceted relationship between culture and learning (Flory & McCaughtry, 2011).

WHY PE?

  • It can push political boundaries and can teach the same ethos to the children receiving such education (Docheff, 2000).
  • PE can help eradicate any misconceptions around children from diverse backgrounds (Stroot & Whipple, 2003). 
  • PE is the core area for teaching teamwork, identity, embodiment and for social difference and development (Flintoff, Fitzergerald & Scraton, 2008).
  • Developing cultural awareness enables students to become more knowledgeable, understanding and respectful of everyone (Choi & Chepyator-Thompson, 2012).    
  • Children will be able to understand, respect and how to work with people from all backgrounds in PE, in school and in life (Dowling & Flintoff, 2018)

Counter Arguments

The assumption that disengagement with PE is due to cultural negligence is misplaced. Teachers cannot accurately measure if cultural barriers have been broken down. Barker et al. (2014) reported that their participants opposed PE on philosophical grounds, disruptions and disengagement due to personal effort. 

According to, Kulinna, McCaughtry, Cothran, and Martin (2006), teachers will become overloaded with information on one-day course so will not retain the key aspects. If they do, then some may not have the time and support to consolidate their learning. Due to timetabling and pressure of subject’s teachers may not be able to put theory into practice and then reflect upon their practices. Some teachers may feel that not addressing or even ‘over addressing’ the subject of cultural diversity could prove to be counter-productive (Asare, 2009). However, teachers need to address it in a proactive manner and it should be placed at the forefront of teachers mind when considering children’s needs. 

It is worth noting that although some teachers are from a non-diverse background and will only teach in non-diverse schools, a multicultural delivery and content is still important. Educators have an obligation to widen the horizons of the children they teach and not limit them to their immediate cultural environment they know during education. Furthermore, educators are responsible for a whole generation that will move into adulthood and be the next leaders and workers of the world. We have an obligation to make and shape a better world than we currently live in for the next generation.

Some initial teacher training organization will state that they do offer training on multiculturalism and explain that education should meet the needs of all pupils. From my observations and conversations with other teachers, most teacher training providers do not provide the depth of knowledge that non-diverse educators require to understand and be aware of their own unconscious bias. Unconscious bias cannot be discussed in one lesson, and then the job is done. An educator needs consistent training and reflection for multiculturalism and unconscious bias, in the same way teaching in general requires.

Strategies to improve 

  • Make the curriculum more diverse- You could teach sports such as Kabbadi when teaching attacking and defending principles (Doolittle & Rukavina, 2014) 
  • Make your content material more cultural aware. For example- Do you show British BAME athletes when discussing ‘British’ sports? We should talk, discuss and share our ideas and thoughts (Culp, 2011) 
  • Use pupil voice and find out what sports they actually enjoy rather than prescribing said sports (Doolittle & Rukavina, 2014)
  • Reflect on your own assumptions, beliefs and biases (Culp, 2013).
  • Understanding the concepts of Critical Whiteness/Notion of ‘Other’/ Us vs Them (Flintoff & Dowling, 2019). 
  • PETE’s teaching cultural diversity within PE to trainee teachers and through training days for in-service teachers. Why should it be just an optional lecture or a token gesture? (Hemphill et al., 2012).
  • Engaging trainee teachers in professional development opportunities with practicing urban PE teachers (Hemphill et al., 2012).

Summary

I believe that PE can develop cultural awareness in the children that we teach. We can create an environment that teaches non-physical skills such as team-work, kindness, empathy and respect for others. Moreover, that it is the responsibility of ALL teachers not just those of BAME backgrounds to ensure that ALL children have a multicultural diverse curriculum and understand cultural awareness and diversity (Sliwa et al., 2017). 

With the right education and an open mind, the world can change: 

Photo credit: @LiverpoolFC
Photo credit: @EnglandCricket

Friends are made by the heart, not by skin colour, gender, or religion.

Written by Omar Green – June 2, 2020 – originally posted to: https://www.ogsportztalks.co.uk

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