Interculturalism, Education and Inclusion

Author(s) Gundara, Jagdish S
Publisher Paul Chapman Publishing
Published 2000
ISBN 0761966234
Reviewed by Dr Stephen Bigger
Director, Research Centre for Motivating Learning, University College Worcester
Review published 1 December 2004

This is a most interesting, accessible and useful book, which deserves to be read by a wide range of education practitioners from school, further education, and university, and not least the policy makers in these sectors. Intercultural Education is an EU term; it is important to say that 'Inclusion' in the title refers to policies that inhibit the exclusion of various minorities, particularly those with low levels of participation and achievement in education. It does not refer directly to inclusion as a special educational needs concept. He develops the concept of 'belonging' throughout the book; he ends with a 'recognition of multiple citizenship, multi-level citizenship and a variety of political loyalties', where being Welsh/ Pakistani / African, British and European are not mutually exclusive (p.205).

Gundara opens with his personal experiences of Kenya, USA and Britain and moves to a description of 'multicultural Britain', before analysing interculturalism in Europe. He regards the basic concepts of multicultural discourses as problematic, and discusses for example the inadequacy of the term 'ethnic minority', where minorities may be identified on national, linguistic, religious, class or 'territorality' in addition to 'race' and colour. This may not be new, but his discussion of the implications of this for education and the curriculum is important.

The complexity of communities, attitudes and values demonstrates that it is unwise to make prior assumptions that stereotype individuals such as Afro-Caribbean boys, 'Asians' and Muslim girls. Gundara points to structural factors in continuing disadvantage, such as league tables disadvantaging schools with pupils with English as an additional language, so maintaining a measure of segregation in the school system. He is right in including poor white children in this equation and in general including them as a disadvantaged minority whose voice needs to be heard. So when talking of affirmative action, he urges not to allow positive discrimination to polarise communities when access to opportunities seems to be unfair. He urges that the 'voice' or ordinary parents is heard, not that of extremists. He encourages a politicisation of teaching, learning and the curriculum in schools, further education and universities - an education where issues of social justice and human rights are raised and resolved. This is not in separate bolted-on sessions but within the entire curriculum - through SMSC in schools in all subjects, through addressing racist and sexist bias here and in higher level study.

He makes a particular plea for professional education courses, such as for teaching, to address such issues centrally so all teachers across all subjects in all schools and institutions contribute properly to the educational experiences of pupils and students, and have confidence in meeting with parents. H recognises that this has enormous staff development implications. He warns against educators of professionals consisting only of previous practitioners with low order conceptual understanding. All need the understanding and skills to counter racist attitudes and foster 'a cooperative pedagogical exercise which may generate new insights and give both teachers and students an enriched understanding of the society they live in' (p.125).

Although I would recommend this book heartily to practitioners, I have a few issues: the treatment of IQ and race condemns without illuminating, and this is not sufficient. One of the most disadvantaged groups in Britain and Europe, the Roma (Romanies) and other travellers get only the briefest of mentions and do not appear in the sparse index. Pakistan becomes 'Parkistan' (p.204); and the cover mis-spells Buddha in a picture caption.