Teaching Diversity in Schools, Is It Up to Scratch?
We all want the best for our children but sometimes once those school doors are closed, we have no idea what they are being taught. We rely on the teaching force of our country to do the right thing, to comply to the curriculum and to provide our children with the correct facts without bias or personal opinions attached. So is this teaching up to scratch? Are the next generation being taught true inclusion and learning how to celebrate diversity? Here, we are going to cover how diversity is taught, how teachers are working towards ingraining inclusion into the future generations and we can, as parents and caregivers, challenge hatred to ensure that the future looks brighter than the past.
Whether you have a child that is in primary school, secondary school or in higher education, they will all be taught at some point about diversity and inclusion. Depending on your geographical area and the teacher, these lessons can vary greatly. So let’s take a look at what HAS to be covered by the curriculum and what SHOULD be being taught in every school across the country.
The curriculum is a piece of legislation that all state schools must adhere to. It sets out the main areas of a subject that must be covered each year. The curriculum also give guidance on how to teach character and life skills to pupils and by doing so, helps to enrich their lives and build on a firm foundation of greater understanding of the outside world. However, this guidance is just that, guidance. It isn’t (unlike in most subjects) bullet pointed and explained in detail so that it is identically dispensed throughout the country. This guidance leaves it open to the school or the teacher to interpret it how they see fit and to teach it accordingly.
So what does the curriculum say for diversity and inclusion? Well in terms of actually teaching EXACTLY what diversity and inclusion looks like in a child’s life and how it applies to them, this doesn’t happen until they are in secondary school. Primary schools have a duty to cover the basics of religion for children under 11 but there is no set guidelines to help them teach sex and relationships. More recently there has been a shift towards “British values” in primary schools which has come about as a counter terrorism move. This sometimes awkwardly sits beside diversity teachings which can often confuse children, especially those that don’t identify as British.
In secondary school the view is much wider with a lot of focus going onto Citizenship, sex and relationships and human rights. The guidelines state that this teaching should be covered weekly and should include topics such as roles in society, how the legal system works and the need for mutual respect in diverse groups such as religious or ethnic identities. There are always ongoing discussions as to whether this information, not taught to children before they are 11, is too late and that it in fact needs to be part of the curriculum from as soon as they begin school.
One hurdle in schools and specifically in teaching diversity is the lack of actual diversity within the teaching community. In 2018 nearly 86% of teachers in UK state schools (either primary or secondary) were White British and nearly 93% of headteachers were White British as well. These figures have actually increased since the last 2011 census and show a DECREASE in ethnic identities taking up teaching roles. In addition to this, of those White British teachers, a staggering 68% were women.
These facts show a clear imbalance of diversity in the teaching staff alone, which can only be a and thing when it comes to trying to break down barriers and disassemble stereotypes for our future generations. Of course, this isn’t to say that White British female teachers can’t teach diversity and inclusion fantastically, however it does raise questions as to how the education system can teach on a matter that they aren’t tackling within their own institutions.
Barriers to Overcome
So it’s clear that we have a long way to go before we can fully see the rewards of all this teaching on inclusion and diversity, but what barriers do we need to overcome immediately in order to make these sorts of figures and statistics a thing of the past? Well to begin with we need to implement diversity and inclusion sooner into a child’s life. The age in which a child’s self-identity is formed is 0-5 years old. The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage, a curriculum for children under the age of 5) covers topics such as understanding the world and personal, social and emotional development, but this wanes in favour of maths and literacy as soon as they hit 5 years old. Instead, by progressing this style of self-development throughout their primary years will help set them up for an adolescence of understanding fully WHO they are and WHAT they stand for.
Another barrier to overcome is that there simply aren’t enough diverse role models for these children to relate to or base themselves on. With only 5.3% of teachers across the UK being Asian, it’s no surprise that Asian children aren’t setting their sights on a teaching career. We need to increase the diversity within the teaching community to ensure that every child has a role model they can relate to and to help them achieve a greater understanding of their heritage and background.
The way that our children are taught diversity and inclusion is vital to their understanding of it and where they fit into society. To truly understand their role in life, they should be learning about themselves from day one. The national curriculum still has a long way to go on this and needs to address how they can teach consistently across the board and over a child’s educational lifetime to ensure diversity and inclusion is fully ingrained into all pupils. But for now, addressing the diversity issues within the teaching community itself will help to encourage others to feel included and valued as members of society, no matter what their background or race. If you’d like to learn more about diversity and inclusion, why not check out some of the other informative articles on dinc.?