Multicultural Education: An International Guide to Research, Policies, and Programs
reviewed by Christine J. Yeh - 2000
Title: Multicultural Education: An International Guide to Research, Policies, and Programs
Author(s): Bruce M. Mitchell and Robert E. Salisbury
Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport
ISBN: 0313300291, Pages: 383 , Year: 1996
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In the past decade there has been a dramatic increase in the number of multicultural education programs worldwide. School systems have responded to increasing cultural diversity with changes in curriculum, pedagogy, and policies. Previous discussion concerning the structure, goals, and functioning of multicultural education programs has focused primarily on programs within the United States.
Multicultural Education: An International Guide to Research, Policies, and Programs is an ambitious book. Mitchell and Salisbury (1996) expand the important discussion on multicultural education beyond the borders of the United States to include 42 countries around the globe. Multicultural Education provides a range of program descriptions of countries with different religious and political histories and worldviews. The introduction provides an overview of goals and methods; next, the authors present 42 brief case studies describing multicultural education in different countries. Each case study reviews the history of the system, the structure of the system, multicultural education programs, and a summary. An appendix includes a description of the authors' research methodology and a brief summary synthesizing their main findings.
This book serves as a much-needed reference in the field of international multicultural education. The authors should be lauded for their efforts to include both a comprehensive listing of descriptive case studies, and an analysis of themes emerging from the survey results addressed in the Appendix. The growth of multicultural education programs worldwide, however, raises challenges for cross-cultural research and theory. Specifically, the breadth of culturally relevant issues presented in this book raises many important organizational, methodological, and ideological questions.
It is worth considering how a book covering 42 different countries should be organized. The authors organize the book alphabetically, with a separate chapter devoted to each country. This structure serves more as an encyclopedia than as a comparative analysis across countries and multicultural education themes. Cross-national comparisons are difficult to assess when moving sequentially through the chapters. Alternative configurations for Multicultural Education might resemble work by Thomas (1990) or Banks and Banks (1995). Larger topics relevant to multiculturalism, such as content integration, prejudice reduction, and equity pedagogy (Banks, 1995), or major themes in comparative international education, such as educational equity, language and education, and forms of governance (Thomas, 1990) could guide Multicultural Education's format. Furthermore, the authors could have organized the book by themes and questions emerging from their survey, such as pluralism versus assimilation, languages of instruction, or school integration (as they do too briefly in the Appendix). In the current organizational format the authors ignore the cultural and political similarities across countries undergirding multicultural education efforts and trends. This structure, in fact, discourages integration and explanatory analysis, which would lead to policy implications for multicultural education.
Multicultural Education is primarily based on data gathered from An International Survey of Multicultural Education, designed by the authors to inquire about topics including central direction, funding, leadership, certification requirements, pluralism versus assimilationism, languages of instruction, racial integration/segregation, bilingual/bicultural instruction, and curriculum evaluation. The survey also asked about the country's cultural makeup, and challenges and improvements in multicultural education. The surveys were sent to contact persons in ministries of education.
It would be helpful if the authors discussed their methods of collecting and analyzing the data in more detail. A more in-depth description of the respondents, survey biases, and the conceptual framework guiding the research would help to clarify many methodological questions. For example, what, if any, additional methods of inquiry were considered? Were students and teachers within multicultural education programs in different countries contacted? In addition, the authors note that countries that did not respond to the survey were included, but there is no mention of how these data were gathered. Mitchell and Salisbury also do not report which countries were included in this separate line of research, nor how it may influence their results.
From an international comparative education perspective, Mitchell and Salisbury's methodological approach can be characterized as "descriptive," in that individual chapters focus primarily on describing multicultural education programs worldwide (Thiesen & Adams, 1990, p. 281). The positions and paradigms of the respondents and of the reporters are an issue when taking a descriptive approach.
Completed surveys from ministry of education contacts were the main source of data for this book, which raises concerns related to construct validity, universalist versus relativist views, and sampling (Padilla & Lindholm, 1995). For example, the authors inquired about thirteen "basic issues" in multicultural education. However, it is not clear where these issues came from or if they are relevant or appropriate across cultures. Moreover, other methods of inquiry, such as ethnographic approaches, could provide a cultural perspective as well as richer and more in-depth data (Mehan, Lintz, Okamoto, & Wills, 1995). Alternative and additional investigative approaches would present an expanded picture of international multicultural education programs.
While Multicultural Education serves as a useful reference in the field of international multicultural education, the chapters do not offer comprehensive portraits of issues such as languages of instruction or the economics of education. According to Thiesen and Adams (1990), comparative research should be theory driven, problem focused, and executed with explicit methodology and conceptual purpose. The descriptive methodology employed in this book is, however, not consistent with such guidelines.
Comparative education also strives to develop explanations and themes of cross-cultural relationships and patterns (Thiesen & Adams, 1990). Alternatively, an analytical, interpretive, explanatory, or historical analysis approach (Thiesen & Adams, 1990) would allow for better integration of the study findings. As in many investigative efforts reliant on survey data, breadth is provided at the expense of depth (Thiesen & Adams, 1990). A more interpretive or explanatory analysis would address interrelationships across religious, political, historical, and social contexts as they relate to knowledge construction, content integration, and school empowerment in their multicultural education programs. For example, how do indigenous cultural values, political histories, and within-country cultural group relations contribute to or explain assimilationist or pluralistic ideologies in educational curricula? In Multicultural Education, these interrelationships and socio-political and historical connections are cursory at best.
I agree with the authors' intention of using this book as an international reference guide to research, policies, and programs. Moreover, the authors state that a forthcoming book will include "more important information available in our data analysis," (p. 346) which should complement the current work. In spite of its shortcomings, Multicultural Education could be a useful reference to some teachers, students, and program planners, and it has implications for international multicultural education policy, research, and reform. An important question is whether the programs described in the book provide directions for addressing educational inequalities associated with cultural difference. An understanding of the political, historical and cultural differences that influence multicultural education might suggest policy, research and future curricular innovations to redress educational inequities. Perhaps the next book will offer such an analysis.
Banks, J. A. (1995). Multicultural education: Historical development, dimensions, and practice. In J. A. Banks and C. M. banks (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (pp. 3-25). New York: Macmillan.
Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. M. (Eds.). (1995). Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. New York: Macmillan.
Mehan, H., Lintz, A., Okamoto, D., & Wills, J. S. (1995). Ethnographic studies of multicultural education in classrooms and schools. In J. A. Banks and C. M. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (pp. 129-145). New York: Macmillan.
Padilla, A. M. & Lindholm, K. J. (1995). Quantitative educational research with ethnic minorities. In J. A. Banks and C. M. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (pp. 97-113). New York: Macmillan.
Theisen, G., & Adams, D. (1990). Comparative education research: What are the methods and uses of comparative education research? In R. M. Thomas (Ed.), International Comparative Education: Practices, Issues and Prospects. New York: Pergamon Press.
Thomas, R. M. (Ed.). (1990). International Comparative Education: Practices, Issues and Prospects. New York: Pergamon Press.