What is Multicultural Education?

This summer, I will be posting a series of blogs about multicultural education and what that means for my context as well as my role and responsibility as an educator. The term multicultural education is fluid in that the meaning alters as it serves the purpose of various organizations, districts, schools, and classrooms. The definition is also organic in that as our society becomes increasingly and deeply connected in a global way, policy makers, educators, and the like seek to determine what multicultural means within the context of time. As such, I begin my quest to define multicultural education in this point in time within the context of my role as a doctoral student and classroom teacher.

Below are the definitions of multicultural education from a variety of resources:

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. It affirms our need to prepare students for their responsibilities in an interdependent world. It recognizes the role schools can play in developing the attitudes and values necessary for a democratic society. It values cultural differences and affirms the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers reflect. It challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice” (The National Association for Multicultural Education, 2018).

Multicultural education is set of strategies and materials in education that were developed to assist teachers when responding to the many issues created by the rapidly changing demographics of their students. It provides students with knowledge about the histories, cultures, and contributions of diverse groups; it assumes that the future society is pluralistic. It draws on insights from a number of different fields, including ethnic studies and women studies, but also reinterprets content from related academic disciplines. Multicultural education, also viewed as a way of teaching, promotes principles such as inclusion, diversity, democracy, skill acquisition, inquiry, critical thought, value of perspectives, and self-reflection” (Wikipedia, 2018).

“Most common understanding of multicultural education is that it consists largely of additive content rather than a set of structural changes in content and process…it has often been interpreted in either a simplistic or a monolithic way” (Nieto, 2008, p. 18).

“Most multicultural education theorists [refer multicultural education] to mean an education that is designed to help all students, including White mainstream students, to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to function effectively in a diverse society or nation-state” (Banks, 2016, p. 71).


Banks, J. A. (2016). Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Nieto, S. (2008). Affirmation, solidarity and critique: Moving beyond tolerance in education. In E. Lee, D. Menkart, & M. Okazawa-Rey (Eds.), Beyond heroes and holidays (pp. 18-29). Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.

The National Association for Multicultural Education. (2018). Definitions of multicultural education. Retrieved from The National Association for Multicultural Education website: https://www.nameorg.org/definitions_of_multicultural_e.php

Wikipedia. (2018). Multicultural education. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multicultural_education

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