In this age of increasing cultural diversity, the need for children to learn and appreciate differences is imperative. Integrating cultural diversity in childcare is now an essential component of the modern childcare curriculum. But what does cultural diversity even mean and how does cultural diversity in childcare centres work in the real world?
Cultural diversity allows different cultures, races and ethnicity to be celebrated in an inclusive and healthy way. Having respect for diversity in childcare enables educators to celebrate differences and encourage families to participate in cultural programs and events. These simple acts not only empower the child to build their own self-esteem but they also model and promote a culture of inclusive practice.
Early childcare centres provide a unique opportunity to instill the values of respect and acceptance. By promoting the principles of cultural safety in childcare we can give children the opportunity to interact with children from different races and cultures in a safe and secure environment and in an acceptable manner.
The young child is naturally curious about their environment and the people that they are interacting with on a daily basis. This curiosity and perfectly natural act of comparing themselves to others helps to build their own sense of identity. This curiosity will naturally lead to questions that are not intended to be offensive or to harm. The child care centre provides the perfect opportunity to encourage these questions in a safe environment and to nurture understanding and acceptance for all parties.
It is therefore important that the education centre encourages and supports a culture of inclusion. Establishing this culture will go a long way towards creating an environment that:
Cultural diversity in child care centres should not only teach the noble virtue of tolerance but it should foster a climate of enrichment. The opportunities to grow and develop a greater understanding of the world amongst a diverse group of children.
The key to success in this area is the behaviour modelled by both educators and parents. Children learn what is an acceptable behaviour principally from the behaviour of the adults that influence them. Engendering a climate where the opportunity for adults to model good behaviour is paramount. This ensures that children learn how to interact with other children of all races, faiths and genders.
It is important to acknowledge and talk about differences openly so that children can learn that diversity can enrich our lives. Celebration of differences helps to break down barriers and provide a non-discriminatory environment where everyone is accepted for who they are.
When addressing questions about difference the educator should:
One of the drivers of managing cultural diversity in childcare are the principles of cultural safety in early childhood education. These principles were initially developed by Maori nurses in New Zealand and have since been adopted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The principles of cultural safety have filtered into the early childhood system. Australian national principles of cultural safety emphasise that particular attention needs to be given to the needs of children with diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Some examples of principles include:
Respect can be displayed in a number of ways ranging from the everyday occurrence through to the unusual. Here are a few everyday examples of respect for diversity in childcare being on display.
Cultural diversity in childcare is something to be celebrated. The early childhood educator is uniquely placed to have a positive lasting impact upon the way the young child sees themselves and the world around them. We take great pride in living in a multicultural society and that pride should be openly displayed and celebrated with our children.
While being inclusive is a goal that we all should aspire to, it has to be acknowledged that creating a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all can be quite challenging. It is important, therefore, that educators develop strategic plans that will work towards building a truly diverse culture within the environment.
We take cultural diversity very seriously and work towards providing a safe, secure environment for all children of all backgrounds on a daily basis.