Affirming Diversity in the Classroom

Diversity is a vital aspect in organizing a classroom. Children from different ethnic identities bring their experiences and beliefs which could enrich the classroom activities. Also it helps the children to accept the differences as essential to their lives. Especially, children in countries that have conflict situations could utilize the plural thinking to transform the conflicts and even to influence the society at large. Hence, multicultural aspect in education becomes a strong need in the present day as children from different religions, ethnicities, economies and castes enter the classroom.

In Sri Lanka, classroom is comprised of Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim and Burgher children. The ethnic conflict that lasted for the past thirty years proved that the classroom could help in transforming conditions by accepting pluralism. Education is one of the influential areas that could disseminate the thoughts of co-existence and harmony among communities. It is necessary that such education upholds the identities of different social groups since that may give a feeling of acceptance and respect which would contribute immensely to establish peace in the country. Therefore, educational authorities could affirm diversity in the classroom through the contents of the text books as well as assigning teachers of different communities to engage with children.

The diverse subjects that are taught in schools could carry the message of plurality. If such affirmation of diversity was visible in the classrooms, the children belong to minority groups would not have felt uneasy to stay in the classroom during the three decade period the civil war lasted in Sri Lanka. The children of minority communities found it difficult to move with the Sinhala children as they were made to feel inferior and that was the mind-set that prevailed in the country. Such scars do not get erased for the life time and the diversity arrangement in the classroom is the only way that can heal the hearts.

In Sri Lanka it was the language policy in 1958 that paved way for the conflict. Also Mahawamsa or the Great Chronicle which had recorded historical incidents carry stories highlighting the Sinhala community as ‘great’. These two factors influenced discrimination of minorities at different levels. Today, the classroom needs to be a place that upholds equality.  The number in the classroom should be divided equally to include the ethnic, religious, colour and gender diversity. The mosaic of plurality will make the children to understand that every human being is valuable and none can be left out.

Also the child will further receive the learning to appreciate not only of the importance of the human species but also of the complete natural environment. Diversity in the classroom is to affirm this interconnection of everyone and everything. It was Chief Seattle’s letter to Lincoln that clearly shows the strong influence nature has on a person’s culture and this deep understanding is nothing but love for the ‘cosmos’ around us. Affirming diversity in this sense ensures the well-being of every person and thing. Therefore, the diversity arrangement in the classroom enlightens the child to share, care and love the environment around him/her.

Finally, the arrangement of the classroom to accept and appreciate diversity could be validly named as a cosmic education which makes the child to be gentle and kind towards humanity and natural environment. This diversity helps to diffuse conflicts and help the society to live in peace.