Understanding Diversity: Defining Diversity and Factors Leading to Diversity

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The classroom is home to children from different regions, cultures, religions, languages, socio-economic backgrounds and traditions. It is vital for all the players in an ECCE programme to make themselves familiar with varying learning needs and understanding their implications for planning and implementing day-to-day teaching learning activities.

Defining Diversity

  • The term diversity originated from the Latin word divers us which indicates differences. Diverse means ‘differing from each other’ and ‘made up of distinct characteristics, qualities, or elements’. Being a large country with a large population, India presents endless varieties of physical features and cultural patterns.

  • It is a land of diversity in race, religion, caste, language, and so on. Within school also we see various identities of race, gender, age and social status. Hence, we need to be equipped to address it in the classroom.

  • Diversity, therefore, consists of visible and invisible factors, which include personal characteristics such as socio-economic background, culture, personality and work style.

  • In short, the term diversity indicates uniqueness or differences without any judgment attached to the differences or unique characteristics. Diversity gives recognition, acceptance and respect to individual differences, irrespective of the origin.

Factors Leading to Diversity and Their Implications in Learning

The large number of different cultures knitted together in such a close and perfect manner make India’s diversity one of the wonders of the world. Usually, when people discuss diversity, the conversation focuses on religion and caste. However, to accurately talk about diversity, especially in the classroom.

we need to consider more factors like:

Race

Race is division of humankind

Race is Division of Humankind

  • Race is division of humankind on the basis of physical features like height, weight, color of eye, skin etc. as well as also on the basis of social behaviors, norms, customs and practices. These are mostly hereditary, passed on from parents to their children. These variations are due to geographical, historical, linguistic, or religious belongingness.

  • Children with different physical features may not affect the classroom processes directly but may have implications for classroom dynamics. Like, tall children are often selected for sports, children with a fair complexion may generate more appreciative comments whereas a particular color or shape of eyes may not be easily accepted by others. Diversity in physical traits associated with race, is a natural phenomenon and needs to be accepted.

Caste

In India, caste is a system of classification determined by birth. In the Indian context, caste refers to a social group to which membership is decided by birth. Members of a caste group are usually endogamous in that they tend to marry among themselves.

Castes are broadly divided into:

  • Scheduled Castes

  • Scheduled Tribes

  • Other Backward Classes

  • Forward Classes

Socially, the caste system involves division of people into social groups (castes) where duties and rights are determined by birth with hardly any flexibility. The basic rights and duties among various castes is both unequal and hierarchical.

Multi-Lingualism

  • In India, each state has its own language. It is not just the accent, but the dialect that also changes from region to region. Multi-lingualism is the act of using, or promoting the use of, multiple languages, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. The ability to speak in more than one language is appreciated and respected globally.

  • Many times, it has been observed that children struggle to follow the teaching taking place in the class due to the divide between home and school language. Only when the medium of instruction in the school is the same as the one used at home, can learning become effective. That is when the dropout rate will fall.

  • We all use language to communicate with each other, but persons who cannot hear properly use sign language to communicate.

Ethnicity

  • Ethnicity refers to belonging to a social group with common regional and cultural traditions. This factor greatly impacts textbooks, curriculum, pedagogy as well as the school’s day-to-day functioning. Each ethnic group has its own customs, art and artifacts, clothing style etc.

  • The school administration and the teacher need to find ways and means to facilitate the learning experience of all children enrolled and acknowledge their ethnicity.

  • The teacher can organize special festivals, food day, dress day, story day, invite parents and give out activity sheets, to sensitize children about the different ethnic groups in the class.

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