Imperatives of Multicultural Education in Ethiopia: Reflections on Awareness, Practices, and Challenges in Our Higher Learning Institutions

Dereje Terefe


Historically speaking, multiculturalism and multilingualism evolved in a number of ways: migration (voluntary and involuntary); the indentured policies pursued by the former British Empire; the African slave trade; policy of guest workers in Europe; the immigration policy followed by the US; war and conquest (incorporation/annexing of conquered people), etc. In light of the diverse culture and linguistic background of many societies, mechanisms to amicably respond to it should be put in place, where citizens consciously understand the value of living together by sharing their values with each other. In particular, diverse societies have moral obligations to nurture their citizens to become responsive and tolerant in multicultural environments. Despite this truism, however, educational enterprises have become targets of criticism for failing to respond to students’ needs of diverse social, economic, cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds. Thus, a call for an education system that can accommodate (celebrate) diversity should have been designed which came to be known as multicultural education. The genesis of multicultural education goes back in history in response to the civil rights movements and as an expression of the challenges by minority groups against an unequal treatment of students in educational settings. It is understood as an educational reform endeavor to bring about equity for all students who come from different social, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The FDRE Constitution (1995) upholds the equality of citizens’ culture and languages. The Education and Training Policy (1994) also guarantees the respect and use of multilingual education, specifically in primary schools. The objective of this reflective paper is, therefore, to uncover some of the attributes of multicultural education in enhancing mutual understanding and tolerance among children and the youth and its implications to Ethiopia. It tries to shed lights on the nexus between the FDRE constitutional provisions of multicultural education, status of awareness, practices and challenges in Ethiopian higher learning institutions and provide a hint to the way forward.

Keywords: multiculturalism, multicultural education, diversity, constitution, cross-cultural competence, equity pedagogy, and transformative school curriculum policy.


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