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Racism and Multiculturalism in Schools


The term multiculturalism refers numerous cultural collections and groups that work together and interchange ideas with each other without necessarily not having to sacrifice their personalities. It often includes principles, beliefs, and ideologies that are different stretching from procedures of encouraging conservation and preservation of cultural practices as well as promoting and advocating for the equivalent in respecting the various cultures of different societies (Forrest, 2016).

In Australia, it has been reflected through the various multicultural societies, different cultural rules which encourage mixture and diversity, immigration rules, ban on discrimination and equity of the law on all individuals. According to history, Australia did not permit all individuals, but in recent years multiculturalism has grown as it was evident in the 2011 census that revealed that 26% of the inhabitants were not born in Australia.

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Racism, on the other hand, refers to the discrimination, impartiality, and biases on people due to their ethnic group or race.  The philosophy behind the practice of racism revolves around the fact that people are usually subdivided into groups that have varying social behaviors whereby this makes them powerful or inferior. Racism exists in our current political, economic, social and cultural actions. Racism is depicted in several forms such as comments causing hurt or offense or even jokes. Some forms are unintentional, others verbal or calling of names.

Intimidation and harassment plus comments from the online community or the media are also active racism forms as they incite hostility (Mansouri, 2005).

Racism leads to violence and physical abuse when expressed at the most serious levels.  Its effect may include excluding people from having access to jobs, sports, and education or social events either directly or indirectly. At institutional levels, it may be expressed through policies, practices or conditions that will disadvantage particular groups.  Prejudice and bias are elements widely encouraged by racism.  Access to resources, power, and opportunities are not given equally to all the ethnic and racial groups. It rather spreads a belief of superiority of a particular race with the other being greatly inferior. Despite the inequalities being evident and inhuman, the beliefs tend to acts as loopholes for justification of such acts (Forrest, 2016). 

School communities face great tensions from acts of racism. These tensions tend to impact on the educational experience the students get whenever they go unaddressed. The affected students end up having low self-confidence and retaliate with a range of unwanted behaviors according to the school. The affected students tend to miss attending school or even completely drop out due to the pressure of racism, compared to the other groups of students. Racism lowers productivity of the students, while it also diminishes their morale as they now have increased absenteeism and stress levels. Considering the age of the students, the pressure and exposure of racism at such tender ages is uncalled for and often has even severe effects even on their personality in the society (Mansouri, 2005).

The feelings of being alienated, problems from the student's behaviors and damaged participation rates negatively impact education.  The quality of education and its success is usually a result of regular attendance from the students and their effective participation in the classroom activities. The presence of racism in school limits educational outcomes from the affected students.  These students usually report lower academic achievements and poor participation in the training and post-school activities. The adverse results of being discriminated against and seems as inferior get to their mind and directly affects some efforts these students will put into the schoolwork.

A survey commissioned by SBS established that in the past one year, one in every five Australians had experienced racism. A large population of the citizens believes that there is a problem with racism with recommendations being promoting ethnic diversity and backing for action on racists (Mosiqi, 2017).

Some racism practices in our learning institutions have been uncovered by students in the last few years. A few months ago, a certain girl's school was exposed after it was revealed how challenging and difficult life was for blacks.  Learners openly said that the code of conduct for the school was restraining and quashing black students from voicing themselves. To a great extent, the focus was on hair in that black students' hairstyle was a problem for the school.

Racism in our schools is given less attention compared to that happening on public transportation or during sporting events. The cases of racism might be considered high profile. However, I believe the ones in school are more sensitive and require more attention.  A survey done across four states on secondary students revealed that students with non-Anglo backgrounds suffered more. These students from either refugee or migrant backgrounds were subject to racism their whole lives. A point to note was that the most racism which was two-thirds was all experienced in school.

More data exposes racism experienced by children and the young people with descent from Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander. Based on a seminar conducted, interviews done from these areas revealed that 14% of the students under the age of 14 were reported by their carers in 2008 to have experienced unfair treatment or bullying in the last 12 months.  High school Students from these areas in non- remote parts of the country had a rise of up to 23% facing racism. The number might seem little but is quite significant. Reasons are making the activities have much worse effects on the students. The fact that it's the cares reporting these incidents show that issues not reported to the family go unnoticed.  Furthermore looking at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students' experience, it is more likely to be occurring to more children that go unreported.  Not every child receives and processes things in the same way. Therefore these results of the survey only cover for the outspoken ones and not the silent ones dying slowly in grief (Mosiqi, 2017).

There is persistence in the discrepancies between the non-indigenous and indigenous education outcomes, regardless of the attention and investment provided by the government. The gap has always been a priority to close, with the Australian Indigenous Affairs policy platform being driven by eight targets since 2008.  These and some other attempts should be enforced more as they are sure ways of handling the rapidly occurring discriminations. The major and headline target is aimed at eliminating the life expectancy gaps within a generation of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, four among these eight targets are precisely based on education.  Educational sections such as early childhood education, literacy and numeracy, school attendance, and the completion of school are covered by these targets (Nicholas, 2015).

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Programs such as the Remote School Attendance Strategy, the school Enrolment and Attendance measure and the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial are present. These programs are funded by the government with the aim of achieving the targets put across. The programs operate within the law but have somehow been unable to completely tackle the problems despite their efforts.

However, also, the existing teaching standards require the teachers to introduce strategies while teaching indigenous students while also focusing on reconciling the indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Initiatives that are locally driven are also putting in some efforts to encourage and support indigenous students attend school. The regional and urban parts have the Aspiration Initiative while the remote areas have Learning on Country.

The initiatives all have good intentions. Most of them operate on evaluations and solid evidence. However, despite all their efforts, we still are far from achieving the goals for the indigenous education.  The targets for the early childhood are not met in any way. Furthermore, we are still far from achieving our intended numeracy and literacy targets.

The major problem of this issue is due to the silence of the national government on the education policy with regards to issues of multiculturalism and racism.  Research shows that these children are at a risk of facing prejudice, racism, bullying, and discrimination between the ages of 5 and nine together with their families (Nicholas, 2015).

Racism is evidently observed directly in activities such as discrimination, abuse, and harassment. It also occurs indirectly through the culturally biased practices, prejudiced attitudes and the rampant lack of recognition for the existing cultural diversity.  These incidents are not usually not acknowledged nor acted against by teachers in school.  The authority or people able to act against all these do not get reports or accusations from the teachers on the ground and at the center of these activities. The parties that are not experiencing these acts of racism either don't recognize the acts or just choose to dismiss them disregarding their potential for causing damage. Whenever the behaviors and attitudes go unchecked in a school environment, the racist students will consider them normal, and soon it will be entrenched in their system, making it harder to get rid of.

Parents are entitled to present cases of racism against them or their children to the education system, the school or even individual teachers. Apparently, there's only been one indication of the extents of the racism occurring I Australian schools based on the complaints received by the Commonwealth and State Acts.  The education area provides limited complains each year. However, this should not be mistaken for low occurrence of racist behaviors and activities in the schools. Some of the factors limiting such exposure are limited knowledge of legislation, fear of the children and reluctance of parents in pursuing and reporting the incidents as formal complaints. Furthermore, mediation is the most sought solution for such incidences, hence encourages reluctance from parties reporting (DOE, 2017).

 It goes without saying that racism and multiculturalism affect education of students and diminishes results and outcomes, and better and clear strategies such as more attention and severe punishment to offenders should be tried to ensure a better society for the child receiving an education. What happens in school even affects the child after he or she goes home, meaning it even negatively affects their living and existence. Let's all rise against racism and multiculturalism activities that diminish other groups and favor others we should exist as one and even support one another whether in school or out of school.


  1. Department of Education (2017). Anti-Racism education.State of New South Wales.
  2. Forrest, J., Lean, G., & Dunn, K. (2016). Challenging racism through schools: teacher attitudes to cultural diversity and multicultural education in Sydney, Australia. Race Ethnicity and Education19(3), 618-638.
  3. Mosiqi Acharya. ( 2017). Is Australia racist? Here are the 10 stunning stats. SBS.
  4. Mansouri, F., &Trembath, A. (2005). Multicultural education and racism: The case of Arab-Australian students in contemporary Australia (Doctoral dissertation, Deakin University).
  5. Nicholas Biddle & Naomi Priest.(2015). Racism hits Indigenous students’ attendance and grades. The Conversation.


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