Publication Date

2003

Abstract

This study explores the line of reasoning for providing opportunities for multicultural exposure to children at the elementary level by illuminating the benefits of such exposure that are particular to their age group. While secondary and post-secondary students also have great potential for gaining from multicultural exposure, this study focuses on the benefits for younger children, and how and why they may be different from those of older children. The primary research question is as follows: What additional benefits can multicultural exposure offer young children, in tandem with the benefit of an education of intellectual or academic nature? In addition to an in-depth review of relevant literature, research methods consisted of interviews with an elementary-level school psychologist, six teachers, one principal, one International Baccalaureate (IB) Coordinator, and twenty-six second-grade students from two different IB elementary schools, and the examination of curriculum from the two IB schools. Research focused on the second-grade to narrow the study and maintain conciseness. Second-grade students are generally seven to eight years old, their age coinciding with a burgeoning cognitive, social, and emotional period of development. The benefits derived from a multicultural education - acceptance of other people and perspectives, empathy, benevolence, concepts of fairness, respect, collaboration with others, and an ability to think critically - carry particular significance for young children. Children in the early school grades experience a critical period of cognitive, emotional, and social growth that invites great potential for absorbing the positive learning and benefits that come from multicultural education. The conclusions drawn from the literature, and opinion and insight from those interviewed were tangibly exemplified through the Primary Years Program of the two elementary schools. Those people who have the most direct and consistent contact with children at the elementary level are those who might best benefit from this research, primarily parents and teachers. Together, they profoundly influence who these children will grow to become. Others who might benefit from this research are other researchers in the field of international education. Research may uncover new and effective programs and possibilities for restructuring existing programs, and elucidate new and profound ideas for accomplishing the goals of multicultural exposure.

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