Ethnicity, Globalisation and Its New Pedagogy

Ya-Hsuan Wang, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 11-13 September 2003

Abstract The globalisation of the world economy and of western ways of life rapidly reshaped world history as globalisation meant western globalisation (Held, 1992). This article illuminates the issues on how ethnic diversity has been affected by the spread of globalisation and by professional pedagogy in education. Interweaving philosophical argument on the declining ethnic identity with oral historical interviews practise, I disclose a dilemma between ethnic preservation and ethnic death when the trend of globalisation has become progressively shaped the modern society like Taiwan. This paper discusses the possibility and impossibility of stripping ethnicity, coupled with empirical data of ethnic experiences by interviewing 40 teachers with 4 different ethnicities in Taiwan. The key elements degrading ethnic diversity, according to research findings, can be 'class', the concept of world citizen, globalisation, and a Same philosophy of education. From the perspective of cultural hermeneutics, I also argue that globalisation may nourish students with multicultural literacy and multiethnic weltanschauung if pedagogics would have been embedded with "localisation as the foundation of globalisation and globalisation as the expansion of localisation". Universality embedded with its own local culture will promote its ethno-cultural values rather than risking of ethnic decline.


Along with the international capitalism and globalisation, the idea of information highway has somehow shrunk us into a smaller world in which we are re-educated and hegemonised to become a tiny re-canonised culture where differences have been erased in the neo-liberal euro-canonical view of education (Steinberg, 2001: xxiv). As Steinberg criticises, Smith (2002) uses Harvey's (1990) term, 'Time-space compression,' to illustrate how the changes in media and communications have had the effect of shrinking the globe. However, they all agree that the diversity and differences of the features and peoples of the world should not be homogenised. Even, Smith (2002) argues that in the instantaneous transmission of events around the world, 'difference is confronted more frequently, transforming conventional boundaries of knowledge, culture and understanding and hence, affecting people's identities' (pp. 120). After all, if globalisation could help the development of ethnic diversity and ethnic identity using ethno-cultural autonomy to outweigh globalisation domination? Or, if the west or one particular dominant ethnicity/culture keeps overwhelmingly determining the world order by way of globalisation, could human diversity and identity be homogenised?How can education deal with the above questions in terms of students' ethno-cultural identity? In defining an appropriate framework of identity in the curriculum, Smith (2002) argues that it can only work 'in tandem with the empowerment of teachers to define and contribute to the development of both that framework and their curricula, in response to their locality but linked to global issues' (pp.133).

In analysing the framing of curricular engagements with difference, this paper begins from a worry that a global market economy plays a key role in constraining and limiting school preparation for the global cultural economy (Smith, 2002: 133). This paper attempts to reconstruct an ideal ethnic curriculum and pedagogy within secondary school around how to respond to local and global imperatives, which, using Taiwan as an example, bases on an analysis of teachers’ viewpoints on multicultural pedagogy within Taiwan's social contexts. Teachers' pedagogy varies with their interpretation of the concept of multiculturalism, which, in each country, has been interpreted differently. For example, in Britain, the Green Paper, Education in schools: A Consultative Document in Britain, in 1977 announced that the curriculum of schools should reflect the multicultural realities. In 1981, the Rampton Report discussed multicultural curriculum considering West Indian children in schools to provide students with a balanced education. In 1985, the Swann Report, Education for all: Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups, discussed ethnic recognition and difference, institutional racism, Eurocentric/Anglocentric curriculum, biased assessment procedures, and entitlement curriculum. In 1988, the Education Reform Act 1988 (ERA) announced a National Curriculum which included the themes of cross-curricula, cultural diversity, whole curriculum, and difference. In 1991, Manchester City Council Education Department published a theme-book series with wide discussions of factual knowledge, attitudes, understanding, assessment, access and entitlement of all students. Such a cross-curriculum bonding teachers and pupils into a cohesive structure proposed the notion of citizen of the world in order to widen pupils’ awareness of the contributions of non-Europeans to the world’s store of knowledge, culture and achievement. It also attempts to achieve educational equality as long as overt and covert forms of racial discrimination are recognised and dealt with. In the USA, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) issued a statement called No One Model American to promote cultural pluralism in 1972, which presented distinctively American confusion. In Australia, the National Aboriginal Education Committee proposed a multi-ethnic education in 1986. In 1991, the Report of the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia advocated an anti-racist education.

In Taiwan, the social milieu had been shaped into a pattern of monoculture due to the historical suppression in the political climate. Since the 1980s, a multicultural social milieu has been created thanks to the tumultuous social movements led by political opposition groups. Under these socio-political circumstances, each ethnic group has a different history; hence teachers of each ethnic group, imbued with their own ethnic identity, would have varied viewpoints on multicultural education. Using this certain context, this paper focuses on the way in which education work to manage and recognise differences, especially ethnic differences. It analyses how teachers speculate that the idea of ethnic recognition should work. The hypothesis is that their speculations differ according to their own life histories. After a biographical analysis of the teachers' beliefs, their multicultural practices shall be explored by investigating teachers' professional pedagogy on ethnicity and ethnic identity. Local language instruction is currently a compulsory subject in primary schools and soon will beso in secondary schools. I also investigate teachers' attitudes towards dialect education and their implementation of it. Some teachers advocate dialect instruction in schools, while others oppose it; some advocate the maintenance of distinctiveness, whereas others assert the principle of natural extinction. My overall aim is to analyse teachers’ views of multicultural education by examining the problems of ethnic education and globalisation, the dialect policy, and ethnic pedagogy. The research findings could help teachers to reconsider 'education' with the inspiration of the concept of ethnic recognition when they are dealing with ethnic inequality and ethnic stereotypes.

Several issues that emerged from my fieldwork are fundamental to ethnic study and ethnic education. For example, the decline of ethnicity is a trend that has been accepted by most teachers in Taiwan, though others still strive to maintain the historical reality of diverse ethnicities. In the past, people received education without ethnicity-related curriculum and ethnic prejudices continued to be impressed on minds from generation to generation. These caused educational problems for minority students. Do people need ethnic education to eliminate ethnic discrimination? Or on the contrary, do people intensify ethnic stereotypes by extensive discussions of ethnicity as an issue? Do people in Taiwan need ethnic identity after all? How has the ideology of ethnic decline been influenced by history, politics and education? From my research I conclude that secondary schoolteachers share in a consensus that ethnic education should construct a unity in Taiwanese culture,and that by emphasising this unity it can reconstruct a collective memory that will be free from disruptive ethnic histories. They also agree that an education of ethnic recognition help to ameliorate the current imbroglio in politics and society.

Pedagogies of Ethnic Education

Several multicultural educational approaches have been used in classroom to see which fits best in Taiwan's multicultural context, according to the teachers I interviewed. Rarely but radically, it has been suggested that analternative school for Aborigines should be established to offer other paths and opportunities for those who have different talents from the current global standards that link economic development to educational practices (Benham with Cooper, 2000). For example, Jing, 24-year-old Hoklo, had one year of teaching experience in an aboriginal area. Shecriticisesthe current educational system for suffocatingmany of aborigines' gifts. She urgently calls for an alternative educational model for Aborigines:

The aboriginal students in the mountains are really excellent in many aspects. The mountains are their home territories where they can show their talents but they usually fail in our system. Regrettably, we never try to discover their special abilitiesbut consider them to have failed in our ways. It’s a kind of educational massacre. Since I can see how good they are in different ways, I realise that our educational system is a killer, destroying the minority by conducting everything according to the majority. If we could adopt the ethno-cultural differences which aborigines are familiar with, we might be able to find an alternative educational model for them (Jing).

Jing's words advocate an alternative educational system that can seek a suitable curriculum and pedagogy for aborigines who may have different educational needs than other ethnic groups. Though her proposal for a new curriculum for aborigine exemplifies ethnic recognition, amulti-ethnicschoolwould be welcomedfar more by most teachers as it could bring multi-ethnic students together in the same school and bring about real multicultural experiences. Brought up in an entirely Hoklo background, Wei-Shi prefers a multicultural school, as he desires to learn from different cultures in the world:

A multicultural school providesa better education for students. I don’t think Hoklo people should be educated separately from other ethnic groups. I think school should have all the ethnic groups together so that students can adapt themselves to a multicultural society. If Hakka children study in Hakka schools and Hoklo children study in Hoklo schools, they won’t be able to get used to the multicultural society of the future. It’s good to integrate all ethnicities and to have the experiences of ethno-linguistic differences in schools (Wei-Shi, 29-year-old Hoklo).

Both alternative schools and multi-ethnic schools would provide ethnicity-centred education that is too radical to be favoured by many teachers in Taiwan.An art-centred educational approach would be a more moderate way to nurture students by providing cross-cultural appreciation and understanding. The art-centred strategy can nurture a humble attitude toward learning about different ethnicities and cultures by explaining differences as due to different aesthetic values rather than due to historical ethnic conflicts. For instance, the 30-year-old Hakka teacher, Shi-Shuan, indicates that cross-ethnicity learning is crucial to nurture an appreciative heart. She says, 'I can learn to appreciate other lifestyles, cultures and art even if I cannot speak their language.’ Wei-Shi’s ideal of multicultural is culture-centred:

Culture is the key notion in multicultural education -- ethnicity is not so important. In the process of cultural pedagogy, inevitably pupils will doubt the values of different cultures or judge other cultures based on their own cultural views. Meanwhile, students might feel a sense of superiority and see a different culture as inferior. Teachers cannot force students to accept what they feel bad about, yet they can guide them to understand other ethnic backgrounds, religions, beliefs, and hopefully by understanding others' contexts students can accept others (Wei-Shi).

Regarding art-centred education, teachers are mainly concerned with two approaches, one focusing on the self and one on the other. The first involves learningabout the student'sown ethnicity, which I term ingroup-centred education.A 56-year-old Mainlander teacher, Yen-dai, suggests,

I think each ethnic group should preserve its own culture, such as its customs, costumes, and antiquities in museums. If their language does not have a writing system, they should try to make recordings as well as to teach them to next generation. Otherwise, it will die out (Yen-dai).

Ingroup-centred education aims to help students to identify with their own ethnicityas well as to maintain their ethnic heritage. However, it risks producing a sense of ethnocentric superiority, as Schlesinger (1992) stated. Schlesinger says that the emphasis on cultural pride may devolve into an emphasis on cultural exclusivity and national disunity.

The other approach, which I calloutgroup-centred education, is focused on learning ethnic cultures and languages other than student's own. The 29-year-old Mainlander teacher, Guo, argues that schools should teach students about other ethnic groups more than about their own group, even though both are equally important:

I think the goal of educationis not only to enhance self-understanding but also to help students to understand others. We must teach students not to narrow their horizons to focus only on themselves but explore the diverse world. In terms of interpersonal contact, people are always afraid of strangers and hence fear or exclude strangers. Frequent contact with each other can reduce negative ethnic emotions. We should instruct students about other ethnic groups. When we know more about the Hakka or about aborigines, we won’t regard them as weird (Guo).

Beyond these two, we haveethnic recognition education, which combines ingroup-centred with outgroup-centred educational models byadopting multi-ethnic perspectives. The goal is to maintain ethnic dignity, while abandoning the single criterion of belonging to dominant ethnic group. Sue-Fen, a 50-year-old teacher with Hakka identity, was born in China and immigrated to Hong Kong before settlling in Taiwan. She asserts that "ethnic recognition education" can satisfy all of the ethnic groups.

Because we are all humans we should respect each other. Relations between man and man cannot be broken off if we have love for each other. In this way, we can alwaysfind ways out of conflicts. In my view, you are aborigine and you can sing and dance wonderfully, while I am shy and introvertedand I cannot dance as perfectly as you do, but I appreciate you so much’. We should be able to see others’ goodness andshare our own strengthsso that we can learn from each other. Ideal ethnic relationsare likewhat place in the diverse city of Manhattan in New York, where people appreciate others’ strengths and don'tdivide upaccording to ethnic difference (Sue-Fen).

"Ethnic recognition education"mainly focuses its educational dimension on ethnic differencenot only because the world in reality is full of diverse ethnic groups but also because the pedagogy of difference is the basis for 'extending the struggle for equality and justice to the broader spheres of everyday life' (Giroux, 1992: 174). Some teachers are afraid that education does not deal with ethnic diversities will fail students in their own ethnic identity and limit their cultural horizons. A 52-year-old Aboriginal teacher desires an education of ethnic recognitionto reach the level where all ethnic groups are equally recognised and appreciate -- where this ideal remains in her mind and is something she has hoped for since childhood.

I sincerely wish people in Taiwan would be able to respect each other. Let each ethnic group be known and acknowledged by all. Let everybody learn how to get along with each other, how to appreciate differences, and how to respect others (Yi-Ting).

Critical Pedagogies of Difference: Ethnic Identity and Teachers' Agency

Teaching itself prisons both students and teachers as social and cultural subjects as we are all subject to ideological inscriptions, which critical educational theorists urge to active agents to liberate. According to McLaren (1994), critical pedagogy is a means to reveal how the ideological process is constituted by critically examining how teachers and students are positioned by various pedagogical discourses and classroom practices (pp.240). That is, teachersshouldchallenge the ideologies that exist in themselves, in textbooks, and in their society in order to get access to the ideal world where people can live their lives without domination of, or submission to, others. Taking this viewpoint, I shall analyse how teachers in Taiwan address ethnic differences in curriculum and pedagogy.I shall discuss several critical issues in multicultural education that were raised by the teachers I interviewed, such as the problems of teaching ethnicity, ethnic identity, and ethnic languages. I would like to know how teachers develop a multiculturalism fr their historical and cultural specificity of ethnic difference. My discussions will link teachers' pedagogies of ethnic difference to teachers' own ethnic identity. Regarding teachers’ pedagogical account of ethnicity, there is a debate between the argument for encouraging children to pursue commonality instead of encouraging them to risk vulnerability in the pursuit of the recognition of difference (Barber, 1992)and the argument that difference shouldn’t be ignored (McLaren, 1994; Fraser, 1997).Should teachers try to have critical cultural conversation in classrooms or should they try to reach ethnic integration by avoiding the addressingof ethnic difference? Should teachers be emotionally neutral in teaching ethnic conflicts or can they hold instruction on ethnic texts with emotionally sympathetic understanding? Should we include ethnic languages in formal curriculum? These questions will be discussed in this section.