The Relevance of Multicultural Education for Adult Learners in Higher Education

Article excerpt

[Abstract] Multicultural education is the teaching and learning of the histories and cultures of all students in the teaching-learning process in any educational system. According to Banks, (1997), it is an idea, an educational reform movement, and a process. Multicultural education for adult learners in higher education will address the needs of the growing trends of adult minority populations in the United States to promote diverse educational settings in the colleges and universities. The United States is considered to be one of the most diverse countries in the world, often called a "melting pot" society because of its diverse population (Gay, 1994). Today, multicultural education programs have been offered in most colleges and universities to address the growing trend of the diverse population (Banks, 2008). However, not much has been investigated about the significance of multicultural education for adult learners in higher education. The purpose of this article is to explain the importance of incorporating multicultural education programs in adult education curriculum and how practitioners of adult education can use it as a model to promote citizenship education.

[Keywords] multicultural education in higher education; adult education curriculum; citizenship education


According to Bennett (1998), multicultural education is an approach to teaching and learning based upon democratic values that foster cultural pluralism; in its most comprehensive form, it is a commitment to achieving educational equality, developing a curriculum that builds on understanding about ethnic groups and combating oppressive practices (Bennett, 1998). The major goal of multicultural education is to change the structure of educational institutions so that male and female students, exceptional students, and students who are members of diverse racial, ethnic, language, and cultural groups will have an equal chance to achieve academic excellence in school (Banks & Banks (2001).

The current trend of global immigration includes the increasing diversity in the U. S with its complex and divisive questions about how the U.S. can deal effectively with the problem of constructing civic communities that reflect on citizens' values, ideals, and goals to which all of the citizens are committed (Banks, 2007). The majority of adult immigrants come from Asia, Latin America, and Europe with a significant number coming from the West Indies and Africa (Banks, 2008). The U.S. is now experiencing its largest influx of immigrants since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that ethnic groups of color - or ethnic minorities - will increase from 28% of the nation's population today to 50% in 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).

In the 21st century, the adult learner should be culturally sensitive and internationally focused with an orientation toward the future rather than the past (Ameny-Dixon, 2008). For instance, by the year 2020, nearly one-third of the nation will be composed of minority citizens. Also, by the year 2050, nearly half of the population of the United States will be comprised of people of color (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). This increase in diversity reflects the culturally pluralistic society of the U.S. However, most of the people live in relatively isolated enclaves, away from others who are racially, socially, and culturally different (Ameny-Dixon, 2008; Gay, 1994).

Adult learners, as citizens of the U.S., need to develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will enable them to function in a global society. The trend of global immigration among adult populations to the U.S. tends to affect all aspect of societies in the U. S., including beliefs, norms, values, behaviors, and businesses.

Background Literature

The major goal of multicultural education is to reform the school so that students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social-class groups will experience educational equality (Banks, 1994). …