multicultural and multilingual education

Is multicultural and multilingual education the way forward?

Our world is constantly changing and evolving. People are moving beyond their states and countries, adapting and integrating with new places and cultures. We are living in the 21st century interconnected world, where borders are fading and multiculturalism emerging. A global city like Dubai is a true representation of this multicultural environment, where diverse cultures integrate, interact and live in harmony. So, in a fast emerging global world, how important is multicultural and multilingual education?

“Extremely important”, says Omar Danial, a man on a mission to diversify Dubai’s educational landscape and give an alternative to globally rooted communities. Omar Danial has worked on bringing to the UAE the best and the most genuine expertise of Switzerland, skills he himself inherited from a country that once welcomed his parents and that gave him the highly valuable competences envied by the rest of the world. By developing the first officially designated “Swiss” school in Dubai – the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD), Omar Danial fulfilled a dream of building a landmark school that represents true “Swiss Values”: multiculturalism, excellence, sustainability and family.

“Swiss education is international by essence”, says Omar. Most of the 17 international Swiss schools around the world are more than a century old and attract no less than 70% of foreign students. As a country with four National languages, it is not surprising that Swiss education emphasizes greatly on language learning. Struck by the absence of excellent bilingual establishments based on international culture in Dubai where 82% of schools are still based exclusively on the UK, the US or the Indian curricula, the entrepreneur decided to put the multilingual approach at the center of his pedagogical strategy. “In the globalized world we live in today not being bilingual comes as a serious handicap,” he says. In this respect, the SISD will offer the International Baccalaureate and the Swiss Matura in multiple languages and also preserve a strong English proficiency.

For bilingual or globally mobile families, it is never too easy to find the right school or curriculum. As the families move from one country to another, children suffer from lack of a stable curriculum. For such families, continuity of education in the same language or education system is indispensable. It makes a huge difference, especially for the secondary school children, as a major shift in curriculum can potentially affect their university qualifications. Continuity of education in the same system and language of instruction would not only make the transition easier, but also allow the children to qualify for universities in their respective home countries or abroad.

Multicultural and multilingual education also helps children survive and face the challenges in a globalized world. There has been a growing trend for more and more students travelling abroad for education at a much younger age. Student exchange programs in high schools and universities are extremely common these days. International education makes it much easier for high schoolers and undergraduates to acquire new languages or immerse into foreign cultures. When children feel safe, confident and welcomed, they are more engaged and eager to learn in a new environment.

Multicultural education allows children to look at the world from a global and not just regional perspective. They are more aware of the global issues and show a greater sense of compassion towards humanity, irrespective of race, religion, language or ethnicity. It develops tolerance towards others and fosters the ability to function harmoniously in a multicultural society.

With endless opportunities and a whole wide world to explore, multicultural and multilingual global education does look like the way forward.

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