|Students of Treamis World School perform a traditional Garba dance|
Educators today hear a lot about gaps in education but one gap that often goes unexamined: the cultural gap among students and teachers.
Schools, worldwide, are influenced by the local culture. A school in the US or UK have people in the education profession that are mostly white, middle-class, monolingual-English speakers. The teachers in India are raised mostly in a traditional environment with etiquette akin to the Indian customs. Increasingly, the same profile does not hold true for the students in the schools in those countries. Often, when the teachers stand before their classrooms, the faces looking back at them do not look like their own. Many try to bridge this difference with an embrace and in the name of culture blindness or the Golden Rule, treating others the way we would want to be treated.
But the truth is: culture matters. Culture isn't just a list of holidays or shared recipes, religious traditions, or language; it is a live experience unique to each individual. It's the job of the educators to stimulate the intellectual development of children, and, in this era, it's simply not enough to operate on the axis of cultural blindness.
To truly enable the students to imbibe the connotation of culture, the schools must reach out to them in ways that are culturally and linguistically responsive and appropriate, and in this process, schools must critically examine the cultural assumptions and stereotypes, often unconsciously brought into the classroom, which may hinder interconnectedness.
There can be many ways through which ‘culture’ can be taught in the classroom, like for example through cuisine and eating habits, holidays, attires, performing arts, traditional tales and history, traditional games etc.
To exemplify, it would be indeed dramatic for students to share their country-specific cuisine and eating habits, to talk about traditional holidays, to understand and talk about the importance of wearing their traditional attire on a certain day in school or while travelling overseas to study. It is quite enriching experience for students to play a popular music or instrumental indigenous to their hometown, to get a true insight of cultures through the translations of traditional tales and traditional games.
Culture permeates every aspect of our beings. These topics are just a few that can be used to intentionally bring a discussion of culture into the classroom.
Treamis World School near Electronics City in Bangalore has fully integrated the cultural diversity in its day-to-day environment. This ‘Day and Boarding’ school has students from around the world. It observes one day in the academic year as ‘Traditional Day’ when students attend the school wearing traditional dresses from their country, play traditional games, eat traditional food and entertain other students with traditional music and dance. On this day, one can see what is ‘unity in diversity’ where Thai students are dressed in Pha Nung, Singhs, Sampot Chang Kben , Arabian students in Thawb, Yemenis in Zenneh and Snadeh, Tanzanians in Kanzu and Hijab, Indians in Dhoti, Kurta, Saree and Ghagra, in the same forum, all celebrating their ethnicity.
It becomes more significant to realize that it is not only a celebration of your tradition and culture, but also an exposure to the modern generation of the games played by their parents and grandparents. Such events help students to appreciate how children were spending their time in an era that did not have mobile phones, internet or, in some cases, TVs. The students of Primary and Middle School were thrilled to play Pitthu, Hop Scotch, Ludo, while for the High School graders playing Lagori, Dahi Handi, Hop and Catch, Aliguli Mane, Tug of War, was a never before experience! And the little ones were busy doing floral Rangoli, preparing laddoo, performing Garbha dance, making mukut, jhula, flute and designing the pot.
This year’s traditional lunch was menu from South India. While Treamis parent Saleh Skinar Al Mugheiry of Tanzania encouraged his son to experience traditional lunch, Pinky Ahlawat of Bangalore noticed that her son was happy and excited about having lunch on banana leaf which required eating with hands heightening the sensual connection to food and softening the formality of fine dining.
In our quest of understanding the true purpose of this celebration, down the line we may realize that it is the progressive minds here who do not forget or ignore the richness of traditional heritage, rather adopt and employ the inherited enlightened liberal ideas in a modern arena.
Mrs. Manjula Mathew, Principal summed it up – “The one day we observe as Traditional Day reinforces the everyday global cultural homogeneity in the campus. I can see that our students, in their college and professional days, can live anywhere in the world without feeling homesick.” Not surprising of the school that carries the teaser line ‘Life’s lessons start at Treamis’.