The jagged paths to multicultural education: international experiences and South Africa's response in the new dispensation

  • Saloshna Vandeyar


An ideal form of multicultural education is one that not only recognizes and acknowledges diversity, practices tolerance and respect of human rights, but works to liberate cultures that have been subjugated. Such an education would go beyond being "nice to those less fortunate" to working to promote equality of cultural trade. For what it is worth, pre-1994 multicultural education in South Africa did recognize diversity, but it was diversity as a strategy for containment. It was of a variety that was exclusionary in nature and constituted a cruel inscription of those colonized "Others" into the mainstream. From here, international experiences of multicultural education do not offer much inspiration. Multicultural education in the US, Canada, UK , and Australia is driven and fuelled in large part by an assimilationist agenda that denies authenticity to the marginalized cultures. In the South African situation, the Constitution, which is hinged on ten powerful principles, seeks to promote tolerance and respect for all cultures and to promote common values across the rainbow nation of South Africa. However, there is no attempt at this point to valorize the content of the culture of the different groups. This paper argues that silence is also policy. South Africa should therefore work towards a deeper and proactive diagnosis of the content of the culture of its diverse peoples and find spaces for dialogue based on equity within the education system. In order to do this, deeper analysis of the forms of cultural violence, their alibis, etc. that characterized the apartheid system, but which is now couched as mainstream, needs to be undertaken. In this regard, emerging pers pectives from the South African History Project and the Indigenous Knowledge Systems movement, (especially its message of transcendence and cultural he aling) need to be considered .

South African Journal of Education Vol.23(3) 2003: 193-198

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2076-3433
print ISSN: 0256-0100