Intercultural education as a tool to improve the management of diversity

By: Paola Encarnación Huaman Salcedo (@pao_encarnacion99) and Diego Valencia Guevara (@valenciadgo_)

A deficient multicultural management

With a population of more than 30 million people, Peruvian society is formed of approximately 40% mixed-race, 30% of natives, 10% of Africans, and 20% of Europeans, Asians, Arabians, etc. It is also known, according to the Ministry of Education (2013), that idiomatic plurality is differentiated between 44 Amazonian languages and 4 Andean languages, besides diverse foreign dialects, which form our multiculturality and allow communication with communities that extend among the country. (Peredo Beltran, 2001)

However, there are substantial percentual variations according to the regions, as is the case of the Andean languages in the highlands, whose demand reaches up to 70%. On the other side, in Amazonia, there are at least 8 languages recognized to be under extinction process due to the lack of linguistic protection policies. This means a lower quantity of speakers, rare functional spaces for its application out of the family environment, and restricted opportunities. (Chirino, 2001)

The plurality of cultures and languages along with their complex implications constitute an essential feature for the identity and development of the region. Therefore, UNESCO establishes its participation within an interdisciplinary approach in areas such as education. In this way, it not only guarantees diversity and intercultural dialogue, but also encourages the education of quality for all, and the building of a diverse cooperative society. (Unesco, 2001)

However, it is shown the complete opposite in the educational enrollment in the mother language, where the number of students in native languages barely reaches 44.1%. Another example is shown in the ECE test (2015), whose results indicated that just 4.4% of these students reached a sufficient competency level in Reading comprehension (Unesco, 2017).

Risks of the absence of an interculturality

The lack of articulation between the State entities, as well as the assertive participation of the private sector, have generated that up to date the challenges brought by a cultural education haven’t been overcome yet. This alarming situation brings as a principal consequence, the violation of the rights inherent to each Peruvian, because, according to what is provided in our Constitution, the State must ensure the integral development of the person through the elimination of barriers and to promote the Bilingual and Intercultural Education (EIB), right that implies educational assistance to the non-standard varieties, enhancing their incidence in the learning processes according to the characteristics of each population group and its respective zone (Zuñiga, 2008).

Likewise, it confirmed the protection of the right to education in international devices, like article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which established the fundamental character of the right to education, that should be taught in conditions of quality, equality, accessibility, and progressively (Prouty, 2008).

Considering the current lack of intercultural education, this generates that the main principles of centralism can not be destroyed, because until now the aim is to improve the urban zones, but not the rural zones. (Niera & Trapnell, 2004). A second point to consider is the teachers’ gap because there is a lack of more than 25 000 bilingual teachers at a national level and with training in EIB for the three levels of education (Ombudsman’s Office, 2022)

Thus, until now we are not complying with the provisions of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which explains it should be guaranteed an educational service is: adaptable, this means education should be adjusted to the needs of the students in cultural and social contexts, and acceptable: provided that the pedagogical methods are culturally pertinent and appropriate (DESC Committee, 1999)

Inseparable characteristics that form culture

The definition of culture in a modern state is the association of characters that highlight the behavior in the society of the individual, which can be affected by the historical evolution and the education received. Thanks to it, the individual is conscious of his/her worth and considers himself/herself in constant perfectionism. Based on this, multiculturality is the coexistence of these cultures without a real exchange between them. (Bernabe, 2012).

However, by recognizing us as a multicultural country, the cultures do not have a social relationship that secures cultural and personal enrichment. For that, it is believed in the idea of interculturality is a mandatory goal, because it implies a relationship that defends the promotion of the plurality of dialogue and tolerance to achieve true integration (Garita, 2014).

Possible legal and educational solutions

Although the proposals to counteract this problem are multiple, solutions can be made from two main factors: at a legal level, it is pretended a correct execution of guidelines issued by the National Direction of Intercultural, Bilingual and Rural Education (DINEIBIR) of the Ministry of Education. Even though exist an absence of a strategic and operative plan that guides their objectives, besides presenting the inexecution of the budget assigned annually to the EIB currently. (Servindi, s.f.)

In this proposal can be indicated the recognition of diversity putting faith in elements of interaction and interrelation of the groups at an educational level. In this way, with a diverse curriculum, the exclusion and reduction of minority identities will be eluded. This exceeds the multicultural management that only looks for respect to minority groups, but not mutual exchange and enrichment. (Bernabe, 2012).

Final thoughts

For a multicultural country such as Peru, with a wide ethnical and linguistic variety that constitutes our culture, it is extremely relevant to reinvent the way we contemplate and execute the protection of the rights of the native and indigenous communities through one of the most relevant cognitive processes: education. Is in education that individuals are formed and allowed their integration into life in the community, were provided that dialogue and respect for differences are always a priority, then we will be closer to achieving an inclusive society and the comprehension of diverse identities as one.