Multicultural Education in the Republic of Korea: How Elementary School Teachers Interpret Multicultural Education and Its Practical Use in Classrooms
The Republic of Korea (hereafter, Korea) has historically affirmed that the country is ethnically homogeneous and this belief is often expressed in the nation's government compiled and issued textbooks. However, this dogmatic view does not correspond to the trends of globalization with mass global migration. International organizations also urged the Korean government to alter its emphasis on mono-ethnicity and revise this notion in the curriculum. Given both the external recommendations and the internal demographic transformation, the government eventually revised curriculum and initiated multicultural education. This study examines how Korean elementary school teachers recognize multicultural contents in textbooks and how they analyze and communicate them in class. In order to investigate this, three research questions were raised: a. What multicultural content is in elementary school textbooks? b. How do elementary school teachers consider the subject of multicultural education? c. How do teachers communicate multiculturalism to their students at the elementary school level? To answer these questions, I analyzed fifth grade Korean Language and sixth grade Korean Language and Social Studies textbooks utilizing Christine I. Bennett's "Conceptual Model of a Comprehensive Multicultural Curriculum." Interviews were also conducted with fifth and sixth grade teachers to explore how they recognize and communicate multicultural content in class.
The study had two major findings. First, most interviewed teachers thought that multicultural education material should relate to multicultural family issues. These teachers perceived the term multiculturalism and multicultural education as referring to multicultural families, that is, foreign workers and marriage immigrant families. This was due to how the government initiated multicultural education and defined these families. Second, teachers interviewed had difficulties communicating multicultural materials with their students regardless of whether multicultural family students were in the class or not. If these students were in class, teachers did not want to draw special attention to them. On the contrary, if these students were not in class, teachers articulated their lack of experience with multicultural education or direct contact with multicultural families. These findings shed light on a gap between the Korean government's intentions regarding multicultural education and teachers' perceptions on multicultural materials and its practical use in instruction.