Embracing Transculturality in Chilean Schools
By Paola Faúndez Neira
As a human being, I want to be part of a change in my country. As a future teacher, I want to be involved in educating the people who will be in charge of making a change in the world. However, students need to learn about the world in order to understand what can be improved or welcomed.
During the XXI century, people started to wonder whether what they had been taught is feasible in this decade or not. Are we teaching what we were taught as ‘right,’ or what we think is better for future generations? At least in Chile, there is an attempt to teach innovatively, prioritizing students; however, the number of teachers who focus their teaching on creating awareness of being good citizens rather than being ‘just’ students is very limited. There are countless reasons that should be considered for welcoming transculturality in Chilean schools. I would like to tackle four main points, regarding my own experience as a Chilean student, and a future teacher. These are: prejudices towards immigrant students, awareness of cultures, economic factors that affect students’ outcomes, and the impact of technology in classrooms.
The first obstacle that needs to be taken into consideration is the prejudices that all people have in their mindsets (Mantel, Aepli, Büzberger, Dober, Hubli, Krummenacher, & Puskaric, 2019) and how we should take advantage of them. As it happens in a vast amount of countries, Chile has been welcoming immigrant students in most schools. Having said that, the problem doesn’t arise at that point, but rather in the first perceptions that not only students, but also teachers have towards these new learners. It is common to perceive some features that we are not used to seeing every day as different, yet as teachers, we should be leading students to embrace these differences, to create a strong diverse community. Everyone should rid themselves of the assumption that different equals bad; transculturality is happening and we cannot avoid it. We need teachers to learn how to manage a diverse environment in the classroom.
Another main reason for espousing transculturality in schools is raising students’ awareness of the detrimental treatment of minority groups in society. Crenshaw (2016), in her TedWomen talk, provides an example of a black woman who was applying for a job, but who was not hired because of racism and sexism. It brought to my mind what happens here in Chile; although we have been moving forward with feminism, there is a gap when it comes to racism. Mapuche people have endured an unpleasant modus operandi from the police and military forces for years (Beaudry, 2009). Without transculturality and worldwide information, Chilean people would have never perceived this treatment as ‘bad’. We have been ignoring inappropriate behaviors because we were living in a national bubble. Nowadays, students engage in critical thinking in which they question everything, making their own connections and trying to find solutions; as teachers, we should be encouraging them to do so, to form informed opinions, and to take positions regarding controversial situations, instead of putting them in a box in which they learn only what the education program states.
Moreover, due to economic factors, there is a considerable gap between public and private schools in the country. Most students who have visited different places and cultures tend to be the ones who study in private schools. For instance, Chilean people who speak English (or at least understand it) are able to do that for two main reasons: they like the language and study it, or they are able to afford to go to anglophone places during the summer, which benefits their language proficiency (Alarcón, 2013). The problem is that the majority of Chilean people receive a salary that merely suffices to pay rent, food, and education; most of the time, they cannot afford health care, let alone international travel.
With this in mind, transculturality opens doors for everybody, regardless of the school. Having immigrants wherever we go helps us to learn more about other cultures, languages (dialects, accents, idioms), food, and/or customs, leading students to generate a realistic view of the world. If they are capable of understanding and being respectful towards other cultures, they will be open-minded when learning about another one. As a future teacher, I truly believe in transculturality as beneficial for everyone, therefore I will work hard to inspire students to realize the importance of knowing more about the world.
Another important feature of transculturality is the amount of worldwide information available. To my mind, transculturality is a part of the globalized world in which we are living. Technology has brought big opportunities for the purposes of education; in my case, as I will be teaching English as a Foreign Language to primary and secondary levels, it opens possibilities of unlimited resources and materials related to anglophone countries, that can help to offer a clearer understanding of these cultures. Students today, or generation “Z” students, are more familiarized with the use of technology, most of them having their own smartphones with access to the internet, where they can look for information, and learn about what is happening worldwide. Teachers should take advantage of that, and use the internet as a tool for learning. For instance, students can participate in debates about the different attitudes that the governments of other countries have towards racism, about the various laws, perceptions, etc. It is a great chance to practice not only the language but also their capacity for reflection, defending positions, and learning more about other cultures.
In light of the above, teaching people is more than just explaining school content, it is life-changing work. It is essential to create a diverse and respectful environment for students to feel safe and comfortable while learning. As mentioned before, the situation I have seen in Chile can be improved, not only inside the classroom, but also in society. It is time to shift our stance regarding prejudices: it does not matter if we meet people that are different from us, what matters is that together we come up with something relevant that can make a change. Creating awareness will be part of the unification of the world, respecting other people will always be a contribution to the world. Regardless of our social classes, we can all learn something new every day and bring perspectives for improving the world. The same happens with the information that can be accessed through the internet. Teachers and students can use technology to get to know more about the world, either for educational purposes or entertainment.
As a reflection, I will encourage students to develop their own opinions about controversial international topics, and to embrace the different cultures. I will guide them towards these goals, instead of criticizing people, helping them to understand that everyone is unique and deserves respect. Transculturality, for me, is the point in the middle of a broad number of perspectives in a diverse world that drives us to an improvement of the world. Future generations are the ones who will be alive to see the actual change, therefore they need to be as knowledgeable as they can.
Paola Faúndez Neira
Student at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
Alarcón, M. (2013, June 06). Simce de Inglés: De los 100 colegios con mejor puntaje 99 son particulares pagados. Retrieved November 5, 2020, from https://www.biobiochile.cl/noticias/2013/06/06/simce-de-ingles-de-los-100-colegios-con-mejor-puntaje-99-son-particulares-pagados.shtml
Beaudry, J. S. (2009). La Violencia Policial Hacia Los Mapuches en Chile. Retrieved November 6, 2020, from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r24587.pdf
Crenshaw, K. (2016, October). The Urgency of Intersectionality. Retrieved November 6, 2020, from https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality
Mantel, C., Aepli, M., Büzberger, M., Dober, H., Hubli, J., Krummenacher, J., & Puskaric, J. (2019). Auf den zweiten Blick. Eine Sammlung von Fällen aus dem Schulalltag zum Umgang mit migrationsbezogener Vielfalt. Bern: hep