Research shows that:
- Children as young as 3 years old and sometimes earlier can show prejudice behaviour and attitudes.
- Evidence proves that children are affected by the attitudes and behaviours of adults around them.
- Educating children reduces discrimination and violence in society over the long term.
It is at these early stages in their lives, where we as Educators can play a significant role in planting seeds of tolerance, compassion and understanding that will contribute towards the creation of a more harmonious society for the future to come.
‘Respect for diversity’ and ‘cultural competency’ are key aspects of the National Quality Standards (NQS), the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the Framework for School Aged Care (FSAC).
There is also increasing evidence to show that supporting children to follow their cultural traditions and to participate in cultural activities enhances their wellbeing and can contribute to their resilience, social confidence and protection from prolonged isolation, emotional trauma or exclusion.
For many educators, cultural competence is a new and perhaps unfamiliar area of focus. The EYLF describes cultural competence as: ‘Much more than awareness of cultural differences. It is the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures’.
Cultural competence encompasses:
- Being aware of one’s own world view
- Developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences
- Gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views
- Developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.
The EYLF Educators Guide (2010, 25-26) describes cultural competency as a journey that encompasses skills, knowledge and attitudes. It highlights the need for cultural competency to filtrate through three levels- the individual, the service level and the systems level.
All programs should recognise and incorporate the diverse cultures, languages, beliefs and values of families, the community and children. Educators who are knowledgeable about the culture and languages that children bring to school are then able to provide resources, experiences and interactions that reflect children’s everyday lives.
Comprehensive sexuality and relationships education in primary schools is more important than ever. Children are exposed to much more than their parents were at the same age.
Technology, social media, and the sexualised messages of advertising, music videos and films are ubiquitous.
We need to think ahead as today’s children are subjected to more than playground whispers and rumours to provide students with the best skills, primary sexuality education must include developmentally-appropriate discussions and information about the concepts of ‘choice’, friendships, gender stereotypes, personal safety, emerging identities and much more.