Cultural diversities within Universities.
Throughout this paper, I will examine and research about cultural diversities in universities. The aim of this paper is to discover how students adapt to new cultures when they come to a new space which is the university. I will research and explore the challenges they face in coming to a new environment and having to learn new cultures, these challenges may include broad cultures, different languages and ways of teaching. The research will be based globally to local universities in South Africa for example Rhodes University.Cultural diversity is mostly noticed or acknowledged in this 21st century because of diversity in cultures and how they affect social life. According to Clark (2001) higher education is affected by the various cultures which are within the country and they use trends in which the higher institutions deal with the issue of cultural diversity. Based on the diversity in the institutions students requires different approaches regarding learning and adapting to the new culture and new environment (Nelson 1996). Nelson (1996) however states that universities need to plan accordingly as the issue of cultural diversity can have effect on the stability of the university mostly affecting the lectures and their ways of teaching.
This however further states that educators who are regarded as traditional educators because of their nationality lack the ability to comprehend and deal with cultural diversity in their teaching venues, which is what White (1996) and Nelson (1996) emphasized on.White (1996) speculates that the natural center of higher institutions usually breaks culture into figures that include race and ethnicity and Hispanic. There is usually a language barrier between educators and students in lecture venues all with the results of cultural diversity (Ofori-Dankwa & Lane 2000). Ofori-Dankwa and Lane (2000) and Meier and Hartell (2009) further adds that universities face challenges especially educators with regards to the heterogeneity increment with regards to student population, having to change the curricula and a new educational legislature being instituted because of increasing cultural diversity in universities. Meier and Hartell (2009:180) argue that because of the increasing cultures in higher educational institutions results into necessitating of educators to teach and manage learners with languages and cultures that are unknown to them. All the universities globally tackle the issue of cultural diversity as multicultural education mainly in higher institutions tend to focus on the weakest assumptions in the issue of cultural diversities leading to tolerance and local harmony (Meier & Hartell 2009:182). With the issue of cultural diversities in universities the institutions world-wide have advised approaches that are innovative with regard to teaching a cultural diverse students. Nelson (1996) and Ofori-Dankwa and Lane (2000) speculate the ideas or approaches to cultural diversity that may accommodate all students within the institution, one of the approaches include cultural brochure projects which will be beneficial to students while studying and adapting to the culture within the new environment.
Nelson (1996) suggested an approach that worked on his study and research within universities as he lectured one, he states that students who for example are migrants or international are regarded as non-traditional students within the institution and the minority were unsuccessful based on their performances in traditionally taught courses. Nelson (1996) used an approach where he required students to write in English in order to arrive to a solution and that improved some of their poor performances.When students move from high schools to higher institutions they have to adapt to the new environment, new culture and new people. With the diversity within universities it is mainly difficult, Ofori-Dankwa and Lane (2000) suggested on their research that the approach of employing what they referred to as ‘diversimilarity’ which implies and focuses on involving students to the similarities and differences of cultures in order for them to get an understanding of the wider cultural range in their institution.
Higher institutions such as universities have different cultures, these may include languages, music, entertainment and arts which are difficult to adapt to. According to Ogbu (1992:8) the change of space of which he referred to as a ‘socio-spatial dialectic’ moving to new environment with multicultural diversity may lead to acculturation which involves adapting to new cultures for example new languages, arts and complex curriculum learning.Ogbu (1992:5) further states that United States universities curriculum is mostly advocated about technology and international competitions rather than changing the cultural diverse grouping to one mainstream culture. Students who are international students and study abroad have difficulties with regards to adapting to new culture they are exposed to including language, curriculum, entertainment and arts these cultural diversities then results into language barriers within students.
Bartell (2003:53) states that there are rapid changes and demands regarding the complex environment within which universities operate. The most important thing in basic student life is the curriculum taught, in most universities because of the broad culture also notices and pay attention to issues such as what students bring to school, their cultural models and their ways of understanding (Ogbu 1992:5). The main importance of every student university life is their performances on their school learning and it is usually a minority of students that get influenced by the complexity of cultural activities performed within the university that include social which may be drinking, economic and historical or religious factors. According to Ogbu (1992:10) the cultural differences between students and also educators usually creates barriers of communication and misunderstandings of how the students are supposed to be taught and interact with one another. Based on her research she found that usually Indian and black students with their white teachers in the institutions had different views regarding how students should interact with their lectures and also among themselves (Ogbu 1992:10) this later show the barrier of cultural diversity with the university of how learners are supposed to be taught with many different views. Some students do adapt easily to the new cultures they get exposed to when they go to higher institutions while other struggle. Bartell (2003:43) points out that students who want to venture and study abroad must understand the process of internationalization of the universities, this is to enlighten students of the kind of cultural diversities these universities have and what kind of environment they will venture in.
The main arguments that Bartell emphasized on are the characteristics of universities that he used to understand the unique cultures within the institutions. These main characteristics of universities involve suggestions that the institutions display a high notion of social interaction resulting into a development of a specific culture (Bartell 2003:54). The university is an enculturated environment with its complexities regarding shared beliefs and behaviors for an example in South African Universities such as Rhodes University is an enculturated environment with a diversity of cultures and shared beliefs all resulting into creating one specific culture regarded as a Rhodes Culture.
This culture is introduced into students to adapt to it, it includes entertainment, drinking and adapting to the curriculum. Furthermore for students to adapt to the culture of the new environment they are exposed to they have to learn ways to address cultural diversity because of the wider range of cultural and linguistic background and the different teaching techniques. Cross (2004) emphasizes on the notion of campus diversity rubric for students to have main understanding of social and learning environment.
Cross’s main argument is focusing on how South African higher institutions meet the challenges of increasing social, educational, cultural and religious diversity. A university is a diverse environment that possesses multicultural diversities it can be local or globally, “diversity has been traditionally associated with race, gender and culture. Diversity means different things to different people at different places.” (Cross 2004:392).
Connecting diversity to universities involve opening the university to different kinds of people whose main interest is studying. In universities cultural diversity implies accommodating whatever number of individuals as could reasonably be with their differences and the stuff who are the workers ought or should have the capacity to address and meet the needs of each individuals (De Klerk ; Radloff 2010). For an example Rhodes University is seen as a diverse institution and the university has to accommodate every different kind of cultural diverse since every student arrives with different culture or belief. The diversity within students maybe their cultural understandings and languages for instance some will be Xhosa speaking, Zulu, Afrikaans, Sesotho and many while others are international students that have no main ideas of the cultures in South Africa. All these diversity of cultures have to be maintained to create one big culture that everyone adapt to.Based on main characteristics of universities recommend that they show a high resurgence of social interaction which will bring about advancement of the culture created for students to adapt to. According to De Klerk and Radloff (2010) the advanced issue of cultural diversity is mainly shown to students that are on campus and live in residents, they argue that cultural diversity is manly noticed in residences as Rhodes University residences are highly diverse with students coming from different regions with different cultures the students have to interact with one another to create friendship and a social life. According De Klerk and Radloff the constitution of South Africa states “section 9.
3 of the South African constitution of 1994 aims to create and nurture a non-racial, non-sexist, non-discriminatory society and prohibits any unfair discrimination on sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion, belief, culture and language.” (De Klerk ; Radloff 2010:26). This constitutional law enlighten the main points that are followed by South African institution of higher education to not discriminate but accept cultural diversity and acknowledge it.