Critical Multicultural Education: an overview

What is Multicultural Education

According to the leading Multicultural Education expert, James Banks (2021), Multicultural Education is  “an idea or concept, an educational reform movement, and a process” (pp.44) in which schools and teachers are tasked with creating opportunities for all students to learn and succeed in and out of the classroom. He goes on to explain that there are five dimensions to modern Multicultural Education;

What is the difference between Critical Multicultural Education and Multicultural Education?

Traditional Multicultural Education has long celebrated diversity and helped students to become aware of diversity in the classroom to promote student success and social empowerment. Critical Multicultural Education takes a step further to promote prejudice and privilege education, curriculum integration, identity formation, and opportunities for authentic partnerships and experiences.

Teachers and Critical Multicultural Education

Teacher identity and teacher reflection are an important part of Critical Multicultural Education

A teacher who engages with Critical Multicultural Education:

  • Recognizes students’ cultural knowledge, values, and ways of being as strengths
  • Is aware of their own privilege and bias
  • Has an open mindset and is constantly looking for ways in which to highlight alternative point-of-views outside of the dominant Korea-centric or West-centric worldview
  • Is sensitive to issues and topics that might be uncomfortable for students from more diverse backgrounds
  • Is knowledgeable about the unique cultural background of their students and works to understand the various diverse cultures that might be represented in the classroom

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

The pedagogical framework often cited alongside Critical Multicultural Education is “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy”.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy acknowledges and engages diverse learning and their experiences, cultural backgrounds, and communities.

In South Korea, this means that “teachers are integrating the cultures and identities of immigrant students, multicultural students, and North Korean refugee students into their instruction.” (Kim, 2020, pp. 88)

A culturally responsive teacher:

  1. Learns about students’ previous experiences and cultural background
  2. Uses this knowledge in the curriculum and in the building of a caring and diverse classroom that also challenges students to success
  3. Empowers students, especially ethnically diverse students, through academic success and cultural connections in the classroom via content and classroom culture

In essence, Multicultural Education should NOT be taught in a textbook only, but instead developed by each educator based on a particular student group. Teachers should encourage students to be proud of their heritage, create assignments that celebrate diverse backgrounds, incorporate Multicultural Education Approaches into their curriculum whenever possible and work towards being an introspective teacher who examines their own values, beliefs, and biases.

As Howard (2021) states,

“The mere understanding of culture cannot translate to effective teaching strategies”

(pp. 145)

Challenges in Critical Multicultural Education

Be careful to avoid…

Cultural Stereotyping

Making general assumptions or generalizations about a cultural group.

  • Example: “All American eat hamburgers”

Educators who seek to create cultural connections can do more damage than assistance.

  • Example: “You like hamburgers? So do Americans! All Americans eat hamburgers!”

“Single Story”

This is when only one “story” of a people group is portrayed, forgetting that most cultures have many sides and stories to tell. This is how stereotypes and prejudice start at the early stages of life, and get reinforced as students go through school.

  • Example: Showing students videos from YouTube about the poor students in Nigeria and how they cannot go to school easily. Without showing the major cities like Lagos where there are globally-accredited Universities and institutions like the Google AI research center.


Language is powerful, and it can be a way in which students and teachers ostracize multicultural students, consciously or unconsciously. Avoid referring to students as ‘Other’ or ‘Foreign’, because this only reinforces the “Us versus Them” mentality. In Korea, students who are dubbed “multicultural” are often pushed to the outside of society as the non-Korean ‘Other’.

  • Example: In some schools, teachers were seen calling on multicultural students using derogatory words (J.H. Kim, 2018), ‘damhwa’, or even just the students’ home country (I.e “China” or “Vietnam”) (Park & Park, 2018)


Banks, J. A. (2021). Multicultural Education: History and Dimensions. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Transforming Multicultural Education Policy and Practice (pp. 42–52). Essay, Teachers College Press.

Howard, T. C. (2021). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Transforming Multicultural Education Policy & Practice (pp. 137–163). Essay, Teachers College Press.

Kim, H. A. (2020). Understanding “koreanness”: racial stratification and colorism in Korea and implications for Korean Multicultural Education. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 22(1), 76–97.

Kim,  J.  H.  (2018,  July  29).  “Ya  damunhwa”…Damimsaemeun  nae  chingureul iruhkae  bulluyo [Hey,  damunhwa…my  homeroom  teacher  calls  my  friend this]. Seoul    Shinmun.    Retrieved    from

Park,  S.  E.,  &  Park,  H.  Y.  (2018,  March  5). Umma, seonsengnimi  nareul ‘damunhwa’ra bulreuyo [Mom, the teacher calls me ‘damunhwa’]. Yonhap News. Retrieved from

Literature-Based Learning and Instruction: The Basics

The concept of using literature in education is perhaps one of the oldest pedagogical frameworks, but the resurgence of literature-based instruction in the classroom, especially in the language classroom, has brought new life to the age-old approach. Literature-based instruction in the language classroom focuses more on the communicative needs of language learners and moves away from the more “literary” aspects of literature study such as critical lenses and stylistic analysis. Let’s look at the who, what, why, and how of integrating this “new” form of literature-based learning into the language classroom.

Who is LBL for?

            Because of the necessity for discussion and a deeper understanding of the text, literature-based learning works best in secondary classrooms.  Learners with lower proficiency may also find the activities related to literature-based learning frustrating as they may not have the vocabulary or grammatical knowledge to accurately express their opinion and personal connections to the material in L2.

What is LBL?

Literature-based learning, in essence, is when an educator uses literature as the basis for instruction. The core content for the entirety of the curriculum comes from the reading material, however additional texts may be used to complement the literature.

The types of activities used in literature-based instruction are what is natural do to after reading. After reading, one often discusses the plot or shares their personal connection or opinions to the themes represented in the material. However, a 10 question comprehension quiz is not an activity naturally done after reading, outside of the classroom.

In Literature-based instruction, learners choose their own high-interest piece for extensive reading. There should be a variety of options for students to choose from in varying reading levels. Many educators choose to incorporate themes into their LBL curriculum, thus offering book choices to students that all fall under that central theme (Khatib & Nourzadeh, 2011).

Students are given the opportunity to then discuss the reading with peers and complete tasks related to the reading material (Sidhu, Chan, and Kaur, 2010).

Why use LBL?

Using LBI promotes learner’s….

  • Vocabulary Knowledge (Frantzen, 2002)
  • Grammatical Knowledge (Tayebipour, 2009)
  • Knowledge of L2 lexical phrases and fixed expressions (MacKenzie, 1999)
  • Language Awareness (Chan, 1999)
  • Sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences (McKay, 2001)

Using authentic literature texts (unaltered and unabridged) provides opportunities for learners to interact with original expressions and natural vocabulary (Puspitasari, 2016).

Literature also helps learners to develop affective skills (Violetta-Irene, 2015), and cultural knowledge.

Studies have proven that learners tend to enjoy learning through literature-based instruction, especially when given a choice of reading material (Piscayanti, 2010; Darmawati et al., 2020). Learners have also been proven to achieve better language acquisition results when learning through literature-based instruction (Piscayanti, 2010).

How to implement LBL?

As stated, learners should be given a choice of literature text at an appropriate reading level and (if applicable) within the central theme of the unit.

The teacher can then engage with the students in several ways including pre-reading activities, during reading literature circles and discussion groups, and after-reading deliverables such as cooperative tasks and projects.

The central focus should be on language acquisition and personifying the general themes present in the literature. Students should be given ample opportunities to share their opinions and engage with the text in creative ways.

For a full list of references on this post, click here.

Authentic Media in the ESL Classroom

It is difficult to venture into a classroom in the 21st century without encountering some sort of multimedia. From pictures to videos and every Instagram post in-between, media has a way of grabbing students’ attention and conveying themes and information in a way they can relate to.

Media has a special place in the English as a second language/English as a foreign language (ESL/EFL) classroom. Often, visual representation of content is the catalyst for student understanding of language concepts and vocabulary. However, it can be tricky when media runs into cultural representation. Just as it is an easy way to engage our students and help them visualize concepts and content, it is just as easy to misrepresent cultures and people groups with inaccurate media.

This is why it is important to seek out authentic media when possible. Authentic media is multimedia that comes from authentic voices. Simply put, it is pictures, videos, music and more that comes directly from the culture which it is representing.

Think of it this way. Which seems like a more accurate representation of a culture; a travel video made by a Korean who is traveling for 3 days in this country, or a daily life video made by a native resident of the country? Of course, the native resident would have a more accurate understanding of the cultural practices and traditions of their home country. When we are showing videos, pictures, or other forms of media to students, it is the duty of the teacher to be sure that they are representing that culture as accurately as possible. In this way, we help our students to have a more informed worldview and a deeper understanding of cultures around the world, rather than looking at the world through the lens of their native country or through a west-centric point of view.

But how can we access authentic materials? Below I will outline a few tips for choosing materials, along with some great places to start looking.

Look at the author

A simple way to check for authenticity is to look at the author. Are they a native to this culture? Or are they merely an observer? Even reputable sources like National Geographic can hold bias in the images they present, so it is always prudent to check for media created by those living within the culture or people group that you’d like to showcase to your students. When looking at content where the creator is an outsider observing a particular culture or community, seek media that allow their subjects to speak. Meaning seek content such as videos that include interviews or tell the stories of specific people from that culture or community, rather than videos that tend to generalize like travel vlogs.

Look at the location

In many places, rural areas may look drastically different from metropolitan areas. It is important to consider this when presenting images of a particular country that your students may not have much information about outside of your class.

Look at the bias

Even those native to a culture or community can be biased in the presentation of their surroundings. It’s important to always remind students to seek multiple points of view and try to access more than one portrayal of a culture before making assumptions.

Places to Start Looking

Great Big Story- YouTube short video channel

Though they are no longer making new videos, the Great Big Story YouTube channel still has hundreds of videos to search through to find great stories from nearly every corner of the world. Though the channel itself is made by an American company (CNN), the videos center on real people and real stories, without any bias or commentary from the videographer or journalist. The videos range from one minute to fifteen minutes and often include English subtitles. Some may even have subtitles available in other languages.

The stories are compelling, and can showcase parts of a culture that are not often found within a textbook. The simplest way to find the perfect video is to use the “search” function on the YouTube channel page and type in the country, culture, or community you would like to represent in your classroom.

Use the search function to find the videos that cover the topic you are interested in

Here is a video about the Turkish whistling language

Great Big Story Homepage link

NasDaily YouTube Channel- Nuseir Yassin

Similar to Great Big Story, NasDaily, a channel run by Israeli Nuseir Yassin, is full of videos about many places around the world, not only the native country of the content creator. However, the videos he makes are authentic in a special way. What the author of these videos, Nuseir, does is allow the people from the culture he is visiting to tell their own story. In essence, the videos he makes, which range from 1 to 5 minutes, are about people. By keeping the stories human-based, the videos themselves become more authentic.

Here is a video about the Water King of Kenya

Also similar to Great Big Story, you can use the search function on the homepage to find videos that fit what you are looking for

A link to the homepage for NasDaily

Vlog- Personal-life Videos often found on hosting sites such as YouTube

Outside of these larger channels, smaller videos made by those within the culture or community you’d like to share with your students can be a powerful way to model authenticity to students.

Some of the easiest ways to search for these types of vides is to put “[country/community name] vlog” or “[country/community name] daily life” in the YouTube search bar. Vlog stands for “video log” and is usually a first-person account of the video author’s own experiences. However, avoid travel vlogs like the ones in the following image.

These videos are made by tourists to that country or community and will not produce the same authentic view as a video made by someone from within that culture. Instead look for videos of people speaking about their own lives. A good way to do this is to check the “About” section on their YouTube homepage like can be seen in the following image and see if the channel creator is a resident of the country covered in their vlogs.

This channel hosts videos made by Salta, a local Kazakh who makes videos about life in Kazakhstan, like this one

Here are a few more vlog examples

Russia with Yeah Russia, a channel from a Russian girl named Natasha

Nigeria with Eboh Media, a channel from Eboh Gee Chigozie, who takes an authentic look at Nigerian daily life.

Or Egypt with Mahmoud Yehia, a film maker from Egypt who looks at a day in the life in an Egyptian village

Though this film mostly represents rural areas of Egypt, clips can be combined with the following video on a day in the life in Cairo, Egypt by Azat Akhunov

And many more…

All of the above resources are a great place to start, but there is plenty more authentic media outside of YouTube. Just search for authors making content about their own culture or community and you can access a plethora of authentic multimedia to enrich your lessons and provide context for the cultures and communities your students may come across in their textbooks.

Global Cultures and Issues in the ESL Classroom: Educating Digital Natives

It’s Monday morning and you’ve just gotten into your classroom. You’re tired from a long weekend but happy to see your students again. The door opens and it’s one of your favorite students (we all have one), Minji. She has come to class early because she wants to ask you a question. You gesture for her to sit down near you at one of the tables, that’s when you notice she has her phone out. She opens up her TikTok app to show you a TikTok she saw of an American talking about the Black Lives Matter movement. She wants to know what this is, and why it’s so popular on social media. You panic for a second because you are unsure how to approach the subject, and how to even begin accessing information to share with your student.

You might not have had this exact scenario happen in your classroom, but chances are something similar has happened. Whether it is students curious about social media movements or textbooks that represent global cultures students may not be familiar with, the English-language classroom is often the place students come to with their questions about global culture and issues. As an English-language teacher it can be daunting to try and find the right way to represent cultures and issues you may not have personal experience with or know where to even begin searching for information for. The following are three different aspects of teaching global culture and issues that I think make a strong basis for being a culturally-responsive and unbiased educator. There are many more facets to this topic, but I think that these three are a good start to better equip yourself and your classroom to help answer your students’ questions and guide them towards being global citizens.  

Clover, J. (2019). [Apple Launches ‘Media Literacy’ Initiative to Encourage Critical Thinking and Better Informed Evaluation of News]. Retrieved June 30, 2021, from

Critical Media Literacy

The first on the list is practicing Critical Media Literacy. Critical Media Literacy is the practice in which one looks at any form of media, be it books, video, images, or music, and seeks to critically evaluate it for issues of power, voice, representation, and equity. In other words, it’s when you question what you are watching, reading, or listening to. It is the effort of the consumer to make sure that they are not being swayed by a biased point of view, especially in relation to global issues, cultures, and events. Though this might seem like something that would be introduced only in higher-proficiency or late-secondary level classes, the truth is that media literacy comes into play even in third or fourth grade. As digital natives (people who grow up after the advent of the internet), students are inundated with media all of the time and, while their media might not be directly related to world news or global issues, as a teacher you can still encourage students to seek out authentic representation of different cultures within whichever form of media is present in the classroom.

Encouraging Critical Media Literacy in your classroom is as easy as asking questions. Ask students “Where did you get this information?” or “How do you know that?” and if they can’t think of a satisfactory answer, go on a journey together to try to find unbiased and authentic information.

Another way to encourage Critical Media Literacy in the classroom is to add a “sources” portion to assessment rubrics, or any requirements for projects your students may be completing in which they need to search for information online. By requiring students to share their sources and where they got their information, students are automatically more likely to think twice about the legitimacy of their information.

At the end of the day, Critical Media Literacy should be a consistent part of any curriculum. The internet is saturated with a sea of information from a variety of sources, but by modeling the practice for the students as a teacher and expecting the same practices from your students, you are helping your students to develop the skills needed to wade through that sea to find the most pertinent and unbiased information. This is a life skill that will follow students as they graduate to university, and beyond into the workforce.


Similar to Critical Media Literacy, authenticity refers to taking a critical look at the information being used in the classroom; however, authenticity goes a step beyond to look at whose voices are sharing this information.

Take this example: You look in your textbook and notice there is a section about Nigeria. The content of the paragraph is talking about the traditional foods of Nigeria. However, after taking a closer look at the images represented, you notice something a little bit “off”. Of course, there are beautiful shots of Nigerian soup and Jollof rice, but alongside it are pictures of old buildings, dirt roads, and smiling people wearing traditional clothes. None of these pictures are particularly negative, but you have to wonder how authentic they are. If these pictures are the only representation your students will have of Nigeria, what are the assumptions they might make?

A quick search on Google will show you that Nigeria boasts large cities, much like Seoul, people who wear clothes similar to the ones you are wearing right now and so much more than the images represented in that short section in your textbook.

This is a pretty common example, and one that I encountered while teaching high school in South Korea. I think too often we as educators focus on getting rid of any negative stereotypes about global cultures and issues, that we forget to focus on how authentic the materials are that we are presenting. To combat this, I have a few ways in which you can supplement your classroom materials to add authentic voices to your lessons.

  • YouTube videos, especially ones made by or interviewing people from the culture you’d like to represent. Even if the English is too difficult for students to follow along with, a short explanation in Korean can help students understand the basic idea and appreciate the imagery represented in the video.
  • Local Communities. There are so many cultures represented even within the borders of South Korea. Finding ways in which to bring in the local community can not only help students access authentic materials, but perhaps experience culture for themselves.
  • Finally, a quick google search is perhaps the easiest way to find authentic materials. Combine authenticity with Critical Media Literacy to really think about the images you are presenting in class, and where the information is coming from that you are sharing.

Social Justice and Social Media Movements

As educators, incorporating social media and social justice into the curriculum can be sensitive and often we come up against issues that are tricky to address. But with our students increasingly involved with the online social world, it is important to create a safe space in which students feel they can access information and ask questions about the global issues and cultures they may not understand.

I am not saying that social justice movements need to be a part of your lessons, but a good way to give students the tools to thrive as Global Citizens is to teach students critical advocacy tools. Critical advocacy is similar to Critical Media Literacy in that it is simply asking students to question the movements they want to support, to research what each movement is about, and know the purpose of the social media hashtag or Facebook group before joining in.

Incorporating famous social justice movements that are education-adjacent, such as Malala’s campaign or the #bringbackourgirls movement is a great way in which to bring up the topic and introduce the concept of social media activism. In this way, students can learn how to be critical advocates without having to broach sensitive topics in class.

As our world becomes increasingly interdependent, countries like South Korea are looking to encourage Global Citizenship in our new generations which means, as educators, it is our duty to make sure that our students venture into their new global landscape as well-equipped as we can make them to be critical about the information they are inundated with and the assumptions they may have about people, cultures and issues from around the world.