Cultural competency can holistically be defined as the ability to effectively interact with another individual from a different background and culture (SAMHSA, 2016). Both parties, in this case, students in schools and institutions can either be culturally competent or not. In essence, culture is a term that is universal and can be used to refer to more than just ethnicity and race. Culture in secondary schools could refer to gender, age, disability, color, education, sexual orientation, or the geographical location of a school (K-Town Youth Empowerment Network, 2017). Thus, cultural competence describes the tendencies of responsiveness and respect to the health practices, beliefs, linguistic, and cultural needs of a diverse group or population. As such, cultural competency in schools is a significant and fundamental part of the education process which is dynamic and occurs along a continuum. Therefore, the purpose of the paper is to provide an in-depth discourse regarding cultural competency in education, especially secondary schools. In addition, the impact and importance of cultural competency will be discussed primarily in relation to achievement and performance among students of color especially the black males (Perso, 2012).
Cultural competency is a fundamental factor in enabling teachers to be effective in educating students from a diverse multicultural spectrum different from their own. As some have observed, the American secondary classrooms and schools are becoming more diverse regarding culture, and, as such, it is imperative for teachers with competent knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be brought aboard the educational system in a bid to serve all the students competently. Research asserts that the training of culturally competent educators is fundamental for culturally diverse classrooms and schools as well as the education system. According to the National Education Association (2017), studies and interviews conducted by scholars revealed particularly intriguing insights concerning what the teachers and educators need to be trained on to become culturally competent and improve performance. The findings of the research indicated that educators need to not only be respectful but also provide a serene environment that encourages reciprocity of ideas. Further, it was argued that teachers needed to be trained on how to provide competent education to students from different and all backgrounds to ultimately ensure their success (Anderson, 2010).
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Farr et al. (2005) contended that to ensure availability of well-trained culturally competent teachers, schools should come up with strategic guidelines and policies to be followed to the latter. The scholars further argued that focus should be put on the development of education plans, infrastructure, and effortless access to the training facilities for the teachers. In fact, multiple research echoes these assertions recommending that support should be provided towards the training of culturally competent teachers in schools.
Cultural competency training in schools should be hinged on learning new behavioral patterns, and how to effectively apply them in the education system, schools, and classes populated with culturally diverse students. In fact, it should fundamentally value diversity, impart and institutionalize cultural knowledge, create and maintain a capacity for self-assessment regarding culture, prepare and illuminate on the vast dynamics that are inherent when culturally diverse students interact and mingle. Moreover, competency training should focus on developing effective mechanisms for service delivery with in-depth comprehension of the diversity that lies within and between cultures (National Education Association, 2017). However, regardless of the guidelines and strategies for training, it is important to point out that in most cosmopolitan schools, many teachers have not been properly trained with regards to cultural diversity. In fact, most of them do not condone biculturalism among their students thereby restricting them to only one culture that they identify with. Ultimately, research insists on cultural competency training in schools because contrary to many beliefs, it makes teaching easy.
According to various literature, cultural competency or proficiency training in schools is important because it ensures equality among students thereby leading to the development of long-lasting as well as strong friendships among and between students of different ethnic backgrounds and race. The phenomenon encourages empathy, motivation, and increases self-esteem among the students regardless of their cultural or racial differences. Studies on this subject have also shown that the general or overall performance and academic achievement of students of color improve when the educators and teachers are competently trained. Indeed, when the educators and the institutions are culturally competent, vices such as negative ethnic stereotypes, racism, and prejudice among the students reduce leading to positive attitudes and appreciation of different cultures and ethnicity (Lindsey, Roberts & Campbell, 2005).
Cultural competent educators or teachers make use of certain tools in education such as using culturally congruent instructions and materials in subjects like mathematics and putting emphasis on reading of comprehensions as well as peer interactions and constant supervision of the students’ progress. All these are important as they enhance understanding and intellectual performance of students from different cultures. Cultural competence also plays a more effective role in the teaching of culturally diverse students. Elaborately, culturally competent educators employ various and efficient teaching strategies that differently benefit the students regardless of their culture, race or ethnicity (Lindsey, Roberts & Campbell, 2005).
It must, however, be noted that these strategies vary depending on the teacher; white competent teachers spend most of the time finding additional curriculum materials for teaching which broadens the comprehension intellectual knowledge of the students. On the other hand, black teachers use not only firm and stringent teaching methods (in accordance with the African American culture to ensure performance and achievement of the black child) but also adopt other methods of teaching such as additional curriculum materials to cater for all the students regardless of their culture (Cooper, 2002). Furthermore, culturally competent teachers understand and comprehend the everyday experiences of the students and incorporate these practices into classroom learning thereby raising education standards.
Cultural competency training in schools produces teachers who can easily meet accountability requirements. In essence, some of the accountability requirements met by these teachers include reducing the gaps between students of color especially black males and other students of different ethnicities or races (Roekel, 2008). The adoption of this phenomenon in schools leads to positive stereotypes regarding ability among the students thereby positively impacting and improving the intellectual performance of the students especially in areas which they feel strongly identified (Landa, 2011).
As this point, it is important to delve into a new discussion regarding achievement and performance of students of color especially the black males. According to Farr et al. (2005), sixty-six percent of the students in both secondary and elementary schools are white, whereas seventeen percent are black, thirteen percent are Hispanic, four percent are Pacific Islanders or Asians, and one percent are Alaskan Natives. It is worth pointing out that Hispanic and Black students make up over a half of the total student population in the central city public secondaries and elementary schools. Cultural proficiency in secondary schools has considerably improved the average performance of black males. Research shows that cultural competency in secondary schools promoting interracial and cross-ethnic friendships ensures increased academic achievement of students of color especially the black Americans (Gay, 1994). On the hand, the performance of the white students despite the interactions and friendships remains unchanged (August & Hakuta, 1997). Thus, disparities still exist between the performance of black students and that of white students especially the males. Moreover, the black males and the Hispanic cultural groups are more likely to drop out of secondary education compared to the whites and other cultural groups. In fact, 68 percent of black men who start college from secondary schools do not graduate within six years (Harper, 2006). Despite these statistics, the black males have shown more improvement than the Hispanics who exhibit the least improvement between the two with more likelihood of dropping out. Also, research indicates that the lack of excellent performance and achievement of the black male child in secondary education is militated by factors such as racism, poverty, and gender stigmatization. These factors affect not only their educational abilities but also cognitive performances. In spite of the little achievements made by the African male students due to cultural competency in high schools and secondary schools, their performance in subjects such as mathematics and sciences is still minimal (Council of the Great City Schools, 2012).
The paper has defined cultural competence as the ability to interact with other students from different backgrounds and cultures effectively. It has also demonstrated that cultural competency training in secondary schools is a fundamental factor, and educators need to be trained in accordance with students’ cultural needs. The significance of cultural competency training in the secondary level education has also been highlighted. More importantly, the paper has established that cultural competency training is beneficial for secondary education in the sense that it improves the intellectual and cognitive performance of the students. The phenomenon also encourages long-lasting interracial friendships among students. These bonds, coupled with the cultural competency in secondary education promotes empathy, self-esteem, and performance among students of diverse cultural backgrounds. Further, it has been established that cultural competence training in secondary education produces competent teachers and educators who can meet accountability requirements such as reducing the gap between achievements of students of color. The paper has also asserted that cultural competency in secondary schools has helped improve the performance of the black male child. However, regardless of the improvements, the black male is still faced with a conundrum of factors such as poverty, racism, and gender stereotypes that still affect his performance. As such, the black male child is more likely to drop out of school, and those that make it to community colleges are less likely to finish within a period of six years.
Therefore, cultural competence is a fundamental and significant phenomenon in the current education system that is significantly filled with a culturally diverse group of students. In this accord, measures to counter the poor performance of the black and the Hispanic child should be taken and appropriate strategies laid down towards this effect. To achieve this, both the teachers and the school administrators should get involved in the daily experiences of the students to comprehend their cultures and backgrounds at home then effectively incorporate the experiences in class learning. In addition, they should provide necessary support to these culturally diverse students of color and debunk the stereotype that the students of color especially the blacks and Hispanics are always expected to fail.
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August, D., & Hakuta, K. (1997). Improving Schooling for Language-Minority Children: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press. Print.
Cooper, P.M. (2002). Does Race Matter? A Comparison of Effective Black and White Teachers of African American Students. J.J. Irvine (Ed.), In Search of Wholeness: African American Teachers and their Culturally Specific Classroom Practices (pp. 47–66). New York, NY: Pal. Print.
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SAMHSA. (2016). Cultural Competence. SAMSHA . Web. Retrieved from: https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/applying-strategic-prevention/cultural-competence