The Value of Ethnic Diversity in the Teaching Profession: A New Zealand Case Study
Changing demographics in many contemporary Western countries have resulted in multiethnic societies with teaching workforces that have not kept pace with the increased diversity of student populations. International research indicates that teachers from minority language and cultural backgrounds can impact positively on minority students’ self-esteem and academic performance, and that all students can benefit from a diverse teaching workforce. This paper reviews the literature on race-matched teaching and the impact of diversity in the teaching profession, and then reports on a case study which explores these issues specifically in the New Zealand context. The generation 1.5 Asian New Zealand and third-generation Anglo-European New Zealand student participants and their parents reported both challenges and benefits associated with strictly race- or ethnicity-matched teacher assignment and also with increased teacher diversity. Participants also highlighted the need for all teachers to be trained to work effectively with diverse student populations. The paper concludes by discussing the role of teacher education programmes in developing a culturally responsive teaching workforce for a future New Zealand where minority ethnicity students will outnumber the present Anglo-European majority. This paper has relevance for many other educational contexts with large multiracial, multiethnic populations.
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