The Multicultural Center
The Center for Multiculturalism was established at Kaye Academic College of Education in 1994 as a small unit which gradually developed into a large center keenly aware of the fact that the college encompasses students from various nations and diverse ethnic backgrounds all dwelling under one roof during their studies. These include Arabs from the north and Bedouin from the south; Jews, including immigrants from the former Soviet Union and from Ethiopia; as well as secular, traditional and religious students.
The rationale of the unit was to use this unique opportunity of having this diverse population studying together in order to create a direct encounter between them and so, hopefully, to moderate the natural tendency to relate to the “other” through stereotypes.
Currently, the center offers a compulsory set of courses for all second-year students.
Today it is comprised of 10 even-numbered groups of Arabic and Hebrew speakers with about 20 students in each, who participate either in a workshop or an academic course on the subject of cultural diversity. These weekly meetings, which take place in an intimate atmosphere, create increasing mutual feelings of trust among the participants.
This is made possible thanks to a unique method of facilitation in the workshop groups called SAME, Synthesis of Approaches to Multicultural Encounters, a combination of the dynamic approach which focuses on the interpersonal relations among the participants in a group and the conflictual approach which focuses on controversial issues. This combined approach has yielded a remarkable withdrawal of stereotypical attitudes towards one another, and an enhanced ability to deal with controversial issues.
In addition, since 2012 the center has been involved in the TEMPUS project under the auspices of the European Union, with five European countries, Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Estonia, and Georgia, in direct partnership. Together with delegates from eight academic institutions in Israel and from all the participating countries, the goal is to develop a set of new courses, all pertaining to the subject of developing better pedagogical tools for coping with cultural diversity in a classroom. The school year 2012–2013 was devoted to the development of the courses, including three international meetings which took place in Georgia (October 2012), Germany (March 2013) and Austria (June 2013). The school year 2013–2014 was devoted to piloting the new courses and to assessing the results.
The Center for Multiculturalism will incorporate the following three newly developed courses: Identity Formation in a Multicultural Environment, Israel as a Multicultural Society and Children Rights.
Teaching in a college of teacher education, we believe that this experience is especially valuable for those who, in just a few years, will become teachers themselves and will have to be equipped with the pedagogical tools to help their own pupils to relate to others with fewer stereotypes, and to manage to resolve conflicts in peaceful ways.