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Multicultural
Education:
The Cambodian
Culture
Teaching in culturally and linguistically
diverse environments
Mónica P. Coto
Texas Woman’s University
Cambodia
 Cambodia is located in
Southeast Asia.
 The capital city is Phnom
Penh.
 Cambodians are known as the
Khmer people
 Khmer is also the name of the
most commonly spoken
language.
 Although Cambodia and
Vietnam are neighbors, Khmer
and Vietnamese are
untransferable.
The climate
 Cambodia’s climate is warm
and humid all year round
allowing for abundant flora
and fauna.
 The climate depends on the
monsoon winds that create a
rainy season (May to
October) and dry season
(October to April).
The government
 Cambodia got its independence
from France on November 9,
1953.
 The current government is
considered a constitutional
monarchy ruled by a King and a
Prime Minister.
 In reality, the Prime Minister –
Hun Sen – has held a
totalitarian communist power for
almost 30 years.
Food
 Rice is the base for almost all
of the dishes Cambodians eat.
Noodles, fish, seafood, and
pork are also very popular.
 They use fresh herbs, like
cilantro, basil, sprouts, lemon
grass, etc. to top some dishes
like soups.
 It is also common the use of
spices such as hot peppers and
curry
Fashion
 Although in the modern
days most Cambodians
dress like most people
around the world, the
traditional attires are
associated with religion
and the unique syncretism
of indigenous Buddhism
and Hinduism.
Folklore
 The most representative folklore
of Cambodia is its dances.
 The Apsara dance is today a
keynote in touristic sites.
 The dance was exclusively to
entertain royalty. It wasn’t
introduced to outsiders until the
1960s.
 Apsara is inspired by the carvings
on the Angkor Wat Temple.
Festivals
 The most important festivity is
the Khmer New Year in April.
People dance, play games, and
eat many traditional foods.
 Other festivities include the
Chinese New Year (February)
and Christmas (December).
 Cambodia is adopting more and
more traditions and celebrations
of the United States because of
the amount of Cambodians living
here.
Famous people
 Because of the many years of war, revolution, and
totalitarian governments, the most famous figures
are politicians.
King Norodom Sihamoni Prime Minister Hun Sen
Deep culture
 Cambodia survived a convulsive 20th century.
 The most terrible event in the country’s history was
the Khmer Rouge communist regime from 1975 to
1979.
 3 million people were assassinated including 90% of
teachers and intellectuals
 The education system was severely damaged
 The current government has communist principles
and institutionalized corruption keep the country from
recovery.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 Due to the high illiteracy rate in Cambodia, a teacher
should contact the family as soon as possible to find
out how much academic support the student will be
getting from the parents. If parents have a low
literacy level, the teacher should help them generate
other strategies of home support (allowing time and
place to do homework, reinforcing reading at home,
etc.) and parental involvement with the student’s
learning process.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 Since Cambodia was a colony of France and
French was part of the public school curriculum,
the highly educated population is most likely fluent
to French. This is important because a teacher of
a Cambodian newcomer (also valid for
Vietnamese) may benefit from the knowledge of
some cognates between English and French,
because the likelihood of cognates between
English and Khmer is very remote.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 Most Cambodians are Buddhists, and since Buddhism
has been decreed “the religion of the country” by the
government, students could expect to receive lessons
about religion at school because they do in Cambodia.
As teachers of diversity, we need to be ready to explain
the separation between school (state) and religion in
the United States.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 Because of the successive totalitarian regimes that
have ruled the country, a Cambodian student may
have difficulties understanding concepts of
freedom, democracy, honesty, and the limited
powers of our president. A teacher would have to
be especially careful when these topics are brought
up in Social Studies or any other subject. It would
be necessary to create a base of knowledge to
scaffold understanding. This scaffold would also
benefit any other ELL coming from a country with a
totalitarian government (Cubans, Chinese, North
Koreans, etc.)
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 One of the consequences of corrupt governments is the idea
that some things can be obtained illegally without being
judged as morally incorrect by society (like bribing teachers).
It could be possible then that newcomers Cambodian
parents offer to bribe a teacher to get help on important tests
like STAAR, SAT, u other situation that will impact the
student’s record. A teacher of diversity should be ready to
explain the rules and policies of the American school system
before jumping to conclusions and morally judging the
parents or student’s actions.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 Cambodian students will always benefit from having books
that represent them in the classroom. Some of these books
are:
 Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide
by Icy Smith
 The Clay Marble by Mingfong Ho
 Cambodia by Rob Alcraft
 Welcome to Cambodia by Dora Yip
 Children of the River by Linda Crew
 Silent Lotus by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
 Roots and Wings by Many Ly
 These books should be previously reviewed by the teacher in
terms of their appropriateness to grade level because they
might contained vivid imagery of the hardship the Cambodians
have endure.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 Cambodian families could highly benefit from a
list of resources available at the community
level. For example classes offered at the
recreation center, parks, medical services,
social services, sports leagues, Scouts, adult
education opportunities, etc.
Implications of the Cambodian culture
in a multicultural classroom
 It is also urgent to open spaces of reflection
so the school staff can get familiar with the
cultures represented in the student body, not
just at the surface level but the deep culture.
This could be done from in-depth, whole-day
workshops to 30-minute synopsis of a culture,
one at the time in the regular scheduled
meetings.
Final thoughts
 Teachers and schools moving to multicultural
education need to reflect on the strategies that will
take them to a more equitable and egalitarian
educative practice. Facing diversity with “patch on”
activities such as bulletin boards and cultural festivals
will not help the stakeholders to truly get to know
each other and to create a common identity.
 Getting to know the deep culture of our students is
truly the only opportunity to serve their individualities
and, like Nieto & Bode (2012) recommended,
accommodate to their needs to promote “the
democratic purposes of schooling.”
References
 Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia. (n.d.). Cambodia,
Kingdom of Wonder. Retrieved from
http://www.tourismcambodia.org/contents/about_cambodia/
#comp
 Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming diversity: The
sociopolitical context of multicultural education (6th ed.).
Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
 NGO Education Partnership. (n.d.) NGO Education
Partnership. Retrieved from http://www.nepcambodia.org/
 Ngor, Sinara. (2014) Personal communication.

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Multicultural Education: The Cambodian Culture

  • 1. Multicultural Education: The Cambodian Culture Teaching in culturally and linguistically diverse environments Mónica P. Coto Texas Woman’s University
  • 2. Cambodia  Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia.  The capital city is Phnom Penh.  Cambodians are known as the Khmer people  Khmer is also the name of the most commonly spoken language.  Although Cambodia and Vietnam are neighbors, Khmer and Vietnamese are untransferable.
  • 3. The climate  Cambodia’s climate is warm and humid all year round allowing for abundant flora and fauna.  The climate depends on the monsoon winds that create a rainy season (May to October) and dry season (October to April).
  • 4. The government  Cambodia got its independence from France on November 9, 1953.  The current government is considered a constitutional monarchy ruled by a King and a Prime Minister.  In reality, the Prime Minister – Hun Sen – has held a totalitarian communist power for almost 30 years.
  • 5. Food  Rice is the base for almost all of the dishes Cambodians eat. Noodles, fish, seafood, and pork are also very popular.  They use fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, sprouts, lemon grass, etc. to top some dishes like soups.  It is also common the use of spices such as hot peppers and curry
  • 6. Fashion  Although in the modern days most Cambodians dress like most people around the world, the traditional attires are associated with religion and the unique syncretism of indigenous Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • 7. Folklore  The most representative folklore of Cambodia is its dances.  The Apsara dance is today a keynote in touristic sites.  The dance was exclusively to entertain royalty. It wasn’t introduced to outsiders until the 1960s.  Apsara is inspired by the carvings on the Angkor Wat Temple.
  • 8. Festivals  The most important festivity is the Khmer New Year in April. People dance, play games, and eat many traditional foods.  Other festivities include the Chinese New Year (February) and Christmas (December).  Cambodia is adopting more and more traditions and celebrations of the United States because of the amount of Cambodians living here.
  • 9. Famous people  Because of the many years of war, revolution, and totalitarian governments, the most famous figures are politicians. King Norodom Sihamoni Prime Minister Hun Sen
  • 10. Deep culture  Cambodia survived a convulsive 20th century.  The most terrible event in the country’s history was the Khmer Rouge communist regime from 1975 to 1979.  3 million people were assassinated including 90% of teachers and intellectuals  The education system was severely damaged  The current government has communist principles and institutionalized corruption keep the country from recovery.
  • 11. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  Due to the high illiteracy rate in Cambodia, a teacher should contact the family as soon as possible to find out how much academic support the student will be getting from the parents. If parents have a low literacy level, the teacher should help them generate other strategies of home support (allowing time and place to do homework, reinforcing reading at home, etc.) and parental involvement with the student’s learning process.
  • 12. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  Since Cambodia was a colony of France and French was part of the public school curriculum, the highly educated population is most likely fluent to French. This is important because a teacher of a Cambodian newcomer (also valid for Vietnamese) may benefit from the knowledge of some cognates between English and French, because the likelihood of cognates between English and Khmer is very remote.
  • 13. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  Most Cambodians are Buddhists, and since Buddhism has been decreed “the religion of the country” by the government, students could expect to receive lessons about religion at school because they do in Cambodia. As teachers of diversity, we need to be ready to explain the separation between school (state) and religion in the United States.
  • 14. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  Because of the successive totalitarian regimes that have ruled the country, a Cambodian student may have difficulties understanding concepts of freedom, democracy, honesty, and the limited powers of our president. A teacher would have to be especially careful when these topics are brought up in Social Studies or any other subject. It would be necessary to create a base of knowledge to scaffold understanding. This scaffold would also benefit any other ELL coming from a country with a totalitarian government (Cubans, Chinese, North Koreans, etc.)
  • 15. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  One of the consequences of corrupt governments is the idea that some things can be obtained illegally without being judged as morally incorrect by society (like bribing teachers). It could be possible then that newcomers Cambodian parents offer to bribe a teacher to get help on important tests like STAAR, SAT, u other situation that will impact the student’s record. A teacher of diversity should be ready to explain the rules and policies of the American school system before jumping to conclusions and morally judging the parents or student’s actions.
  • 16. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  Cambodian students will always benefit from having books that represent them in the classroom. Some of these books are:  Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide by Icy Smith  The Clay Marble by Mingfong Ho  Cambodia by Rob Alcraft  Welcome to Cambodia by Dora Yip  Children of the River by Linda Crew  Silent Lotus by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux  Roots and Wings by Many Ly  These books should be previously reviewed by the teacher in terms of their appropriateness to grade level because they might contained vivid imagery of the hardship the Cambodians have endure.
  • 17. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  Cambodian families could highly benefit from a list of resources available at the community level. For example classes offered at the recreation center, parks, medical services, social services, sports leagues, Scouts, adult education opportunities, etc.
  • 18. Implications of the Cambodian culture in a multicultural classroom  It is also urgent to open spaces of reflection so the school staff can get familiar with the cultures represented in the student body, not just at the surface level but the deep culture. This could be done from in-depth, whole-day workshops to 30-minute synopsis of a culture, one at the time in the regular scheduled meetings.
  • 19. Final thoughts  Teachers and schools moving to multicultural education need to reflect on the strategies that will take them to a more equitable and egalitarian educative practice. Facing diversity with “patch on” activities such as bulletin boards and cultural festivals will not help the stakeholders to truly get to know each other and to create a common identity.  Getting to know the deep culture of our students is truly the only opportunity to serve their individualities and, like Nieto & Bode (2012) recommended, accommodate to their needs to promote “the democratic purposes of schooling.”
  • 20. References  Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia. (n.d.). Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder. Retrieved from http://www.tourismcambodia.org/contents/about_cambodia/ #comp  Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.  NGO Education Partnership. (n.d.) NGO Education Partnership. Retrieved from http://www.nepcambodia.org/  Ngor, Sinara. (2014) Personal communication.