Race, colour, ethnicity, gender, cultural-political-religious affiliations, nationality, language, social & economic backgrounds, mental & physical abilities – everything adds up to student diversity in a college/university.
The Indian Government has set a goal to make the country a major regional higher education destination in the coming years. The chronicle of higher education (2016) in the US indicates that about 4,600 higher education institutions in the country have integrated student diversity.
So, what makes student diversity an essential element in higher education?
The world is moving towards inclusivity and upholding the idea of inclusive excellence. The success of an institution & in turn, the growth of the education system of a country depends on the way it includes, values and engages with the rich diversity of students and other stakeholders of education.
It is the fundamental duty of the institutions to foster a campus that supports & encourages cross-cultural understanding and global awareness.
- Empirical studies show that socializing among students of diverse origin has a positive personal & academic influence. Exposure to diversity helps students open up to new communities & cultures, embrace variety, varied beliefs and attitudes.
- It prepares students for the real-world. Students get to look at every scenario or an issue with multiple perspectives. The diverse workforce in today’s day & age demands sensitivity to human differences, and the ability to associate with people from various backgrounds. Diversity in colleges lays the groundwork for students to work in a global society.
- Studying in a diverse environment breeds the culture of respecting each other’s differences. Learning in such an environment facilitates introspection and self-awareness by allowing one to compare and contrast life experiences with mixed backgrounds and circumstances. Better hold on oneself makes a student capable of making informed decisions about academic & professional future.
For instance, at the University of Nevada, Reno, the university’s annual cultural month celebrates the range of cultures represented at the university.
The University of Pennsylvania in the US, allows students to participate in intercultural leadership programs. The program brings together local & international students for a series of workshops & projects. The aim is to nurture an intercultural community of leaders who passionately learn about communities & the impact it makes while solving global issues.
The ‘Study in India’ initiative by the Indian Government aims to make the country an education hub for Asian & African students and promote inter- cultural understanding. The key target countries for the initiative include Nepal, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Thailand, Malaysia, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Iran etc.
An inclusive institution is thus a place that embraces everyone and celebrates differences, to holistically prepare students for a global society.