Cultural Competence

An educational environment cannot be universally inclusive unless it is culturally sensitive. Thus, instructors need to develop several competencies, known as cultural competencies. Cultural competence can be defined as the ability to utilize the leaner’s culture as a learning facilitator. These competencies include: (1) awareness of own perspectives and cultural values and beliefs, (2) knowledge of diversity and differing values, beliefs and perspectives, (3) Good communication skills with others across cultures, and (4) respect for diversity.

Cultural classification, however, cannot necessary reflect ones culture. Individuals and communities evolve constantly. I myself lived in different countries and cultures. I also seek to be practical, pragmatic and scientific about everything in life and I am a reflective learner who dwells on theories and abstraction (the latter was confirmed by my Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire results, which I took using this link https://www.webtools.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/). My friends are also from different cultures. But this is not the case for the vast majority of my students. However, they are still going to work in an environment where they will have to interact with people from different cultures. That is, in the medical field, which is one of the most multicultural environments in Saudi Arabia. The medical workforce include many expatriates and must treat all the residents of Saudi Arabia, which including many expatriates (ca. 30% of the population). Moreover, the medical field requires cultural competence, which is a term that has been used in the medical practice before the educational field.

Cultural competence requires continuous reflection and listening to the learners. In addition, providing exercises that can build self-awareness within the learners can help. Also, presenting different cultures to the learners can help remove any misconceptions or stereotypes. Making students work in multicultural groups is even better in building understanding and respect for the needs of all learners and enable an inclusive educational environment to exist.

I always wanted to understand my students. So I listened to them and asked them to tell me about their values, beliefs and ideas. The most important outcome I leaned was that they are frustrated with being forced to study in a foreign language (English) in their own country while their native language is Arabic. This allowed me to justify and clarify the reasons behind this. To overcome this language barrier, I always try to elaborate, paraphrase, and translate the concepts I teach to Arabic. However, many senior academics from other institutions say to me that translation is not a good idea. I also received comments through the Youtube indicating the same. They emphasize that I need to stick to one language and not mix two languages in the teaching process. I, on the other hand, think I have no other choice, and that my approach is justifiable in the culture and environment I am working.

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