Diversity as an asset

Global conflicts – local challenges

New citizens, training and workplace integration

Although Denmark has not received as many asylum seekers as Germany and Sweden, it still has a sizeable number who go on to become recognised refugees and who must then be helped to make a life for themselves in their new country. The conference took place against the background of an ever changing Danish legal background – usually in the direction of stricter rules and diminishing financial resources.

A running theme was that we must stop talking ABOUT them and start talking WITH them but I had the feeling that I might have been the second most foreign attendee so this was obviously for the future.

An OECD report on migrant education in Denmark in 2010 noted the diversity of refugee support provision and made some recommendations for ensuring a more effective impact but ended with this comment:

Over and above these specific policy options, it is critical to sustain political leadership and build support for integration and inclusion as assets that open opportunities for Denmark.

It is interesting that the OECD uses the word inclusion. But it is the word integration  that is embedded in the Danish system to the extent that we have a Minister for Integration and every local government entity has its integration department. I wonder what a difference this makes to the final policy instruments and outcomes?

There is a big difference between integration and inclusion.


Where did the OECD view come from? Perhaps, in part, from the work of Bhikuh Parekh, a UK sociologist, who urged educators to see the added value of diversity in education brought by immigrants and refugees. In Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory he set out the deficit and asset model of multicultural education side by side.

Mono-cultural – deficit model Multicultural – asset model
Concerned with division & compensatory education Concerned with teacher development & transformative pedagogy
Changing people Changing organisations

The main conclusion is that a mono-cultural approach to education is a bad education because it excludes everything else. This chimes with results from the workplace where it has been found that a diverse workforce enhances organisational performance all the way down to the bottom line, mainly because a diverse workforce will lead to more different perspectives which in turn will increase creativity.



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