Culture Defines

Links to Achievement challenges: Community Engagement, Wellbeing

Cultural Defines is an endeavour whereby we are calling upon students, staff and members of our student’s whānau to help us develop strategies and resources that provide comprehensive information on the different cultural backgrounds in our increasingly culturally diverse Pupuke Kāhui Ako. The aim is to create a general guideline to improve cross-cultural understanding, social interactions and promote inclusion.

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Vision and Purpose

When we speak about a culture, we share our knowledge about the arts, language, behaviours (most often generalized and perceived), dress, celebrations, and food. Understanding a bit more about the hidden elements may help us increase our knowledge of different cultures, be culturally sensitive, improve general cultural competencies and well-being. This resource aims to outline the unseen elements of the culture such as values and beliefs which are the hardest for people to understand and/or deal with. Some of the specific being customs, roles, rules, status, traditions, thoughts patterns and perceptions. Why do we behave the way we do?

Cultural Identity

The Culture Defines resources merely provides a snapshot and are not to be confused or relied upon as a strict guide to set norms or expectations. It will allow us to gain some insights into the social and cultural environment of where our staff, students and parents come from. The practices, behaviours may or may not represent every single person from that culture. People around the world are constantly adapting and changing as society evolves. Our aim is to highlight some of the characteristics and elements of the mainstream culture. We must remember that people may come from the same country and yet have a different background and experiences.

Cultural Empathy

Many of our students may hold on to their traditions, values, beliefs, and practices that may differ from what is considered normal here. Students from minority groups must not feel that they must change and be identified in another way to fit in, however, if they do it is entirely their own choice and decision and must be respected. Why does a Sikh boy choose to cut his hair, stop wearing a patka/pugh and a kada/kara (things Sikhs identify with)? Why does another student not want to be identified as being from his/her culture? Some of these questions we may never be able to answer unless we engage with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. We can do our best to identify these real positions, biases and social dilemmas linked to different cultures. A great deal of understanding and empathy is needed to make our students feel like they can be themselves and belong, that they will not be judged for something they wear or customs they follow.

Cultural Collaboration 

Cultural Defines initiatives aim to:

  • Share knowledge of cultural elements, especially the unseen ones.
  • provide our community with purposeful insights into the cultural norms of other countries, 
  • provide a guide that could foster culturally sensitive interactions
  • provide some background and context – social, cultural, political
  • foster collaboration and engagement with people from the different culture groups and cross-cultural understanding.
  • describe verbal and non-verbal behaviours
  • feature stories from people in our community

 What does this mean in our Context?

The Cultural Defines initiative has been designed to better understand different cultures in our Kāhui Ako. We cannot take responsibility to present an ideal model by which to judge different cultures.

My Country?

If you or your school would like to help develop information/resources for a specific culture, please contact kahuiako@westlake.school.nz or, send us a tweet us on @pupukekahuiako