What is Cultural Education and Culture Based Learning?

Cultural Education and Culture Based Learning are often confused because of the similar outcome of higher student engagement.  However, there are subtle differences that can help you determine the best approach for your learning environment.

What is Cultural Education: Instruction or interactive experiences that provides education about other cultures in the learning environment for each subject. IE: Asian math techniques are presented in Math class. The Indigenous perspective is presented in History class. Any number of authors from non-Eurocentric cultures are studied in English/Literature. Islamic Science is investigated in Science. As well, how science or engineering is used in different cultures and famous scientists from different cultures. Language classes are offered in sufficient number that are beyond Romance and Germanic language classes. In the arts curriculum, music and art would be explored from musicians and artists that are typically unrepresented in the school.

Cultural Education is important for the following reasons:

  1. We live in a truly global community and learning about cultures that are not like our own can help us integrate into that community as an adult
  2. Presenting different origins of subjects and how they are utilized in a diversity of cultures provides more opportunities for comprehension of the learning material
  3. Allowing students to see their own culture represented in the learning material can improve their sense of belonging in the learning environment.

What is Culture-Based Learning (CBL): The process of integrating different cultures or lived experience of the students into the formal learning topics. IE. Using history books that cover perspectives from the students’ cultures with primary sources that are of that culture. Cultural performers, authors, and artists that represent the cultures of the students are frequent guests into the learning environment. Teachers or professors also encourage students to discuss their own culture or lived experience in the classroom and allow it to be a part of the topic being explored. There is a recognition of cultural holidays outside of the typical state or federal holidays.

Culture-Based Learning is important for the following reasons:

  1. A diversity of perspectives can improve students’ abilities to find numerous solutions to a single challenge
  2. Encouraging a student to integrate their culture into the learning material can improve not only their interest, but their comprehension and application of the learning material.
  3. Allowing each student to present their culture or lived experience can help promote cultural awareness and appreciation of similarities which can prevent bullying

Adding Cultural Education and/or Culture-Based Learning to the classroom can be a powerful factor in improving student learning, retention, and application. It can also improve the transfer of the education outside of the formal learning environment and into the student’s lives and interests. Transfer of knowledge is considered the pinnacle of solid education and these concepts can improve this objective.

See the video below for How to use Culture Based Learning in Education.




    1. Representation Matters: https://tatp.utoronto.ca/teaching-toolkit/equity-diversity-and-inclusion/representation-matters
    2. Diversity Leads to Better Solutions: https://showmethedata.blog/diversity-leads-to-better-solutions
    3. Using Formal and Informal Curricula to Improve Interactions Between Home and International Students: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1028315308329786
    4. Overcoming Perceived Differences to Prevent Bullying: https://www.stopbullying.gov/blog/2015/10/13/overcoming-perceived-differences-prevent-bullying 
    5. The Relationship Between Sense of Belonging and Student Outcomes in CS1 and Beyond  https://dl.acm.org/doi/fullHtml/10.1145/3446871.3469748


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