Cultural and Linguistic Competence

As schools receive increasingly diverse families they recognize the need to develop their capacity to work in more culturally and linguistically competent ways. Cultural competence means the ability to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, interpersonal styles and behaviors that differ across cultures, and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing and evaluating programs and services. For more detail see:

Moving Toward Cultural Responsiveness: A Guide for Teachers (ATA)

Enhancing Cultural Competence in Out- of -School Time Programs

LinguisticLinguistic Competence refers to the ability of the staff to communicate effectively and convey information in a manner that is easily understood by diverse audiences including persons with limited English proficiency or limited literacy. It also refers to the ways that practitioners adjust their speech to accommodate cultural perspectives. Another important element is ensuring that persons of diverse background are equipped with the supports they need to understand and provide informed consent for legally binding documents such as consent forms, release of information forms, and applications. Linguistic competence is also the recognition that families hold and transmit knowledge and wisdom through the use of their home languages. As much as is possible, schools should encourage and facilitate strong first language.

Cultural and linguistic competency requires that organizations, i.e. school jurisdictions dedicate and/or access resources which may include:

  • Information about the cultural groups being served
  • Bilingual/bicultural or multilingual/multicultural staff
  • Cultural brokers/advisors
  • Partnerships with immigrant serving agencies
  • Foreign language interpretation services including distance technologies
  • Assistive technology devices
  • Computer assisted real time translation or viable real time transcriptions
  • Print material in easy to read, low literacy, picture and symbol format
  • Materials in audio formats
  • Classroom practices that enable students to take advantage of the knowledge they bring from first language and first culture
  • Materials developed and tested for specific cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups
  • Extended time for school processes such as orientations and parent conferences
  • Parent advisory councils which represent diverse perspectives

More detail about how school leaders can promote practices which build the capacity of school staff to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students can be found in  Leadership Tips.

Information about cultural groups can be found in the Links: Cultural Profiles area of the Student Background Toolkit.

Examples of materials that have been created for culturally and linguistically diverse parents can be found in the Links:Resources area of the Toolkit.

See  also Schools Helping Children & Families  Checklist in the Toolkit.