Intercultural education refers to a pedagogy — aims, content, learningprocesses, teaching methods, syllabus and materials, and assessment — onepurpose of which is to develop intercultural competence in learners of all ages inall types of education as a foundation for dialogue and living together.Intercultural competence can be developed in different ways throughdifferent types of education. Three types of education exist and for the purposesof this paper are defined following the Council of Europe (2010) Charter onEDC and HRE [21; 8]:
Informal education means the lifelong process whereby every individualacquires attitudes, skills and knowledge from the educational influences andresources in his or her own environment and from daily experience andconversation (family, peer group, neighbours, encounters, library, mass media,work, play, etc.).In informal education — for example in what is learnt from parents, carers,peers, journalists and others in one’s social environment — interculturalcompetence is acquired with differing degrees of deliberate activity on the partof parents, carers, peers, journalists and others. Parents, for example, may have a pedagogical approach to developing intercultural competence which is more orless conscious and deliberate, or bring up their children with no deliberateintercultural purpose at all.
Non-formal education means any planned programme of education designedto improve a range of skills and competences outside the formal educationalsetting, and throughout lifelong learning.
In non-formal education — as provided for example by local communities,NGOs, youth work, adult education and social work — intercultural competenceis a pedagogical goal pursued through deliberate inclusion of specific activitiesfor learning.
Formal education means the structured education and training system thatruns from pre-primary and primary through secondary school and on to highereducation. It takes place, as a rule, at general or vocational educationalinstitutions and usually leads to certification.
In formal education, the pedagogy of intercultural competence involvesthe planned inclusion of learning outcomes defined in terms of the componentsof intercultural competence. In formal education, with its high degree ofplanning, responsibility for developing intercultural competence in learnersreaches across the explicit and the ‘hidden’ curriculum, and is shared by allteachers albeit to differing degrees.
Each type of education involves a relationship between a ‘facilitator oflearning’ and ‘learners’. In informal learning there are, for example, parents andchildren, or adults learning together, for example politicians, artists,professionals in the media, religious, spiritual or community leaders, workcolleagues or fellow students learning from each other; in non-formal educationthere are, for example, for example, youth workers and young people or trainersand adults; in formal education there are teachers/lecturers and pupils/students.‘Facilitators’ usually have intentions or purposes throughout theirinteraction with those in their charge. Teachers, youth workers and adulteducation tutors, for example, are trained to plan and design their lessons andactivities, and do so in a conscious way, whereas parents may sometimesconsciously plan activities for their children, or follow advice from books, orimitate their own parents, or adopt what is customary in their community, orfollow practices they see on television, and do so intuitively. In informallearning, where people are constantly learning from each other, they can havethe intention, more or less conscious, of influencing others. However, informallearning can also sometimes take place through observation and imitation,without any intentions to influence by the person whose actions are imitated bythe learner.
Principles of planning. Planning and pursuing the development of intercultural competenceamongst learners is thus important for all facilitators of learning. Some will doso deliberately as a professional task as teachers, youth workers, social workers,for example; others will do so less deliberately, as an inherent aspect of theirrole as parents, employers, politicians, etc.; and yet others will do so oftenwithout any conscious planning or awareness of what they ‘teach’ by what theydo or say.In most cases there are some principles of planning which are related tothe different components of intercultural competence described earlier.
Facilitators need to include in their planning:
Experience: Developing attitudes of respect, curiosity and openness, aswell as acquiring knowledge about other cultural orientations and affiliations,are best pursued through directly experiencing how people act, interact andcommunicate — from their perspective. Facilitators may well provideopportunities for learning through experience, which can be either ‘real’ or‘imagined’; learners are able to gain experiences, for example, through games,activities, traditional media and social media, through face-to-face interactionwith others or through correspondence. Parents may select books for theirchildren or travel with them to other neighbourhoods, regions and countries;youth workers may organise training events and international meetings foryoung people; or history teachers may plan dramatic reconstructions or activitiesthat aim to develop multiperspectivity. All of these examples can provideopportunities for challenging one’s assumptions through comparison andanalysis.
Comparison: In order to encourage understanding and respect for peoplewho are perceived to have different cultural affiliations from themselves,learners can benefit from exposure to ‘difference’. Learners often compare whatis unfamiliar with what is familiar and evaluate the unfamiliar as ‘bizarre’, or as‘worse’ and even as ‘uncivilised’. Facilitators need to be aware of this kind of‘comparison of value’ and replace it with ‘comparison for understanding’, whichinvolves seeing similarities and differences in a non-judgemental manner andtaking the perspective of ‘the other’ in order to ‘see ourselves as others see us’.In other words, learners can be encouraged to develop an understanding of howwhat is normal for them can be regarded as ‘bizarre’ or ‘uncivilised’ fromsomeone else’s perspective and vice versa, and that both are simply ‘different’in some aspects and ‘alike’ in other aspects. Learners thus reflect on and areengaged in a conscious comparison of their own values and attitudes withdifferent ones, in order to better realise how they construct ‘the other’.
Analysis: Behind similarities and differences, there are explanations forthe practices, the values and the beliefs which many people of a particularcultural affiliation may share. Facilitators can support their learners in theanalysis of what may lie beneath what they can see others doing and saying.This can be achieved, for example, by careful discussion and analysis, throughinquiry based methods, of written or audio/video sources. The analysis can thenbe reflected back on the learners so that they may question their own practices,values and beliefs.
Reflection: Comparison, analysis and experience need to beaccompanied by time and space for reflection and the development of criticalawareness and understanding. Facilitators, especially in non-formal and formaleducation, need to ensure that such time and space is provided in a deliberateand planned way. For example, teachers may ask students to discuss theirexperiences, encourage students to keep a logbook to keep track of theirlearning, and write or draw or share or otherwise respond to what they havelearnt; but parents may also sit quietly with their children to talk about anexperience.
Action: Reflection can and should be the basis for taking action, forengagement with others through intercultural dialogue, and for becominginvolved in cooperative activities with people who have different culturalaffiliations. Facilitators may take the responsibility of encouraging and evenmanaging cooperative action, for example in making improvements in the socialand physical environment (through ‘whole school’ approaches or schoolpartnerships) and should emphasise that all action should be responsible andrespectful.
Methods of learning and teaching. Experience, comparison, analysis, reflection and cooperative action, asbriefly outlined above, are most effectively implemented in non-formal andformal education if teaching and learning methods are in line with theeducational aim of developing intercultural competence in any subject matter.
There is much research indicating that learners learn better in contexts wherelecturing from the front and transmitting information is minimal, and wherepedagogical approaches, methods and techniques that encourage learners tobecome actively involved in discovery, challenge, reflection and cooperation areused instead. The most effective learning activities engage learners as wholepersons and address their intellectual, emotional and physical potential.Thisalso applies to the development of intercultural competence. ‘Co-operativelearning’ embodies principles which are central to intercultural competence:learners work together to achieve a common goal in a respectful, appropriateand effective way, using their pluri-lingual competence.Facilitators who aim to develop intercultural competence are encouragednot only to activate learners’ intellectual understandings but also to address theiremotional stances as well as to support new action and participation. ‘Learningby doing’ approaches, acknowledging and drawing upon learners’ previousexperiences, and promoting community outreach and partnerships, are just a fewexamples of practices which are best suited to develop learners’ autonomy andresponsibility in the matter of intercultural competence.
Evaluation and assessment. The planning and implementation of activities to develop interculturalcompetence in each kind of education is usually accompanied by evaluation and, in formal education especially, assessment.The distinction between ‘evaluation’ and ‘assessment’ is important. For thepurposes of this document, they are defined as follows:
Evaluation is the observation and measurement of the effectiveness of a lesson, course, or programme of study whose aim includes thedevelopment of learners’ intercultural competence
Assessment is the measurement or systematic description of a learner’sdegree of proficiency in intercultural competenceIn all types of education, evaluation should include measurement of theeffectiveness of the development of intercultural competence through plannedactivities. There are many tests of intercultural competence and these can beused by institutions for both formative and summative evaluation purposes, forexample for self-evaluation by institutions or in international comparisons byexternal bodies, respectively.
In both formal and non-formal education, it is possible to use differentapproaches to evaluation of teaching and learning and to use methods of variouskinds to measure or describe the degree of effectiveness of an activity orprogramme.
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