Intercultural dialogue and the need to deal with otherness are a fact of life in modern society, particularly in Europe. European societies, though constructed around the multicultural ideals of the 20th century, are having increasing difficulty in formulating, in educative and social policy, the principle of multiculturalism, as a result of the economic and societal pressures of the 21st century. In order for our societies to remain or become increasingly open and cooperative it is vital to empower future generations with the tools and knowledge to appreciate cultural diversity as well as to contribute and benefit from multicultural societies through active global citizenship.
It is becoming increasingly clear that current policies and activities within intercultural education are insufficient. School systems in many European countries are beginning to place increased emphasis on the Intercultural Competence of pupils as a response to this need. Yet, the challenge, both in scope and content, extends beyond the learning, which can reasonably be provided by the formal educational sector alone and ambitions and coordination remain diffuse at a national policy level. Indeed, certain educative practices within the EU bring into stark relief the gap between policy and implementation. This symposium aims to provide insight, ideas, partnerships and a new path for actors from all sectors aiming to be active and trusted partners in the strengthening and adaptation of intercultural education.
Hyper-mobilization and mass immigration in today’s world means that it is no longer accurate or useful to define cultural identity easily and lazily in geographical terms. The simple fact of physical movement is not in itself a precursor to being influenced positively by where we go and who we communicate with, in an intercultural sense.
“Cultural” exchange – ideas, music, literature, film – is all around us, all the time, in the 21st century, from country to country. This fluidity of definition and delimitation of culture provides significant challenges for modern societies in the implementation Intercultural Education within their national curriculum. And yet building Intercultural Competence and proficiency amongst our youth is more important today than it has ever been, on a number of levels.
An exchange experience is widely viewed as a way of gaining the linguistic proficiency necessary to be an effective professional in today’s economy. Yet being truly multilingual requires an advanced degree of intercultural learning – experiential learning - which is not reflected in most national curriculums and which in some cases is actively proscribed.
Radicalization of youth populations within the EU, whilst it is as much an economic problem as a social one, represents a battle for the hearts and minds of a generation of underserved youth. This is a systemic problem. The system of formal education proposed is rarely sufficient for developing true intercultural competence and assessment via testing is not an adequate way to measure its development.
Four Themes of Focus
This conference will focus on the following four themes relating to youth mobility and Intercultural Learning in these uncertain times:
Identifying Need for Intercultural Education and proficiency in the modern world
“The idea of youth exchange and mobility, as part of a broader focus on Intercultural Education, has always existed to promote dialogue between people and cultures as an alternative to armed conflict. Whilst there is an enormous industry attached to youth mobility and linguistic exchange programmes, very few international programmes exist between cultures that could genuinely benefit from this fluid exchange of youth and culture, for example between Europe and the MENA countries. Moreover, the need for dialogue between cultures is as much a domestic phenomenon as an international one.”
Building partnerships to improve Intercultural Education
“In order to be effective in promoting democratic ideals, our education systems must take into account the increasingly mobile and multicultural nature of modern societies. Difference and cultural, social or religious tension are not topics which we can afford to relegate to secondary levels when we look at the world as it is evolving. Our children need to be equipped to learn how to encounter and live with others in a sustainable way in order for them to become active citizens in the world which we will leave to them. Opportunities for qualitative Intercultural Learning for pupils, through mobility programmes, should be structurally encouraged and supported.”
Innovating approaches to Intercultural Education
“Intercultural education is not confined to a single curriculum area. Intercultural education aspires to further improve the quality of education and to have a positive impact on society at large. A variety of approaches and programmes exist today whose goal is to promote Intercultural competence. In broad terms, Intercultural education exists as part of outward looking curriculums locally, but is all too often linked purely to linguistic proficiency. It is very rarely part of a cohesive, national curriculum dedicated to improving the intercultural competence of the public. This is true for programmes which have developed to promote Intercultural competence in a class setting, but even more so for mobility programmes.”
Assessing Intercultural Education and its impact
“As a code of practice in education that seeks not to run parallel to, but to support and give depth to our national curricula, Intercultural Learning is a cornerstone of the approach to education in modern multicultural societies. Yet defining the success of Intercultural education and measuring intercultural competence remains a challenge. In the case of Intercultural learning programmes such as youth exchange, very few studies exist to analyze the long term impact of youth programmes on the individual and upon society, highlighting the gap between research, policy and implementation.”