We learn better together: intercultural learning across Europe
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Intercultural learning refers to the process of developing knowledge, attitudes and skills that are needed when interacting with different cultures. In our increasingly multicultural society, it becomes more and more necessary for this to be included in the curriculum. This article presents three initiatives that constitute successful examples of intercultural learning in Europe.
Nightingale: mentoring and integration project - Sweden
Nightingale is a Swedish mentoring and integration project which pairs university students with primary pupils from a migrant and/or minority background. The programme encourages the mentor and the child to get together for approximately two to three hours per week over a period of seven to eight months. During these informal meetings, the mentor and the child participate in activities together, such as going to the zoo or the cinema, doing sports, etc. The main purpose of Nightingale is:
- to contribute to the development of beginning teachers’ cross-cultural understanding and intercultural learning through mentoring socially and ethnically diverse children, and
- to facilitate contacts between university students and schoolchildren, bridging the gap between theory and practice in teacher education.
Moreover, the Nightingale programme is based on the idea of “mutual benefit”. The mentor acts as a positive role model by establishing a personal relationship with the child, which in turn helps to strengthen the child’s personal and social confidence. The student gains insight into a child’s life (and family), as well as new understanding and empathy for people who lead lives completely different from their own. This will certainly prove an asset as students continue their higher education courses, and afterwards, in their professional careers.
Joaquim Ruyra Elementary School - Spain
Joaquim Ruya Elementary School is not a typical school. In the 2016-2017 school year, 92% of its pupils were immigrants representing 28 different nationalities (including Pakistan, Morocco, Georgia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, the Philippines, China, Bangladesh, Senegal, and the USA) or from a minority background (Romani), and it has a 40% mobility rate.
Despite its high diversity and its location in a disadvantaged suburban district of Barcelona, the school has achieved academic outcomes above the average in the Catalan standardised tests, outperforming elite schools in the region. How was this accomplished?
All classes in the school feature group work 40% to 60% of the time. The groups mix students of different abilities, genders and nationalities, and are small enough to ensure that no one is left out. Each group is facilitated by an adult (e.g. a classroom assistant, a volunteer parent), often supported by psychologists and special education teachers. The extra support and student interaction are considered essential for supporting and reinforcing children’s learning.
These innovations opened the school to the neighbourhood, improving inclusion and solidarity, and raising everyone’s expectations as to what pupils can achieve.
Inclusive Schools: Making a Difference for Roma Children
Inclusive Schools: Making a Difference for Roma Children (INSCHOOL) is a joint project of the European Union and Council of Europe focusing on inclusive education. The project was launched in 2017 in five countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovak Republic and Bulgaria.
What is interesting about this project is that it is based on the assumption that creating policies of change is not enough. Change needs to be reflected at school level and in the child’s learning environment. Instead of focusing on the child as the problem, INSCHOOL puts at the heart of its action the education system and its capacity to respond to the needs of Roma children, to celebrate differences and support their learning experience.
The main activities under the project focus on two levels of intervention. The practice level consists in interventions in schools, with the aim of increasing understanding of the benefits of inclusive education. Within each country, the programme targets a number of schools in different municipalities in order to ensure an evidence-based intervention at policy level. The second level of intervention targets policy review and adaptation. The project has a long list of achievements, including:
- increased involvement of parents in non-formal activities, including workshops and awareness -raising on various topics,
- promotion of non-formal education with an inclusive approach, and
- improvement of the school premises through grant-financed activities.
To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.
For more projects on intercultural learning, check out the European Toolkit for Schools.