Promoting inclusion, cultural diversity and tolerance in education

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This tutorial offers educators information and practical ideas on how to promote inclusion, and how to approach topics of cultural diversity and tolerance with students.

How does EU policy promote inclusion and tolerance in education?

To understand better how the EU aims to foster tolerance and respect for diversity, we recommend the NESET report (2016, in English): it not only provides a comprehensive overview on education policies in the EU but also describes practices that appear to work best. The report’s conclusions include that bringing together children from different backgrounds is not enough – staff and pupil intercultural competences need development.

Another recent study by the EC focuses on diversity within the teaching profession with particular focus on teachers with migrant and/or minority background. It examines barriers and also policies and initiatives to support teacher diversity. The study found a wide range of barriers to the diversity of the teaching workforce at each stage of the teaching ‘pathway’ and recommends that in order to increase the pace of change, more specific policies and initiatives focusing on teacher diversity should be implemented.

One of the European Commission’s ET2020 Working Groups focuses particularly on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching in the different sectors of education and training. It follows up the objectives of the Paris Declaration to promote critical thinking, media literacy and intercultural understanding.

What kind of initiatives are carried out in practice?

Several European initiatives and projects work actively for more inclusive schooling and to promote active citizenship. Find out in our practice article how eTwinning and the SIRIUS network support the development of social, civic and intercultural competences, critical thinking and media literacy as well as fostering the education of disadvantaged students.

European and national level policies are important, but schools have also their say and they should be encouraged to develop their own practices and policies in order to integrate all children. Find out more in the Expert article written for the Gateway by Clare Ryan: Inclusion and Diversity in Education – The Imperative to Challenge.

An inspiring example on how newly arrived children can be welcomed at school comes from the Schiller Gymnasium in Cologne, Germany. See in this video how up to 100 newly arrived migrant children have already benefited from the school’s introductory classes, which prepare them to join mainstream education.

Migration – Integration: Schule gestaltet Vielfalt | School Manages Diversity! from Pädagogischer Austauschdienst on Vimeo.

Parents and communities can also have an important role in supporting the integration of students with migrant background. In the ‘Education Talks’ video below you can listen to Tomislav Tudjman, Erasmus University of Rotterdam, and Jens Schneider, Osnabrück University, on migrant education.

How can I promote inclusion and tolerance in my classroom?

There are plenty of resources that teachers and educators can use to address these topical issues with their students.

For instance, start by exploring materials developed by the Council of Europe: the Charter for All helps to introduce the principles of human rights and democracy to young people. Also discover COMPASS, the manual for human rights education, including learning activities. It includes topics such as citizenship and participation, discrimination and intolerance, migration, and religion and belief.

A more specific focus is offered in the publication by OSCE, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, ‘Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education’.

Multimedia can make exploring the topic more engaging. For instance, this interactive map, created by Lucify, illustrates the flow of migrants to European countries. The Web portal Better Internet for Kids provides information and teaching resources on media literacy and smart use of digital media. Videos provided by the Council of Europe can also be useful.

eTwinning and its collaborative cross-border online projects are an ideal way to introduce your students to new people, cultures, traditions and languages. For practical ideas, discover the eTwinning Kits by selecting the topic ‘Citizenship’. 

Professional Development Courses

To learn more about the topic, take the free online courses provided by the Teacher Academy. A set of three courses from autumn 2016 explore the topic of cultural diversity and the integration of newly arrived migrant students, and are still open for perusal. The first course is on Cultural Diversity in Your Classroom.

Share your views and ideas!

We would like to invite you to share your experiences, ideas, and opinions on the matter. You can, for instance, reflect on the following questions (to post your comment please first login):

  • How do your students perceive cultural diversity and tolerance?
  • How are inclusive education and tolerance promoted in your school? 
  • How do you see the role of parents and local community? How are they involved? 
  • What else could you or your school do in this respect?