This emerges from a new report from the JRC’s INNO4DIV project, which analysed 21 innovative cases for developing teachers’ intercultural and democratic competences and was published on the occasion of the European Diversity Month.
The report comes out at a time when the EU, welcoming an ever-increasing number of people who flee Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, is once again reminded how crucial inclusive education proves to be in intercultural settings. The sense of belonging that inclusivity can foster is key to developing the civic mindset of children from diverse backgrounds, and thus to nurturing a healthy democracy.
The 21 cases were handpicked by the International Association for Intercultural Education and Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir along the criteria formulated in an earlier report of the INNO4DIV project, such as innovativeness, effectiveness, transferability, and sustainability, aiming to cover the nine key enabling components for teachers’ intercultural competence development. These were drawn from a literature review and aligned to the Council of Europe’s Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture.
Nine Key Enabling Components for IDC development in Teacher Education
- Common understanding of Intercultural and Democratic Competence (IDC), interculturality, cultural diversity, European values, and ethics of human dignity.
- Supporting educational policies contributing to the development of sustainable partnerships among different stakeholders.
- Effective initial teacher education based on experiential knowledge, critical thinking and meaningful learning.
- Teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD) with high quality IDC programmes and projects that incorporate cultural diversity as a resource for learning and teaching.
- Culturally responsive, transversal and flexible curriculum model based on multi-perceptivity and on a holistic approach.
- Engaging intercultural responsive pedagogies.
- Availability of digital and blended learning resources and of adaptable tools for different educational settings and cultural contexts. Free and open access to teaching and learning resources, materials and platforms.
- Whole School Approach (WSA) and community of practice.
- Teacher educators with experiential intercultural knowledge and understanding.
The first of these components is centred on the common understanding of what intercultural and democratic competence actually means. For example, the Erasmus + funded project Children’s Voices for a New Human Space overcame disparate concepts of inclusivity by introducing a new reference framework, making a cross-cutting approach possible. Interculturality was not taught as a single subject but transversally.
The second key enabling component refers to the partnerships that educational stakeholders set up among themselves, leading to the emergence of professional networks and communities of practice. As an example of this, the social education policy introduced by the Romanian Ministry of Education brought about a valuable synergy between the ministry and teacher education institutions, creating materials later used to boost secondary school teachers’ capacity to teach an intercultural-based subject.
Another component is about making sure that teachers come into contact with diversity already during their education, by encouraging, as the Diversity Internship in Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven does, a critical review of social justice concerns and self-reflection on own preconceptions. Going further, the fourth component is the teachers’ direct experience with interculturality. The Pestalozzi Programme – Strengthening education for democracy attached value to diverse backgrounds, selecting participants from different EU Member States.
The fifth key enabling component focuses on triggering intercultural thinking by a culturally responsive curriculum. In this sense, the Intercultural Mediation Programme implemented in Croatian post-conflict societies starts with an open curriculum in which participants can integrate culturally diverse elements.
Similarly, the sixth component is about responsive pedagogies, stressing the importance of the dialogue between the teacher and the students, leaving room for open questions, ambiguity, and critical thinking. The Philosophy for Children project prepares teachers to promote critical, creative and caring thinking among students.
The availability of digital and blended learning tools is another key component. In this vein, the Intercultura Assessment Protocol uses a ready-to-use validated instrument for measuring intercultural competence.
The eighth component addressing the whole school approach stresses the involvement of local authorities, the community, academics, or local NGOs in teaching. In one successful project, the Learning to Live Together Arigatou International Programme, school systems were supported by faith leaders and the NGOs of the community.
Finally, the crucial role of teacher educators with experiential intercultural competence is one of the focus of the European Wergeland Centre, set up by the Council of Europe and the Norwegian government. It promotes experiential learning, whereby teachers develop their intercultural competences through peer exchange with educators from other cultural contexts.
The 21 cases of good practices could serve as an inspiration for making diverse classrooms more inclusive, avoiding social fragmentation and the formation of parallel communities plagued by mutual prejudice-based mistrust. They could enable all children to grow up to be active, responsible, and open-minded members of society – a worthy goal amidst the high levels of polarisation in the EU, diminishing satisfaction with democracy, and identity issues becoming prevalent.
Studying good examples can also bring the EU closer to achieving the goals of the 2018 Council Recommendation on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching. Continuing this work, the JRC will publish another INNO4DIV report around the summer, with practical recommendations for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers.
- Publication date
- 25 May 2022
- Joint Research Centre