INTER Project: A practical Guide to implement Intercultural Education at school

INTER Project: A practical Guide to implement Intercultural Education at school

 

by Teresa Aguado und Margarita del Olmo

INTER: A practical Guide to implement Intercultural Education at school is the title of an European Socrates-Comenius 2.1 project whose aim has been to improve quality of education and to contribute to innovation in school by supporting them in the implementation of an intercultural approach. The project focuses on developing, using and validating a practical Guide for teacher training (both in training and in service) which will facilitate analysis, implementation and improvement of Intercultural Education in school. It is coordinated by UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia/Spanish Distance University) and involves ten partners (mainly High Education institutions) from seven European countries:

The INTER Project has been carried out along three years (2002-2005). The first stage of the Project was dedicated to analyze and assess the current situation of Intercultural Education within the different local spheres of all the partners, as well as to identify the needs where teacher training is concerned in order to elaborate the Guide. This analysis covered various sections: institutional context, cultural diversity map, educational policies, teacher training programmes and identification of resources and practices.

Some of the main conclusions of the analysis (INTER Project Needs Assessment Report, 2003) pointed out that:

  • Diversity is persistently and firmly associated with deficiency or dissabilities. The educational initiatives to meet the needs of different students are associated to special education, compensatory education or remedial programmes. Cultural diversity is associated to immigration, bilingualism or “minorities”.
  • Intercultural education is poorly implemented in the places we have been working in. The term intercultural is used to describe educational proposals that do not usually conform to the principles and objectives of an intercultural focus.

During the second stage of the INTER Project the Guide itself has been developed, together with two complementary products: a Directory of Resources and a video. The Guide focuses on promoting reflection about the school as a transformative and intercultural environment and challenging some of the recurring ideas surrounding cultural diversity in education. It will try to place the reader (in service or initial teachers) in a position from which he/she will be able to:

  • Make explicit his/her implicit ideas with which he/she is currently teaching and learning.
  • Critically think about them related to actual practices.
  • Consider different ways and ideas in order to teach/learn.
  • Decide if they will change and what they would like to change.
  • Provide them with information, examples, resources and materials to help them change their practices if they decide to do so.

Some of the main objectives of the Guide are to CHALLENGE:

  • Implicit goals of current Education
  • The homogeneity perspective
  • The ideas of academic success and academic failure
  • The idea that Education should mainly be transmission of knowledge
  • The association of cultural diversity with some social label or categories (immigration, ethnicity, minorities, nationality)
  • The idea that Intercultural Education consists only of celebrating diversity
  • Compensatory Education as an integration/adaptation strategy
  • The idea that Intercultural Education is a tool to give actual recipes to solve specific problems
  • The myth that IE evaluates only students’ academic performance.

The INTER Guide intends to become a flexible training tool, capable to be adapted to different learning environments (face to face, distance learning), target audiences (initial training teachers, in service teachers, other) and timing (regular classes, courses, seminars).

We have divided the INTER Guide into eight modules, combining theory and practice but focusing on how to implement the intercultural approach from a different angle. It also includes a Glossary of terms. We have chosen the following ideas as perspectives to help the reader in understanding and implementing Intercultural Education:

Module 1: Compulsory Education - Challenges the reader into rethinking the significance of compulsory education today, critically analyzing its aims and functions and introducing the Intercultural approach as a proposal for transformation of schools.

Module 2: Diversity versus Homogeneity in Schools - We define here the ideas of homogeneity and diversity, helping the reader to identify both in her/his school environments.

Module 3: School, Home, Community - Reflects on the importance of good relationships and collaboration among families, schools and other community agents, considering different alternatives of collaboration.

Module 4: Theoretical Assumptions - Focuses on identifying the implicit/explicit theories of teachers, showing theories underlying the Intercultural approach (about teaching/learning/ communication) and reflecting upon the practical implications of former analysis.

Module 5: Educational Policies - Analyzes educational policies trying to go beyond the plain understanding of laws, norms and regulations to identify and recognize the ideological interests underlying models and ideas which give reason and drive all legislation.

Module 6: Evaluation, Student Assessment and Quality Assurance - Encourages reflection on what evaluation is and what we think it should be. It goes beyond the testing of students’ academic performances and concentrates attention on the teaching and learning process.

Module 7: School Structure and Organization - Tries to make explicit our mental images about schools, to reflect about the main dimensions in school organization, and to elaborate on the practical implications in order to build an Intercultural school.

Module 8: Teaching and Learning Strategies - Studies learners and teacher’s roles in depth, helps teachers be aware of and practice different strategies and makes known different experiences which teachers could apply.

Each module has a similar structure, including the following sections: To start thinking; Information; Activities; Proposals for collaboration; Planning and adapting the curriculum; Specific resources and additional links; and, finally, Reflective questions and evaluation.

Beside the explicit and visible products of the project (INTER Guide on paper and virtual version; Directory of Resources, Video) we consider that one of our more important achievements has been the cooperation we have developped during the process. At this moment the products and relevant information about the project are available at the following web sites:

INTER Project web site and  INTER Project partners - learning community built to support cooperation among the ). To enter this site it is necessary to obtain permission from the community administrator.

Along the current last year of completion of the Project, the INTER Guide has been applied in the ten High Education Institutions of the seven European countries to be tested and evaluated before its further implementation. We are applying the Guide, Video and Directory of Resources in teacher training seminars and courses (face to face and distance learning) during the 2004/2005 academic year. In this piloting process about 500 students (initial and in-service teachers) have been participating.

Once the validation phase was accomplished we prepared the final version of the INTER Guide and DVD “Kaleidoschool” in order to apply them in Universities (initial teacher training), Teacher Training Programs (in-service teachers), Educational Administrations, Teachers Centers, etc. The final version is available in five languages: English, Latvian, Norwish, Portuguese and Spanish. 

Links

The guide has been published by the Ministry of Education in Spain and in Latvia. The DVD is available here

Investigación en Educación Intercultural

February 2008

Teresa Aguado and Margarita del Olmo are coordinator and assistant of the INTER-Projects in Madrid. (www.uned.es/interproject)