Open Schools for Intercultural Learning

The 9th Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange took place in Brussels, Belgium at the European Economic and Social Committee on 24-27 October. It was hosted by the European Federation for Intercultural Learning, and funded by Fondazione Intercultura and the Erasmus+ programme. It focused on the topic of Intercultural Learning: a whole school approach and showcased the results of Erasmus+ projects such as Intercultural learning for pupils and teachers, Open Schools for Open Societies and Open School Doors. The aim was to link project outcomes and tools developed  to the latest policy developments at the level of the European Union, Council of Europe, OECD and UNESCO.

The Forum was building on the outcomes of the previous edition which tackled the theoretical aspects of intercultural training of teachers. The event made it possible for a selected group of about 60 researchers, policy makers, teachers, headmasters and educators to look how to expand intercultural learning to all actors involved in the school, in an integrated approach.

Key questions discussed at the Forum:

  • What are the elements of a whole school approach to ICL
  • What are some examples?
  • Who are the various stakeholders involved and what are their roles?
  • What preparation is needed for teachers?
  • What is the role of an exchange program?
  • What assessment system can be used?

Lack of relevance of school for students was identified as a major issue to tackle and the reason for transforming education. Participants agreed that curiosity and trust are key to being able to involve community. For this, school needs to become a learning organisation. School heads as well as other members of leadership – and to a certain extent all educators – need to be committed and also to acquire change management skills to succeed. Non-traditional school achievements need to be valued and highlighted. It is necessary to open school doors for the community to enter the school, but also for teachers to go out and meet parents and children outside of school.

Opening up schools is the only promising solution for the necessary transformation for 21st century learning, but it is currently endangered by some national and European trends to exclude local communities, even stakeholders from the school under often false pretences of security.

Several exciting examples were showcased to inspire participants, eg.:

  • Netherlands – ‘Broad Schools’ and ‘House of Children’
  • Hungary – a community involvement school from Tatabánya
  • USA – inviting external speakers from the community, teachers becoming more visible at local level by attending events
  • Ireland – the possibility of a transition year that makes it possible for young people to do community work or go abroad
  • European Schools as a means of intercultural learning, preserving the right to mother tongue and building mutual understanding

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