Empowering European teachers with intercultural training

by Tinna Sveinsdottir, Communication Coordinator, European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL)

In this article you will find out about:

  • The seventh annual Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange(FILE) focused on the intercultural training of teachers, and the recommendations and outcomes of this international event,
  • Best ways to advance intercultural learning and explore the complex diversities in societies,
  • How to empower teachers to create their own activities for intercultural learning.

photo by Fondazione Intercultura

The Intercultural Training of Teachers: What, When, How? was the main theme of the seventh annual Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange (FILE) held in Colle Val d’Elsa, Italy in November 2016. FILE was convened by the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL), which is the AFS umbrella organization in Europe, the Intercultura Foundation, and the international division of AFS Intercultural Programs. At the Forum, 60 participants in the field of international youth exchanges and intercultural learning shared research and teacher training resources.

Participants included Ana-Maria Stan, representative of the European Commission, Joseph Huber, representative of the Council of Europe, and featured keynote speaker Kenneth Cushner, Professor of Multicultural and International Education at Kent State University, USA (see the full program and list of participants here). Cushner presented an overview of teacher training on intercultural competences. His presentation noted that teachers are a relatively homogeneous group (usually representing the dominant ethnic group in a region or country, for example), which may not encourage diverse perspectives in schools. Interestingly, Cushner also referenced research on schools where pupils are more interculturally competent than their teachers.

photo by Fondazione Intercultura

The lively and informative three-day event concluded with a series of recommendations:

  1. Educators worldwide need to embrace the importance of including intercultural learning in all subjects and all levels of education, from preschool to high school, and make it a part of teacher training.
  2. Student mobility and other opportunities for in-person experiential learning stand out as best ways to explore and expose young people to the complex diversities that exist in our societies.
  3. Assessing students’ progress in developing intercultural competences is key to creating learning programs that develop lifelong skills. (Read more about the new Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessment of global competence in an interview with Andreas Schleicher, the Director for the Directorate for Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and coordinator of PISA.)
  4. Empower teachers with tools and skills to create their own intercultural learning activities. This can be achieved by providing online resources; strengthening connections among practitioners, academia and policymakers; and creating holistic and sustainable intercultural resource hubs open to everyone.
  5. Connect efforts to spread intercultural learning in schools with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.7, which promotes quality education including global citizenship for all.

EFIL takes the lead on creating teacher training programs

As an outcome of the 2016 Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange, and to further enable the intercultural learning for teachers and pupils, EFIL is leading an Erasmus+ project, “Intercultural learning for pupils and teachers” to create programs to be implemented over the next two years. The partnership will create a three-day training program that develops teachers’ intercultural competences, and then enables them to apply what they learn in the subjects they teach. The program will be piloted as a training for trainers, in August 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Partners on this project will also develop a toolbox with pedagogical methods, guidelines, activities and links to existing resources to be used by teachers. Find out more about this partnership in “Kick off of the Erasmus+ project Intercultural Learning for pupils and teachers”. For more information about AFS school-based programs go to “AFS helps schools around the world create intercultural initiatives”.

READ NEXT: The Volunteers Curriculum helps young people explore the work of committed global citizens over the past 100 years