Non-Governmental Organisations

NGO FORUM
“New multicultural challenges: how can NGOs play their part?”
Istanbul, 24-25 March 2011

Report of Workshop 2

"Identity and the other: the role of intercultural education"

Background to the workshop

The white paper on intercultural dialogue "Living together as equals in dignity" provides valuable information for intercultural education, although the multicultural nature of European society in the 21st Century requires further refinement of our perception of the goals of European education. An important aim of the workshop was to provide concrete and practical proposals that would facilitate the process of living together and of respecting the other by engaging with people from different cultural backgrounds. Where necessary we should handle intercultural conflict without resorting to violence and that involves intercultural dialogue together with interactive education. The aim is to facilitate cooperation and meeting among (young) Europeans.

National and international NGOs involved in non formal education have an obvious role in dialogue, while intercultural education is a natural extension of that interest.

The chief objective was that at the end of the workshop, the participants

    ‣ should be familiar with the key messages of the white paper on intercultural dialogue,
    ‣ should have identified the chief areas and challenges of intercultural education,
    ‣ should have the capacity to define and give rapid effect to their forthcoming intercultural education projects,
    ‣ should have worked in multicultural groups,
    ‣ should have practical knowledge of certain methods of enhancing intercultural and cooperative learning.

The workshop was aimed at international and national NGOs from the western Balkans and Turkey.

Participants in the workshop divided themselves into self-selecting groups, each of which produced its own report as a visual presentation aimed at giving effect to the strategies proposed in the white paper. Obvious, but nevertheless important proposals included : the engagement of everyone on a daily basis, which we described as intercultural competences to live and work together. More innovative aims involved the development of a toolkit, the development of which would involve the contribution and expertise of participants whose long term role would be to facilitate the process.

The method demands that we should look at ourselves, at our departure point(s) and at where we are going. We wanted to touch what we called “the core of the foundation of humanity”, which we defined as education. We noted that soldiers destroy a country but that teachers build it. In the present context we need to remind Europeans about how interculturalism works in practical terms while accepting that the idea of a monocultural society is no longer possible.

Obvious difficulties were related to the complexity of the ideas involved. For example, although identity is perhaps the central question for the twenty-first century, we need to reconstruct the concept. For example, in defining the concept of education and the kind of education that best contributes to a full understanding of identity, we must be aware of the instrumentalisation of identity by political parties. This can be a significant complication, for example when it is assumed that politicians should defend national identity or in relation to certain views often associated with the extreme right.

Obvious national and regional differences engage memory and historical construction, the understanding of which is a responsibility for the school. Nevertheless we should take account of attitudes formed in the home, in particular when there are national (and regional) differences. For example, in Europe France and Great Britain are multicultural societies, but they are not unprejudiced. Moreover, European Societies are constructions.

So key issues include memory, imagination and collective construction, but always with honesty, critical thinking and courage. For example, people of all ages must be ready to let go of old ideas and to adopt new ones, but the group went further in asking about the age at which people cease to be young.

The group considered the development of a toolkit, while accepting that this was an introductory process, because we met for only a few hours. They considered appropriate reactions to the challenge and the contribution of lived experience to the projects undertaken. We felt that this needs to be continued and that we must define the relation of the work to (lived) knowledge and experience. The latter is often gained at the local level, where we work together and share our contribution. We need to develop a vision for the future and to engage the media.

Finally, in agreeing that we were working on a preliminary report, we felt that we needed to follow up the work that we had begun. The internet is obviously important, in particular because it enables us to share the practice and experience that we emphasised. The practical expectations of NGOs included the participants, the contributions of NGOs active in field and of what we termed “migrant” NGOs, which means those NGOs that make a contribution from outside the majority culture. This was not an “inclusion” of “migrants”, because we hope that they are already included, but rather a relevant expression of the real nature of contemporary society.

Practical steps:

Initially practical steps will include :

- emphasising recommendations expressed in visual representations. The photographs that we took of them will facilitate the process of sharing and comparison;
- the development of a blog to facilitate the continuing dialogue to which we are committed;
- the use of our own experience and the knowledge of our NGOs.

In practical terms we hope to have the procedures in place to continue our work in the autumn.

Those who are interested are invited to send ideas to Toolkit.dialogue@gmail.com

Photographs of the presentations may be obtained from james.barnett@wanadoo.fr

Rapporteur
James Barnett (Intereuropean Commission on Church and School - ICCS)