Chapter 3 - Intercultural Education:
A Positive Approach to Difference
• the discovery of relationships
• mechanisms and resources
• the school
• out of school
• stages in intercultural processes
• using activities
Where Does Intercultural Education Come
We - as the writers of this education
pack - have tried to be very careful in our use of the terms
"multicultural" and "intercultural".
Our choice of terminology is not innocent; it is even subversive;
we are not playing with words. We mean to challenge your
ideas and actions, and we hope you will challenge ours.
to multicultural society
As we have seen in chapter one,
the pace of change in our societies has increased dramatically
in the last decades. The meeting of different cultures continues
to be a major factor in, and a result of, these changes.
At the same time we have begun to realise that even within
dominant cultures there are people who do not conform to
the usual norms, who are identified as belonging to sub-cultures.
Along with this realisation has come the gradual, if stormy,
recognition that these people have rights and demand respect
and acknowledgement. Governmental responses to all of these
changes have been mixed, often within the same country.
From the Sixties onwards some countries
started special educational programmes, which were targeted
at children from long-standing minorities and at the children
of more recently arrived immigrants. Depending on the political
and cultural context, educational systems were called on
to fulfil a variety of aims, for instance:
• to ensure that immigrant children
could return to their country of origin and be able to fit
in to their specific social and educational systems with
• to incorporate the children of
minority cultural groups into mainstream society and thereby
strip them of their cultural identity completely - this
is sometimes known as a policy of assimilation. This could
be summarised by extending the old maxim "When in Rome,
do as the Romans do" to "When in Rome, think,
feel, believe and do as a Roman".
• to assist the children of minority
cultural groups to fit into mainstream society whilst maintaining
parts of their own cultural identity - this is sometimes
known as a policy of integration. "When in Roman society,
do as the Romans do; but you can cook what you want at home
if you close the windows".
Various educational forms and
approaches resulted, sometimes in combination with each
other. But there were grave problems associated with such
aims and practices. They were based on a belief in the implicit
superiority of mainstream culture which was supposed to
remain unaffected by contact with other cultures. It was
very much a one-way street: change was only expected from
"them". Add to this the fact that the vast majority
of immigrants have not "returned" to their countries
of origin and we can see that such aims do not correspond
with current reality. And they have little in common with
the aims of intercultural education.
"The discovery of others is the
discovery of a relationship, not of a barrier" (Claude
Gradually, perceptions of multicultural
society have evolved. It is neither a mosaic where cultures
are placed side-by-side without any effect on each other,
nor is it a melting pot where everything is reduced to the
lowest common denominator. Intercultural education proposes
processes to enable the discovery of mutual relationships
and the dismantling of barriers. There are close links to
other educational philosophies, such as education for human
rights, anti-racist education and development education.
It is therefore a normal reaction if you find elements here
which correspond to your experience in other fields. We
have learned much from the experiences gained in the pioneering
work of multicultural educationalists.
But we choose to use the term "intercultural".
Because, as Micheline Rey points out, if the prefix "inter"
is given its full meaning, this necessarily implies:
• breaking down barriers
• objective solidarity.