Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Towards the Recognition of

Non-discrimination Principles at School

This section of the I Have Rights portal provides administrative information for the project contractual partners and for the European Commission and it is password protected.

Case Studies

Homepage > CaseStudies > Case Studies

60 case studies have been identified. The case studies focus on intercultural issues, integration, non-discrimination values and human rights at school.

Back to the Case Studies List

Multiculturalism in the English class


Name of the teacher
Miguel Dias
Subject taught:
Years of experience:


Name of the School:
Escola Secundária Infanta Dona Maria
School Typology:
Lower Secondary School
Web site:


Background and Context:
Escola Secundária Infanta Dona Maria (ESIDM) is one of Portugal’s most prestigious state schools. It is located in the centre of Coimbra, a city whose social, cultural and economic life is intimately linked to its 700-year-old university. ESIDM was refurbished in 2008 and offers the best facilities both to teachers and its almost 1000 students ranging between the ages of 13 to 19. The percentage of immigrant students at school is very low, under 1%. Immigrant students are mostly from Portugal’s former colonies in Africa or from Brazil. There was no immigrant student in my class.
Factual Description:
The issue of multiculturalism was raised as part of the national syllabus for English in year 11. All students at secondary schools address the topic. However, teachers have the freedom to decide on the extent and specific contents to be addressed. I chose the following subtopics for this unit: 1. How Britain became multicultural. 2.Illegal Immigration and refugees 3. Racism There weren’t any immigrant students in the class and no other teachers or subjects were involved. It is difficult to assess the impact the classes had on students but the first two lessons revealed quite a number of stereotypes regarding immigration and refugees and highly manipulated information regarding the issue.
Activities carried out:
The materials and activities used were designed to foster students’ participation and interest in classes. In subtopic one - What exactly is a multicultural society? - students watched a documentary on present-day-Multicultural Britain. The students learned about the historic events that led to multiculturalism in Britain and the mostly positive social, cultural and economic impact immigration has had on Britain. In subtopic 2 - Illegal immigration and Refugees - students were confronted with the plight of refugees on their journey into Europe. The students listened to and debated the song “Shaktar Donetsk” by Joe Strummer& The Mescaleros. The song describes the journey of a Macedonian refugee into Great Britain in the back of a lorry. The song makes clear references to human trafficking and severe border controls. It also describes the life of immigrants/refugees once they reach their final destiny. In the aftermath of the song students were asked to work out an imaginary diary of the immigrant in the song, thus making them write from the perspective of the immigrant. Students also read different texts with real life testimonies from refugees who had crossed the Mediterranean Sea. Subtopic two ended in a debate/role play about the refugees crisis where students had to adopt roles that ranged from the refugee to the right-wing politician. Finally, in subtopic three- racial stereotypes – students read a text from Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Man” confronting them with the persistence of racism within the American society.
Assessment and lesson learnt:
Assessing results is very difficult. However, it was possible to notice that at the beginning of the unit a number of students had a rather negative view on the refugee crisis, expressing both their opposition to welcoming refugees in their country and the most blatant stereotypes (associating refugees to Islamic terrorism, the idea of an invasion etc.). Students were confronted with facts and figures regarding European immigration and information on the economic impact of immigration which is often withhold from them in the traditional media. So, I do think that some students were challenged in the way they looked at the refugee crisis and that some changed their perspective on the issue. The role distribution in the debate forced some students to adopt a role that was contrary to their initial viewpoint.
Addressing these issues in the English class is very rewarding for both teachers and students. Not only does it enrich the class but it gives teachers and students to confront different points of view. The teachers are given the unique possibility of promoting human rights issues whose impact transcends the classroom.
The replicability of the strategy applied is easily attained. Materials were shared among all teachers. The song, for example, was done with all 11th graders in school.

Follow us

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.