Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers for an Inclusive School

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Acquisition of intercultural competences based on understanding human rights and non-discrimination values

Definition of Skills Required by Teachers
to Become Agents of Change in Inclusive Schools

Table of Content

Chapter 1 – Definitions and Models of Intercultural Competences
1.1 The Conceptualization of Intercultural Competence by the Institutions of the European Union
In 2006 and 2008 the European Parliament and the Council defined the key competences needed to achieve personal development, social inclusion and employability. Among these competences those related to an intercultural concept are: (a) communication in a foreign language, (b) civic and social competences, (c) cultural awareness and expression.

(a) Communication in a foreign language is defined as:
the ability to understand, express and interpret concepts, thoughts, feelings, facts and opinions in both oral and written form in an appropriate range of societal and cultural contexts.” (EU 2006)
But unlike communication in the mother tongue, “Communication in foreign languages also calls for skills such as mediation and intercultural understanding” (EU 2006).

(b) It is possible to find references to the concept in Social and Civic competences as well, which:
include personal, interpersonal and intercultural competence and cover all forms of behavior that equip individuals to participate in an effective and constructive way in social and working life, and particularly in increasingly diverse societies, and to resolve conflict where necessary”. (EU, 2006)

Finally, essential knowledge of the cultural awareness and expression competence includes:
an awareness of local, national and European cultural heritage and their place in the world. It covers a basic knowledge of major cultural works, including popular contemporary culture. It is essential to understand the cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe and other regions of the world, the need to preserve it and the importance of aesthetic factors in daily life.” (EU, 2006)

These and other references in the document indicate that the concept of intercultural competence is important enough to be included among the competences that the European Union regards as being fundamental for its citizens. The Council of Europe, when it published its fundamental work for the setting of Common Reference Levels in foreign language-learning and teaching in Europe, namely the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR, 2001) already placed emphasis on intercultural competence. Thus, it is stated at the beginning of the CEFR that “in an intercultural approach, it is a central objective of language education to promote the favourable development of the learner’s whole personality and sense of identity in response to the enriching experience of otherness in language and culture” (CEFR, 2001).

Another important document that affirms the importance of intercultural competences for the European Union is the report entitled “Developing Intercultural Competence through Education” (2014). In its introduction the Council of Europe states that the development of intercultural competence and intercultural education is necessary in order to avoid manifestations of prejudice, discrimination and hate among different people. These problems originate in the social inequality that Europeans of different cultural backgrounds and affiliations face, making a peaceful coexistence more difficult.

Furthermore, currently intercultural and inclusive education is being launched in the EU as one of the main tools for the promotion of citizenship and shared values. Thus, one fundamental aim is to establish a policy framework to support Member States in promoting inclusive education that fosters ownership of shared values, contributing to the prevention of radicalization that might lead to violent extremism (see, COM(2016) 377 final 7.6.2016). Fears of extreme violence and radicalization, reinforced by the recent attacks in the territories of EU member-states, place emphasis on the need for inclusive education which substantially promotes social integration and intercultural awareness. The aim is that young people will be able to participate in facilitated discussions that increase their intercultural awareness and expand their intercultural competences through non-formal learning (European Commission 2017).

In view of this, a new Erasmus+ Virtual Youth Exchange initiative is due to be launched in 2018 to increase intercultural awareness and understanding between young people inside and outside the EU. Overall, one of the main aims of the Erasmus+ programme is the strengthening and enhancement of the intercultural competence.
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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.