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Intercultural Competences Across The School Curriculum 




R     E     C     O     M     M     E     N     D     A     T     I     O     N     S


Intercultural education is not another subject to be added to the curriculum, nor does it  involve extra material to be covered in  particular subjects. It is an approach to  education that can be integrated across  all subject areas. 



Characteristics of intercultural education: 


- Intercultural education is for all children.

- Intercultural education is embedded in knowledge and understanding, skills and capacities, attitudes and values.

- Intercultural education is integrated with all subjects and with the general life of the school.

- Intercultural education requires a real-world focus.

- Language is central to developing intercultural competences.

- Intercultural education takes time.

- The school context is important in facilitating learning.


Differing conceptualizations of multicultural education shared ideals that provide a basis for its understanding:

  • Every student must have an equal opportunity to achieve to her or his full potential.
  • Every student must be prepared to competently participate in an increasingly intercultural society.
  • Teachers must be prepared to effectively facilitate learning for every individual student, no matter how culturally similar or different from her - or himself.
  • Schools must be active participants in ending oppression of all types, first by ending oppression within their own walls, then by producing socially and critically active and aware students.
  • Education must become more fully student-centered and inclusive of the voices and experiences of the students.
  • Educators, activists, and others must take a more active role in reexamining all educational practices and how they affect the learning of all students: testing methods, teaching approaches, evaluation and assessment, school psychology and counseling, educational materials and textbooks, etc.


Multicultural education is a progressive approach that is grounded in ideals of social justice, education equity, and a dedication to facilitating educational experiences in which all students reach their full potential as learners and as socially aware and active beings, locally, nationally, and globally.


The Transformation of Schools and Schooling

Multicultural education requires a thorough examination of all aspects of schooling. Aspects of multicultural school transformation include the following:

  1. Student-Centered Pedagogy
  • The experiences of students must be brought to the fore in the classroom, making learning more active, interactive, and engaging.
  • All aspects of teaching and learning in schools must be refocused on, and rededicated to, the students themselves instead of standardized test scores and school rankings.
  • Emphasis should be put on critical and creative thinking, learning skills, and deep social awareness.
  • Pedagogy must provide all students with equal potential to reach their potential as learners.
  • Pedagogy must be flexible enough to allow for the diversity of learning styles present in every classroom.
  • Multicultural Curriculum
    • All curricula must be studied for accuracy and completeness.
    • All subjects must be told from diverse perspectives.
    • "Inclusive curriculum" also means including the voices of the students in the classroom.
    • Curricula should reflect the diversity of learning styles in every classroom.
  • Supportive School and Classroom Climate
    • Teachers must be better prepared to foster a positive classroom climate for ALL students.
    • Administrative systems in schools must be examined to assess whether they produce positive teaching environments for all teachers.
    • Teachers and administrators must be responsible for practices deemed to be racist, sexist, or in any other way discriminatory.
    • Educational materials should be inclusive of diverse voices and perspectives.
    • Students must be encouraged to think critically about materials and media: Whose voice do they hear? Whose voice do they not hear? Why did that company produce that film? What is the bias this author may bring to her or his writing?, etc.
    • Educators must continue to examine the emphasis on standardized test scores and develop more alternatives for measuring student "achievement", "ability", or "potential.”

    ( Dr.Gorsky’s ideas have been used )


    Characteristics of intercultural education 


    The school has to become a model of good practice

    In teaching the knowledge, skills and attitudes of intercultural competence the education system can model good practice for the students.

    Students will learn attitudes, values and skills through seeing them modelled by those in the school and in the school community. Intercultural education will bring benefits to the school and the education system in general, together with the benefits to individual students.

    It is important that all the members of the school community, students, parents, teachers, support staff and management are involved in the collective responsibility of developing and maintaining an intercultural school. One of the underlying principles of successful school development planning is good communication between all members of the school community. While some of the actions arising from the planning processes will be mandatory, most of the real change will depend on the voluntary actions and goodwill of all the members of the school community. It will be important, therefore, that everyone involved has the opportunity to have their views heard and feel a sense of involvement in the process of change 



    The Student Council can play a very important role in the development of an intercultural school environment. In fact working in partnership with school management, staff and parents on planning for an intercultural school can provide the Student Council with a focus that could lead them to be involved in a number of related activities. For example:

       -  making their views known in relation to policies that are being developed or

          modified to reflect an intercultural perspective, for example the reception of new  


       -  making suggestions for improving the school environment;

       -  ensuring an intercultural balance in the school newsletter/magazine;

       -  listening to the views of the students in the school when drawing up their calendar of  

          activities for the school. 



    Parental involvement is crucial to a student’s success in school. In order to improve school contact with all parents and the wider community, schools might consider:

    • ·        providing information to parents in a way which takes account of the existence example, parent-teacher meetings, school handbook, inviting parents in to the school for special events;
    • ·        providing opportunities for informal meetings of staff and parents and establishing parent—teacher contact that understand each other’s points of view;
    • ·        addressing parental fears and concerns inviting parents to become involved in extra-curricular activities or intercultural events;
    • ·        identifying opportunities where parents and other members of the community can

          support the school, for example, language support, translation, school clubs;

    • ·        developing strategies to involve the wider community in an intercultural approach, for example, inviting individuals or community groups that may have a


    Including intercultural education in all areas of school planning

    In addition to ensuring that an intercultural perspective is brought to reviewing existing elements of the school plan, there are other areas that need to be addressed in order to ensure that the school is an inclusive school. They include the following:

    • incorporating an intercultural and antidiscrimination approach to staff development

    • ensuring equality of access and participation

    • promoting intercultural education in the classroom

    • recording and reporting racist incidents

    • creating an inclusive physical and social environment in the school

    • providing language support

    • providing age-appropriate placement of newcomer students in class groups

    • selecting appropriate resource material for learning and teaching

    • celebrating special events in the calendars of a diversity of cultures

    • developing a communication policy: within the school, between school and home, and between home and school

    • developing a school charter that celebrates diversity and promotes equality.

    A review process that looks at the school’s practice in response to these issues will enable the school community to establish clear development priorities and to undertake specific action planning activities that will enhance the educational provision for all students.



    Traditional classroom organisation emphasises individualistic, competitive values. However, alternative approaches to classroom organisation, based on a cooperative model, can produce positive academic and social outcomes for nearly all students. Co-operative learning opportunities give pupils an opportunity to work closely with people from different social, ethnic or ability groups. Co-operative learning should give rise to frequent, meaningful and positive contact in which the diversity of skills and capacities of different members of the group are brought to the fore and can be recognised. Such interpersonal contact provides a key site of learning. Relationships between students of different groups have been demonstrated to improve significantly if mixed-group cooperative learning strategies are used,

    irrespective of the content that is covered. In addition, ethnic minority students have shown greater academic gains in cooperative settings than in traditional classrooms. Through the use of mixedgroup co-operative learning strategies, every subject can provide an opportunity for children to develop intercultural competence, irrespective of its content. Placing people in a position where a skill could be practised will not always be sufficient to ensure it is learned. For example, making books available is no guarantee that someone will learn to read. This is also true of the social skills and attributes which give rise to intrapersonal and intercultural competence. Simply organising students in groups is no guarantee that they will learn how to

    engage in co-operative learning. Care should be taken to ensure that students are given an opportunity to identify and learn the understandings and capacities that will enable them to work constructively as part of a group. These include • specific co-operative behaviours such as asking questions, listening, speaking clearly and concisely, explaining reasons, etc.

    • the social norms for group work, such as taking turns to contribute, engaging in planning, evaluation, and working in different roles such as chair or recorder

    • the understandings and skills specific to conflict resolution, such as recognising the value of different views, depersonalising conflicts of opinion, identifying common interests and

    inventing opportunities for mutual gain.

    When organising groups and tasks it is important to ensure that there are opportunities in the assigned tasks for people to positively contribute to the group, and that no-one should be

    characterised as needing to be ‘carried’ by the group. The group work process may need to be supported by the teacher in order to maximise co-operation and inclusiveness. In the context of promoting an inclusive classroom environment it is better that classroom duties and

    responsibilities are shared by all rather than by a small select group of students. All students can take turns in such tasks as collecting homework, checking attendance, distributing materials and equipment, room set-up, welcoming visitors, etc.



    The concept of intercultural education should permeate many subjects and their respective curricula, as well as the hidden curriculum of school life and extra-curricular activities. The school doors should be opened to community life, to discover ongoing intercultural interactions as a pedagogical challenge turning the school into an intercultural meeting point by inviting parents, neighbours and foreign guests, or by exhibiting pictures, maps, symbols, newspaper articles, works of art, etc. Curricula should be constantly scrutinised, both internationally and comparatively, to find out whether they accommodate sufficiently the diversity and interaction of cultures. Examples of successful activities improving intercultural education beyond formal curricula are international school correspondence, school twinning,

    inter-school travel exchanges, international holiday camps and exchanges of teachers.


    The main themes are:

    • Identity and belonging

    • Similarity and difference

    • Human rights and responsibilities

    • Discrimination and equality

    • Conflict and conflict resolution


    Approaches and Methods


    Active learning methods 


    Structured discussion 

    Discussion has a key role in intercultural education. It provides a chance for students to talk about their ideas and feelings and can open up opportunities for developing or changing their ideas or a range of skills such as asking questions, active and positive listening, taking turns,

    summarising views, etc. Crucial to engaging in open discussion is an atmosphere of trust and support. Students need to feel that they can speak their mind.. It is not a good idea to start a discussion without first providing some guidance and ground rules for discussion. It is also the teacher’s role to provide a suitable stimulus for generating discussion, such as a poem, newspaper article, piece of music, visual stimulus or physical activity.


    Simulation games and role-play

    Simulation games and role-play are widely used to provide students with a chance to ‘live out’ a real life situation in a safe environment. For effective role-playing there is need for careful preparation, including preparation of role-cards, reflection questions and any relevant

    background information. It is important to choose a theme that is clearly focused. Allowing sufficient time to bring students out of role and to discuss their experience of role-play is vital. Finally, teachers should respect student’s choice not to participate in a roleplay. In such cases they can play an important role in actively listening and reporting on what they observed.



    A debate works best if students are given a chance to debate a topic that is of genuine interest to them and if they are given time and support to prepare for the debate (background information, newspaper/magazine articles, useful websites, etc.). One approach which may help in this situation is to invite students to research and present a point of view on an issue, then switch sides and argue for the opposite point of view. Finally, the group tries to come to a consensus on the issues and writes a group report describing the issue and their combined thinking about it.

    A walking debate is another good way of allowing students to debate an issue. According to this method, a statement is read out to the class and they are asked to position themselves at one end of the class room if they agree and at the other end if they disagree. Those who are uncertain can stand in the middle. According as the issue is debated students can move their position. The movement encourages opinions to change and also allows for uncertainty and an acceptance that all issues are not black and white.


    Issue tracking

    Issue tracking is a method by which students can follow and explore an issue or topic that is currently in the news. Issue tracking develops group work and cooperation skills as

    students must work in groups and decide on the best way to collect information. The teacher can stimulate the search by bringing newspapers to class on the first day or by showing a news report on the chosen issue. Students can compile a scrap book, or wall chart or use the internet and computer to compile an electronic scrapbook. This methodology allows for

    discussion on the difference between fact and opinion and the role of perspective and bias in the media.


    Photos, artwork and images

    An image or photo can be a useful way of stimulating interest in a topic, especially if the image is slightly puzzling or challenging. Students can be invited to question the photo:

    Who took it? Where was it taken?

    What was happening at the time the photo was taken? What happened next? etc.

    It is important to avoid using images that may reinforce students’ prejudices or stereotypes. Students can also be invited to depict their own understanding of an issue through artwork, cartoons, collage or sculpture. It is important to reassure students that everyone’s efforts are of value including those who are not ‘good at art’.



    A survey or questionnaire can develop skills of communication, gathering and interpreting information and cooperation. It enables action beyond the classroom and can often involve the school or wider community.







    • Banks, J. (1993). Approaches to multicultural curriculum reform. In J. Banks and C. Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives.

          Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    • McIntosh, P. (2000). Interactive phases of personal and curricular re-vision with regard to race. In G. Shin and P. Gorski (Eds.),

          Multicultural resource series: Professional development for educators. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association.

          The Ireland’s secondary school curriculum





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