EDIC stands for European Democratic Intercultural Citizenship, and the +, Prof. Wiel Veugelers told us, represents or identifies Erasmus + as the main body who funds this programme. I would say instead, that the + stands for the range of different nationalities that this intensive programme gathered this year. Although there are seven universities participating and each of them invite three postgraduate students, there were eleven nationalities represented instead of seven. Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Ghana, Greece, UK, Prague, Russia, Spain, the Netherlands and China. It seems to me that this programme has a broader impact than planned. All of the students will take their learning and insights back to their home country and influence how to teach democratic intercultural citizenship.
On the social aspect of the programme, we had plenty of time to share with our fellow students, we did a city tour in Tallinn which was stunning, we went on short trips, we sang karaoke, we danced all sorts of music including a typically Estonian dance and so we got to know each other. It was lovely to see how different some practices were but how similar we all are when it comes to the essentials. We found unity and empathy within the differences. The lived experience of our differences was the starting point for deep conversations and a springboard for learning from each other. We experienced the power of diversity and inclusion during these ten days.
The intensive programme (IP) was organised in two blocks, one at the University of Tallinn in Estonia where we had the chance to visit a comprehensive school and observe their teaching practices and the other one in Helsinki at the faculty of educational sciences. In Helsinki we travelled through time, we explored the past, stopped in the present and learned about a desirable future. As part of our adventure into the past, we visited the Helsinki City Museum and we got immersed in a classroom from the 30’s (as the picture shows). We dressed like those students, we sat in old desks and we had a teacher of the 30’s. It was fantastic!! The present, we experienced in a very traditional and famous comprehensive school that serves as the practising school to many teacher trainees from the University of Helsinki. There, different students went to different teaching sessions and we reflected as a group about our experience. The future we explored through a talk about the importance of teaching with purpose and being ethically sensitive.
We had lectures every day about democratic intercultural education all of them addressing a different dimension of such complex construct. The Netherlands started explaining what global citizenship is and the different types there are, giving particular importance to the political and critical dimension of global citizenship. Greece informed their view from a more philosophical perspective thinking about how does intercultural schools should look like and what is the ethos of such schools. What do teachers need to know so that they are mindful teachers that are capable of teaching in multicultural classrooms? The UK informed intercultural citizenship from the perspective of social justice and equity. We made critical questions about the status of refugees and different minority groups. Prague addressed the issue from the stance of the civil society and the work of NGOs as different agents of socialization. Tereza touched on different definitions (e.g. UNESCO) of citizenship education and we agreed that although there are different ways to define it, the most important thing is to have teachers agreeing on the importance of educating their students to become democratic and intercultural citizens. One difficult point is the difficulty to find common ground among teachers, the different perspectives teachers have about citizenship education, ranging from those who think that the school is not a place for politics to those who perceive citizenship education as an alpha and omega of the socialization children should get in schools. I found these positions hard to reconcile for those who have the task of educating teachers. Estonia also took the perspective of teacher trainees. Helsinki thought about the importance of teaching with purpose taking into account the different dimensions of ethical sensitivity while teaching. All of these perspectives as I see it are different dimensions of intercultural or global citizenship. The beauty of it is that all of them complemented each other, allowing us to build a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of what global citizenship is, different approaches to teaching it and how it is deeply rooted in moral values. It is incredibly enriching how different countries cope with different problems regarding democratic intercultural citizenship hence their practice is shaped by these challenges. It stroke me, in particular, the case of Prague and how they are exploring the consequences of an oppressive system whereas Greece faces critical issues regarding migrants so for them finding out what an Intercultural school looks like is highly relevant.
An issue I am concerned with is how can open education or, more general, open practice foster democratic intercultural citizenship? And I believe that in a society increasingly mediated by digital tools, having an online presence and being able to critically think about the Web and its open nature is important.
Questions such as how to cope with a variety of cultural backgrounds in one classroom? How to inform the teaching from an intercultural perspective? What to do with teacher’s own biases regarding different cultures and nationalities? How can we design activities that may advance elements of a moral compass for political participation, how near to us are institutions that address issues of social justice and human rights such as UNESCO, UNICEF, Commonwealth? where addressed during the different talks, not with the intention of finding an answer but to provide a platform for discussion and debate so that critical issues like this can be thought as a group and in so doing deepening our perspective as teacher and students interested in issues of global citizenship.
For all of us the experience, intellectually and emotionally, was life-changing! We shall keep the inspiration alive and find ways to deepen our knowledge and skills so that we can transform our daily teaching practice making democratic intercultural citizenship
P.S. A longer post with all the details of each session in on its way