Promoting Intercultural Learning since Primary Schools!

Sabrina Corsino – Istituto A. Spinelli Scandicci (Italy)

An intercultural path to prepare students to MOBILITY!

Our desire is to deepen intercultural learning through the intercultural education programme at our school (Altiero Spinelli, Scandicci, Florence). The idea is to develop a new way of thinking in all our students, so that they can embrace and value cultural diversity through the opportunities for dialogue and interdisciplinary teaching that the project offers. The project aims to invest in a pedagogy of diversity and a culture of community, that prepares todays’ students for being tomorrow’s citizens. The result has been that our students have opened to new cultural and human boundaries, going beyond their own experience into understanding that of another’s. The students have learnt that culture is a work in progress, and that to be able to grow, they must remain open to this challenge. The project seeks to promote culture without boundaries, the culture of the mind and the heart. Then they begin to understand that through their own commitment, responsibility and participation they become active European citizens, and consequentially, citizens of the World.

We have primarily adopted two methodologies in the project. Firstly all the students, throughout the academic year, take part in intercultural workshops (non formal learning). This provides them with opportunities to take an active role in their own understanding of different realities. These experiential workshops, where students from many parts of the world and backgrounds come together and share their experiences, reciprocally enrich the other’s world view. Thanks to this form of exchange the students learn to recognise the ever changing elements of cultures around the world, and they learn different ways of interacting with, understanding and respecting one another. The other method we have employed is the Intercultural Week, something we have done now for four years. The week brings together all the classes throughout the school, and aims to offer a rich and as complete as possible, cultural panorama of the particular area of the world being studied. It offers a complex approach to learning, which at times throws up natural contradictions, thus enriching each person’s horizon, and driving out stereotypes. During the week there are meetings with each year in the auditorium with experts and external teachers, Skype chats with schools or other groups in the continent being studied, and experiential learning experiences of the continent’s cultural, historical and artistic traditions. This didactic event allows students to get to know, deepen and experience the world we live in, at school and beyond, in a different and creative way.

The innovative elements of this experience within this school are in the first instance, the teaching methods, which promote the cultural, social and human education of the new generations; students who are called to be citizens of the world now more than ever before. Secondly, we use digital media to help bring about the interconnectedness of our students with others around the world, a platform on which they can exchange ideas and experiences, and where boundaries disappear. This approach is not yet part of mainstream education in Italy, and risks remaining on the edge of educational politics, yet we would hope it becomes an integral part of our education system, based on the inspiring models that some european schools have already put into practice.

My passion for the themes we study in this project, together with the professional development I have received relative to the theme of human rights, have helped to create the project’s holistic approach, that shows the students that human rights is a theme that can, and must be found in all aspects of culture, and is not simply a stand alone subject. Viewing human rights in this way means creating an authentic cultural educative model, that is more relevant today than ever before, as the challenges of teaching change and demand response.

If I were to say something to my colleagues in other European cities, I’d say that on this basis we need to develop a new critical conscience in our students that can understand history and current events, and contribute to the creation of change in our culture. I would love to see us create more and more networks to promote and develop educative models, that favour a ‘culture’ that can combat the subtle forms of ignorance that we still face, ignorance that negates dialogue, mutual acceptance and respect.