On the need to educate beyond the local to gain intercultural awareness

In today’s world our media exposes individuals to people, lifestyles and events outside their local contexts and known cultural patterns. Because of this we all gain some understanding of what we think are global issues, cultural values and different ways of living. We begin to think of ourselves as global citizens particularly if we have the privilege of travelling, living and observing other customs. The truth is ,however, that such experiences remain, on the whole, superficial and lacking in any real understanding of culture! This highlights the need for todays educational systems to provide opportunities for deep understandings to develop! As most nations are experiencing immigration to differing degrees it means our young people will encounter diverse cultures, a multitude of social perspectives and the willingness to be more than monolingual. Intercultural skills need to be integrated into educational systems – intercultural skills that embrace cognitive, social and emotional differences! Currently our educational goals do not make intercultural skills a priority – OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Educators need to highlight to their students that people with values, religions and cultural backgrounds and ethnicities different from their own do not pose a threat to their identities. They need to learn to “learn” together even though this may mean that the individual learning needs of diverse groups require multiple teaching methods. Importantly an educator needs to know how it “feels” to be in a minority group, to be different from the majority and the necessity to use all of their inner resources to learn across cultures.

My recent experience taking Pre Service Teachers to have a Professional Placement Experience in another country highlighted how vital it is have programs which reach out globally, to experience daily events   and  to live with people from different backgrounds. This enables you to seek understandings which go beyond different foods and festivals but enables you to have a glimpse into the mindset of others – only then does intercultural awareness begin to develop!

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