Ways of Developing Intercultural Education

Nowadays interculturality is part of our everyday life and work. People who work with young people face with several challenges to be in a situation which based on cultural background and they don’t know how to react or don’t understand why they react how they react.

Ambiguity is everywhere, among young people and between young person and youth worker. It is essential nowadays to develop and improve our intercultural competence with emphasis on intercultural sensitiveness because we don’t have to travel to another country to face with different culture, different cultures come to us, different cultures are around us. That is a really positive change nevertheless we have to learn to handle our fears and learn to understand, tolerate and accept each other and to learn to live together. Youth workers have to be prepared for that and provide support for young people they work with to become interculturally sensitive for each other and go through the phases of intercultural sensitiveness and understand their and others’ reactions.

Language skills and intercultural awareness are essential. We need to develop our skills and competences throughout our lives, not only for our personal fulfillment and our ability to actively engage with the society in which we live, but for our ability to be successful in a constantly changing world. As globalisation continues to confront the European Union with new challenges, each citizen will need a wide range of key competences to adapt flexibility to a rapidly and highly interconnected world. Education in its dual role, both social and economic, has a key role to play in ensuring that Europe’s citizens acquire

The research has 5 chapters and aimed to explore the connection between developing language skills and intercultural competence. We proposed to explore ways of developing language skills in an intercultural context focusing on the relation between language skills and intercultural competence in different types of context (non-formal, formal), imvolving 50 pupils between 9 and 11 years old, belonging to the 5th grades (VA and VB), pupils at Scoala Gimnaziala Nr.3 Rovinari, Gorj; the 50 pupils were divided into 2 groups. The intervention plan was done in English language, exploring a variety of contents (countries, nationalities, names, greetings, holidays, friendship, emotion&feelings, sports and games, shopping), topics (Round the world, Parties and presents, Holidays, Choose your friend, Sports and games etc). This research was made during the academic years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016; it was made in a comparative way; the comparative study between the experimental group and control group was necessary in order to reveal the effects of the teacher’s intervention to demonstrate the research hypothesis. The research methodology was based on:

  • Analysis of the filing documents: observation worksheets;
  • Analysis of the final products of the activities: written tests from students’ portofolios, letters, postal cards, charts, tables etc;
  • Designing some specific activities in and outside the classroom, combining formal and nonformal methods;
  • Designing some specific tests;
  • Observation of students’ behavior.

The research results demontrates the impact of the set of designed activities both during classes and extraclasses and validates the hypothesis. Pupils developed intercultural competemce in a high degree and improved their English skills.

As learning English is intercultural par excellence, it involves the contact between at least 2 cultures (the pupil’s and that of the foreign language). There is a straight connection between learning a language and getting knowledge about cultures and understanding other people. By activities designed in order to develop pupils knowledge about other countries and cultures, we also developed grammar structures and vocabulary, language skills being improved.

The first analysis was based on the tests results from pretest and posttest step and we can see that the average test score is higher in the posttest step; for the control group, the difference between the 2 average test scores is at about one point, the number of students getting better grades is higher.

The second analysis of the filling documents (observation worksheets), final products of the activities (written tests from students’portofolios, letters, postal cards, charts, tables etc.) and observation of students’ behavior also helped us in identifying the right impact of the designed activities.

Facing social interaction and ways of communication different than in his own culture, pupils developed listening and speaking skills, reading and writing skills; culture proved to be a very important resource in teaching.  Pupils also gained intercultural values (tolerance, open to new), better teamwork skills and cooperation. Pupils have developed their knowledge about ways of greetings and customs, traditional songs and stories, geographical information, traditional food and holidays, sports and money etc.

As pupils have different learning styles and skills, intercultural competence developed gradually in connection to the development of English language skills.

We also noticed that using non-formal methods during classes and involving pupils in extraclasses activities improved pupils confidence in speaking and writing in English language, interest in studying English, cooperation and teamwork, social skills.

During English classes, pupils became familiar and motivated to be part of activities in order to explore topics related to culture. The activities were role-play, listening to a song, watching a film, writing postcards and letters etc.
Pupils leant how to develop their intercultural competence and foreign languages skills through images, texts, sounds.

Taking all this into consideration, we will focus on designing this kind of activities in future classes and keep developing intercultural competence. European projects, both eTwinning projects and school projects, developed both English language skills and intercultural competence. The activities designed to celebrate important days also helped a lot and we will continue involving pupils in this kind of activities.

There is no single way to learn English language: we do it when we see and hear English language everyday outside school, also in books at school. As intercultural competence implies communication, the best impact is achieved by combining types of education (formal, non-formal, informal), focus should be put on non-formal methods, when pupils learn in a relaxed, funny, and attractive way.

We intend to continue this research during the next academic years as it is an interesting and useful topic.

1. Gheorghiță-Schipor, L, 2016, DEVELOPING LANGUAGE SKILLS AND
3. ***, EDUCATION PACK, 2004.

prof. Laura-Maria Gheorghiță-Schipor

Școala Gimnazială Nr.3, Rovinari (Gorj) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/laura.gheorghitaschipor

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