ERG SES G 06, Intercultural Education
This presentation is the outcome of field research in an Italian public library between 2012 and 2013. In 2007 this library opened in a suburb of one of the biggest northern Italian cities. The library’s mission is to promote intercultural education, which makes sense as the immigrant population continues to grow. The focus of this research is twofold: the quest for an ideal model of public place for intercultural education and the search for an Italian cultural model of education, and hence intercultural education.
Some well-respected Italian researchers have pointed out that since the concept of intercultural education had been broadly introduced into schools over a 10-year timespan, that the challenges of the initial learning phase have already been overcome. Therefore, the next step should be to open society to this interactional model and promote intercultural communication among all people (Favaro, Luatti, 2008, 45). In particular, school children would benefit from a broadening of the concept of intercultural education. Given the theme, the fact that the after-school lives of immigrant children are not well studied in Italy (Luatti, Melacarne, 2012, 169) is crucial. The research aims to identify a public place to engage in intercultural education.
The second part of the research focuses on culture. Researchers have examined Japanese classroom culture and how immigrant children react to it (Shimizu and Shimizu, 2001). The researchers found that Japanese classrooms could have two apparently differential but compatible directions: strong peer pressure on one hand and freedom permitted to children to promote their autonomy on the other. The teachers who were interviewed for the research suggested that the focus on freedom and autonomy may have resulted from the child-centered pedagogy that was embraced in Japanese schools.
In fact, child-centered pedagogy, guided by the national curriculum, was introduced broadly in Japanese schools in the 1980s. Based on the study of British sociologist B. Bernstein, Shimizu and Shimizu (2001) argue that this child-centered pedagogy model tends to isolate the problems of single pupils from the context and so individualises relative responsibilities in a way that increases the child’s difficulties. The most resounding and original finding of this study, however, was that immigrant children were always invisible, despite their alterity and legitimate difficulties.
One possible interpretation could be that this “invisibility” is caused by general ruck of interaction between children, and between children and their teachers. Japanese cultural studies have indicated that peer pressure is mostly based on non-verbal codes, which may act to further limit communications. On the other hand, the child-centered pedagogy could prevent teachers from directly intervening in interactions between children. In such a cultural setting of Japanese schools, the strategies that immigrant children may employ to react to peer pressure may negatively influence their school achievement and advancement.
The two-pronged research focuses on the search for an interactive cultural education model. Italy has been selected as a case study. While European countries introduced the intercultural education model in the early 1990s, Italy’s transition occurred later and it occupies a unique space as a late adapter of the intercultural education mode (Tarozzi, 2012) Italy can achieve cultural interaction, without interference from laicité, or secularism, (France) or previous experiences of segregation (Germany). Nevertheless, there is some naturally occurring segregation in Italy that does put limits on the intercultural model. A public library was chosen for the field of research, which is designed to be a public place for all.
The aim of this study is to identify a possible model of intercultural education in a public place, while keeping in mind the cultural context of the specific field. The study focused on the intentions and the form of the practices of intercultural education in a public place, so as to create a model which, in turn, could be discussed from the perspectives of various academic fields such as cultural studies, sociology and philosophy of education. The goal was to interpret the significance of such a model for intercultural education in general. The original materials of this study were gathered through fieldwork research in an Italian public library. The outcomes were compiled as a case study, as a product with close linkage to the context of the specific field. The research was conducted by the author in 2012 and 2013. There were also several preliminary and post-study visits to gather additional information. The researcher frequented the site on an irregular basis and assisted and observed in activities to reveal the crucial role of intercultural education. Besides observing the activities, the researcher interviewed the librarians and other collaborators, observed visitors and then asked visitors fill out questionnaires that focused on their general library usage. In addition, the library’s historical background was studied through bibliographical research and interviews and it was found that the triangle model presented here would have been repeated at the local level. Though the historical aspect of the model should be omitted in this short presentation.
The framework of actions in the research could be described with a triangular model: inclusion-teaching expression-making visible. Through this model the librarian encourages local children of various cultural backgrounds, including Italian, in their propensity to interact with others. According to a remarkable American philosopher of education Sheffler (2010), propensity is indispensable aspect of human potential for any prospective gole. The settings and the activities at a library are generally inclusive and modifiable to meet user needs and their foot marks. Any kind of voice may be accepted and their value is recognised. Some activities and settings are dedicated to teaching expression. Children can participate in various reading workshops that feature crafting, music, dances and plays. These activities are always accompanied by reading books, through which children not only encounter crucial cultural problems but they are helped to express themselves with words and structure they find in the literature itself. There are adults to stimulate and support. Hall (1996), one of the most important cultural studies researchers, argues that ‘identities are constructed within, not outside, discourse’ (ibid., 4). Through these workshops children incubate their own words and ‘suture’ (ibid., 5) them into existing discourses, which attempt to ‘“interpellate,” speak to us or hail us into place as social subjects of particular discourses’ (ibid., 5–6), thus allowing the children to cultivate their own inter-subjective identity. A form of responsibility towards oneself and towards each other is required and encouraged. The children’s work might be put in order by librarians. The work can be woven into the textile of meanings of the library itself, welcoming any other users to interact. Here is the place where new meanings continuously arise. The library renews its identity through these meanings and passes them on in synchronic and diachronic ways to its users, thus demanding continuous cultivation.
Agnoli, A. (2009), Le piazze del sapere, Biblioteche e libertà, Bari-Roma: Laterza. Arendt, H.(1958),The Human Condition, 2nd ed., Chicago:University of Chicago Press. Favaro G.(2008), Luatti L., Il tempo dell’integrazione: I centri interculturali in Italia, Franco Angeli. Hall, S. (1996), Introduction:Who Needs ‘Identity’?“, Gay, P. and Hall, S., Questions of Cultural Identity, Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Ltd, 1-17. Luatti L., Melacarne C. (a cura di)(2012), Scrivere il futuro a più mani: L’orientamento nella scuola multiculturale., Vannini. Merriam S. B. (1998), Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education: Reviced and Expanded from Case Study Research in Education, Jossey-Bass Publishers. Seamon D.(1979), A Geography of the Lifeworld, New York: St. Martin’s Press. Shimizu K. and Shimizu M., 2001, Newcomer and education: around the conflicts between school culture and ethnicities. [in Japanese: Newcomer to Kyoiku, Gakko bunka to Ethnicity no Kattou wo Megutte] Takahashi H., 2016, The Italian Concept of Intercultural Education: A Comparative Study with French and German Model, in Departmental Bulletin Paper, Department of Education, Tohoku University, 213-233 [in Japanese] Tarozzi M., 2012 Intercultural or multicultural education in Europe and in the United States, in: Languages in a global world: learning for better cultural understanding, PARIS, OECD, pp. 393 - 406
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