From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship

This autumn we are publishing From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner. In this post, the editors describe how the book came together.

From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural CitizenshipThis book is the outcome of several years of collaboration among language teachers and researchers interested in the integration of language and culture in their teaching. We call it teaching ‘intercultural communicative competence’. We are part of a much bigger group called ‘Cultnet’ who have supported our work in many ways.

The concept of teaching intercultural communicative competence is not new. The ideas have circulated among language teachers for more than 20 years and are beginning to take root in curricula, in textbooks and in teaching. What is new is the introduction of ideas from citizenship education.

Citizenship education is attractive because it ensures that learners do not only learn about citizenship but also get directly involved in their community as they are interacting in the classroom and in communities. This is what we introduce into language teaching and learning.

However, citizenship education is inward-looking. It prepares people as members of their own societies and communities i.e. a national perspective. In contrast, foreign language teaching is international in its outlook, teaching the languages and cultures (the ‘languacultures’) of other countries. So combining citizenship education and foreign language education leads to a focus on ‘intercultural citizenship’ (not ‘international citizenship’).

Intercultural citizenship means language learners at school and university – from elementary/primary school to advanced learners specialising in languages – can work together on citizenship problems and plan together a response which is not inward-looking but benefits from a broader perspective.

For example, the book has chapters describing how young learners in schools in Denmark and Argentina work together on environmental issues, or older learners in England and Argentina work on historical and political issues which are highly sensitive, and gain a new understanding through their intercultural, cross-Atlantic cooperation. All this is facilitated by use of the internet.

The book also explores how learners and teachers understand intercultural citizenship. There are chapters from China and Korea as well as the USA, which describe how learners think they can be ‘active in the community’ or ‘global citizens’, a much-used term in education and beyond.

We think this approach excites learners and gives them something important and intellectually – and sometimes emotionally – demanding to do with their languages, in the here and now. We have seen this happen among older and younger learners, with advanced and with modest levels of language competence. They find themselves ‘making a difference’ in their communities in ways they would not have thought of if they had not worked with people in other countries and continents. At the same time their language competence improves – this happens because they are concentrating on what they can do and not only on the language they are using to do it.

If you would like more information about the book, please see our website.

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