Integration and inclusion are part of everyday school life in all schools and teachers experience new challenges every day. Looking at today's situation in Europe and the world it becomes more than obvious that the challenges - at the moment especially in the field of social inclusion of people with an ethnic diverse background - will not end very soon and not only teachers but students need to be equipped with the necessary competences to meet and adequately deal with diversity.
We Build Experiences
We target the social dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy with its aims to generate smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the EU. The strategy pursues the goal to lift 20 million out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion. Here, major initiatives concentrate on young people and the EU Youth strategy clearly tackles the topic of social inclusion and wants to address exclusion in the areas of education to develop intercultural awareness and to combat prejudices. Further, in 2014, the European Commission published an “Inclusion and Diversity Strategy” to face discrimination and situations of exclusion and poverty and to promote and support inclusion for people with fewer opportunities. According to the Europe 2020 strategy the performance of education systems has to be enhanced and with the Erasmus+ program we see our chance to meet those expectations and to actively contribute to these goals of the EU because relevant response to the needs of our students can and must already happen in the classroom. Especially since they are in the midst of an identification process and develop a worldview as members of the European Union. Plus, we do believe that action from our side has never been more necessary because changes in society and the environment always have an impact on school and bear a constant challenge for the institution. School has to meet new expectations and challenges and this is also true for the current refugee crisis. Children and families with a migrant background are part of everyday school life and especially the current situation and recent reactions and developments (with e.g. Pegida in Germany) clearly show that an adequate approach with migrants and refugees is not a matter of course. Action is necessary and schools have to make it part of their curricula. Needless to say, all participating schools are characterized by diverse students – be it refugee or migrant of first/second generation – and all schools work to their best of knowledge on the matter and integration – especially of refugee children – cannot be underestimated, displays a challenge in many regards and different skills need to be nurtured to our students to embrace a Europe of differences. It is necessary to manage diversity in a positive and respectful way and to teach and learn essential competences. Positive reflection and interaction with diverse groups is necessary to diminish prejudices and to enhance awareness, tolerance and mutual understanding and to ensure that everybody can take part on their own terms, recognizing the value of differences in norms, beliefs, attitudes and life experience. To reach those goals it is necessary to provide the students with knowledge to develop empathy about differences and similarities comparing countries and we have to reflect on stereotypes to diminish prejudices. Students have to learn that we individually can contribute to making diversity work by getting involved and taking responsibility in the process of welcoming ethnic diversity in school as well as in society. The given reasons for this project and the title already explain why a transnational project with different European schools makes sense. The project and its goals can only be achieved transnationally – especially since the participating partners already consist of a very diverse group including differences in ethnicity, ability, skin color, socio-economic background, religion, appearance, educational level, language spoken etc. Very interesting and important is the fact that students from different countries will work together in this project since different countries have different attitudes and political views on the topic. Plus, different needs in different countries become obvious and can be considered. At the same time joint improvement is a major motivation for the project: we can learn from each other and improve our strategies in every day school life: as e.g. from the welcoming protocol at the Christian Spanish school (Sagrada Familia): For instance, a Muslim student addresses a just arrived new Muslim student and explains what it means to be a family there, no matter where you come from. It is our aim to learn and use new and innovative teaching methods in the intercultural context. Another focus is set on the promotion and improvement of integration, acceptance and tolerance. An appropriate management with cultural diversity in all respective fields (e.g. religion, sex, ...) requires competences from teachers and students as well. A cultural awareness must find its way into our school routine and must become omnipresent. Furthermore, we expect to still the fear of language barriers and hope to experience multilingualism as a positive aspect at school.
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