Intercultural Learning in Lithuanian schools
“Intercultural learning in Lithuanian schools” was a pilot project implemented during 2004/2005school year by four partner organizations: UNESCO National Commission of Lithuania, Association of Youth Non-formal Education in Lithuania, Siauliai regional Centre for Creative Arts and Kursenai Laurynas Ivinskis Gymnasium. Each partner was equally responsible for the implementation of the project and contributed with its competencies, financial and human resources.
Why intercultural learning (ICL)? We see tendencies in Lithuania and the whole Europe as well that society is transforming into more and more intercultural and even multicultural.
Intercultural principles concentrate on openness to the other, active respect for difference, mutual comprehension, active tolerance, validating the cultures present, providing equality of opportunities, fighting discrimination. In this context, intercultural learning can be designed to promote and to develop:
• a better comprehension of cultures in modern societies;
• a larger capacity of communication between people from different cultures;
• a more flexible attitude to the context of cultural diversity in society;
• a better capacity of participation in social interaction, and the recognition of the common
heritage of humanity.
Why it is a pilot project? It’s the first attempt to incorporate Intercultural Learning program into schools’ curriculum in Lithuania because there are no lessons or extra-educational programmes in secondary schools, which could develop intercultural competencies of students. Project was implemented in 12 schools, which are members of UNESCO Associated Schools Project and 12 schools in the towns in Eastern Lithuania where the concentration of ethnical minorities is relatively high.
Overall aim of the project was to develop capacity of secondary schools in Lithuania to promote intercultural values and provide possibilities for teachers and students to gain competencies throughout the implementation of intercultural learning program. This aim was achieved through the:
- Improvement of the quality of teacher’s work, the inspiration of enthusiasm and commitment for the Intercultural Dimension in the school curriculum and cooperation between schools and finally the values the United Nations stands for;
- Development of intercultural competencies for teachers and students as well as competencies in management of international youth projects which will enable to practise gained intercultural skills.
Project was implemented in three main stages.
During the first stage training courses for teachers and students were organized in order to gain needed competencies for effective intercultural learning. 24 schools were divided into two regions. 2 teachers and 2 students from each school attended six day long training courses on intercultural learning and one common six day long training course on international youth event management both for teachers and students. In total:
- 2 training courses organized for teachers. 48 teachers prepared to run intercultural learning program in schools.
- 2 training courses organized for students. 48 students prepared for: (i) active participation in intercultural learning process; (ii) generating creative and original ideas with intercultural dimension.
- 2 common training courses organized for both teachers and students. 24 teachers and 24 students shared common vision on implementation if ICL program and prepared together to implement intercultural/international projects with vivid educational approach.
The second stageof the project “Intercultural learning in Lithuanian schools” was practical implementation of the intercultural learning program in schools. It lasted 5-7 months. Teachers ran intercultural learning workshops every week (aprox. 5 hours per month) aiming to develop intercultural competencies of students. Teachers together with their students created and implemented projects with intercultural dimension (national projects involving different ethnical groups or international projects with partners from other countries). It was a practical, real and most powerful experience of intercultural learning.
The third stage was generally for evaluation. One common evaluation seminar for all 24 schools was organized in order to:
- evaluate the activity and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the program, to identify the benefits to the participants, to assess the educational and methodological approach, and to determine in general whether the program was appropriate and had justified the efforts invested and money spent;
- evaluate the impact on future projects, on the individual growth of the participants, on the schools, their immediate environments and possible long-term changes;
- discuss future challenges and concerns about adaptability of the program in other schools of Lithuania;
- Produce relevant material with tools and recommendations of intercultural learning in schools.