Scholarly article on topic 'Students’ Perception on the Necessity of Intercultural Education in Romania'

Students’ Perception on the Necessity of Intercultural Education in Romania Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Pavalache-Ilie Mariela, Voinea Mihaela, Unianu Ecaterina Maria

Abstract The Romanian school is trying to achieve the intercultural competences both in a direct way (the social – humanities subjects) and indirectly (the others subjects). One hundred students attended the course of intercultural education and filled out a questionnaire regarding psychosocial attitudes or behaviours. They identified formative effects of attending an intercultural education course such as: tolerance/empathy, training skills of cooperation/teamwork/adjustment to new situations, promoting interculturality, knowledge and understanding of other cultures. From a practical point of view, the recommendation is the introduction of the intercultural education course both at pre-university and university level, in the national curriculum, for all study programs.

Academic research paper on topic "Students’ Perception on the Necessity of Intercultural Education in Romania"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 128 (2014) 447 - 452

EPC-TKS 2013

Students' perception on the necessity of intercultural education in

Romania

Pavalache-Ilie Mariela a *, Voinea Mihaela a, Unianu Ecaterina Maria a

aTransilvania University of Brasov, 29, B-dul Eroilor, Brasov, 500036, Romania

Abstract

The Romanian school is trying to achieve the intercultural competences both in a direct way (the social - humanities subjects) and indirectly (the others subjects). One hundred students attended the course of intercultural education and filled out a questionnaire regarding psychosocial attitudes or behaviours. They identified formative effects of attending an intercultural education course such as: tolerance/empathy, training skills of cooperation/ teamwork/ adjustment to new situations, promoting interculturality, knowledge and understanding of other cultures. From a practical point of view, the recommendation is the introduction of the intercultural education course both at pre-university and university level, in the national curriculum, for all study programs.

© 2014TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevier Ltd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selectionand peer-review under responsibility of Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, Education Sciences Department. Keywords: interculturality, education, social competences, globalization, Romania;

1. Introduction

Global society, which promotes social values such as: cooperation, tolerance, acceptance and valuing diversity, etc. asks for restructuring at the school curriculum level, because the connection between school and society is obvious (if society promotes and accepts diversity, school must promote these values through a pedagogy of diversity).

* Pavalache-Ilie Mariela. Tel.: +040268416184 E-mail address: mariela.pavalache@unitbv.ro

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, Education Sciences Department. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.186

The world is in a process of globalization, where borders tend to be symbolically marked, and we need not only to know and understand the others better, but also ourselves. It is not a coincidence that one of the pillars of education today is learning to live together with others (Delors, 2000). Globalization attracts, as Barzea shows, the need to redefine the concepts of citizenship, democracy, cultural identity (Barzea, 2001).

In this context, globalization, or so-called planetary village towards which humanity tends, entails a certain culture of unification of diversity, possible through intercultural education. New competences that are necessary today, such as tolerance, critical thinking, communicational skills, empathy, can be developed in school.

In a document of the Council of Europe it is specified: "In an information society, what matters is the ability to select information, to think critically, to solve problems, to work in a team, to form value judgments, to communicate and constantly question one's knowledge and abilities in the light of changing needs" (Council of Europe, 2003, p. 90).

Today, intercultural education is seen as a necessity and also as a solution to the problems of the contemporary world, where social skills, networking and cooperation, communication and the ability to adapt have become indispensable. School, through the relationships developed among students and between students and teachers, through teaching, learning and assessment strategies, that promote the ethos of the school in general, is consistently contributing to the formation of the above-mentioned skills. Intercultural competences, achieved through studying intercultural education, especially contribute to the individual's personal development.

Siebert (2001) argues that the competences must be formed in a real context, through contact with experiences, and students must be taught in a real context through exploration. Kim (1991, apud Cozma, 2001) considers that the essence of intercultural competence is the ability to change, to transform the human beings from rigid, intolerant and boring into open, flexible, creative and not closed ones.

Intercultural competence is proved by the ease with which the person establishes intercultural contacts, the degree of effectiveness in understanding and transmitting cultural meanings. In fact, individual performance is in relation with the intercultural communication factor, depending not only on personal responsibility, but also on numerous other factors related to social environment (Cozma, 2001).

Byram and Zarate (apud Nedelcu, 2008) describe the components of intercultural competence as follows: 1) Attitudes: curiosity, openness to deal with stereotypes of other groups and beliefs about the them; 2) Knowledge of social groups, their "products" and their own culture or practices of others, general processes of social interaction on the macro-and micro-level; 3) Interpretation skills and networking. Balanced analysis of a document or event belonging to a culture, and explanation of proper relationship with those of their culture; 4) Skills of interaction and discovery, ability to receive new information and practices of other cultures, to operate with knowledge, attitudes, skills in communication and interaction within reality's limits; 5) Reflection and critical evaluation skills on the basis of perspectives, practices and products of their culture and of the others.

Another definition for intercultural competence is the one of Hofstede: "the result of the awareness that you possess a certain mental programming and other's mental program (...) and different knowledge acquisition about another culture and about life. Competence is to handle yourself in this new environment and to be able to solve problems." (Hofstede, 1994, apud Ciascai, & Marchi§¡, 2008).

Fantin (1994, apud Ciascai, & Marchi§, 2008) showed that the definition of intercultural competence took into account primarily three areas of skills: a) the ability to develop and maintain relationships; b) the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately with minimal distortion or omission; c) the ability to gain approval of others and work with them.

Flye (1997, apud Ciascai, & Marchi§, 2008, p. 40) defined the intercultural competence as the "ability that allows you both to know and understand situations, analyzing the contact between individuals and groups from different cultures, but also the ability to manage these situations" .

As it results from the analysis of the definitions above, intercultural competence supposes a culture of diversity, of meeting with others. From this point of view, Romanian culture is a culture different from most other countries forming EU, favouring autarchism and interpersonal retractility (Gavreliuc, 2011).

In order to form intercultural competences in pupils, teachers should posses these competences. Schools need teachers who have intercultural competences and who are capable to promote a pedagogy of diversity (Nedelcu, 2004).

The interest in the pedagogy of diversity is justified by the following aspects:

• the need to make school more attractive to students. This is really a requirement of post-modern pedagogy, which, according to the constructivist principle of affective-cognitive unity, promotes a positive attitude towards learning.

• the need to put school closer to the reality of everyday life by learning through "authentic tasks", through problem solving, projects, role playing, etc..

• the need to develop the social skills so necessary in a dynamic, globalized world. The social skills can be developed by using interactive group methods and through cooperative learning.

• designing and implementing instructional strategies based on real life experiences that students have lived in different contexts.

For this, school must be an intercultural one, which really promotes tolerance, democracy and respect for diversity. But this thing is not easy. First, we believe that teachers must be training in the pedagogy of diversity. They can not form intercultural competences, if they do not have intercultural experiences.

Here is a problem of teacher training in Romania, because school environment is too homogenous, too little favourable for promoting cultural, ethnical, religious diversity. (Romanian) teachers must answer Ulrich's question: "Shall we cultivate the difference in education?", behind this question being identified the risks which exist when everyone is different and no common (similar) points can be found.

In a study about intercultural education and system of individual values (Voinea, 2012) an important conclusion was that the peculiarities of society influence the way in which people define their own system of values, and that intercultural education, defined first and foremost as education for values plays a decisive part in shaping and confirming the individual's system of values. Therefore, the teachers must have intercultural skills and a clear system of values because the teachers cannot promote positive attitudes for diversity, and cannot impose acceptance and tolerance if they do not join their students in the learning experience. We need teachers with intercultural skills because they became agents of change (Fullan, 1993). Fullan argues that the teachers who are agents of change have a moral purpose and they make "a difference in the lives of students from all backgrounds, and by so doing help produce greater capacity in society to cope with change from within" (1993, p. 5).

2. Purpose of the study

The main purpose of this research was the identification of the perception on the necessity and the role of the intercultural education in forming and developing of students' social competences.

3. Methods

This exploratory research was made with 100 students, from the second year of studies at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, from the specialization Pedagogy and Pedagogy of preschool and primary school. These students attended the course of intercultural education. The methods and instruments used in this research were: the study of scholar documents (scholar programs, educational plans) and a questionnaire with 20 items regarding psychosocial attitudes or behaviours.

4. Findings and results

Students think that intercultural education is very important because of its formative effects on the level of promoting certain values or behaviours which are necessary in our contemporary world: cooperation, tolerance, empathy and so on. The majority of students appreciated that the study of intercultural education should begin earlier, at the primary level (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The frequency of answers concerning when should intercultural education courses start

Another important conclusion concerns the fact that students say that intercultural learning contributes to achieving important skills in today's society, as are shown in the figure 2. These include: openness to new situations, the ability to adapt to new social contexts, cooperation with others in order to understand and accept those who are different, with their values, traditions, culture, critical thinking, and initiative in making decisions aimed at cooperation / collaboration with others. Intercultural skills' training is a requirement of the new educations in a global society. In this respect, an important step could be the introduction in the curriculum of subjects which should specifically provide training and development of intercultural skills in students. The extension of the European community entails new challenges through which intercultural education objectives are adapted to reality. Besides trans, poly- and multicultural approaches, interculturality is a binder that highlights each culture's values.

100% ■f'/"^™-

80% -^^m-

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Openness Adapting Cooperation Critical initiative to new capacity thinking

Figure 2. The frequency of skills achieved through attending courses of intercultural education

The necessity of Intercultural education is supported by responses to the item regarding the formative effects of attending an intercultural education course. Although there are a variety of answers (this being an open item), they can be grouped into the following broad categories, presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Frequency of formative effects of attending an intercultural education course

Categories of answers Frequency

Acceptance of the different one/tolerance/empathy 49%

Training skills of cooperation/teamwork/adjustment to new situations 27%

Promoting interculturality, knowledge and understanding of other cultures 9%

Other answers 15 %

The study of scholar documents has shown that intercultural education is very poorly represented in the Romanian national curriculum.

Although most experts in science education recognize the important role of intercultural competence for students' development and adjustment to the labour market, however, intercultural education is underrepresented in the national curriculum in Romania (in primary school, the goals of intercultural education are reached indirectly, by studying "Civic education", a compulsory subject, then at high school level by socio-human disciplines such as psychology, philosophy and at university level, only at humanities faculties, specializing in science education, and cultural studies - faculty of Letters).

We could talk about the paradox of intercultural education: although its importance to the individual and society is sustained, it is not an independent subject, with a mandatory status, except in limited cases. It is also necessary that the system of initial teacher training takes into account intercultural skills training, as a conclusion also from students' responses, according to which 49.10% of respondents recognize the need for teacher training for intercultural education.

5. Conclusions and Recommendations

Those students which attended the intercultural education subject think that the school has an important role in forming the intercultural competences, underlying the fact that this type of education leads to the development of values and attitudes which are specific to the present society: respect for each other, promoting diversity, cooperation. The practical recommendation is, as a natural consequence, the introduction in the national curriculum of this discipline both at pre-university level and university level, for all specializations.

A practical recommendation: introduction in teachers' initial and continuous training of the subject intercultural education, with formative effects due to the personal and professional development. Intercultural competent teachers promote teaching diversity necessary in the current Romanian school. In a relatively homogeneous cultural environment from a cultural, ethnical and religious point of view, where intercultural experiences are poor, intercultural skills can still be formed by the growing diversity in schools, by developing team spirit and valuing of differences. Another practical recommendation is introducing of the intercultural education as a compulsory subject, right from kindergarten. Obviously, intercultural education can be achieved in different forms and contents: as education of values, as human rights education based on students' specific psycho-pedagogical concerns. Without denying the importance of other forms of education in training intercultural competences (the media, museums, trips to other countries etc.) school remains the basic institution forming the skills required by our world, in a coherent, pedagogically processed way.

References

Barzea, C. (2001). Educatia pentru cetatenie democratic intr-o societate in schimbare. [Education for democratic citizenship in a changing society]. Revista de pedgogie, 1-12, 5-12.

Ciascai, L., & Marchi§, I. (2008). Educatia interculturala §i multimedia. [Intercultural education and multimedia]. Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitara Clujeana.

Cozma, T. (coord.) (2001). O noua provocare pentru educatie: interculturalitatea. [A New Challenge for Education: interculturality]. Iasi: Polirom.

Delors, J. (coord.) (2000). Comoara launtrica [Inner treasure]. Iasi: Polirom.

Ferreol, G., Jucquois, G. (2005). Dictionarul alteritatii si al relatiilor interculturale. [Dictionary of otherness and intercultural relations]. Iasi: Polirom.

Fullan, M. (1993). Change Forces - probing the Depths of Educational Reform. London: Falmer Press.

Gavreliuc, A. (2011). Psihologie interculturala. [Intercultural Psychology). Iasi: Polirom.

Nedelcu, A. (2004). invatarea intercultural in §coala. Ghid pentru formarea cadrelor didactice. [Intercultural learning in school. Guidelines for teacher training. Bucuresti: Humanitas.

Nedelcu, A. (2008). Fundamentele educapei interculturale. Diversitate, minoritati, echitate. Iasi:Polirom.

Siebert, H. (2001). Pedagogie constructivista. [Constructivist pedagogy]. Iasi: Ed. Institutul European.

Ulrich, C. (2003). Sa cultivam diferenta in educatie? [To cultivate the difference in education?]. Revista de Pedagogie, 1 -6, 33-40.

Voinea, M. (2012). The role of intercultural education in defining the system of individual values. Elsevier Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 33, 288 - 292.

*** Council of Europe. (2003). Learning and teaching in the communication society.