What’s Intercultural Education?

April 18, 2020
Interculturality refers to the possibility of a respectful coexistence between people with different cultural identities. Thus, intercultural education should aim to teach people to live with others and respect differences.

To understand what intercultural education is, you must first remember what culture is. As defined by cultural anthropology, specifically by Edward B. Tylor (1871), culture is:

“That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Culture is learned through the socialization process, whereby each person learns what a society and their immediate family environment teaches them in a particular historical time.

And their behaviors, ways of interpreting reality, and their values depend on their personal circumstances and their own social and cultural context.

A multicultural society

Historically, and nowadays, societies and nations have formed from the immigration and emigration of people. This has allowed us to become a part of a multicultural reality. In other words, we’re always in contact with people with different cultures and languages we must coexist with and respect.

There are different positions regarding the situation of multiculturalism regarding opposite cultures and different customs. For example, adopting an ethnocentric attitude that disposes us to analyze other cultures from our own perspectives. This can make it hard for people to put themselves in other people’s shoes and even feel more superior than them.

What’s Intercultural Education?

Another approach may be to adopt a certain cultural relativism to be more tolerant of other cultures, groups, and cultural events. But although this attitude is respectful, it doesn’t propose the possibility of contact and conscious exchange between diverse cultural groups, as an intercultural stance does.

An intercultural attitude

Interculturalism, unlike other attitudes, involves taking a step further regarding the encounters between different cultural groups. It’s not just about living peacefully in the same social and temporal space but also to advocate for interaction and exchange as a possibility for growth and development, both social and individual.

Thus, multiculturalism is the process of communication and interaction between people and groups with specific cultural identities. Multiculturalism is a means to promote communication between people, always on an equal footing.

What’s Intercultural Education?

Intercultural education

Thus, intercultural education is a holistic and inclusive approach aimed at developing respectful attitudes that are tolerant of diversity. But, in turn, it also highlights the need to conceive diversity as a form of personal and collective enrichment.

Intercultural education doesn’t allow the ideas and actions of a person or cultural group to be above the other. In this sense, it’s an education that attempts to change practices by encouraging and facilitating dialogue and the participation of each regarding other realities.

Basic principles of intercultural education

Intercultural education consists of rethinking certain concepts, such as racism, discrimination, and exclusion. In addition, it:

  • Promotes respect for different cultures and customs.
  • Encourages contact between social groups with specific diverse identities.
  • Perceives diversity as valuable and not as a drawback.
  • Increases educational equality and equal opportunities.
  • Encourages and promotes communication, dialogue, and coexistence.
  • Pursues integration as a way of maintaining specific cultural identities while coexisting with others.

In conclusion

An intercultural education involves a complete reorganization of policies, institutions, teacher training, school curriculum, and educational practices. All this is necessary to achieve the goal that intercultural education proposed. In this regard, it isn’t only about learning about another person’s culture but learning through contact and experiences with them.

  • Walsh, C. (2010). Interculturalidad crítica y educación intercultural. Construyendo interculturalidad crítica75, 96.
  • Odina, T. A. (2004). Investigación en educación intercultural. Educatio siglo XXI22, 39-57. Recuperado de  https://revistas.um.es/educatio/article/view/98/83
  • Tylor, E. B. (1977). Cultura primitiva, 1. Los orígenes de la cultura. Editorial Ayuso.