Discussion about the challenges of intercultural education

What opportunities and difficulties do we find in our job of intercultural education? The debate and the Exchange of experiences between Ángel Serrano (Principal of Padre Piquer school), Maria Luisa Berzosa (Fe y Alegría Italia) and Mertxe Orobio (coordinator of youth area of Pueblos Unidos), moderated by Yenifer López, from the Department for Education for Development of Entreculturas started with this approach.

"The intercultural phenomenon belongs to the identity and the mission of this school, it is inherent in our educational mission", said Ángel, being the first to speak. "We want to help this school to become an educational opportunity for everyone, we don´t want the economic level to be determinant. In order to make this possible it is necessary to do different things, to change the idea of education. At Padre Piquer school we have what it is called as `cooperatives and multitasking classes ´, where there are 50 children from 6 different nationalities, with several teachers at the same time, where use of new technologies is made, with digital books and with different formatives spaces... which makes it possible to work at the class at different levels. With these actions we achieve the joy of children for going to school, the joy of parents for seeing their children happy to learn and through a stable set of values we also achieve this children -after finishing school- to be able to adapt to circumstances... We believe in an intercultural education and, through these type of classes, we can carry it out", he explained.

"We also stand for `link classrooms´, where foreign children are 9 months until they learn to have a good working knowledge to be able to start the real classes. I call it `the room of the emotions´ because these children arrive to a hostile context (for it is different), where they found love and understanding. Third we have `Initial Professional Qualification Programms´ for those children who can be found between what it is regulated and what it is not. Furthermore, we are very concerned over `external compensatory program´... it is something we work on towards those children which can be found in hard and social risk situations. We are trying to take what we are working with to the street ", Ángel Serrano said.

"Finally, the effort done to try bringing in the families into the educational processes is another important thing that it is going on. In this school there are 1.100 students, 470 families. Many of them in situations of fragility. The CAF (Centro de Atención a las Familias, in English Office for Family Assistance) of Piquer, along with the help of a group of experts from University of Comillas, will help us to integrate fathers and mothers into the formative process".

Then, Maria Luisa Berzosa, Sister from the Congregation "Daughters of Jesus", of Ignatian Spirituality which is now coordinating in Rome a university of Latin American inmigrants (the countries of the Convenio Andrés Bello), shared her way of seeing interculturality in an educational context: "It is such a richness and a challenge. At first the profiles of our students were mostly adults and mostly women... In the last three years, there has been a mix of young and adults. Due of the family reunification issue. We also started attending families, teenagers´ parents... We focus on the overcoming. We all have our own problems but remaining there it is not enough. We mustn´t remain in the difficulty but overcoming it. For that, we have an educational area "human and Christian" which can be used to healing the wounds due to immigration and to the family reunification we talked about before. Often children have been left alone in their own country or have been taken by force to the country of destination, without asking them first... or they often don´t feel loved by their fathers who sent them with their mothers (or vice versa). Or when they come to Europe and find their mothers have another family..." Maria Luisa explains.

"The other word, apart from overcoming, is accompaniment. We exchange gifts and culture; we accompany one another (teachers-students and students each other). I always dream about going further and building bridges to relate with the families and children staying there and...Create a stronger relation between countries ", she admits.

Finally, Mertxe Orobio (coordinator of youth area of Pueblos Unidos), bring a series of profound reflection about the challenges to interculturaloty education from non-formal area to light. "It is not an easily analyzable area, it resists using telescope... There are many questions and no so many dried statements. I speak from specific experience of the interventions at barrio de La Ventilla, a Pueblos Unidos program that involves teenagers, 65% Moroccan origin and mostly Second Generation immigrants. This program, the ` youth area ´, integrate children of very vulnerable families", she said.

"The non-formal education is such a sufficiently informal education that can welcome (with the whole meaning of this word) those who don´t find a place or who are not confortable with formal education, that can cheer them up, that can strengthen them and that can assess with other parameters. What is formal has a lot from non-formal; in the sense of being planned, of being loved for specific purposes. The youth area has some goals and some methods which are not very common in the formal education of most schools: school failure prevention, accompany in constructing identities, promotion of alternative entertainment, care of self confidence, values formation and social skills..." Mertxe describes. "What is non-formal has the benefict of not having to achieve some programmed goals and stands for everyone. Education non-formal requires a lot of creativity in the method and the tools, there is no a preset curriculum, because everyone needs his/her own method"

"Some dangers: Sometimes we make great efforts to bring in those who are constantly rejected by the system. Can we get out of the system and put at risk those children´s future? Is our outlook on children a staring or a long-term Outlook? We thought about the differences between the meanings of the verb "to be". Sometimes we may loose ourselves in schools and families' needs... Parents insist on ´the more, the better´, reflecting their own desires and their own frustration in their children. We obsess with academic results and we forget the basic needs that are addressed by Maslow... and the cuts are very dangerous... ¿where do we cut from?" Mertxe raise.

Regarding to the challenges spoke in this contexts, Mertxe considered the following reflections: "We must stop seeing children as analyzable object to seeing them as subjects who build their lives, there is no model for integration (there are same factors which influence: personal experience, family contexts, etc.). Another challenge is to believe in the potential of non-formal education and to keep strengthened our activity. The integration in the labor market of those who have a more precarious education is another challenge. Families are not sure how to accompany their children in that first labor stage, that´s why they are left out of the equation. The basic needs are "basically" covered. There is a growing fragility that makes them to start moving in environment not so legal... We must take the time to analyze how to answer children´s the real needs; we must be in the streets to know what is going on there... And finally, we must enhance participations; which is another huge challenge...How to make sure youth will take responsibility for something? Participating produces a very positive dynamic because it allows us to show what we are and because it gives us knowledge back...."