In our globalised and globalising world, we are searching for sustainable conviviality in confusing times. Education and the role of educational institutions are  crucial in facing the challenges of new intercultural realities. In this Expert Comment, Léonce Bekemans introduces his proposal for a human-centric approach to education and explores the role of education in facing the challenges and oportunities of these intercultural realities. Bekemans explains the objectives and competences of education for integral human development; introduces the concept, objectives, trajectories, and practices of responsible citizenship education; and addresses the need for intercultural citizenship education in globalising societies with regard to the objectives, competences, and strategies of educational institutions. The paper concludes with six policy suggestions to promote true intercultural citizenship education.

Executive Summary        

The various economic, political, social, and cultural challenges in the era of globalisation have had a drastic and diversified impact on societies, states, peoples, communities, and persons across the globe. Societies are growing in complexity, and there is increased interconnection between and within societies and communities, which might lead to social tensions and conflicts. We are searching for sustainable conviviality in confusing times. In today’s globalising world, societies no longer live in isolated territories or within closed boundaries. This is the result not only of increased migration flows, but of modern technologies that transform communication systems and rebuild relationships. Education and the role of educational institutions are therefore of crucial importance to respond to the challenges of these intercultural realities.

The paper is structured in two parts. The first part introduces the conceptual content of a human-centric approach to education as to its challenges, fundamentals, and consequences. The second and main part of the paper explores the role of education for intercultural realities in a globalising world. The point of departure in this second part is the right to education, as guaranteed by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The next section explains the objectives and competences of education for integral human development. In the third section, some reflections are offered on the concept, objectives, trajectories, and practices of responsible citizenship education. The final section deals with the need for intercultural citizenship education in globalising societies with regard to the objectives, competences, and strategies of educational institutions. In the conclusion I propose some conceptual guidelines and policy suggestions for true intercultural citizenship education.

Policy Recommendations: 

  • Develop lifelong learning trajectories, through a variety of interconnecting learning resources, educational institutions, and dialogue frameworks;
  • Raise investment in human resources and differentiated knowledge, in particular by investing in training teachers and trainers for all stages of intercultural learning and by introducing innovative and flexible intercultural pedagogy;
  • Promote meeting places of intercultural understanding, dialogue, and mutual learning through international exchange programmes, in particular for young people;
  • Elaborate and develop multi-layered curricula on integral human development to enhance understanding of the new realities of citizenship-building in the rapidly changing international context;
  • Launch creative incentives to learn active and responsible citizenship and apply it accordingly in concrete local projects;
  • Favour an integrated strategy to foster intercultural competences in culturally diverse democratic societies.

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the original author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, its co-founders, or its staff members.

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Léonce Bekemans {MA in Economics and BA in Philosophy (Univ.Leuven), MA in International Studies (Bologna & Washington) and PhD in International Relations (EUI Florence/Univ. Leuven)} is the Jean Monnet Chair “Globalisation, Intercultural dialogue & inclusiveness in the EU” at the University of Padua (It) and the academic coordinator of its Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence “Intercultural dialogue, Human Rights & Multi-level Governance”. Currently, he is also visiting professor at the International University of Cataluña in Barcelona and the Opole University in Poland. Professor Bekemans teaches courses on globalisation, intercultural dialogue and multi-level governance from a European, value driven and interdisciplinary perspective. He is also president of “Ryckevelde”, a European and international Centre promoting European citizenship (Bruges, B) and Secretary-General of ECSA World (European Community Studies Association). As an expert he collaborates with the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Committee of the Regions, the Anna Lindh Foundation (Alexandria/Egypt) and the European Training Foundation (Turin/It). He has directed and managed European financed projects. He is the author of many articles and has edited or co-edited many books. He co-edited “Intercultural Dialogue and Citizenship. Translating Values into Actions. A Common Project for Europeans and their partners” in 2007, a major reference book and the result of a large interuniversity Jean Monnet research project. He is the editor of two forthcoming publications with the International publishing House, P.I.E Peter Lang, i.e. “Intercultural Dialogue and Multi-level Governance in Europe: a human rights based approach” (April 2012) and “A value driven European future” (autumn 2012.). He is also co-director of the series “Europe of Cultures. He is a Belgian citizen, has lived and worked in various European countries; he is married and has one son.