Multicultural community – How can intercultural communication be promoted in school?

In times of a globalized world the issues of migration and multicultural society are important points on the political agenda. Since the so-called refugee crisis in 2015 a clear divide in society regarding the attitudes towards migration is visible.

Many migrants in Germany, as well as their children, struggle daily from prejudices and structural barriers they have to face and hinder their societal and political participation. This can in turn lead to isolation and types of parallel societies. In the German educational system, the meritocracy principle is in effect. Those who demonstrate the best merit, get rewarded with the best grades and eventually with the best career chances. But do children with migration background have equal chances to achieve this merit if in school they need to get used to the language and cultural norms first?

From observing those supposed differences in merit and problems to adapt to the culture, prejudices against other cultures arise, and parenting can reinforce those negative attitudes. Basic values like tolerance and understanding of diverse people and cultures often develop already in childhood and are rather stable and immutable in later life stages. Furthermore, those values shape how people perceive contact with people of different cultures, which makes them interpret everyday experiences of multicultural contact differently. But research shows clearly that positive perceived encounters between people of different cultures effectively reduce prejudices and can enhance the attitude towards this cultural group.

How can prejudices be reduced and an understanding multicultural community be enabled? Would it be possible to raise a more cosmopolitan and culturally sensitive generation if prejudices against minorities could already be reduced in school through positive encounters? How could those encounters be created und which difficulties could occur? How could better integration of children with migrant background be achieved and which role do language barriers play, which one cultural and religious differences? Could better communication between pupils of diverse cultures make structural barriers visible and reduce them through solidarity and team work among pupils?

Could the promotion of cultural exchange in school reduce conflicts in society?

Must-Read – the team should read this before the Kick-Off:

Landmann, H., Aydin, A. L., Van Dick, R. & Klocke, U. (in press). Die Kontakthypothese: Wie Kontakt Vorurteile gegenüber Geflüchteten reduzieren und Integration fördern kann. The Inquisite Mind.*

Additional Literature:

DFJW & InterCultur, 2019. Empfehlungen für Entscheidungsträger der Lehrkräfteausbildung zum Bereich Interkulturelles Lernen in der Schule.*

Barret, M., 2018. How schools can promote the intercultural competence of young people. European Psychologist, 23(1), pp. 93-104.

Hoffmann, W. & Briga, E., 2018. A Brief Overview on Intercultural Learning in Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development for Teachers of Upper Secondary Schools, pp. 25-30.

Kiel, E., Scharfenberg, J. & Weiß, S., 2019. Checkliste Interkulturelle Schule.

Scientific Partner

Supporting Researcher

Rebecca Wetter

Photo: Martina Sander

Rebecca Wetter works at the Social Sciences Center Berlin (WZB) at the Skill formation and labor markets department. Currently, she is writing her dissertation on the topic “Sources and consequences of meritocratic beliefs”. Her research interests are values, inequality and intercultural contact.