Intercultural Learning in the Council of Europe

In the never ending quest to grasp the full spectrum of intercultural learning I recently found myself reading The Council of Europe’s Compendium of Intercultural Learning from 2012. The Compendium provides a comprehensive overview of how intercultural learning (ICL) is seen as a reference point in the youth work of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe (CoE) is an international organization that focuses on promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Its policies, resources and recommendations influence the activities of AFS in Europe, and especially our volunteer work since AFS organizations in Europe tend to be youth-driven. This means that our umbrella organization, the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL) can take advantage of the Council’s funding for youth activities (trainings, seminars and study sessions) focusing on intercultural learning. This is an opportunity for AFSers to openly discuss and explore intercultural learning which is crucial for competence building of our volunteers.

It is important that large and influential organizations, like the Council of Europe, see intercultural learning as key to youth work. Their involvement also produces educational documents, intercultural activities and research on the topic available to the general public (See also T-Kit 4: Intercultural Learning). The Compendium of Intercultural Learning is a good example: it displays a thorough overview of the topic in European youth work, which AFS can apply in our exchanges within Europe and beyond, as they are aligned with our mission and values.

The Compendium also demonstrates the important relationship between intercultural learning and human rights in our work in AFS. Intercultural learning has to be tangible and applicable to remain relevant in everyday life. This can be challenging as intercultural learning can be ambiguous and one of its key teachings is tolerance of ambiguity. When we prepare and guide AFSers through their intercultural experiences, we help them become active global citizens. However, the aspect of human rights, which is essentially political, is not as strongly emphasized in AFS as the Council suggests in this Compendium.

I wonder if and how we can address human rights more in our work in AFS, especially in educational events and materials for AFS volunteers and staff. In the AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum, which outlines how AFS can deliver more meaningful learning experiences to students before, during and after participating in an AFS program, human rights are discussed in the Global realm of the AFS Educational Goals. Perhaps this element can be expanded and built on even more in our daily operations.

For us in AFS Iceland, the Compendium inspired lots of reflections and discussions in the about intercultural learning and its relevance in everyday life. It was a good reminder of always keeping eyes and ears open when it comes to intercultural learning as you never know what interesting reading might pop up next!

Are there any organizations similar to the Council of Europe and any interesting documents you think I should read next? Let me know :)



This post was written by Marín Björt Valtýsdóttir, Organizational Development & Intercultural Learning Responsible in AFS Iceland.