Intercultural Competence In Education

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According to Lund’s study (2011) on English textbooks in Norwegian school system from 1889 to 1974, English textbook’s cultural dimension seems to aim to contributing to student’s knowledge about English-speaking countries. However, what kind of knowledge was regarded as significant to teach changed through the times. In the early textbooks, the UK texts put emphasis on the British history. When it comes to the USA related texts, well-known names come into picture, while texts about “The New World” describe the colonists’ courage and endurance. It is obvious that teaching the UK’s and the USA’s superiority, both historical and cultural, was an important goal (Lund 2011:260).
In this paper, I would like to investigate a present situation. I
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According to Guilherme (2000), “Intercultural competence is the ability to interact effectively with people from cultures which we recognize as being different from our own” (p.297). The question is what it means to interact effectively. The framework for intercultural competence that UNESCO developed, defines intercultural competence as
“adequate relevant knowledge about particular cultures, as well as general knowledge about the sort of issues arising when members of different cultures interact, holding receptive attitudes that encourage establishing and maintaining contact with diverse others, as well as having the skills required to draw upon both knowledge and attitudes when interacting with others from different countries”
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It is widely acknowledged that in communication, “context has crucial influence over how language and behavior are interpreted” (UNESCO 2013:17). However, context is considered challenging to learn to understand.
Why is intercultural competence significant today?
United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), aspires to “promote mutual understanding, peace, democracy and development” and works to contribute to bringing these goals into everyday life “by fostering intercultural sensitivity and solidarity while fighting intolerance, stereotyping, discrimination, hate speech and violence” (UNESCO 2013:14). The UNESCO World Report Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue (2009) acknowledges cultural literacy:
“It is a new kind of literacy, on a par with the importance of reading and writing skills or numeracy: cultural literacy has become the lifeline for today’s world, a fundamental resource for harnessing the multiple venues education can take…”

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