Tunisia/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.3 Intercultural education

The orientation law 80/2002 of 23 July 2002 concerning education and school education  has included the axis of education on cultural dialogue through its article 3 as follows: "...The education aims to raise students on  fidelity and loyalty to Tunisia, on patriotism and national pride ; to build their awareness about national identity, and their sense of civilizational belonging in its National, Maghreb, Arab, Islamic and Mediterranean dimensions; and to promote their openness to Human civilization…”. Accordingly, it explicitly promoted the role of the educator to strengthen cultural dialogue capacities in students as an educational objective. However, there are no special curricular  courses that target “education on cultural dialogue” initiatives nor frameworks which can be traced as contributing to this axis of interest.

The learning of foreign languages leads to the openness on new cultures, as well as the participation in training and events abroad and through specific international cooperation projects about intercultural dialogue. Nationally, the scope of intercultural dialogue includes the respect of cultural diversity in the society, in particular the rights of minorities, the rejection of racism and stereotyping as one of the essential elements for building a democratic society.

For foreign language learning, the school system is characterized by learning French from the age of 8 at basic education, with English language learning from the last stage of basic education and continuing in the secondary education , with the possibility to learn an additional foreign (German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese). Foreign language teaching permits the early knowledge and understanding of other cultures, especially through the usage of these languages for reading or for new friendships or through access to their respective cultural products (TV, Internet ...). Yet, this mechanism remains within a local culture framework, and misses the direct interaction with these cultures.

There are various opportunities for participation abroad in training or events at the level of international cultural or educational cooperation that enables interaction with other cultures. Since 1953, UNESCO established the Associated Schools Network (UNESCO ASPnet) designed to link several schools to implement programs within the objectives of UNESCO or of international focus. In 1982, Tunisia has joined this network and currently represented by nearly 60 educational institutions from primary, preparatory and secondary schools. The network has «intercultural learning " as one of its themes of work  and currently implements four projects: the World Heritage education – Mondialogo School Contest on Intercultural Dialogue – Western Mediterranean Sea Project – project GigaPan (Continues through modern technologies (new)) . Tunisian UNESCO associated schools take part in the Western Mediterranean project on the theme "learning to live together"[1] where on a yearly basis a meeting is organized between network students in one of participating countries in the project. The meeting aims at the exchange of experiences and creating new friendships. In addition, they participate in programs to reduce the intolerance, racism and xenophobia phenomenon within the framework of the "human rights, democracy and tolerance” axis.

The freedom of media and expression that accompanied the democratic transition has caused the uncovering of phenomena in Tunisian society, which may have existed before, but were not officially acknowledged due to political or social circumstance at the time. Among the topics that surfaced in public debates was the existing "racism" toward black people with origins from the African desert in the far South of Tunisia, which was presented through a documentary entitled " The slaves of  Ghbonten"[2] and presented evidence about the phenomenon. In addition, the sudden collapse of the previous regime has resulted in the appearance of social hassle either through regionalism framework or within a social/political dichotomy (i.e countryside/city, for the authority/against the authority, young generation/old generation, modern/traditional…). As a result, several initiatives from civil society has emerged and focused on topics related to citizenship, democracy and human rights[3].

As in March 2012, an agreement was signed between the Ministry of Education and the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LTDH) to develop a joint program in cooperation with the Arab Institute for Human Rights aims at the spread of citizenship culture, democracy and human rights in the school environment. The program includes, in particular, a revision of curricula and textbooks and incorporating the values of citizenship and human rights in certain courses of socialization; the promotion of citizenship clubs, being established by the Arab Institute for Human Rights in educational institutions; and the development of a communication system in this area and providing training for supervisors of the clubs.

Similarly, in December 2013 a joint cooperation agreement was signed between the Ministry of Culture and the Arab Institute for Human Rights aimed to promote and organize joint activities and events for disseminating human rights culture and raising awareness in respect. Under this agreement, the Central and regional cultural institutions, houses of culture and public libraries would facilitate the organization and would participate in educational and awareness activities organized by Arab Institute for Human Rights. The Institute is expected to organize training sessions for officials and agents of the Ministry of culture and of its regional institutions in the topic of cultural freedoms.  

[2]“Debate in Kebili about Racism in Tunisia“ – Kapitalis e-news paper , 30/06/2013 at : http://www.kapitalis.com/societe/16909-debat-a-kebili-sur-le-racisme-en-tunisie.html

[3]“ Diagnostic report on Tunisian Civil society” ( in French) – European Union – 2011 at : http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/tunisia/documents/projets/rapportdiagnostic_stecivile_mars2012_fr.pdf

Chapter published: 05-05-2015