8.3.3 Intercultural education
Intercultural education forms part of the national curriculum set by the former Department for Education & Skills.
As part of the National Language Strategy, the previous government was committed to a policy to ensure that: "Every child should have the opportunity throughout key stage 2 to study a foreign language and develop their interest in the culture of other nations. They should have access to high quality teaching and learning opportunities, .... By age 11, they should have the opportunity to reach a recognised level of competence on the Common European Framework and for that achievement to be recognised through a national scheme". The government considers a language and its culture to be inextricably linked, hence developing "intercultural understanding" is part of this framework. Pupils are expected to examine aspects of countries that speak the languages they study - their social conventions, festivals, celebrations, symbols etc. - considering similarities and differences, meeting people from the local community etc.
However, there has been a significant reduction in students studying a foreign language at secondary level. Moreover, although learning a foreign language is now compulsory in junior schools, it was made optional at secondary level. The government commissioned Lord Dearing to review languages policy, who published his final report in March 2007. While stressing the importance of foreign language learning, it did not recommend that it should be a compulsory part of secondary education.
Many Local Education Authorities offer a range of services aimed at minority ethnic and traveller (romany) communities in order to "celebrate and support" a diverse range of pupils. These include bilingual teacher / classroom assistants, targeted support to families and schools to raise achievement levels amongst particular groups, specialist intercultural centres and resources to tackle racism within schools.For more information, see our Intercultural Dialogue section.