EFIL has been following since last year the Council of Europe’s efforts in creating a framework for the assessment of intercultural competences, in particular by inviting one of the researchers involved, Martyn Barrett, at the Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange (October 2015, Colle Val d’Elsa – see elsewhere in this edition of EFILife).
Following the tragic events in Paris and Copenhagen earlier this year and the increasing radicalisation both in schools and in our societies., the Council of Europe believes even more that providing trainings and publications on intercultural competences is not enough to create social cohesion while living in diversity: an ‘universal and objective’ system to define and measure these competences is required.
Snežana Samardžić-Marković, the Director General for Democracy at the Council of Europe, announces that ‘this is a Herculean task. After analysing more than 90 existing schemes, we have defined 20 core competences, including: responsibility, tolerance, conflict resolution, listening skills, linguistic and communication skills, critical thinking, empathy and openness. We are now identifying ‘descriptors’ for each competence, which describe what an individual knows, understands and is able to do or refrain from doing. A descriptor for ‘autonomous learning skills’ might be, ‘judging the reliability of the various sources of information or advice and selecting the most reliable sources from the range available’.
Around 2,000 possible descriptors are to be rigorously tested by teachers in a wide range of cultural settings and at all levels of education across Europe through the Council of Europe’s teacher-training Pestalozzi Programme and its summer academies, run with the European Wergeland Centre in Norway. On the basis of these tests, a questionnaire will be created and sent out to teachers Europe-wide. The resulting data could then be used to define levels of attainment for each competence. No other organisation has embarked on such extensive testing in this field of work’.
The Director General explains that the objective is to ‘incorporate this new system for measuring intercultural competences into teacher-training programmes, recruitment tests and the school curriculum, across Europe and beyond. The ambition is that pupils would ‘leave their full-time education properly equipped, as responsible citizens, ready to contribute to our modern, intercultural democracies’. When applying for jobs or training, they will be able to cite their level of attainment for ‘empathy’ and ‘critical thinking’, alongside their academic qualifications and language skills’.
EFIL welcomes this effort of the Council of Europe, however we are concerned about two aspects: the assessment process and the actual possibility and benefit of having a universal, objective and ‘for life’ assessment of personal behaviours and values expressed in the format of ‘levels of attainment’.
Regarding the assessment process, it is not clear how pupils will be assessed on values and behaviours in a formal education setting when intercultural competences are developed also out of school. In particular, it is unclear whether this will be an assessment carried out continuously over all the compulsory education time and whether this will be based on self-assessment, peer assessment, teacher assessment through a test or observation in particular situations, or a combination of all these. Moreover, once the framework will be ready together with the assessment process, teachers training will need to be modernized accordingly in order to provide teachers with the skills and attitude to assess intercultural competences.
The last Forums on Intercultural Learning and Exchange have shown that assessment of intercultural competences is possible but there I no ‘best way’ to assess, assessment should be longitudinal –over time-, there are cultural differences in approaching self- & external assessment and using assessment scales for competences involving personal values is controversial. Therefore having an ‘objective’, ‘universal’ and ‘for life’ assessment of intercultural competences expressed in the format of ‘levels of attainment’ is not in line with what experts have shared so far.
EFIL is looking forward to know more about this initiative of the Council of Europe and hope that the research in the field will shape this framework for assessment of intercultural competences taking into account the formative role of assessment, the need for adjustments on the basis of culture, learners and situations.
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