INTERACT: Intercultural Active Citizenship

Principal investigators (UK): Professor Audrey Osler, Director, CCHRE and Dr Hugh Starkey, University of London Institute of Education and CCHRE visiting research fellow. Researcher: Michalis Kakos, CCHRE

INTERACT aims to explore the policy intentions expressed in official documents relating to education for democratic citizenship and human rights education (HRE). We analyse how teachers understand their roles in relation to citizenship education and multicultural education. INTERACT is a transnational project with parallel research taking place in Denmark, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

The research team compared national guidelines for citizenship education and intercultural education with those produced at European level, by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. We also interviewed teachers and policy-makers. Our intention is to look deeply at the processes of policy-making and to understand some of the tensions and contradictions that exist in policy development and implementation. We set out to explore teachers' contribution to policy development, considering teachers as citizens, as cultural workers and as transformative agents. We analyse their expectations, interests and experiences as well as their understandings of education for democratic citizenship, human rights and multiculturalism. The work took place in three phases: (1) document analysis; (2) curriculum analysis; and (3) empirical study.

Focusing on policy development in England, the UK team interviewed actors from different professional backgrounds, including former education ministers, those working in central and local government, teacher unions and non-governmental agencies, and teachers in urban schools.

Teachers of citizenship education suggest that their work is itself an act of citizenship. The majority of those we interviewed are not currently actively engaged in political life, as members of a political party, voluntary association or campaign group. Although there have been a number of high profile media claims that multiculturalism has failed in Britain, teachers do not tend to see it this way. For them multiculturalism is part of everyday life. They apply the word multicultural as a descriptor for schools with diverse student populations and for those more homogeneous schools with student populations drawn from a specific minority community.

The project aims to provide guidelines for teacher education relating to the intercultural elements of citizenship and HRE. It is hoped it will contribute to the effective development of this curricular area. INTERACT maps out, in each of the participant countries (Denmark, England, Portugal, Spain), the teacher development programmes and postgraduate courses that can offer support to teachers in the intercultural dimension of citizenship and HRE.

In the UK context the research is extremely timely, coinciding with the introduction of citizenship education into the national curriculum for England from 2002 and parallel developments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It has also coincides with processes of devolution and other constitutional changes such as the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law.

INTERACT is co-ordinated by the University of Coimbra, Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES). The other partners are the Danish University of Education, Copenhagen, the University of Valladolid, the University of London, Institute of Education, and CCHRE, University of Leeds. To read the summary results for the other partner countries visit the INTERACT web site at CES. 

Work Packages - Summaries

Evaluation of the project (PDF File, 88K)

Publications (PDF File, 43K)