Symposium | Intercultural Competence: Learning to Live in Diversity.

University of Wales Trinity St David symposium

It is suggested that, in the current political landscape, immigration is a source of significant public discontent. There seems to be evidence that historic intolerance, amplified by the divisive rhetoric of Brexit gave way to a concomitant rise in negative attitudes towards foreigners. The aims of this symposium are to highlight the paradoxical situation faced by refugees trying to finding employment in the UK; to explore some of the factors which have led to the situation; and to call for an education agenda based on Interculturalism. On one hand asylum seekers’ access to English classes is severely restricted by the lack of availability and funding while they are waiting for their asylum decision, on the other hand they are supposed to seek employment once refugee status has been granted in order to obtain Job Seeker’s Allowance. This symposium explores whether the British multi-cultural approach to ethnic and language diversity is helpful in including this group of individuals. Evidence seems to suggest that refugees and other immigrants face barriers to finding employment based on many factors including prejudices against their ethnicities, their diverse forms of English language, and their cultures. The authors propose that Educators and policy makers in compulsory, post 16, and adult education need to be aware of the multi-cultural influence on educational provision and policy. Additionally, the authors call for Interculturalism to be put on the education agenda with teaching about identity, culture and citizenship included in the curriculum, and a strong appreciation of the importance of diversity becoming part of the British educational ethos, thus countering prejudice and the narrative that diversity is a threat to ‘British’ identity and culture. The authors consider Interculturalism as a paradigm for learning to live in diversity and addressing challenges to social cohesion. Key to its success will be the role education plays in developing the intercultural competence required to help foster understanding of diverse cultures, challenge stereotypes and reduce prejudice.