Intergenerational Education Plan - The Intercultural Context Perspective

Birgit Breninger

Questions (only to be answered by detailed research):

  1. How is the functional brain ageing?
  2. How do cultural experiences change lives? Which experiences can you associate? How do cultural experiences change neuronal networks?
  3. Does neural plasticity result from cultural experiences?
  4. Are cultural biases more prominent in older adults’ neural activity?
  5. If cultural experience is the dominant force in shaping the ageing brain, culture effects will get stronger with age.
  6. The way cultural experiences are made earlier in life may increase neural reserve and the potential for effective scaffolding, which is required to meet the challenges in later life. What is  the unique potential of intercultural competence acquisition over a lifespan?
  7. How can we introduce quality standards for ICC education and trainings in intergenerational learning?
  8. How can we prepare people from various professions for multicultural work environments by  offering recognized graduate & postgraduate study formats in ICC education and trainings which foster intergenerational learning?
  9. How can we support and channel funds to more experimental and explorative culture-specific research in order to analyse how cultural experiences shape the aging brain?

Why intergenerational learning and solidarity matters – An Intercultural Context Perspective

In the 21st century intercultural competence has become a necessary skill not only for working but also for living in multicultural societies. Nowadays the ability to embrace and adapt to various cultural contexts is quite indispensable.

Culture includes networks of knowledge, consisting of learned routines of thinking, feeling, and interacting with other people, as well as a corpus of substantive assertions and ideas about aspects of the world. Cultural experiences differ, since culture is quite unique, especially in regard to the fact that: Culture is shared, albeit incompletely, not self-selected, socially learned and intergenerationally transmitted, undergoing constant changes, symbolic and ethnocentric and strongly influences many cognitive and sensory domains.

Intercultural competence necessitates a change in the following three dimensions:

  • The cognitive dimension, or mindset, includes knowledge of culture – general maps or frameworks of specific cultures, of identity development pattern, of cultural adaption processes, and of cultural self-awareness.
  • The behavioral dimension, or skillset, includes the ability to empathize, gather appropriate information, listen, perceive accurately, build relationships, resolve problems and manage social interactions and anxiety.
  • The affective dimension, or heartset, of attitudes and motivation includes first and foremost curiosity as well as initiative, nonjudgmentalness, risk taking, cognitive flexibility, open-mindedness, tolerance of ambiguity, flexibility and resourcefulness.

According to research cultural environments sculpt cognitive processes by wiring the brain so it can be assumed that intellectual, social and physical investments made earlier in life may increase neural reserve and potential for effective scaffolding, which is required to meet challenges in later life. It is very remarkable that adults are not only able to learn facts, but are also able to change their entire way of thinking regarding norms and stereotypes.

Implementation of intercultural standards for intercultural trainings has to occur on three levels in order to be effective: the educational sector (kindergarten, school, university, postgraduate education, workplace etc.), the research sector and the implementation of various interculturally informed projects for societies.

It is therefore necessary to

  • introduce quality standards for ICC education and trainings targeting all three levels (cognitive, affective, behavioural). With the introduction of standards, the buzzword ‘intercultural’ can be substituted by a more profound concept and rather constructive approach towards intercultural measures can be introduced.
  • prepare people from various professions for multicultural working environments by offering recognized graduate and postgraduate study formats in Intercultural Context Education and Trainings. Intergenerational intercultural education shouldn’t be received as ‘just’ a ‘soft skill’ that can be taught by anyone who likes travelling and being abroad. More intercultural experts are needed.
  • introduce and recognize intercultural skills as a necessary prerequisite for the 21st century workplace.
  • advocate and promote intercultural skills in education especially at preschool and school level. According to research, there also is a critical period in culture acquisition, which concerns age, duration (e. g. length of residence) and ‘cultural input’.