Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. Mai 2004

8.1. Intercultural Education
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Susanne Binder/Mikael Luciak (Vienna)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Intercultural Learning - Concept and Implementation

Wolfgang Gröpel (Vienna Board Of Education)


1. Viennese compulsory schools school statistics

Vienna has always been a haven for migrants. One of the important steps in this development was the Raab-Olah treaty, negotiated between Spain, the former Yugoslavia and Turkey, in an attempt to attract skilled and unskilled workers to Austria.

In 1973, the oil crisis put a stop to these measures. Since then however, Austria, and especially Vienna, has always been one of the main European centres of attraction for migrant labourers.

This fact, of course, has had an effect on the Viennese school system. For the past 20 years, the Vienna Board of Education has been working on remedial measures to support students whose mother tongue is not German.

Table 1:

Academic Year 2003/04 Number of students Bilingual Bilingual % ex-matricular (AO) ex-matricular (AO) % ex-matricular (AO) % of the number of students



































Table 1 illustrates the situation in Viennese compulsory schools and shows that on average 38% of the students are non-German-speakers in our schools. It is even more impressive when this percentage is expressed in absolute numbers: we are talking about 37 000 children aged between 6 and 15 who perhaps have been born in Austria but who are either bilingual, semi-lingual or who have severe deficits in the German language. Around 10 000 students cannot speak German at all. These students are not graded for up to two years (ex-matricular students /außerordentliche Schüler).


2. The remedial measures

The remedial measures that have been developed over the past 15-20 years are best shown in the following diagram:

Basically, Vienna has always pursued primarily integrative measures. The main remedial measures, which are not exclusively linguistically-orientated, consisted of partner-teaching in class (immersion programmes) and course systems for those who could not speak German at all (as well as for the school regions where the number of foreign language speakers was too low to justify partner-teaching).

It is important to mention that the Vienna Board Of Education employs 200 native teachers speaking the following languages: Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, Serb, Turkish etc. These teachers are either in partner-teacher functions or hold courses. They guarantee swifter language acquisition in German and also play an important role in supplying cultural background information for all students.


3. Intercultural learning in the Austrian curricula

Intercultural learning was introduced into the curricula of primary schools (BGbl. 439/1991) and lower secondary schools (Hauptschulen) in 1991. Since then, it has been extended to prevocational schools (Polytechnische Schule) and secondary academic schools (allgemein bildende höhere Schule/Gymnasium).

Generally, "Intercultural Learning" aims at informing about other cultures. It is the process of learning together, of creating mutual understanding, of experiencing together and of modifying cultural values.

Intercultural Learning also has to do with creating interest in cultural diversity in order to prove how enriching and inspiring difference can be (classic multicultural aims).

Intercultural Learning is an important contribution to mutual esteem respectively towards mutual understanding. It builds reflection on commonly shared values and sharpens the mind for prejudice and how to deal with it. Intercultural Learning has genuinely to do with Social Learning and political instruction.


4. Results Of the field study of the Institute of Ethnology, Cultural and Social Anthropology of the University of Vienna (Binder and Englisch-Stölner 2002)

Social anthropologists of the University of Vienna carried out their research in 1999 in 18 schools in two Austrian federal provinces (Vienna and Lower Austria). They attended lessons in nearly all subjects: Mathematics, German, English, Arts, Science, Geography, History, Music etc.

I will try to summarise some the important facts the research team collected. Aspects of Intercultural Learning are transmitted through the stories and articles that the students read, through etymological reflections (e.g. foreign words like Gymnasium), through learning about different types of music like jazz, blues etc., through history (e.g. the Osmanian Empire), through exhibitions (e.g. exhibition of Iranian art) and so on.

In special cases where there are still strong emotions amongst the ethnic groups in class dealing with topics like the war in Former Yugoslavia is avoided; although there is a number of courageous teachers, who have tackled this topic.

Another important factor is school projects with schools in other countries of the European Union (e.g. school twinning and language trips).

Most teachers do not feel that they have enough cultural competence. There are no in-service training courses. Intercultural Learning is often neglected in the academic studies at the university; whereas Teacher Training Colleges for compulsory school teachers do include it in the curriculum

There is a strong demand for intercultural learning games, as well as pedagogical concepts for handling various situations. Teachers mostly have to develop intercultural orientated worksheets themselves.

The pluri-lingualism that the majority of children have based on their migratory background, is not really recognised. The team also supported measures like partner-teaching or project work.


5. Examples of Intercultural Learning


6. Concrete reflections (apart from fiscal aspects) on how to support the implementation of intercultural projects

This is not intended as a definition nor is it an approach towards a definition.

This is a list of aspects to bear in mind when implementing an intercultural project. They are based on my personal experience.


7. What is Intercultural Learning few examples

A definition by Veronika Fischer (1995)

Mark Taylor's (1995) approach to a definition is:


"Technical" skills such as

My own reflections on Intercultural Education (especially at school):

Intercultural Learning in schools

© Wolfgang Gröpel (Vienna Board Of Education)


Binder, Susanne und Doris Englisch-Stölner: Interkulturelles Lernen in der Praxis in: Erziehung und Unterricht, 7-8/2002, pp.956 ff.

Fischer, Veronika. 1995. Netzwerke interkulturellen lernens, Pädagogische Konzepte und organisatorische Voraussetzungen, in: Interkulturelles Lernen, Basis kommunaler Ausländerarbeit, Gesprächskreis Arbeit und Soziales Nr.51, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Bonn 1995, pp.7-22

Taylor, Mark. 1995. Intercultural Learning and Training for European Youth Activities, in CYRCE, The Puzzle of Integration, European Yearbook on Youth Policy and Research, Volume One, Circle for Youth Research Co-operation in Europe, De Gruyter, Berlin and New York.

Wolf Eric. 1986. Die Völker ohne Geschichte, Europa und die andere Welt seit 1400.

8.1. Intercultural Education

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