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European Commission - Comenius

European Commission - Education and Culture

Project Details

MAking MAThEmatics TEAchers MObile

129543-CP-1-2006-1 -IT-COMENIUS-C21


Project span

Project Coordinator

CAFRE Centro di Ateneo di Formazione e Ricerca Educativa
Università di Pisa

Contact person


Project Partners

(AT) Universität Wien

(CZ) Univerzita Karlova v Praze

(DK) University College Lillebælt, Skårup Seminarium

(FR) Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres de l'Académie de Créteil

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When reading reports from visiting teachers and students in the COMENIUS-project, it very soon becomes evident that the problems encountered during the visits very seldom are caused by a lack of linguistic or mathematical competence. It is a general feature that what really astonishes the students and teachers is much more a matter of differences in (school) culture than differences in the way mathematics is taught. This means that one can be communicatively competent – possessing linguistic, pragmatic and strategic competences – without being able to communicate successfully with people from another culture. At the same time it is important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a national culture. In every country there are several cultures. In many cases it will be so that the only thing citizens in a certain country have in common is the language, and even that does not always hold true. As a consequence it is obvious that knowing facts about a country – as was thought in earlier times – is not sufficient to ensure a dialogue between two or more people from different cultures. What is important to possess is intercultural communicative competence. According to Michael Byram, intercultural competence involves the following elements:
  • Attitudes: curiosity and openness, readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and belief about one's own.
  • Knowledge: of social groups and their products and practices in one's own and in one's interlocutor's country, and of the general processes of societal and individual interaction.
  • Skills of interpreting and relating: ability to interpret a document or event from another culture, to explain it and relate it to documents from one's own.
  • Skills of discovery and interaction: ability to acquire new knowledge of a culture and cultural practices and the ability to operate knowledge, attitudes and skills under the constraints of real-time communication and interaction.
  • Critical cultural awareness/political education: an ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria perspectives, practices and products in one's own and other cultures and countries1.
Through the training courses in this COMENIUS-project we have sought to help teachers and students obtain knowledge and to a certain extent also skills of interpreting and relating. The development of a language that can be used especially when teaching maths has also been an important part of the courses2. We have provided the participants with toolboxes with useful expressions and some very general rules as to behaviour when communicating with people from another culture. In order to obtain the other elements of intercultural competence it seems to be necessary to find what Claire Kramsch3 calls “a third place”, which means that both interlocutors must so to stay step out of their own culture and find a place where it is possible to meet the other with an open mind and forget stereotypes and thus be able to create a dialogue in which both parties develop as human beings and become able to reflect on their own culture.

3 Kramsch, Claire, Context and Culture in Language Teaching, Oxford, 1993


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This project has been carried out with the support of the European Commission within the framework of the Socrates Programme - Comenius 2.1 Action.
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