The High Commissioner for Migration (ACM) and the General Directorate of Education (DGE) held the Intercultural School Seal (SEI), ceremony at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon. In this 3rd edition of the initiative, 24 schools were distinguished for their active role in promoting cultural and linguistic diversity.
In all, 36 schools from across the country applied and 24 were selected. Out of these 8 were distinguished at the intermediate level and 16 were awarded at the initiation level. Present at the event were various representatives from some of the educational establishments honoured for their practices in promoting interculturalism, having received a certificate as well as a digital stamp which conferred this distinction.
From this moment, and for 2 consecutive school years, this distinctive stamp will appear on all of the schools documents. These schools now have as their mission to enforce the award: ‘This certification was carefully deliberated by the jury members and all these schools will now have the responsibility to honour this distinctive seal in order to also inspire other schools’ as stated the Deputy Director-General of Education, Eulália Alexander, who attended the ceremony who also gave out some of the certificates.
To honour the occasion with their presence were several dignitaries including the High Commissioner for Migration, Pedro Calado, accompanied by the Chief of Office of the Deputy Secretary of State of the Chief Minister and Regional Development Minister, Jorge Silva Martins, the Secretary of State’s representative of Primary and Secondary Education, Pedro Cunha, President of the National Council of the Aga Khan Foundation – Portugal, Sikander Jamal, and by the President of the National Council the Ismaili Community, Amirali Bhanji.
Founded in 2011, this is a joint initiative between the ACM and the DGE, in close collaboration with the Aga Kahn Foundation – Portugal, with the aim of distinguishing and publicly recognizing public, private or cooperative educational establishments, which through their educational projects and practices, actively promote the recognition and appreciation of cultural and linguistic diversity as an opportunity and a source of learning.
‘We live in times of migration.’
The High Commissioner was keen to highlight the growing importance that young immigrant students have in the Portuguese schools, ‘we live in times of migration and are here to prepare a future that is already here. This is a good example of good intercultural practices, but we must further strengthen the ability to work together with differences ‘
Pedro Calado also stressed the importance of moving towards a new competence of ‘intercultural literacy’, in which schools have a leading role.
The ‘experience of an encounter with others’ and ‘respect for other cultures’ were aspects highlighted by the representative of the Deputy Minister for Regional Development. ‘This initiative promotes learning that prepares us for a more open view of the world and that can inspire other schools’ he added.
‘Recognition of Cultural Diversity’
The President of the National Council Ismaili Community highlighted the valuable contribution of all practices that fight for ‘social awareness for cultural diversity.’ ‘Plural societies are the product of an education inspired by the recognition of diversity. In this 3rd edition of the SEI, the applicant schools, each in its own way, sought to work actively in this field’, stated Amirali Bhanji.
The representative of the Secretary of State for Primary and Secondary Education did not fail to praise the ‘rigor and sustainability’ that the Aga Khan Foundation has offered to this initiative. Pedro Cunha also highlighted the urgent need to fight for a future that accepts differences, ‘we have to escape prejudice’ and ‘judgment on religious and ethnic communities.’
Similarly, Sikander Jamal added: ‘This is a way overcoming prejudice and attitude, enhancing social awareness, openness and a sense of belonging. We sense that schools are striving for respect among all!’ praised the representative from the Aga Khan.
Fight against ‘multicultural illiteracy’
The Coordinator of the Escola Superior de Educação de Setúbal (ESSE), Luis Souta, made an engaging speech advocating greater training for the ‘discovery of others, for the acceptance of differences’ against the ‘multicultural illiteracy’ which is still very common in our society.
In celebration of multiculturalism, the ceremony also included two musical performances, from the Escola de Música de Orfeão de Leiria, and the other by a duet performing traditional Georgian music.
The application process took place between November and January, with analysis and evaluation occurring during the month of February. The process included completion of a Guide for Intercultural Education Practices Assessment, carried out by the applicant schools to SEI. This guide is intended as a checklist and a training tool for promoting education as it contemplates some of the challenges, opening a path to new perspectives and approaches in concerning cultural diversity, offering a more critical view of the intervention in a multicultural context.
The jury was composed of two representatives from each of the institutions involved, namely DGE, ACM and FAK Portugal.