Heritage Interpretation for Migrant Inclusion in Schools

HIMIS developed a new approach aiming to foster the integration of migrants and to challenge exclusionary attitudes at host communities through heritage interpretation.

During adolescence, young people are searching for their own identity; it is the age when questions of meaning become urgent for personal development and when beliefs, customs, traditions are frequently challenged. The young people seek to find their place and role in the world. A lot of heritage is connected with stories of achievements of extraordinary people. There are also stories about extraordinary situations that challenged ordinary people or of movements that fought for their ideals. Most of these stories touch emotions because they relate to deep values, and conflicts about such values.

At four pilot schools, students from local families worked together in teams with others whose parents or grandparents had migrated to the area. The HIMIS approach encouraged students to interpret the heritage of their local town from multiple perspectives of various historic stakeholders. Teachers guided the thematic focus to historic incidents that resonated with those values that are crucial for an open inclusive society such as respect for human dignity, freedom, equality, pluralism, non-discrimination, justice and solidarity.

Exploring real stories from the past and putting oneself in the shoes of different people provoked debates and caused students to reflect upon their own value preferences. That way HIMIS aimed to reduce vulnerability to the simple but divisive answers of populism or fundamentalism. For students with migration background, this experience makes integration in modern European societies easier – and that is also true for many from more traditional local backgrounds.

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
John Cage