In recent years, many European countries have experienced a growth in their cultural, ethnic and religious diversity as a result of migration. The inability to adequately educate European populations and prepare them for embracing diversity has led us to the witnessing of rising xenophobia, nationalism and racism. Such events have been recorded in all our consortium countries, where our organizations strive to provide opportunities for social integration through education. Building on our experience, this project seeks to combat racism and xenophobia and advance social inclusion through the production of materials, trainings and a peer mentoring music programme that will utilize the El Sistema learning philosophy and the restorative justice vales of respect, power sharing and equality. El Sistema is a social action music programme that was founded in Venezuela in 1975 with a focus on social development. Today, more than 65 countries around the world implement El Sistema-inspired programmes that seek to empower young people of lower socio-economic status (SES) through the use of music education and participation in orchestras. Every El Sistema inspired programme is unique and is built based on the needs of each country. Focus is given on students with refugee or immigrant backgrounds and those who experience marginalization, social exclusion and “othering” in their daily lives.
The problem of racism and xenophobia is transnational, but so is restorative justice and music. Therefore, based on this rationalization, this project takes a transnational approach between 3 very different schools 2 NGOs and 2 private companies, covering the UK, Cyprus, Turkey, Spain, Germany and Romania. We carefully selected these Erasmus+ countries having assessed very carefully their needs in relation to our project’s objectives. For example, Turkey and Cyprus are two of Europe’s countries impacted the most by the recent migration and refugee waves. They are also two Erasmus+ countries that are faced with continuous tensions due to Cyprus’ division in 1974. These tensions are exacerbated by nationalist curricula from both sides and continuous propaganda that impacts on schools. Romania is also historically and geographically challenged, struggling to modernise their educational and integration policies following the Soviet Union occupation. Spain on the other hand has been experiencing rising levels of nationalist hate separatism, according to the latest figures of the Spanish Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia. The same applies to Germany, which has seen rising number of nationalists and extremists influencing the young and impacting on the society.
We have evidence to believe that by focusing on supporting teachers and other professionals working in formal and educational settings, we can make a real difference to the above current needs. They comprise a target group that has direct access and indeed a mandate to educate the young as they take the first steps in their life paths. Schools can be a breeding ground for racism and xenophobia, while teachers can also be faced with their own biases. The curriculum in all the participating countries is limited in terms of innovative, inter-cultural approaches while music is rarely used as a tool for community cohesion. There is also no doubt that educational establishments are unaware of the power of restorative justice and the possibilities it can bring in practice. Therefore, focusing on creating tools that will empower teachers and educationalists in formal and educational settings is key in helping to deliver the Erasmus+ ambitions, while also creating networking and learning opportunities that will bring them closer to parents and the local community.
Our project has been structured in a very simple manner with 3 Intellectual Outputs (IOs) that will be designed from the bottom up and piloted in both formal and informal educational settings. We will set up a User Scrutiny Panel consisting of teachers from all participating countries. We will also work with the partner-schools’ teachers and with educationalists from the community to create a training programme that we will pilot face-to-face. The learning and the evidence will also be used to construct an e-course that we will accredit with CPD status and deliver to teachers and other professionals from across Europe. The ultimate objective of these two IOs will be to support schools and other educational institutions in their efforts to integrate students especially those with migrant background or who are at risk of exclusion. Cross-curricula and cross-country actions will be promoted using the power of music and restorative justice. Ultimately, all the learnings, the evidences as well as the user-led model that we will apply to deliver the project will be captured in an e-book (IO3) that we will disseminate widely with the aim of informing policy and educational practices and training transcending boarders.