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European Innovative Teaching Award
Project

Passengers on the Same Bus! No Place for Discrimination, Segregation, and Inequality

School: Perifereiako Gymnasio Xylofagou

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Topic(s) addressed

“Passengers on the Same Bus! No Place for Discrimination, Segregation and Inequality” was an Erasmus+ KA229 project that was implemented from 1 September 2018 to 31 August 2020.  The project’s aim was to enable students and teachers to gain knowledge, awareness, and experience on issues of discrimination and diversity, and to transform negative perceptions of diversity into positive narratives through the use of innovative practices, so participants view diversity as a powerful tool that could be used to unite the school community. An added consideration of the project was to allow teachers and students to preventatively gain experience and knowledge that deter discriminatory attitudes, inequality, and issues relating to diversity. Another important objective was to raise students’ respect and value for human rights – primarily pertaining to those of the school’s refugee students. Cognisant of participants’ differing English competencies, all activities were designed so as to require moderate levels of language proficiency. Furthermore, continuous evaluation of activities was carried out whenever the results of a particular activity was deemed to be less than satisfactory, with the project’s most distinguishing feature having been its pursuit of participants’ emotional involvement through the use of well-designed tasks and activities that mirror real-life situations.

Target groups

There were a total of 387 participants throughout the project’s three implemented activities, with the fourth activity (meant to be carried out in Finland) cancelled due to COVID-related restrictions. Specifically, project participants consisted of 75 teachers from the four partner schools’ various faculties, 220 students between the ages of 12-16 (including a significant number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds), 12 school assistants, and 88 parents from all three participating countries.

Methodologies

The project focused on multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches in meeting its objectives; for instance, the issue of diversity was studied and developed by focusing on various disciplines such as human rights, bullying, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers to inclusion, and the inclusion of students with fewer opportunities. Furthermore, given that diversity is not a stand-alone issue, and is instead comprised of various interlinking factors, various disciplines were cross-developed throughout the project in the interest of achieving stronger outcomes. All of the project’s activities were designed and implemented using a common methodology so as to not only produce knowledge, but to also delve deeply into the development of skills, and to form (or even change) attitudes with regard to diversity, inequality, segregation, and other relevant considerations. As an example, by combining all of the aforementioned attitudes, the ‘Fleeing for Life’ interactive game taught students certain skills and changed negative perceptions regarding refugees and asylum seekers. A strong link was consistently maintained throughout the project’s formal, non-formal, and informal learning components, and all activities were associated with the school’s curricula, with learning outcomes measured via questionnaires, surveys, and small projects. Activities were also designed (within the framework of the school’s objectives) so as to yield opportunities for non-formal learning outside of the formal learning environment. For example, participants were consciously encouraged to develop a number of community activities (outside of the school environment) such as visits, events, and presentations across various institutions and community centres. Moreover, the project itself provided participants with the opportunity for informal, or rather experiential learning, through participation in events outside of the school environment. These events formed a part of students’ everyday lives, where they were either hosted by a number of host families, or instead hosted such families during the implementation of activities, with particular emphasis made to ensure the inclusion of students and teachers of all ages, sexes, and various socioeconomic backgrounds. Undeniably, key to the project’s success was the strong and continuous cooperation among teachers and students from all four participating schools, fostered by the development and use of the free, innovative communication app ‘Raven,’ which facilitated communication among teachers and students. All activities were developed and implemented using innovative tools, and the importance of technology to the project was reflected even in its opening meeting in Cyprus, which was titled ‘Adopting and Developing New Communication Technologies.’ Lastly, given that the active participation of learners was at the heart of the project’s learning process, learners’ interests were continuously kept in mind throughout the project’s design and implementation, with learners also given the opportunity to provide feedback regarding the project’s activities.   

Environments

It was noted during the project’s design that there was a pressing need for change with regard to the issue of diversity in all partner schools; moreover, there was also an observably negative attitude across these schools – which was evidenced by a survey that revealed a high degree of discrimination, segregation, and low awareness on the importance of student inclusion (regardless of backgrounds). Furthermore, there was also little initial interest by teachers to participate in the project, given the substantial time-related investments required of them as participants, and the low recognition awarded for participation in the project. Nevertheless, the large degree of interest indicated by both students and parents for the project was the reason for its eventual completion and submission. A key consideration in the project’s successful implementation was the use of innovative tools in dealing with obstacles in order to action change within the school environment; key to this was the project’s preliminary meeting in Cyprus, where a high degree of emphasis was placed on hosts’ hospitality. During the meeting, both host and participants’ parents were brought together, with host parents having been guided on how to be hospitable to participants and offer them a sense of protection and affection. It should be noted that multiple stakeholders, including authorities, ministry inspectors, and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, were also involved in the project. As the project’s themes (which included diversity, segregation, inclusion, and equality) were all fairly difficult concepts to communicate to teenagers of varying socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, heavy emphasis was placed on learning approaches, with activities designed so as to involve participants’ emotions and the use of the blended-learning approach. Examples of such activities included the ‘Race of Life,’ a visit to the ghost town of Famagusta during C1, a visit to ‘Studio Oaza’ (a cultural centre for people with intellectual disabilities) during C2, and a visit to an immigrant-reception centre in Bari during C3 – all of which were activities that profoundly involved participants’ emotions despite taking place outside the school environment. Furthermore, these activities were blended with innovative tools and interactive games such as “Fleeing for Life”(C3), games that use QR Codes (C2), the game “Passengers on the Same Bus” (C2), Kahoot games, a bowling game involving parents, teachers, and students” (C2), and other such activities. Participants were also involved in art and music activities such as “The Cracked Pot” (C1), “A Campaign on the Issues of Migrants and Refugees” (C3), and presentations (“Presentation on the Issues of Migrants and Refugees” (C3). All of the project’s activities (which were carried out in groups) are described in the book “Passengers on the Same Bus! No Place for Discrimination, Segregation and Inequality,” which was written and published in 2020 by the project’s coordinator, Petros Tekkelas. Moreover, the preliminary meeting in Cyprus managed to successfully shift the negative attitudes, prejudices, and doubts that parents, students, and teachers had regarding the project, which allowed for cross-sectoral cooperation and blended learning to take place during the implementation of C2 and C3 activities within a supportive and conducive environment. Although partner schools were initially hesitant regarding the project’s aims, our continued efforts to encourage their participation, coupled with the positive results of the C1 meeting, greatly facilitated their involvement in the project. Nevertheless, a number of issues still needed to be addressed – primary of which was to encourage and facilitate the involvement of educators and teachers in such projects at school. A substantial number of teachers were still reluctant to participate in these projects because their work often went unrecognised, or because the school did not facilitate their participation, meaning that most project-related work had to be performed during their spare time. Analysis and evaluation of the project’s results (both during and after the funding period) revealed that the Erasmus+ project in particular resulted in substantial change to our school environment.

Teachers

Teacher involvement was critical in achieving the project’s innovative teaching and learning processes. As English was the project’s language of instruction, teachers’ competence in the language was determined prior to their participation. Teachers were also highly skilled in the use of technology, and were very experienced on issues such as diversity, discrimination, and segregation. These attributes not only made them an excellent source of inspiration for students, but also facilitated the overall development of innovative teaching. For example, ICT teachers were able to innovatively implement the development of the free communication app ‘Raven’ during C1, while the involvement of teachers of English, technology and PE, music, theatre and the arts, resulted in the successful development of a variety of innovative activities such as a short play on bullying and discrimination titled “A Migrant Bird” (C1), “The Cracked Pot” (C1), the game “Passengers on the Same Bus” (C2), and, “A Campaign for the Issues of Migrants and Refugees” (C3), among others. Without question, teacher cooperation was an important factor to the project’s overall success, and excellent collaborative efforts among teachers and participants from all four participating schools resulted in the development of activities that were of interest to participants, and, above all, that successfully addressed all of the project’s objectives. Furthermore, although disagreements, obstacles, and differing opinions existed, the project’s coordinator successfully addressed such issues, with an ideal example of outstanding collaboration between participants and teaching staff being the C3 activity in Italy – the development of “A Campaign for the Issues of Migrants and Refugees,” where broad cooperation between participants and art, music, and sociology teachers resulted in excellent project outcomes. Additionally, knowledge, skills, and competences were robustly developed among teachers due to the constant sharing of experiences and strategies between them.

Impact

The implementation of teaching and learning processes over the course of the project resulted in significant impacts to our school environment, and beyond. Primarily, these consisted of the fostering of long-term relationships and cooperation among partner schools; development of friendships among students-participants; the boosting of respect, tolerance, and non-discriminatory attitudes; enhanced cultural awareness and intercultural competence; development of participants’ sense of responsibility and community; improvement in language competence; increased participant awareness of the need to include refugees and migrants in school communities and beyond; development of teacher-participants’ skills and competences in diversity issues; the fostering of teachers-participants’ competences in designing, developing, and implementing tasks and activities that enhance innovative learning and processes on issues of diversity; and, enhancement in teachers’ cooperation among partner schools and beyond. It should also be noted that the project’s implementation resulted in excellent spillover effects that extended far beyond the school community; dissemination of the project’s results has maximised its impacts across a wide range of stakeholders, school organisations, and individuals both during and after the project’s completion. One such output was the publication of the book “Passengers on the Same Bus” (2020), where learning activities within the book were of great help to other teachers and schools that wished to apply learning processes on the issues of diversity and discrimination. Furthermore, numerous magazine and newspaper articles across the countries of all four partner schools, as well as the showing of the project’s short film by Cyprus’ national broadcaster, have been powerful tools that further widened the project’s impacts both within and beyond the school’s communities. It is also worth noting that activities developed during the project such as the games “Fleeing for Life” and “Race for Life,” as well as the ‘Raven’ app, are still being used by the four partner schools and by other institutions – the benefits of which were noted by several project participants, “The ‘Passenger on the Same Bus’ project was the best journey we have ever made, and the one that has changed our lives forever.”

Stakeholders

Participants

Gymnázium, České Budějovice, Jírovcova 8

Address
Czechia

Kainuun Ammattiopisto

Address
Finland

Scuola Secondaria di 1° Grado T. Fiore

Address
Italy