Diversity, human rights and multiculturalism: what do students think about these topics in Italy, Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria

Nowadays society is characterized by the coexistence of people with different ethnical backgrounds, religions and traditions.

A mixture that is lived everyday also in the school environment and which the project Otherness has deepened through a questionnaire given to the students of the schools which have taken part to this important project.

In the Italian case, the schools participating in the project were: the Regina Margherita High School, the Benedetto Croce High School and the Maria Adelaide High School; while the number of questionnaires collected through the two surveys were over 360.

In Bulgaria, the following schools participated in the project: Petko Rachov Slaveikov School (city of Kardzhali), Paisii Hilendarski School (village of Ablanitsa, Blagoevgrad region), Kiril I Metodii School (city of Burgas), Dobri Chintulov School (city of Varna), Stoyan Zaimov School (city of Pleven), Georgi Kirkov School (town of Kazanlak), Pencho Slaveikov School (city of Plovdiv) and 3 schools from the capital city of Bulgaria – Benito Juares School, Vasil Aprilov School and Albert Einstein School.

In Greece, the following schools participated in the project:

  • Prefecture of Thessaloniki: 2nd Gymnasium of Ampelokipi, 4th Gymnasium of Stavroupoli, 2nd Gymnasium of Chalkidona, 1st Gymnasium of Efkarpia, 1st High School of Stavroupoli, 4th Gymnasium of Evosmos
  • Prefecture of Serres: 1st Gymnasium of Serres, Gymnasium of Skotousa, Gymnasium of N. Zichni, Gymnasium of Nigrita

In the frame of this project non-formal trainings in all partner’s countries have been carried out with the aim of sensitizing students to the issues connected to cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and active involvement in the society, focusing on three main themes: human rights, active citizenship and diversity. The questionnaire was given to the students before and after the implementation of the activities, thus allowing to record the variations in the students’ perception on these themes. The same procedure was adopted in the other countries part of the project: in Bulgaria, Greece and Portugal.

Which were the main results collected?

The results show a consistency, in all the countries involved, in the perception of some topics by the students. In detail, from the questionnaires conducted in Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal and Greece, it does appear that there is a strong interest in the themes concerning differences among people; evaluating “difference” as a positive and enriching aspect.

Students consider tolerance as the acceptance of differences in the opinions and beliefs that everyone possesses.

Tolerance, diversity and differences among people are the topics which more interest students, together with the aspects connected with the assistance to the behavior of disadvantaged people.

In Portugal, there is also a particular interest in the topics connected to the “management of conflicts and of “aggressions at school” and of “cooperation and teamwork among peers”.

In what does the “different” consist?

Students of the four countries have shown to be in contact with different people, meaning this “diversity” in the terms of a physical, linguistic difference, in the difference of traditions and festivities. Moreover, in Portugal and Italy there is a significant difference between the physical and mental disabilities.

Teachers are generally perceived as the most tolerant in Bulgaria, Italy and Greece, while in Portugal the school representatives are considered the most tolerant

There is a general positive approach towards those who have different religious beliefs; in this sense many students affirm they would invite without problems a student who has a different religion, in the case of important religious events.

A different perception of poverty.The majority of respondents show a generally neutral opinion on the topic of “poverty” (Greece and Bulgaria), while the remaining part evaluate it as a strongly negative element (in a smaller part when compared to the past survey). In Italy, unlike what could be imagined, the majority of students experience poverty as something of non-negative. To the question “what would you do if you see one of your colleagues insulting a student coming from a poor family?”, the majority of the students in all the countries involved, has answered that they would intervene defending their partner. The same answer is registered to the question concerning the possible mistreatment of students with physical or mental disabilities.

Aggressive or hostile students?Students are constantly in contact with subjects which they consider aggressive or hostile and evaluate their behaviors as a natural consequence of problems perceived by these students as solvable only through violence or as the result of a bad familiar background. Despite these behaviors, most of the students say that they would intervene in defense of the aggressive students in case they would see them unjustly accused; only a small percentage of the respondents would not intervene because they would consider this unjust but at the same time as a deserved punishment because of the negative conduct previously held. 

After the training the students have declared in the second survey (in a bigger number) to have witnessed cases of intolerance or violence towards different students.The majority of Italian students have instead declared that they have never witnessed acts of violence or intolerance within the schools.

Do students know their rights?

Most of respondents in different countries say they know their rights. However, a big part of them say that they do not know these rights in details and this justifies their desire to acquire additional skills in these areas.

The questionnaires show both in their first and second administration, a general attitude in accepting the “different one”, this in terms of a positive evaluation and understanding of its value. Schools are in this sense, environments which foster the meeting with everything that is considered as different, including the different religions and traditions.

The project is now close to an end but, the interest of students and professors towards the topics developed, show that the collected data and the resources produced, will continue to give their results, fostering the interest of the youngest on these topics!

About Otherness

OTHERNESS  is financed by Erasmus+ Key Activity 2: Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices – Strategic Partnerships for school education with the aim to educate students to show tolerance, express and understand different viewpoints, negotiate with the ability to create confidence and feel empathy.

The partenership holds together 4 organisations:

Do you want to use the fantastic products of the project in your next training on Human rights, Diversity, Identity and Active citizenship?

Just click on the webpage and check under the section resources.

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