Published on July 15, 2022
In an increasingly globalised world, it is more important than ever to develop cultural competence and inclusive practices for students to navigate complex environments and contribute as peaceful world citizens. Schools are best placed to develop and nurture these attributes through well-considered intercultural learning programs, practices and pedagogies.
This year, HVGS staff have embarked on a collaborative Intercultural Learning program led by renowned intercultural educator Dr Eeqbal Hassim. Intercultural learning at HVGS builds staff capacity to develop the attributes required of students as global citizens while supporting them to thrive in a world where complexity and change are typical.
HVGS is fortunate to have Dr Hassim working with us as we collectively explore our intercultural understanding. His own cultural experiences perfectly position him to lead us in this work.
“I was born in Singapore and came to Australia as an 11-year-old international student,” said Dr Hassim. “My migrant journey and my personal experience of culture fuelled my interest in the intercultural space.
“I went through school with other international students and many felt they had to adapt to fit into a majority. My wish is for all students to be themselves and be accepted.”
When we think of intercultural learning, it is essential to understand that it goes beyond merely learning about ‘other cultures and customs’. Instead, it focuses on the cultural encounters between people. In other words, what happens when cultures intersect.
Dr Hassim explains, “intercultural learning builds on our intercultural reality and prepares us to work constructively with diversity.
“It is concerned with how we work together as people with a shared humanity, despite our differences and how we can effectively interact across cultures.”
Due to the increasing diversity of culture and the multifaceted nature of the world in which we live, it is clear why HVGS is building competence this area as a way of helping our students ‘learn to live together’.
Hunter Valley Grammar School is diverse, and our School community’s varied perspectives necessitate respect, self-reflection, responsiveness, and advocacy as we navigate difference and diversity. As we begin to better understand what motivates individuals in how they behave and act, we can then deliberately consider how we interact with each other and honour our difference.
Through the learning journey with Dr Hassim, HVGS staff can appreciate that intercultural learning is central and essential to responsive practice in education to meet the emerging needs of our students. This realisation has been both empowering and inspiring for staff.
“HVGS is willing and ready to do this work,” says Dr Hassim. “There is such openness from staff to share their experiences, get the conversation started and to value and honour everyone’s experience.”
Dr Hassim and other HVGS staff have also had an opportunity to engage with a small group of students on intercultural learning. Their voice and insights have been powerful and are essential in how we develop intercultural competency as a school. Olivia Daffy (Year 10) had some insightful reflections from the training, “I’m going to focus on promoting a more open-mindset, being more confident in my ideas, and speaking up and taking action where necessary,” said Olivia.
Intercultural learning at HVGS does not stop with just intercultural training. We must continue to apply the knowledge and teachings from Dr Hassim to our everyday experience if we are to be genuinely inclusive and accepting of all. Dr Hassim offers this simple and deliberate way people can do this in daily interactions: “when in a conversation where someone is sharing their personal experience, simply pause and ask yourself, am I truly honouring that person’s experience and their authentic self?”
Dr Hassim will continue working with the School to elevate and amplify student voice, while further developing our core focus areas and next steps. As a learning community we are excited about developing our cultural competence and the long-term benefits this will yield for students and the broader community, now and into the future.
Meet Dr Hassim
Dr Eeqbal Hassim is an education consultant specialising in the intersections of curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment in intercultural and transnational contexts. He holds the title of associate professor as an honorary principal fellow at Melbourne Graduate School of Education at The University of Melbourne. He is a qualified administrator of Intercultural Development Inventory and holds a bachelor’s degree in arts with first-class honours and a doctoral degree from The University of Melbourne.