What is “Czechkid”, and how do you use it?
Czechkid is above all a comprehensive tool for the introduction of multicultural education into schools. Here, we’d like to give you an overview of its theoretical bases, and we would be pleased to advise you on everything you can find in Czechkid.
If positive results are to be attained from multicultural education, one of the essential conditions is an accurate reflection of the student’s social and life experience. Multicultural contact is at heart a practical matter. In short, there is a meeting of individuals from various cultural environments who may at the beginning have various feelings for each other: they might be curious, they might reject each other, and there is no guarantee they will understand each other. Within the framework of multicultural education they should find something out about each other and learn to communicate effectively and adequately.
Three basic things are required for this: experience with meeting people from different cultures; an assessment of these meetings; and self-reflection within a multicultural environment. We also understand culture in the project as relating to the social environment in which our characters live.
It is precisely this experience and assessment of meetings and self-reflection within a multicultural environment that Czechkid attempts to offer. Whether we already have multicultural experiences or not, along with the characters we can reflect on their experiences. We can think beyond our own experiences, while at the same time learning something new about the individuals concerned and their life situation.
At the outset, it should also be said that Czechkid works with the concept of culture. One might ask: how I recognise that intercultural contact is taking place? Do I recognise it by a different colour of skin, unfamiliar conduct in a familiar situation, or different values? This is of course a question which has occupied researchers and practitioners for many decades.
Czechkid attempts to deal with this topic in a practical way. Culture is here conceived of through the prism of a “trans-cultural approach”, which states that in today’s global world it is far from being simply national boundaries which distinguish individual cultures. Each of us feels ourselves to be a member of many groups – social, professional, religious; we have our family, our town, our region, our club ….. etc. We learn to operate in each of these groups, each with its own rules, values, basically methods by which things are done. In Czechkid we aim to connect these social links and contingencies to the recognition of people from other social and cultural environments and individuals from other countries. In this sense we take intercultural contact to be taking place as much in a contact between Czech and German anarchists as between, say, a Czech anarchist and a Czech civil servant. It is very likely that in both cases specific people will come up against that fact that they understand each other in certain respects and not in others. And this is the crux of the matter. In multicultural education we are able to resolve situations in which there is goodwill on both sides, but in which cultural (or social) differences prevent a common path from being found.
What will you find in Czechkid?
Multicultural education can be approached in many different ways, with the aim of contributing to the creation of pluralism in society which embraces many different socio-cultural groups. In the case of Czechkid, we took as our premise the fact that the ability to thrive within a multicultural environment is best learned on the basis of personal experience. This was the main reason we selected as characters children who come from this environment.
The characters in Czechkid are completely normal young people who encounter life situations which correspond to their life experiences.
We would like to point out that, even though the characters from Czechkid might tempt one to regard them as being representatives of certain specific groups, this is deliberately not the case. It is not possible to create the character of the universal Czech, footballer, hunter or anyone else. If our character has specific experiences, ordeals, sorrows, joys, if they argue with the others, fall in and out of love, then they are a unique human being with a unique life experience. And it is precisely this kind of character that we would like to present. We would therefore ask that you do not look for a Ukrainian living in the Czech Republic in Olga, for the product of a broken marriage in Pavla, or for a typical Roma in Daniel. They are not these things in exactly the same way that no Ukrainian, child of divorced parents, or Roma, whom we meet today and on a daily basis, is.
So what does Czechkid offer if it is not an instant instruction on how to deal with the members of cultural groups in the Czech Republic? Czechkid primarily attempts to mediate the experiences of people who come from so many different environments that may not even understand each other, since each has a different concept of time, of what tradition means, or because maybe one is a Czech national and the other only has long-term residence.
If we are working with individuals who have such experiences, we have to find out something about them and we need to understand them. This is what Czechkid tries to make possible.
The characters of Czechkid (the Czech kids) are based on the most varied real persons and situations. However, none of them represents a specific individual.
The first step when using Czechkid in schools is to introduce the characters in lessons, and only then to begin working with the individual dialogues. This can be done, for instance, within the framework of English conversation lessons or in the form of homework set by the Czech teacher.
So that you can work better with the characters, I will take this opportunity to offer a basic introduction to them (for more information click on the individual names in the homepage):
Aleš or Ali likes playing football, does orienteering and is a Scout. He would really like to travel. His father is from Zimbabwe and his mother is Czech. The others think he is a foreigner just because he has dark skin.
Andrea sings, dances and is learning Romani. Although she comes from a Roma family, they do not speak Romani at home, which Andrea really regrets.
Daniel has a large family with two younger sisters. He plays football and is a keen boxer. At home he speaks Romani with his grandmother and Czech with the others. He would like to be a boxing trainer, but other than that he doesn’t have much of an idea about what to do with his life.
Jami came with his family to the Czech Republic from Iraq as a refugee. He has plenty of unpleasant things in his past about which he is not keen to talk. His full name is Abu-Jamal, but nobody remembers this and so his nickname is Jami. Like his parents he is a Muslim. He likes football, and also plays the guitar a little.
Jožo was born in Poprad and is a single child (for the time being, he says). He is into everything associated with mountains, i.e. hiking, climbing and skiing. And so that the silence of the mountains doesn’t get too much, he also plays the drums. His plans? University maybe, or a trip to India. All in good time, though...
Magda is something of an intellectual, reads a lot, writes poetry and plays the guitar. She wears glasses and so is often called a swot, even though this isn’t of course true.
Olga plays the flute well and would like to go to music conservatory. However, she would also like to earn some money in order to be able to contribute something to the family. She comes from the Ukraine and has been told by her parents that finding a decent job is no easy matter.
Pavla plays volleyball, loves her dog Plasty, and has had some strange ideas fed to her by her brother, who is a neo-Nazi. Sometimes it is difficult for her to deal with so many friends which her brother would prefer not to see living in the Czech Republic.
Suong comes from Vietnam. She has been living here for many years, though her mother does not speak Czech very well yet. Because of this Suong has a “foster granny” who helps her with her Czech. She doesn’t have much time for hobbies, though she has big plans, and would like to be a lawyer.
Tim would like to be a diplomat, but doesn’t know if he’ll manage it. As well as Czech and Dutch, which are his maternal and paternal languages, he knows he would have to master other languages. Otherwise, he plays volleyball and is learning to play the organ.
The characters in Czechkid have not only a story to tell, but their own life experience which differentiates them from the others. This exchange of opinions, experience and stories takes place in the form of dialogues.
If you click on the “Go to map” icon on the homepage, a page will appear with a map of all the places where the characters meet. You get to individual dialogues by clicking on the selected places, e.g. “Ski school”, and a page will appear with the faces of the individual characters. Each dialogue has its central character, and if you click on them the dialogue will appear.
Just like the descriptions of the characters, the dialogues are available in Czech and English.
At the end of individual dialogues you can click on “Next”. On the next page you will find questions, tasks, or a continuation of the dialogue.
The teacher’s materials can be divided into two basic categories:
a) Texts supporting dialogues:
Each of the dialogues deals with some aspect of multicultural education. For this reason we have prepared basic materials for teachers from each of these areas. The teacher’s materials always have the same structure for ease of orientation. At the start is a brief introduction to what the dialogue is about, followed by a glossary of terms relating to the topic under consideration, an essay examining the topic, and finally some additional stories and examples.
b) Additional texts:
As well as materials relating directly to specific dialogues there are other topics available which are important to multicultural education (e.g. nostrification, language preparation classes, etc.). These texts have the same structure but are not bound to specific dialogues and are more general in character.
You can find this material by two means:
- by clicking on the “For teachers” icon on individual dialogues
- by clicking on the “For teachers” icon on the homepage
The individual topics examined in Czechkid are set out in accordance with the requirements for multicultural education published in the documents pertaining to educational reforms presently being prepared. In this way, we have attempted to offers teachers a hands-on tool which they can tie in with the creation of educational programmes.
The individual dialogues have been created in such a way that they can be used for teaching various subjects, at the discretion of the teachers in any particular school.
Finally, we would add that the Czechkid web pages are supplemented by a methodology which is available at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague.