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Bridging the gap

Creating an international learning community in which no student feels excluded – this is the aim of the School of Business and Economics with its International Classroom Development programme. From September, all first-year bachelor’s students will learn how to communicate and cooperate with students from different cultural backgrounds.

It started more than three years ago, when SBE students expressed their dissatisfaction once again with the poor integration of the different nationalities within the School. To them, it seemed to consist of Dutch, German and ‘other’ students, all living apart in separate worlds, which led to friction in study teams as well.

International Classroom Development is meant to improve the relations in the classroom; in part by training intercultural and social competences, in part by raising awareness of exclusion – and how to avoid it. Coordinator Wim Swaan gives the illustration of the break mid-way through tutorials when students, especially the Germans and the Dutch (members of the majorities), shift immediately to their mother tongue and focus their attention on their compatriots. The programme will encourage students to stick to English more often in the break.

The skills training will be integrated as two or three tasks in the curriculum and will take two hours per block period. Later on, the programme will be extended to the curriculum as a whole. A period of five years will be necessary to gain a lasting impact, says the report. According to rector Gerard Mols, International Classroom Development is of great importance for Maastricht University given its ongoing internationalisation. The programme will also serve as a pilot for the other faculties.

 

Maurice Timmermans

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