Introduction Therefore, the task of contemporary educational process, viewed

 

Introduction

 

Cultural diversity is one of the most significant attributes of the human population in
general. It is mankind’s centuries-long fact conditioned by numerous
differences. It is primarily related to the use of different verbal and
non-verbal communication codes within social communities and their relationship
to other social communities. Additionally, it is related to different norms of
behavior, different beliefs, religions, opinions and values. Identification of
individuals with a group that has a common system of symbols, meanings and
norms of behavior represents their cultural identity, and “(…) knowing
another’s cultural identity (…) does help you to understand the opportunities
and challenges that each individual in that culture had to deal with” (Jandt,
2010:15).

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The familiarity with cultural diversity has become a
part of our daily lives, having in mind that meeting others has been alleviated
by globalization processes worldwide and a resulting wider opening-up of some
societies towards others. A consequence of the globalization processes is the
strengthening of migration processes, which leads to an increased number of
various multicultural contacts and formation of multicultural communities. On
the other hand, we must bear in mind the fact that the diversity of cultures,
i.e. multiculturalism, may be historically rooted in a social community thus
constituting its distinguishable constant feature, not a product of migration
processes. 

Education policies have always had profound influence
both in terms of developing and the weakening of cultural diversity. Therefore,
the task of contemporary educational process, viewed through the prism of the
transfer of knowledge and acquisition of competences, is to facilitate the
acquisition of intercultural competences which enable coexistence with others,
together with their cultural diversity (Byram, 1997). Within the framework of
UNESCO report on Education for Twenty-first Century, under the leadership of
Jacques Delors, another report was presented entitled Learning – The Treasure Within, which emphasizes that education
relies on four principles: “learning to be”, “learning to know” “learning to
work” and “learning to live together”. The Commission has singled out the
“learning to live together” principle as the most important one as it entails
“(…) the development of people’s understanding for other people, their
histories, traditions, and spiritual values (…)” (Report, 1996:20-21), thus
implying the conclusion that these principles can be applied successfully only
if they are established on appreciation of cultural diversity.

Language is most frequently referred to as one of the
basic criteria of cultural diversity and its fundamental element. Language is
considered a product of spiritual culture of a people and its transmitter at
the same time.  This is why, from the
point of view of cultural diversity, languages are not considered only a means
of communication. In fact, being the media of our experiences, our systems of
value, our encounters with other people and our sense of belonging, languages
are also a combination of our cultural expressions, the strongholds of our
identity, our values, and our views of the world (Risager, 2006). Hence, in
growing political and economic integration of European countries, whose level of
future unity will depend on the level of mutual familiarity, understanding, and
tolerance towards others and the different, the Council of Europe has defined
the foreign language learning, promotion of significance of language and
cultural diversity, and the need for their preservation as the priority tasks
of education in the 21st century.

In view of the above, this paper is focused on three
main areas. First, it analyses the elements of cultural diversity in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, its understanding in both broad and narrow terms, the effect these
elements have on the planning of foreign language teaching policy in B,
and their status and position in our contemporary education concept. Secondly,
the paper attempts briefly to show that there is a close correlation between
foreign language learning and its culture and that it is paramount to teach elements of the culture as it leads to developing
intercultural communication. The final section of the paper points out
the elements of harmonization of the curricula in our schools with the European
concept of curricula, which bring to the fore the development of students’
cultural communicative competence.

Cultural identity of Bosnia and Herzegovina

and its influence on planning foreign language teaching

Historical background

A culture of a people is inseparable from its history.
The territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina has witnessed centuries-long
interactions and blending of several civilizations. Nowadays, three religions
coexist there with an enviable degree of tolerance and respect, without
assimilation pretexts for integration and creation of a unique cultural pattern
which would annul the diversity and the specific quality of each cultural
individuality. B&H has thus “widely opened a door to another and different,
so becoming a home to what is domiciliary and foreign, (…), to what is here
and what is there, to what is altogether an ideal to which Europe itself is
steered” (Strategy for Cultural Policy in B&H, 2008:7).

Due to its rather sensitive geopolitical position
between the East and the West and its incorporation into the transitional zone of European culture,
the cultural and historic heritage in B&H is heterogeneous, formed in a
broad time span from the pre-historic and antic to the mediaeval, Ottoman, and
modern times. Owing to such a geographic position, its culture has been shaped
under the influence of four cultural and civilization heritages: Mediterranean,
Central European, Byzantine, and Oriental-Islamic, which is one of the decisive
facts that has affected the course and content of the education and cultural
development of B&H, as well as the abundance of forms of its
cultural-historic legacy. In the world that is becoming increasingly
globalised, imposing its own system of values, which does not show too much
understanding for traditional culture, which is, nevertheless, increasingly
becoming aware of the need to preserve cultural values created for centuries,
this abundance of cultural-historic heritage can become one of the comparative
advantages of our country, “(…) and our culture an important product with
which B&H of today can in fact be competitive in Europe and the world” (Strategy
for Cultural Policy in B&H, 2008:12).

In addition to the three constitutive peoples –
Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks – B&H is a home to representatives of 17 ethnic
minorities: the Romani, Slovenians,
Ukrainians, Czechs, Albanians, Poles, Macedonians, Bulgarians,
Austrians, Germans, Turks, Arabs, Italians, Hungarians, Russians, Slovaks and
others, who present through their activities the most significant proof of the
affirmation of cultures of diversity at a time of globalization, which is
invaluable for the development of intercultural dialogue and the strengthening
of social cohesion. From the point of view of language diversity, Bosnian,
Croatian, and Serbian are the three official languages of B&H, which show a
high degree of mutual appreciation, clearly manifested towards the languages of
minorities which are extensively used. Therefore, historically established
multiculturalism, diversity of religions and traditions, and the language
diversity lie at the heart of cultural identity of B&H. Hence, in defining
priorities, the Strategy for Cultural Policy in B&H states as one of the
fundamental goals and tasks: “(…) further affirmation of multiculturalism and
cultural unity, constantly bearing in mind the cultural wealth and specific
cultural feature of B&H which incorporates numerous influences from the
East, West and the Mediterranean, which represents its peculiar advantage, the
factor of unifying and not of separation and a step more on the road to
European integrations and, particularly, the nurturing of the cultural
specificities of each of its peoples and ethnic minorities, with a full support
to the activities of the (…) national, cultural, and educational associations
and their contribution to the promotion of culture, protection of
cultural-artistic heritage and language” (ibid., 34).

Having experienced encounters with powerful European
and Oriental cultures and civilizations, from which it inherited the spirit of
cultural, traditional, and religious distinctiveness, long existing as an
integral part of the globally known multicultural community – former
Yugoslavia, having been taught painful experiences carried from the recent
wartime events, Bosnia and Herzegovina understands the term and meaning of
multiculturalism in its broadest terms, not only within its own borders. This
is a result of the fact that multiculturalism in B&H, viewed in the historical
and geographic context, has always had its cultural forms which had its common
institutions, which, by nurturing cultural diversity, did not advocate
intolerance, isolation, and self-containment but openness, communication, and
unity. Even nowadays, being a member of the Council of Europe, Bosnia and
Herzegovina actively participates in the work of the Council of Europe
Committees dealing with the issues in the field of culture. Its capitol was the
organizer of the first pilot project entitled the First Intercultural City of
the Council of Europe 2003/04, and the first forum on intercultural and
interreligious dialogue organized in cooperation with the Council of Europe and
the Japanese foundation.

Innovating the foreign language learning
programs

Although in the transitional process and divided into two entities, and
the entity of the Federation of B&H itself into ten cantons, although still
in a state of an institutional and political chaos, in the past ten years
B&H has