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Border Education - Space, Memory and Reflections on Transculturality
Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Aug 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Within the EU, one main goal has been to reduce the role of political borders in its citizens’ everyday life. The removal of border control in the Schengen area is its most visible expression. Although important steps have been made, the vision of “borderless EU” is far from accomplished. The deterring economic situation in the EU gave new impulse to nationalistic and Eurosceptic movements in EU member states and candidate countries. Soon after the crisis started, media and politicians, by default, mostly found the culprit over the border or among members of minority groups. The dramatic shift in attitude towards “others” can’t be explained if borders are perceived as lines on maps separating nation states. Borders are – first and foremost – a complex and dynamic mental phenomenon, (re)produced through creation of binary distinctions between the “I”/“We” and the „Other(s)“/“Them”. People constantly draw (mental) borders between themselves and others in accordance with their individual experience, perception, memory, belief, by taking into account the collective ones they identify with – and thus practice inclusion or exclusion. BE-SMaRT is on the ball regarding the fact that understanding mental borders needs a transdisciplinary approach of different aspects of borders and thus to comprehend their impact on (young) peoples’ life-experiences and constructions of identities within ever more globalized societies. Therefore bottom-up reflective educational approaches in the professional development of teachers and teacher students will be developed to challenge memories and “traditional” conceptions of “Europe”'s borders. The major innovative issue of BE-SMaRT is not just to bring together the concept of “borders” with individual/collective memory but to do this within teacher education and thus to act in an pedagocical context. The project’s target groups (teacher, teacher students, education providers,…) show this particular educational potential. In this way, BE-SMaRT is complementary to other initiatives dealing with borders, border perceptions and/or memories, which are not targeting „educational multipliers“. The project approach is multidisciplinary but anchored in Teacher Education and includes teacher students and teachers in service (as focus groups), curricula and textbooks (as political references and basis media for schools), the collection of border related life-stories/memories (as working material for teachers and teacher students) will be included in and form the basis of analysis. BE-SMaRT is designed in two progressive steps: a) Analysis of studies and publications on existing and empirical knowledge of border perception through memory: Quantitative and qualitative research methods will be employed for the collection of data and for the establishment of a scientific basis in order to have relevant information and sound didactic foundation for the development of the module. The project research will focus on the representations of “borders” in different fields that ultimately will lead to an evaluation of existing, and the development of new approaches regarding the understanding of, and in turn, education on “borders” which may challenge more traditional, mainly spatial conceptions. b) Based on these diverse studies, an under-graduate and/or post-graduate module for initial teacher education degree programmes will be developed. The module aims at opening teacher education from its traditionally national orientation to a European dimension. It will become integrated into the existing university programmes and also may be used as a course for Erasmus incoming teacher education students. Blended learning components will enable communication between teacher students of the partner universities. The approach of the module will be based on critical reflection of individuals and groups in relation to their current situation. Within BE-SMaRT, this involves questioning existing assumptions, values, and perspectives which underlie young people’s actions, decisions and judgements – in the present case referring to border and memory – in order to liberate them from their habitual ways of thinking and acting. This transformation of perspectives is only possible through the critical reconsideration of one’s own perspectives and orientations to perceiving, knowing, feeling, and acting – this means: what has been learned before – the frame of reference – has to be unlearned to make room for new knowledge, skills, and attitudes: it has to be re-constructed. This approach seems most appropriate at a time when young people know the EU’s political borders and perceive borderfree life within Europe as set. BE-SMaRT is about opportunities for young, dynamic EU citizens (= teachers of tomorrow) to experience meaningful dialogue about othering, to encourage them to see mutual understanding as basis from which to shape and build a more socially just, inclusive and successfully functioning European society.
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