Intercultural Differences


After working on Europe with one of my Business English classes, We are now dealing with intercultural management. The first step is to get the students to understand how different cultures have different ways of looking at the world.

Even if France and Sweden are both European countries, visiting classes there made me aware of how different we are when it comes to teaching. Let me try and explain how through an example: Personal Project Work. For this project the student works (on his own or with a peer) on a topic he/she has chosen.

– The names:
The Swedes call it Project Work while we call it Personal Supervised Project Work. It is striking that the French need to reassure the student (unless it is his/her parents) by emphasizing that this project will be supervised by an adult. Needless to say this type of work is also overseen by a teacher in Sweden.

– The age:
In France this projects concerns 11th graders, that is to say the students focus on this project a year before they leave school – they are then 17. As for Swedish students, they work on their projects in their final year. Since they start school a year after most other European children they are then 19. In France the final year is devoted to preparing for the baccalaureat, France’s national secondary-school diploma. By asking the students to work on their project the year before we wend them the message that it is not serious enough to be part of the final school year. On the contrary, for the Swedes, it is part and parcel of ending 3 years of secondary high school.

– The organisation:
In France two hours a week are devoted to project work. All the students from one class come to the library and work there under the supervision of two teachers. In Sweden, the students work whenever they want and see their supervisor once every two week. Each teacher supervises ten youngsters. In the meantime, the students send their supervisor their updated logbooks so that the latter knows what the student has done, what his/her difficulties are and is thus able to provide appropriate help. It seems that Swedish educators trust their students more and can assist them more efficiently than we do.

What do you think? If you were a teenager what would you prefer? As a parent what would seem more suitable for your child? Do intercultural differences ever play a part in your job?