A Framework of Reference for Intercultural Competence. A 21st century Flemish Experiment in Capacity Building in Formal Education
Notwithstanding a growing interest in intercultural communication in the 21st century, most professionals in the Low Countries (and elsewhere) have not been trained in this field during their education. Many managers believe that experience is sufficient to bring an international assignment to a favourable conclusion, for instance an agreed contract. What’s more, in most cases those managers will have succeeded in even the most complex assignments, thanks to their experience and their intuition, guided by the motto “practice makes perfect”. This doesn’t alter the fact that coherent training would be an extra asset for this group of people. For young professionals entering professional life, it has become a very important issue. Intercultural competence can be trained and acquired, as will be described hereafter. Why not include intercultural communication training in the curricula of higher education (either as a structured module or embedded in other subjects), because such a programme could fill a void in the competences of young professionals. Indeed, intercultural competence could even become a critical success factor when applying for a job, not only in business, but also in social work and indeed heritage practices.
We have tried to develop a programme and a framework of reference for intercultural competence, because we are convinced of the fact that you can train intercultural competence.This framework of reference was introduced and tested over three academic years (2004-2007) with over 700 students in the course Intercultural Communication and Training, using the portfolio methodology at Karel de Grote-Hogeschool Antwerp (henceforth KdG). This article focuses mainly on the situation in Flanders (Belgium), because the research and the implementation of the framework of reference were carried through at KdG. We will also refer to the Dutch situation.