Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy Forum Moving people
For three days, the forum “Menschen bewegen” 2016 demonstrated in Berlin what partners like the Goethe-Institut achieve with their worldwide alliances, from educational initiatives to urban development projects.
Bhavika Sharma is 17 years old, comes from Delhi and would like to study mechanical engineering in Aachen. She speaks excellent German and also has a favourite German word that elicits plenty of laughs at the Weltsaal of the Foreign Office in Berlin: Ellenbogengesellschaft or “elbow society.” Why did she choose to study German? “I like challenges,” she responds. She is also not at a loss for an answer when asked what she thinks of the present refugee debate. “Accepting refugees can unite nations,” says the young Indian woman emphatically.
Giving it a try: cultural projects by the Goethe-Institut were also presented. Here, the theatrical group “Die Stelzer” (Stilt-Walkers) shows off their skills. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Nations can also be united by cultural dialogue with language as the key. The event Welt-Klasse! Schule. Bildung. Zukunft at the Foreign Office interprets this sentiment in a lively way. At the launch of the forum Menschen bewegen 2016, which creates a three-day platform in Berlin for Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy, it focuses on the PASCH partner schools initiative. For eight years, the initiative has networked approximately 1,800 schools around the world where German is learned and taught. About 350 pupils, teachers and school directors from 30 countries convened at the Foreign Office to represent this successful project. In addition, video greetings were sent in German from PASCH schools from places as far away as Peru, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Colombia.
Many of the PASCH pupils at the meeting want to come to Germany to study. Young Alexandru Badea from Romania would like to combine “law, human rights and journalism,” for example, and Theodora Tiha Loos from Serbia is fascinated by aerospace technology and would like to do research on “solar-powered aeroplanes.”
Language instead of conflict
“Language is immersion in our culture,” emphasizes state minister Maria Böhmer during the panel on Bildung schafft Zukunft (education creates the future) with representatives from government and education. “It awakens curiosity for our country!” Johannes Ebert, the secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut, additionally points out the cross-border impact of the PASCH project. He cites the ecological school initiative Umwelt macht Schule as an example that was recently presented Berlin and which involved pupils from countries such as Kazakhstan, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.
Secretary-General Johannes Ebert at the Akademie der Künste | Photo: Martin Christopher Welker “Countries that aren’t necessarily friendly,” according to Ebert, “but the focus was on the topic and the language, not on conflict.” Accordingly, he advocated, “don’t stop with PASCH,” but to continue to act as disseminators. German is ultimately being taught at 95,000 schools worldwide hence the networks can still grow.
City occupation or ownership
President Klaus-Dieter Lehmann with "virtual reality" glasses at the event 360-Grad Theater at the Berliner Festspiele. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy – often called the “third pillar” of foreign policy – is not limited to language. Educational and cultural partnerships have an impact in a wide variety of social spheres, in particular those negotiating central questions about co-existence, for example, to whom the city belongs. Since 2013, the Goethe-Institut project We-Traders: Swapping Crisis for City, which was presented at the Akademie der Künste during the Long Night of Ideas, has grappled with these issues. Such projects that “involve civil society,” as Ebert stresses, are increasingly important for the cultural work of the Goethe-Institut.
Since 2013 We-Traders, whose artistic directors are the Vienna architecture lecturer Angelika Fitz and the Berlin designer Rose Epple, have explored and networked initiatives from cities such as Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin that are taking ownership of their cities in a wide variety of ways while investigating the fabric between value, profit and the common good. These range from neighbourhood campaigns that make an abandoned piece of land useable to the occupation of public squares such as the Plaza del Sol in Madrid and Taksim Square in Istanbul.
Rivers in Germany and India
We-Traders - Swapping Crisis for City | Photo: Martin Christopher Welker Angelika Fitz, Rose Epple and Elke Rauth, the director of the “urbanize!” festival in Vienna, have now also published a free, downloadable e-book that was presented for the first time at the Akademie der Künste. We-Traders have long created worldwide alliances. For example, the artist and curator Ravi Agarwal from New Delhi spoke on the Yamuna – Elbe project, which builds a bridge between two rivers that have lost their ecological balance for different reasons and unites artists, environmental activists, landscape planners and scientists together to discuss their futures. “Is the riverside a public space?” Agarwal asks in his talk and points out an enlightening contrast, saying, “In Hamburg the most expensive houses are on the riverbank, in Delhi the poorest.”
Dispute is part of it
The breadth of the subject matter of Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy is demonstrated again on the final day of the Menschen bewegen forum under the motto “Live Culture and Foreign Policy.” Here, the football project by the Goethe-Institut Beirut for Syrian and Lebanese kids is presented next to the lecture by the Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharam who is fighting for liberties in his home country. Some PASCH pupils are also reporting on their experience in workshops, like Huang Tianyi from China, who joined other twelfth graders to imitate a UN General Assembly. When asked whether there were disputes, Tianyi smiles and replies, “Of course there were. That’s a part of it.”
By Patrick Wildermann
Overview of Goethe-Institut activities as the Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy Forum Menschen bewegen:
13 April.: The panel discussion Bildung schafft Zukunft with Dr Maria Böhmer, minister of state at the Foreign Office; Ulla Schmidt; member and vice president of the Bundestag; Joachim Lauer, director of the Central Agency for German Schools Abroad (ZfA); Johannes Ebert, secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut; Dr Dorothea Rüland, secretary-general des German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Thomas Mayer, representative of the Free State of Bavaria in the Bund-Länder Committee for School Education Abroad, Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs, in the Weltsaal of the Foreign Office
14 April: Workshops for pupils from the PASCH partner school initiative (“Poetry Set to Music” with Kommando Elektrolyrik, the debating contest Jugend debattiert international, a comic workshop “Around the World in Eighty Days” and others)
14 April: Long Night of Ideas
Swapping Crisis for City. New Platforms for International Cultural Dialogue Panel with Johannes Odenthal, programming officer of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Johannes Ebert, secretary-general of the Goethe-Institut and Angelika Fitz, designated director of the Architekturzentrum Wien (Akademie der Künste)
360 Grad Theater With Thomas Oberender, director of the Berliner Festspiele; Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, president of the Goethe-Institut and Jan Philip Steimel, artistic director of machina eX (Berliner Festspiele)
Digitale (Spiele) Welten (Deutsches Technikmuseum)
Die Kraft der Kultur – music matters (Tresor) Panel with Dimitri Hegemann, Tresor; Ania Pipilenko, Players of Change; Christoph Borkowsky, Piranha Arts and Johannes Hossfeld, Goethe-Institut
PASCH film night (Cinema Paris)
15 April: Info stand and workshops at the Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy Forum (Station Berlin)