“Hold on for a moment, please, I’m just in the middle of Tuscany.” Radiant fields of yellow sunflowers, picturesque country houses, green hills and valleys – Pascal Omar raves about the famous region in Italy. Then the 17-year-old Egyptian takes his goggles off – and seems a bit disappointed. Gone is the fascinating countryside. He’s back in the middle of the “Station”, an events venue at Berlin’s Gleisdreieck. Using the homemade goggles he immersed himself for a brief spell in Italy. Pascal Omar is taking part in a workshop run by Bielefeld University’s “Teutolab”. Together with other students he’s learning why people can see in three dimensions and how simple it is to create a virtual reality. He made the goggles with special lenses using cardboard. Two landscape pictures are positioned behind the lenses. “The brain receives two different images and turns them into one,” comments Bielefeld Uni’s Frank Königer. Using this trick you get a 3D effect. Königer is one of the teachers and lecturers who developed the “Teutolab” for school pupils at Bielefeld University.
The workshop is one of more than 20 that are on offer on the third and last day of the major education forum “Moving People – Forum on cultural relations and education policy” organized by the German Federal Foreign Office from 13-15 April 2016 in Berlin. More than 300 pupils, teachers and school heads from over 50 PASCH schools in 30-plus different countries were invited to Berlin. Where they discussed Germany, the German language, education and culture. And today’s they’re experiencing “culture and foreign policy live” and finding out what foreign policy means in practice.
Knowledge promotes tolerance and respect
“All school students the world over share an almost inexhaustible curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge – wherever you happen to be,” says Königer. Today, it is repeatedly the common ground and less the differences that the participants find themselves talking about. This helps them interact and find out more about one another. “A knowledge of the others promotes tolerance and respect. And forms the basis for living peacefully together,” suggests Hermann Parzinger, President of Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. From his point of view, museums and other cultural institutions play a key role in this regard. “If you concern yourself with other cultures then at some point you realize that all cultures are interwoven anyway,” Parzinger continues.
Jamileh is also curious to find out about foreign cultures. The 16-year-old girl from the Palestinian territories is taking part in the workshop on “Traditions and Cultural Dialogue” run by the UNESCO project schools. Along with other students she is discovering all about social, cultural and religious traditions. What traditions prevent intercultural dialogue and which should also be preserved for the future? How to live together in a spirit of tolerance? The participants together try to find answers. Is there something that Jamileh would consider typically German? She smiles. “Yes, people are so punctual. But thankfully that certainly doesn’t get in the way of dialogue.”
The closing speech by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also focusses on what makes us us, what is foreign, and the social power of education. “We engage with partners all over the world to convince them to show a willingness to view the foreign not as a threat, to be open for interaction and to create opportunities precisely for that,” Steinmeier says. He then goes on to talk about the coach of the Lebanese national girl’s football team, Hiba Jaafil. With her at the helm the team won the first international football title in its history, the Arab Women’s Cup. Only then were the initially sceptical parents convinced that their daughters were doing the right thing. “Strengthening the social power of culture and education is the best path into a more peaceful world,” Steinmeier states. And to find examples of this approach, the Federal Foreign Minister only needs to cast a glance across the “Station”, filled with several hundred students and teachers: “It is people like Syrian scholarship holder Alaa, Russian student Ilya, Lebanese football coach Hiba Jaafil and countless others here today,” Steinmeier insists. “They are all people who are moving something. And are moving us.”