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ROMtel conferences

Languages for Dignity: a pedagogy for success at school
Oradea, Romania 26th-27th October 2016

This conference celebrates linguistic pluralism and introduces ways of teaching children who live and learn in more than one languages. It includes speakers who are experts in mutilingual/plurilingual pedagogical approaches and intercultural education from the UK, Finland and France and experts in Romani languages and heritage from Romania.

For more information including how to book, please download the Oradea flyer pdf


Languages for Learning: A Pedagogy for EAL
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 10th-11th November 2016

This is a free event. Our conference celebrates linguistic pluralism and introduces ways of teaching children who are learning English as an additional language. The conference includes speakers who are experts in multilingual/plurilingual pedagogical approaches and intercultural education from the UK, Finland and France and experts in Romani languages and heritage from the UK and Romania.

For more information, please download the ‌Newcastle poster (PDF)

Online booking form (free event)

The wonders of Finnish education…



Check our article here:

The best and most respected teachers in the world?: Counternarratives about the ‘Finnish miracle of education’ in the press
Power and Education November 2015 7: 306-321, first published on August 19, 2015

Amin Atabong’s viva

Is there such a thing…? A study of antiracism education in Finland 

Aminkeng Atabong Alemanji (2016)

To be presented with the permission on the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences of the University of Helsinki, for public discussion in the Lecture Hall 229, Siltavuorenpenger 5 Aurora on Monday 31st October 2016 at noon.




New book: Intercultural Competence in Education

Intercultural Competence in Education – Alternative Approaches for Different Times

Editors: Dervin, Fred, Gross, Zehavit (Eds.)


This book explores the concept of intercultural competence, focusing specifically on education. Intercultural competence can vary depending on the field of research or the context of application and has therefore developed over recent decades. As the world becomes increasingly global intercultural competence has become even more important but it is still not practiced satisfactorily. This book highlights views which are at odds with official and orthodox positions on intercultural competence to encourage fresh approaches to intercultural competence. It will be invaluable for researchers, practitioners and students interested in the global possibilities of education.



Study Abroad Research in European Perspective (SAREP)

COST Action 15130


CFP: International conference, University of Helsinki, Finland 31 August-1st September 2017


Criticality in Education (Research): Definitions, Discourses and Controversies

“I and my public understand each other very well: It does not hear what I say, and I don’t say what it wants to hear.” (Karl Kraus)

“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.”

(Confucius, The Analects, Ch. 14)


Plenary speakers

Adrian Holliday, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.

Li Xi (Cecilee), Beijing Foreign Studies University, China

Razmig Keucheyan, University of Bordeaux (Centre Émile Durkheim), France


Invited panel discussion led by Etta Kralovec, University of Arizona South, USA




The words critical and criticality are increasingly omnipresent in educational institutions around the world (curricula, course objectives-outcomes, assessment criteria, etc.). They have also become part of decision makers’ daily bread and butter. However, what these words mean in education, but also in research on education, is very unstable, polysemic and, sometimes, empty. We all claim to be doing criticality but we are not always sure what we mean by it – and if we mean the same.

Although one might be able to draft a list of criteria for what criticality entails, not everyone would agree with them. What is more many of these criteria are often used to ‘imagine’ the other and to place self on a pedestal (or often vice versa in the ‘periphery’), leading to the nightmare of a-critical criticality. This is the case of discourses on ‘Chinese’ / ‘Asian’ students who are often relegated to the position of ‘uncritical learners/scholars’. Judged against imagined ‘Western’ superior skills to be critical, the ensuing moralistic judgements about these learners lead to discrimination, essentialisation and obsolete culturalism. Unfortunately, these discourses are also used by the ‘victims’ themselves to define themselves (“we are Confucians so we lack criticality”). In their 2011 article entitled Critical thinking and Chinese university students: a review of the evidence, Jing Tian and Graham David Low discuss the apparent lack of Chinese students’ CT skills. They question the usual argument that Chinese culture does not allow ‘criticality’ and show that the students’ previous learning experiences have an influence on their level of CT. In teaching-learning and research this leads to epistemological and ethical issues that need clarifying.


Another issue relating to criticality concerns the increasing importance given to international league tables of school performance like the OECD’s PISA studies or the studies produced by the World Trade Organization in education (research). These contribute to creating educational ‘utopias’ and ‘dystopias’, global discourses about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ systems of education, without being criticized systematically by teachers, researchers or decision makers. These studies also contribute to the hype around certain terms such as happiness, equality/equity, etc. These terms would deserve to be deconstructed rather than taken for granted. In his ‘social psychology’ of PISA (and ‘similar phenomena’), Biesta (2016) claims that

The most visible way in which systems such as PISA are seductive is in that they seem to provide clear, unambiguous and easy to digest and to communicate information about the apparent quality of educational systems, particularly with regard to their ‘performance’.

Be it in education or research on education, the adjectives “clear, unambiguous and easy” need to be critiqued…

Finally, in many countries where discourses about the importance of criticality are omnipresent, threats to academic freedom have emerged. Some academics have been stopped from delivering lectures; some students have sued lecturers for using certain words or phrases and have become censorious; intellectual ‘safe places’ are being created to protect individuals from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own, etc. This all makes the very notion of academic freedom increasingly unstable and rhetorical.


This conference discusses the definitions, discourses and controversies related to the topic of criticality in education (research). All levels of education are of interest. The following questions are asked:

  • What does it mean ‘to be critical’ in education (research)? How do critical theories and/or approaches come-into-being in education (research)? What is/are the relevancies and significances of critical theories/ approaches in education (research)?
  • How do we define the contested idea of criticality in order to make it useful? Is it a disposition, a skill and/or a habit of mind? Can it be learnt? Can it be defined?
  • Can we work from definitions of criticality that avoid creating hierarchies between learners from different ‘cultures’? Can we once and for allavoid falling into the trap of giving the privilege of criticality to the ‘Western world’?
  • What conceptions (note the plural?) of critical thinking could we use to do so? Are there examples of alternative approaches to criticality being fed into education (research)?

The following topics are of interest:

  • Archaeology of criticality in education (research);
  • Criticality and (spatial, linguistic, social etc.) differentiation in education (research);
  • Teaching (about)/developing criticality;
  • The avoidance of controversy and academic freedom;
  • Use of/ and critique of critical theories (Queer, Feminist, Post-Colonial, Marxism, etc.);
  • Assessing criticality;
  • Criticality and actions (social justice; contradictions between private and professional engagements);
  • Criticality as a tool for oppression (ethnocentrism, western-centrism) and/or liberation;
  • The relationship between discourses of criticality and imaginaries;
  • The consequences, dangers and benefits of criticality;
  • Discourses of critical thinking (e.g. international students vs. local students; clash between academic tribes);
  • Criticality towards criticality in education (research);
  • Forms of ‘pseudo-criticality’, commonsense (doxa) and ‘reinventing the wheel’ in education (research);
  • Research hoaxes;
  • Institutional pressure on criticality (use of social media by institutions/scholars to promote themselves and circulate ideas; education export industry; political pressure; publishing policies);
  • Combining critical micro and macro-approaches to education (research);
  • Tools to do critical analytical work in education (research) (e.g. forms of discourse analysis);
  • Criticality and international league tables of school performance;
  • Lack of criticality in the use of fashionable words such as creativity, equality/equity, global-mindedness, happiness, citizenship, democracy, multi/intercultural, etc. in education (research) (Cf. Myths in Education, Learning and Teaching Policies, Practices and Principles (2015), Editors: Harmes, M., Huijser, H., Danaher, P., Haq, M.U.).

The objective of the conference is not to come to a universalistic agreement about what criticality is or is not in education (and beyond) but to allow participants to enter into a dialogue on criticality in education (research).


Submitting a proposal

We invite submission of proposals by 15th February 2017. Abstracts should be submitted by email to

Paper and colloquia proposals are invited.

Individual paper proposals (100-150 words; duration: 30 minutes including a twenty-minute presentation, with an additional ten minutes for discussion).

Colloquia proposals (200 words for the colloquium concept and 100-150 words on each paper, duration: 3 hours, max. 5 participants – conveners and discussant included)


Abstracts will be reviewed by the scientific committee.

Following the conference, a blind peer-reviewed volume and/or journal issue will be published.

Decisions about the submitted proposals: 1st March 2017

Questions should be sent to the conference coordinator Ashley Simpson (



Conference chairs

Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki, Finland

Ashley Simpson, University of Helsinki, Finland


Scientific committee

Marie-José Barbot, Université de Lille, France

Julie Yu-Wen Chen, University of Helsinki, Finland

Patrick Danaher, USQ, Australia

Xiangyun Du, Aalborg University, Denmark

Andreas Jacobsson, Karlstad University, Sweden

Zhao Ke, SHUFE, China

Etta Kralovec, University of Arizona South, USA

Anne Lavanchy, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland

Heidi Layne, University of Helsinki, Finland

John O’Regan, UCL Institute of Education, London, UK

Marie-Anne Paveau, Université Paris 13, France

John Preston, University of East London, UK

Anna-Leena Riitaoja, University of Helsinki, Finland

Heather Smith, University of Newcastle, UK

Xianlin Song, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Tom Woodin, UCL Institute of Education, London, UK



Shame on Icelandic authorities

New chapter

‘Critical turns in language and intercultural communication pedagogy: The simple-complex continuum (simplexity) as a new perspective’ Fred Dervin

The Critical Turn in Language and Intercultural Communication Pedagogy
Theory, Research and Practice
Edited by Maria Dasli, Adriana Raquel Diaz (2016). Routledge.

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 10.14.19 PM

This edited research volume explores the development of what can be described as the ‘critical turn’ in intercultural communication pedagogy, with a particular focus on modern/foreign language education. The main aim is to trace the realisations of this critical turn against a background of unequal power relations, and to illuminate the role that radical culture educators can play in the making of a more democratic and egalitarian social order.

Beautiful video…

by Regis’ students!

Screen Shot 2016-09-21 at 4.07.55 PM

My dearest Regis

20th September 2016

My dearest Regis,

I would have never believed, some months ago, if someone had told me that I would be sitting at my computer in mid-September 2016 writing a speech for your memorial service. But this unbearable and unjust day has come.

I’ll always remember the day you told me about your cancer. I had freshly landed back from China, very eager to speak to you again after a few weeks offline. But then you asked me to sit down and the news came. It was last June. Hell broke loose then. I haven’t been myself since then.

Anu and I were traumatised. “He will be alright,” we thought. “Our Regis is strong,” we kept repeating. You should have been with us in Finland and Sicily for a summer school and an international conference in August. We missed you too much.

The last time I saw you was in April. As always you made me feel happy, strong and cherished. Although you were already suffering a lot and had lost a lot of weight, we continued our discussions and made plans for the future. We also laughed a lot. I felt very comfortable in your and Joseph’s company. You were also happy with your Doudou, a blessing in your life. I am so glad he had you and you had him.

My visits to Malaysia and your trips to Finland were always highlights in this dull, unstimulating and somewhat disgusting academic world. Our phone calls forced me to work harder and to focus. When I was down I knew you would be there to support me. Like Montaigne wrote: “I kn(e)w that the arms of friendship are long enough to reach from the one end of the world to the other”. A good metaphor for the intellectual space that we covered between Finland and Malaysia…

Going through my e-mail archives, I found the very first e-mail we exchanged. It was on the 9th April 2008 for a conference I had organised in Finland. You came with Sep Neo. We were very (too) polite in our first messages. And then something happened. We ‘clicked’. We spoke like brothers. An avalanche of projects also took place: Books, conferences, book series, journals, associations, etc. In the years we have known each other you have been the best scholarly companion one could ever dream on. A rock.

Since you passed away, I have received tens of messages from around the world from colleagues who knew you – and even from some who did not know you. They all note that your death is a big loss to the field of the ‘intercultural’. They were impressed by your sharp sense of criticality, your desire for new ideas and… your sense of humour.

I refuse to think that this is the end though. We still have so much to do together. We still have so much to achieve together. I promise that I will keep ‘fighting’ with and for you. I will continue the dialogues with you and with others.

The world as it is today scares me and I don’t know where this is all going. But I know one thing: through your legacy we will make any tiny change we can to make it a better place for the ‘other’, the migrant, the one who is stereotyped and prejudiced against, the one who experiences sexism, racism and homophobia.

My dear Regis. Salman Rushdie wrote: “Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself”. I have lost an important version of myself last Sunday. No one will ever be able to replace the empty spot you left. And it is for the best, for I know you will always be there to guide me, look over me and cherish our friendship.

Take care my great friend and see you again one day.

Fred-Alaing-Ze Grosse