International at ESA
Internationalisation, anything but the flavour of the day
Internationalisation is clearly taking up an increasingly significant role in our teaching. The film “L’Auberge Espagnole” has most probably had an influence in this development. How can we speak of international Erasmus students without thinking of the story told by Cédric Klapisch ? Images of this light and cheerful fresco accompany students during their academic stay outside our borders.
Even if some sad spirits see an unavoidable process of globalisation and subordination to the needs of a neoliberal economy, we are convinced that these exchange programmes contribute to a better society overall. As expressed in the declaration of the Global Conference on higher education for the 21st century, held in October 1998, the idea is to “educate for citizenship and for active participation in society, with a worldwide vision, for endogenous capacity-building, and for the consolidation of human rights, sustainable development, democracy and peace, in a context of justice”. This objective implies the desire to combat prejudice, to help learners understand what - at first sight - does not resemble us, to fight nationalisms and isolationism, while preserving and disseminating regional and national cultures in a context of pluralism and cultural diversity.
A major challenge is to address and understand each other above and beyond our differences. The idea is not to relinquish our teaching practices, but rather to enrich them through exposure to other approaches, in an effort to seek a common ground where everyone finds their own space. Multilingualism, student and teacher mobility, and establishing connections between institutions, encourage intellectual cooperation and ultimately lead to the emergence of more solidarity between peoples. While these considerations may seem utopian, they already represent a challenge that forces us to question our teaching practices, and to nudge the students outside the school walls in view of acquiring a culture of citizenship.
Educational aspect of the exchange
Our experiences have made us fully aware of the impact of these exchange programmes on our students. They oftentimes return transformed, in terms of autonomy, self-confidence and maturity. We notice also a stronger intellectual curiosity, an inter-cultural experience, the influence of other learning methods and a true capacity for self-questioning.
It’s useful to remember that even if a competency is an integrative notion, mobilising knowledge and skills, European certification schemes aim to connect systems that are different not only from a geographic standpoint (countries, regions…) but also in terms of the nature of operators (formal education, vocational training, lifelong learning) and learning methods (formal, non-formal, informal). Establishing links within this diverse learning environment will occur on the basis of results and not process, assuming the adoption of an output approach centred on the learner. De facto, internationalisation then becomes an ideal means, and a formidable opportunity, to reach these objectives.
Internationalisation at ESA Saint-Luc
Since 2004, ESA Saint-Luc has been implementing an international strategy via Erasmus+, Belgica and bilateral agreements with art schools throughout the world (Canada, China, New Zealand…). To date, we have established 40 partnerships.
Our objective is to combat all forms of discrimination and xenophobia and also to encourage interculturality and the development of a sense of belonging to Europe.
Each year, about 10% of our third year students travel abroad or to Flanders to follow part of their studies (‘out’ students). In parallel, we welcome foreign students (‘in’ students), usually more numerous than the ‘out’ students. This allows our establishment to offer a multi-cultural environment, particularly welcome in artistic education.
Both ‘in’ and ‘out’ candidate applications are reviewed by professors of the chosen option, and transmitted to the partner institution for peer review.
For incoming students, the academic programme is determined by ESA Saint-Luc’s institutional coordinator, in accordance with the expectations of both the student and the sending academic institution. Members of the “mobility and internationalisation’ office are available to explain the functioning of our school to incoming students. Furthermore, we inform them of the specificities of our city (public transport, cultural venues, territorial organisation…), considering the renowned attractive character of Brussels thanks to the presence of EU institutions, a multilingual culture, cultural programs of excellent quality, affordable housing, a wide range of educational offerings, a heterogeneous patrimony…
Teacher mobility is also encouraged. This exposes our teaching staff to diversity and the outside world (languages, foreign curricula, different pedagogical approaches, exogenous cultures…).
In parallel, ESA Saint-Luc has developed several common academic programmes with schools and universities in Belgium and abroad : a specialised masters’ programme in built Heritage and Interior Architecture with the LOCI faculty of the Catholic University of Louvain ; Masters programme in Comics – Publishing with the School of Art & Design at Kennesaw State University (Atlanta, USA) and the Higher Technical Institute of Audio-visual Professions (ISMA) in Cotonou, Benin.
Finally, ESA Saint-Luc has organised a number of international workshops (Geneva, Naples, Lyon, Montreal, Paris, Versailles, Milan…), mobilising students from different specialisations.
It is up to both learners and teachers to engage in this transcultural field, to explore uncharted territory, to dare hybridisation. Internationalisation thus becomes a fertile ground for questioning and solutions, long-term alternative perspectives. Anything but the flavour of the day, internationalisation is a question of teaching practices and the relationship of our school with society. It also testifies of the evolution of modern thought, which seeks to be pluralist and multicultural.