SENSE European Expert Meeting on LGBT Diversity in VET

The final multiplier event of SENSE was organised by EfVET. The meeting took place online through Zoom and was technically facilitated by EfVET in Brussels.

The event was chaired by Peter Dankmeijer, Director of GALE. He welcomed the participants at this presentation and discussion of LGBTI sensitivity in vocational education.

Peter Dankmeijer explained the principles behind the “My-ID” technology, that was developed by the SENSE project.  “My-ID” has a focus on LGBTI (sexual and gender diversity), but in its treatment of the topic LGBTI it goes beyond “knowledge” about LGBTI and “visibility”. The technology identifies basic averse emotions towards difference as the key challenge, especially when such differences challenge existing values and norms. The My-ID technology is a “deep diversity” approach: how to deal with fight or flight emotions. It makes a link between generic exclusion mechanisms and specific LGBTI exclusion.

After the introduction of the project, the four trigger videos made by the students were screened. The videoclips can be watched on YouTube:

Pete Chatzimichail is a board member of the European Youth Forum. He studied political science at the University of Cyprus and now lives in Brussels. He spoke about how testimonials and storytelling are powerful tools for education.

In his introduction, Pete said he liked the clips. Each clip tells us a story. Sharing stories about LGBTI issues works in two ways: for the storyteller it works cleansing when you can tell your story in a safe space. For the listeners, it creates an understanding which goes deeper than just reading information. When somebody tells a story, you empathize with it and you put yourself in the position of the storyteller. It’s like following the character in the book, you feel stressed when something happens to the main character. When you listen to an LGBTI storyteller, you can understand and feel what happened to them and empathize with their position. Therefore, testimonies and subsequent questions and answers and discussions in the classroom work to dispel prejudice, but also to get a deeper understanding of diversity.

During the event, participants were divided in three breakout rooms. In each of the breakout rooms three statements were discussed. The statements are about the potential need to change the national frameworks for vocational competences.

  1. The current generic competence frameworks are adequate enough to cover LGBTI sensitivity (Reporter: Eileen Quin, CESIE)

The first statement says that we don’t need any changes, because the current frameworks are adequate to cover sensitivity for LGBTI issues.

  1. The current generic competence frameworks should be updated to clarify how specific LGBTI sensitivity is part of generic qualifications (Reporter: Juan Escalona Corral, DEFOIN)

The second statement thinks they are okay but could be accompanied with a clarification on how to make them sensitive for LGBTI issues. This is the level of change we chose in this project.

  1. The current generic competence frameworks should be updated to better include LGBTI sensitivity and attention to other areas where client-friendliness towards marginalised groups may not be self-evident (Reporter: Nefeli Bantela, EUROTraining)

The last statement goes one step further and claims that we should explicitly include LGBTI friendliness of vocational competences in the formal frameworks.

After the breakout discussions sessions with participants, the meeting turned to a panel of experts. The discussion was moderated by Fabrizio Boldrini, the director of the SENSE partner Fondazione Hallgarten-Franchetti.

Marc Angel noted that the domain of education is not a key competence of the European Union, but of the Member States. Still, the safety, well-being and health of LGBTI students features in current important policy documents like the LGBTI policy 2020-2015 and the children’s rights strategy.

Rubén Ávila mentioned some statistics from the large study of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). These statistics make clear that LGBT youth faces higher rates of discrimination than older generations. Also, it is very clear that trans and intersex people are worse off than LGB. In the practice of IGLYO, he notices that LGBTI youth complain about the general lack of representation of LGBTI people in curricula, or even that curricula display negative messages. Schools are often characterised as an unsafe environment and LGBTI students reported that teachers are too insecure to support them. The covid-19 epidemic has only worsened the situation for LGBTI youth.

Paolo Antonelli under highlighted that Students are mostly positive about such interventions, but teachers are insecure and hesitant.

Aron le Fèvre stresses that action and cooperation on the international level is important. The events in Copenhagen later this year are a key form to develop such cooperation. The UK is developing an equal rights coalition which could be a leader in international developments.

Peter Dankmeijer to thank once again all the speakers and the participants for their active participation and engagement during the online event.

For more information, please check the project website:   https://www.gale.info/en/projects/sense-project