Proceedings of Conference: Living Together With Ambiguities: Different cultures and common values? 2-4 September 2021, Fondazione Intercultura, Florence, ISBN 978-88-942887-4-2, 2022. 445-463.
The purpose and practice of international educational exchange has been interpreted ambivalently especially since the Second World War. The aftermath of that war saw new global and regional institutions aimed at international political, economic, and social co-operation, most notably the United Nations with its Specialized Agencies such as UNESCO. However, the period was also one of an ideological ‘Cold War’ between the capitalist democracies led by the United States and the communist bloc led by the Soviet Union. There was also a retreat from colonial imperialism and the emergence of a loosely organized group of ‘non-aligned’ countries, with India and the then Yugoslavia prominent. There was also the Commonwealth that developed from the former British Empire. Armed conflict continued with varying degrees of intensity, often in support of national liberation movements. Recent decades have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the People’s Republic of China. More recently there has been uncertainty about the purpose and direction of regional organizations such as the European Union, and a significant threat to peace from faith-based international terrorism. It is in this context that ambivalence in international educational exchange may be found. Such exchange has been justified by an humanitarian ideal of a global common good. At the same time, it has been an instrument of ideological ‘soft-power’ or cultural diplomacy, using propaganda, and exploiting the arts, sciences, and intellectual life, including educational exchange. The paper considers this through a critical review of important examples since the end of the Second World War. It aims to clarify and make coherent key issues for international educational exchange, identifying lessons for today.