This page outlines the main findings of our research regarding young people’s cultural literacy, cultural heritage and identities conducted in nine CHIEF countries in the context of (1) formal school education, (2) non-formal educational settings and (3) cultural heritage sites.

While our research reports present a detailed account of those reviews, the emerging findings can be summarised in five main thematic blocks:

1. Limited understandings of culture and cultural heritage

  • Understandings of culture are often single-dimensional; external to lived experiences; reproductive of dominant hierarchies of cultural value and of the (rather out-dated or unproductive) dichotomies between highbrow vs. lowbrow culture, traditional vs. contemporary values etc.
  • An emphasis on differences between and the reproduction of ‘we and the other’ discourses manifest a static and closed understanding of culture, rather than an inclusive one. This applies to several national contexts (Germany/Hamburg, Croatia, Slovakia, India, Turkey, UK).
  • Cultural heritage is interpreted, promoted and presented differently across the various heritage sites, depending on wider governmental political agendas and contextual factors.

2. Negotiating Cultural Diversity and Pluralism

  • A shared sentiment towards valuing cultural difference and accepting diversity is broadly evident. This appears to be underpinned by a focus on inclusion, although the limitations of this approach are also identifiable. In young people’s terms this is exemplified as feeling ‘included but not fully belonging’, indicating the need to shift and expand the general approach.
  • Limitations or failings in reconciling tensions between national culture and inclusion hinders the development of effective and inclusive forms of cultural literacy education.

3. European Culture and Identity

Europe as a signifier of identity and cultural belonging generally emerges as a rather ‘empty’ category, understood as distant and not directly resonant to young people’s immediate experiences and self-identifications.

4. Infrastructural Issues in Cultural Literacy Provision

Limited financial and human resources, and accessibility problems, have been restricting the development of effective collaborations and cultural literacy provision. Ambivalence towards the use of digital channels and resources is also prevalent.

5. Barriers and Enablers of Cultural Literacy beyond Infrastructure

Gaps between young people’s cultural references and the available provision, limited room for representation of youth interests and identities and limited involvement in decision-making processes appeared to hinder engagement. In contrast, bottom-up models of provision and more accessible experiential forms of learning allowed young people’s sustained engagement and emotional investment in cultural learning.

Click here to listen to our podcast series: Our Lives Our Culture: Youth in a Changing World

The series features 7 episodes in which journalist Steve Dyson interviews the CHIEF team about the main findings of their research exploring youth cultural practices, heritage and identities. The research, which took place over three and a half years, was funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and took place across nine countries (Croatia, Georgia, Germany, India, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the UK).