As part of our research, we have already reviewed cultural educational policies and national curricula, interviewed heritage practitioners and analysed cultural heritage policies and institutional practices across nine CHIEF countries. While our research reports present a detailed account of those reviews, the emerging findings can be summarised in six main thematic blocks:
1. Varied institutional contexts and content
1.1 Most policy documents and curricula do not provide definitions of ‘culture’, ‘cultural literacy’, or ‘cultural heritage’. This has implications for policy coherence, as responsibility for cultural literacy education is often dispersed among governmental departments and bodies.
1.2 Most policy documents describe cultural education as holding instrumental rather than intrinsic value. The claimed benefits vary widely within and between national and regional contexts, but there is consistency in the emphasis placed on the economic potential of cultural literacy. Policy actors appear to have responded to a perception of culture as an expense rather than an investment, by foregrounding the economic potential of culture and cultural heritage and their capacity to drive local and regional development and/or regeneration.
2. Declining funding
2.1 Public investment in cultural literacy education is increasingly targeted towards larger institutions (typically associated with ‘high culture’).
2.3 Reduced public funding coincides with calls for cultural providers to diversify financing, with increasing reliance on charitable funding, earned income and corporate or private philanthropy.
3. Complex relationships between national identity and cultural inclusivity
3.1 Broad commitments to cultural and social tolerance are reflected in programmes that position cultural literacy as a driver of social tolerance for diversity and inclusion (hereafter just inclusion).
3.2 The effectiveness of these commitments may be undermined by a lack of recognition of tensions or contradictions between national identity and inclusion, and a conflation of inclusion with the integration of minorities to prevailing cultural norms. This risks inclusion becoming conditional upon minorities submitting to unspecified (or underspecified) national cultural characteristics or forms of cultural heritage. This is particularly problematic when national narratives fail to engage critically with ‘difficult pasts’ such as (post)colonialism. This may limit the participation of those whose histories are excluded, and result in missed opportunities to question exclusionary views.
4. Structural and infrastructural barriers to access and participation
4.1 The policy documents recognise barriers to access and participation on the basis of socio-economic and ethnic inequalities. There is scope for greater consideration of the impact of inequalities related to gender, religion and disability, and potential discrepancies between cultural offers and diverse young people’s needs and interests.
5. European cultural identity: The struggle for common ground
5.1 We found little evidence of programmes or initiatives aimed at situating national cultural practices within European identity. In some countries, an emphasis on national culture is represented as constitutive of EU culture and identity, whereas in other cases the emphasis is placed on European regions rather than the EU. In countries either seeking accession to, or having expressed an interest in joining the EU (Georgia and Turkey), policy documents emphasised the growing convergence between national cultural practices and the EU.
5.2 School curricula reflect the lack of common ground in defining European identity at the national level.
6. Importance of the localities in shaping meanings of cultural heritage and identities
People’s engagement with the past via the cultural heritage agenda apparently does not follow a single course of the modern nation-state concerns of establishing a national narrative by giving a voice to the local relics and legacies. The localities always seem able to negotiate and modify that voice, which clearly speaks for different pasts than those marked by the petrified collective identities.