We are pleased to announce the online global symposium TRANSFORMING EDUCATION: Ethics Education for Learning to Live Together, which will take place on 22-23 November 2021. We invite educators, policymakers, faith-based and civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to join us to reflect, collaborate and prompt action to transform education together!
The G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20) offers an annual platform for religious, faith and interfaith organisations communities to constructively engage with the agendas set by the G20 leaders. For 2021, the G20’s agenda focuses on People Planet Prosperity, and the IF20 dedicates its reflection and dialogue on the theme of A Time to Heal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in worldwide educational systems. In particular, during the mass school closures, and the attempted shifts to hybrid modes of learning, significant inadequacies and drastic global disparities in students’ access to quality education have been brought to light. Alongside these concerns is recognition of sufferings (material, physical, social-emotional, mental, spiritual) endured by children and young people throughout the lockdowns and a striking gap in the provisions of online learning facilities and resources between higher and lower income countries. All these have further aggravated an existing epidemic of youth ill-being, not least amongst those who are already at the margins.
IF20 Education Policy Brief and Priorities Proposed by Global Adolescents
In the light of policy priorities outlined by G20 leaders, and the emergent insights from the Global Listening Initiative processes, the IF20 Education Working Group partners support five key interconnected recommendations to address global challenges:
- Safeguard healing and well-being as a cornerstone of education
- Engage youth in educational decision-making
- Ensure equitable and consistent access to quality education for all
- Embed global and ecological concerns in curricula agenda
- Prioritise teachers’ well-being and their capacities to facilitate blended learning
IF20 High-Level Dialogue on 28th September 2021
On 28th September, an IF20 high-level dialogue took place on Zoom, chaired by the IF20 Vice President, Professor Katherine Marshall. National politicians, interfaith leaders and international educational directors drew on their expertise and experiences and explored how these priorities and proposed action might be meaningfully integrated in relevant contexts. Most importantly, selected young people who took part in the Global Listening Initiative joined global leaders and shared their voices and their rationales for such policy priorities and subsequent action. This was regarded as a unique opportunity for global leaders to engage directly with young people in co-imagining and co-creating educational ecosystems that nurture both human well-being and the well-ness of nature.
Key Reflections from High-Level Leaders
All leaders who were present at the dialogue expressed their appreciation for the young people’s efforts, and fully endorsed the educational policy priorities emergent through the IF20 Global Listening Initiative. It was recognised that the more foreboding our plenary emergencies, the more complex our global challenges, the greater the need for dialogue, listening, love, care and human fraternity. IF20 Educational Working Group partners cherished many ideas, advice and guidance provided by the global leaders. Pertinent to the young people’s interests include:
Healing and well-being through spirituality and education
Judge Mohammad Abdulsalam (Secretary General, High Committee for Human Fraternity) evokes the imperative of healing the past wounds and well-being through spirituality and education. The significance of spirituality through interreligious and interfaith learning in enabling the flowering of every child’s full potential is equally highlighted by Prof Anantanand Rambachan (Co-President, Religious for Peace). The spiritual vision of education is further echoed in Argentina National Deputy Victoria Morales Gorleri’s and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh’s (Chairman of Nishkam Group of Charity Organisations) reflection on humanity’s oneness and the role of spirituality in education in enriching and nourishing human fraternity and solidarity as the basis to confronting global challenges and ensure co-flourishing of all. Lord John Alderdice (UK House of Lords) draws on Shruthi’s (18, India) words about younger generations as the bearers of humanity’s dreams, and proposes that faith communities have a key part to play in supporting all children and youth. He also adds that this requires people of faith to listen deeply and learn to appreciate the gifts we bring to each other. Professor Italo Fiorin’s (Senior Advisor, Catholic Congregation of Education of the Holy See /Advisor, Italy National Ministry of Education) resonates with this wisdom of deep listening and shares the three key aspirations that His Holiness Pope Francis advocates through the University of Meaning: to listen, to create and to celebrate. Like Lord Alderdice, Professor Fiorin stresses that deep listening leads us to the pathways of mutual bonding, the discovery of life’s meanings, and the offering of the gifts of life to one another.
Innovative approaches to healing, well-being and educational transformation
Dr Pilvi Torsti (Finland State Secretary) encourages more attention to be paid to students’ engaging in co-curricular service programme as a way to connect learning with lives in the communities and empower young people to take responsibilities for a better world. Ms Mary Kangethe (Director, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO) emphasises that education must be relevant to the challenges confronting our local and global communities, such as SDGs, and climate change, through project-based learning, and teacher leadership. João Costa (Portugal Deputy Minister of Education) suggests that nurturing key competencies, building inclusive learning environments, and promoting citizenship education be key focus. Ella (18, UK) points to the need for self-inquiry to cultivate our unfolding self and regards inner journey of self-discovery to be interdependent to learning to live and contribute to a life of co-flourishing. Raihana (14, Indonesia) reminds us of the critical importance of hybrid approaches to cultivating listening, empathy, collaboration and dialogue, termed as ‘soft’ and social emotional skills. Alun (14, Indonesia) adds that integrating ethical ways of learning, being and acting are central to students’ learning and holistic well-being.
Global ecosystem for education
Dr Dominic Richardson (Chief, Social and Economic Policy, UNICEF Innocenti Centre) urges us to review and renew educational assessment/evaluation, curricula contents, teachers’ professional development, and community engagement so as to instil spiritually inspired global ecosystem for education, supported by research. Developing and monitoring a global exchange platform that keeps track of worldwide innovative practices. Ahmed Aljarwan (President, Global Council for Tolerance and Peace) advocates teachers professional development spaces for mutual learning. Young people point out that youth leadership capacities must be at the core of global transformation. Leadership should be rooted in a spiritual vision, nurtured by interreligious and interfaith education and dialogue.
The power of deep listening and dialogue
Both high-level leaders and the young people present at the dialogue were profoundly inspired by the power of deep listening and deep dialogue. They suggest that it allows us to dwell in where human spirits reside, within us, in our encounters with others, and in our being-with each other, and with all things in nature, and the transcendent. Young people feel that deep listening from high-level leaders provides them with an experience of being valued, cared, ‘received’, accepted. Deep dialogue helps open ourselves to difference, e.g. faith, power, class, and age difference, and enables us to share life experiences, concerns and aspirations. Together, deep listening and dialogue contribute to healing past wounds, and the emergence of a co-creative, co-constructive, relational present and future.
Ella (18, UK) says: “I want to leave with a paradigm of hope. This dialogue affirms the oneness of our being, as in Ubuntu and the mantra ‘soham’, and that we are because of each other, including our non-human friends, and our structures. We create and we have the power to change through this awareness of our oneness, love and peace.”
Roy (16, Lebanon) says: “After everything we have been through in Lebanon, everyone nearly lost hope in education… However, this dialogue has restored my faith and showed that global leaders do care about children and young people, and are willing to work together and support a better education for us and for future generations.”
Sushmitha (18, India) says: “I am thankful for you all, creating such safe space for us and listening to us. My hope is that we don’t go back to pre-pandemic ways of education. The only justice is to build forward differently, ensure that this new education system as we have imagined together will empower young people to thrive collectively.”
This high-level dialogue has helped consolidate the IF20 Education Working Group partners’ commitments to two major global initiatives: (1) Supporting teachers’ learning and professional development; (2) Nurturing youth leadership and transformative competencies. High-level leaders and young people in this dialogue have stressed that both initiatives are spiritual endeavours and require active engagement of global religious and faith communities.
At this exciting international event, the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace Research Institute (GHFP) will bring together high-profile speakers and artists to launch “Healing the Wounds of Trans-Atlantic Slavery: Approaches and Practices: A Desk Review.”
This timely Report draws together the perspectives of researchers and practitioners, to map major approaches and practices to addressing the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery. It is the fruit of collaboration between an international team of researchers and practitioners, under the guidance of the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the GHFP Research Institute. The Report highlights the imperative to embark on a collective journey towards healing transgenerational trauma and the importance of systemic transformation.
Formally launching and disseminating this Report is an active response to UNESCO’s Global Call against racism. It will inspire the world to learn from the histories of slavery, acknowledge the harms of structural injustice and institutional racism, and promote inclusion, pluralism and intercultural dialogue.
Ms Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, and Mr Sharif Istvan Horthy, Chairman of the GHFP Research Institute, will take advantage of this presentation to announce a broader collaborative project entitled “Educational Transformation and Collective Healing: Addressing the Traumas and Legacy of Slavery”. This ambitious initiative will nurture youth leadership capacities so that young people can implement a racial healing programme for building just communities and initiate policy changes to address structural dehumanisation.
Following the official presentation, an international panel of historians of slavery, scholars in race studies, and experts in racial healing – Paul Lovejoy, Myriam Cottias, Achille Mbembe, Walter Mignolo and Joy DeGruy – will discuss the key insights of the Report, including the psycho-social legacy of slave trade and slavery. They will also explore practical steps along the pathways that the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the GHFP partnership can take to empower and engage global communities and public institutions in collective healing.
The launch will conclude with an inspiring dialogue between two living legends – Marcus Miller, UNESCO Slave Route Project Spokesperson, and African-American musician and composer, and Ray Lema, the Congolese musician and composer – about the power of music for healing and cultural transformation.
On 15th October, GHFP’s Senior Fellow, Dr Scherto Gill, presented an Education Policy Brief at the G20 Interfaith Forum. She highlights the importance of exploring interfaith perspectives and interfaith organisations contribution to the global agendas, such as UN SDGs, the UN Convention on Climate Change, and so forth. Below is the transcript of her presentation.
Greetings to all. It is such a privilege for me to take part in this distinguished panel, and my sincere gratitude goes to the organisers for creating such an important spacue at the G20 Interfaith Forum for a most timely dialogue about education.
Let me begin by recalling the two aspirations that have brought us together:
One is this year’s G20 Presidency Agenda, which calls on G20 leaders to “empower people, pave the way for a better future for all.” Hence, the theme: Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All.
The other is the raison-d’etre of the G20 Interfaith Forum. As already highlighted during the Opening Plenary, the Forum offers a platform where rich ideas, and values-based actions of the world’s religious, faith and interfaith communities contributing to the global agendas are heard and understood.
Indeed, under these aspirations, and in partnership with the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, the G20 Interfaith Forum launched an Education Task Force, consisting of experts from major global organisations, such as the Aga Khan Global Network, Arigatou International, Dream a Dream India, Open Society Foundations, Global Centre for Pluralism, and Plan C: Culture and Cohesion.
I had the honour of facilitating the Task Force research that explored precisely the intersection between interfaith organisations and communities’ educational initiatives and the relevant UN SDGs especially 3, 4 and 5, namely promoting health and wellbeing, quality and equality of education.
The research brought to light that during the COVID-19 pandemic, interfaith organisations in many settings have been empowering local communities to close the gaps resulted from school closures, lack of public services due to lockdown, and isolation. They also provided practical support to address the acute social, emotional and spiritual needs of children and young people at this difficult time.
What else have the Task Force learned from the research in terms of the priorities in education policy that encourage inclusion and diversity? I will briefly mention three points which I believe are particularly innovative and pertinent to this panel’s dialogue:
First, from an interfaith perspective, educational inclusion is more than ensuring access to schooling. Many interfaith educational programmes conceive inclusion as, above all, the nurturing of the whole child, and supporting every child’s well-being in all dimensions of their development, physical, social-emotional, intellectual, moral, cultural, and spiritual.
Second, an interfaith perspective, especially through the lenses of love, compassion, respect, and humility, tends to advocate the view that human diversity is to be celebrated, and that the presence of difference in the educational environments can serve to enrich our pedagogical practices, and encourage educators to be more sensitive to the evolving well-being and learning needs of all students.
Third, an interfaith approach demonstrates that embracing inclusion and diversity must be an integral endeavour. That is to say that these must not be treated as isolated gestures, or add-ons. Instead, inclusion and diversity must be a whole system process where the empowerment of educators is a key.
Based on these insights, the G20 Interfaith Forum Education Task Force were able to develop an education Policy Brief for the consideration of G20 leaders, highlighting three policy priorities:
- Advancing the Wellbeing of Every Child as the Core Aim of Education
- Ensuring Active Participation of All in Inclusive Learning Environments
- Aligning Teachers’ Professional Learning with a Wellbeing and Inclusion Focus
Illustrative practices within these policy priorities include, for instance, interfaith curriculum, interreligious literacy, relational pedagogy, democratic participation, actively engaging students at the margin, empowerment of girls, dialogic and collaborative learning, and connecting teaching and learning to students’ lived realities,
These interfaith perspectives also prompt us to realise that education already holds the ‘cure’ of the widespread social malaise. Hence it is not an exaggeration to propose that the ‘vaccine’ to end the hidden pandemic, i.e. the prevailing social inequality and injustice, that has plagued humanity for so long, is precisely to be found in our education system only if it is inclusive, human-centred, and caring, and only if it aims to nurture the well-being of all, and realise opportunities for all.
As John Dewey cautioned, unless we do so, we will rob our children of their tomorrow.
This year, the GHFP sponsored the G20 Interfaith (G20i) Education Task Force’s research into Inclusive and Caring Education from an Interfaith Perspective. The research consisted in three parts: (1) a Desk Review to understand better how religion/faith and spirituality might inspire an innovative understanding of inclusive and caring education; (2) a Questionnaire Survey to seek interfaith organisations and explore faith-inspired approaches to inclusive and caring education; (3) Case Studies to illustrate how interfaith organisations engage in inclusive and caring practices in the communities.
Three priority areas have been proposed as the basis for policy recommendations:
- Advancing wellbeing of all as the aim of education
- Ensuring participation of all learners within richly inclusive learning environments
- Aligning teachers’ professional development with the wellbeing and inclusion focus
The finalised G20 Interfaith Forum Education Policy Brief will now be presented at 2020 G20 Interfaith Forum to be held on 13-16 October 2020.
Understanding Peace Holistically: From the Spiritual to the Political
This GHFP book argues that spiritually rooted and morally oriented peacefulness is relevant to the socio-economic–political structures that provide the conditions for a culture of peace. As the authors build up a theory of peace from the spiritual to the relational and communal towards the socio-political, this book also identifies key principles that characterise international and institutional processes that nurture peace. The holistic conception of peace developed in this book may guide and inspire individuals, institutions, and international organisations with regards to how to make peace.
On Wednesday 20th March, the GHFP’s Human-Centred Education team will welcome local secondary school’s Well-Being Leaders and Coordinators from across Brighton and Hove to join us for a twilight seminar on “A Whole School Approach to Well-Being in Secondary Schools“.
The seminar offers an opportunity to explore and share good practices on well-being and inclusion and to make links with local colleagues. It will begin with an inspiring keynote from Professor Colleen McLaughlin, Director of Education Innovation at the University of Cambridge, to spark discussion and raise pertinent questions. This will be followed by facilitated open dialogue and sharing, through which participants will be encouraged to develop a rich understanding and awareness of critical issues relating to student (and staff) well-being in secondary schools.
INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON ETHICAL EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS
Held at Highley Manor, 9-10 May 2017.
Globally, we confront an ethical crisis. On the one hand, for vast sectors of the culture we find an erosion in commitments to ethical values. In part this may be traced to the general secularisation of the culture (and the concomitant attrition in religious belief), and the rise of relativism. One might say there appears to be no right or wrong outside what the law requires and no purpose outside the self-serving. On the other hand, in other cultural enclaves, we find a hardening of traditional moral commitments. The secular shift of society places their commitments in increasing jeopardy. Here the resources are lacking for accepting and appreciating differences.
At the same time, in a world increasingly marked by indifference and sound bites, some people can be profoundly ignorant and unaware of how different the viewpoints, perceptions, experiences and emotions of others can be from one’s own, as if living in hermeneutical bubbles. There is much divisiveness and uncertainties in our societies: some people can be totally unconcerned about the suffering and plight of others, resulting in a general attitude of apathy and uncaring while others may flounder without compass in the face of multiple and competing values.
Educational institutions have played a major role in the erosion and uncaring, with their growing emphasis on information transfer (facts over interpretation), instrumentalisation (learning for the sake of career/monetary gains) and individualism (in various forms of self-absorption). In effect, there are few opportunities for ethical development in the public educational systems. There may be ethics, values and moral education components to the curriculum but these tend to be focused on imparting information about social issues and teaching moral reasoning. They do not necessarily help young people overcome the complex hermeneutical, epistemological and relational challenges of today.
In this context, we believe there is a case for a renewed interest in considering the possibilities and potentials of ethical education and ethical relationships in our schools, and called for an international seminar on ‘Ethical Education in Schools’ held in Highley Manor, England on 9-10 May 2017. The participants and contributors of the seminar are distinguished scholars in the field of education, philosophy, social sciences and dialogue. The main question posed during the Seminar was: “What changes in educational institutions would be essential in helping students to become more ethically aware, sensitive and motivated?” To explore this question, the discussions were divided into three parts: the first part was about the principles or ideas that we need to effectively approach the main question; the second part was to seek the general pedagogical guidelines or values that we need to articulate, and the third part was to survey and imagine the practices and processes in primary and secondary schools that might be directly relevant to our main question.
The following pages aim to capture some of the emergent insights from the seminar.
Our thoughts around the Seminar’s general question..
Education, with its focus on individual performance and attainment, can easily indulge self-absorption and instrumentalise learning. Therefore, for learning to be situated within relationships and for students to be less self-obsessed and more open to others, and to experience and express care for each other and for the world, the classrooms and the overall learning environment within schools must be where ethics is located. Schools must provide pedagogical conditions and curricula activities for nurturing caring relationships.
An ethical problem emerges when there is presence of differences and when we negotiate how to engage with differences. This can mean both becoming open to others who are different, and resolving our ignorance about the others. However, traditional epistemology tends to do with correcting false beliefs or errors in our knowledge but not dealing with ignorance. Hence the necessity for dialogue without giving up on oneself, which is incommensurable. The idea of strong and weak subjectivity points to dialogical subjectivity (in-between the two) which implies that people should co-create with others.
The fundamental educational question is about how to engage young people in dialogue with respect and appreciation of differences. Agency is a form of receiving, to receive the other, it is necessary to confirm oneself. The ethical is also about the existential and spiritual, such as longing for a good life. Human vulnerability suggests an opportunity to be open to the other. An articulation of our vulnerability is needed for the reorientation of the spiritual. Educational settings are communities for the sharing of vulnerability, they are spaces for sharing imagination – an inter-human exchange. Turning oneself outwardly towards others, a recognition of our sacredness.
There are three points of contention
First, self-other dichotomy could presuppose individualism which relies on ideas of persons as bounded entities, separated by boundaries. Likewise, although phenomenology starts with the ‘I’, experience itself is actually public (eg. pain in a boxing ring and pain from being beaten in the street). The notion of ‘I’ is quite different in different contexts. Therefore, the self must be conceived relationally rather than individually.
Second, although ethics is about creating the good, something worth living for, this in turn presupposes the idea of bad or evil and in that sense the ethical project could be dangerous. Educational practices (eg. through grading) already contain an implicit ethics of good and bad that are secularised and corrosive. Thus we need dialogue but without putting the individual at the forefront, co-creating and co-constructing the idea of goodness in the community.
Third, in western countries where moral ethics are no longer provided by religions and faith traditions, the ignorance of religion and faith can also increase the clashes between people about ethics. However, diversity requires value pluralism and a pedagogy of difference so that students can appreciate diversity more deeply. We need dialogue without clashes. For education to move towards a human-centred focus, it needs to reconstruct our values system and reconsider relationships in schools.
Theoretical principles of ethical education
The world is broken partly due to the fact that our socio-political structure instrumentalise people and we tend to treat each other as objects (eg, the way we place people into roles and functions and only treat them as so). Therefore we must consider the relational nature of our being, and that to be is to be with others and participate in each other’s being.
Ignorance isn’t only the lack of knowledge; it can also be the lack of caring for an area of knowledge. Ignorance of others can be a form of uncaring. This is important for our understanding of the epistemology of human relationships – to know others is to open ourselves to others in a caring way, and vice verse. (Aristotle’s approach to ethics through character education may seem to be seeking universality. Ethical education is more expansive, it is about learning to care.
There has to be tension in the principles, for example, between the uniqueness and interdependency, because uniqueness implies pluralism. Values can be divisive (eg. British values in British schools), so we should emphasise human values as opposed to Christian, Islamic or British values. This doesn’t mean humanism which can exclude other traditions.
It is necessary to decide on the scale of the ethical education project, eg. to address the spread of individualism and the ethical at a political level.
The ethical lies in the process, one of generating a future together, a common future for all.
Pedagogical Principles of Ethical Education
Ethical education in schools should not be isolated programmes. In the light of schools currently being designed as performance-based systems, ethical learning requires a holistic transformation of what school is, including a shared understanding of what it means for a school to be good. In the same vein, we must stress that the desirable relationship is the generative kind that helps create community in which people can dialogue about different views of the good.
A starting point would be mapping the sites for ethical education in existing schools. We need to look at the totality of school experience as young people learn from their whole school experience, including educational vision, ethos, pedagogy, curriculum, overall environment and encompassing relationships, as well as some of the programmes and projects. For instance, how do we teach, eg. literature, arts, science, in ethically and relationally enriching ways? How do we construct participatory spaces? (How did young people learn to uncare? How do they become less participatory?) The ethical concerns not just the relationship between teachers and students, it is also located in the relationship between children and young people themselves, as well as amongst other stakeholders in the community.
Mapping out ethical spaces can help schools identify their own ethical focus and determine their own processes, inviting a more participatory and collaborative project. We will need alternative language and discourse to speak about the ethical. Such language and discourse can only emerge from within the community and cannot be imposed from outside or predetermined by experts. Listening is a key, which applies to both teachers and students. It is really important to have a space for children and young people’s voices within a school. The space cannot be window-dressing, but needs to be well-framed, with content.
It is necessary to reconceptualise what learning is. Current focus on knowledge acquisition in education urges us to consider what knowledge is. One point to consider is that knowledge isn’t propositional, it can be something that we create together.
We need to move away from the idea that ethical education is only about religion or religious studies. However, ethical education could include components of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and encounter.
Dialogue requires an equality between the interlocutors, the students and the teachers, so that all are respected as human beings. In dialogue learning, teachers are sometimes facilitators which would require different skills and sensitivities as well as a different way of being with the students (eg. the teacher is no longer the all-knowing.). This suggests that teacher training would allow an element of facilitators’ training. In the light of teachers’ vulnerability, the training will also nurture their courage to be a facilitator. One idea is to have contemplative workshops for teachers, not to teach contemplation but for teachers to experience how ethics can affect their teaching. Arts-based practice and learning through restorative justice can also support the ethical, both for the teachers and the students.
Young people will need protected space to explore their feelings, emotions, attitudes and relations. The teachers’ task here is to hold this space without too much directing or guiding. In this sense, sharing could be better than dialogue because it is more natural.
Providing opportunities for the students to decide how to present learning tasks and evaluate learning is part of the ethical (eg. students writing about their lives in formats of their choice). Such pedagogical practices are more empowering, and are conducive to developing ethical relations among the students and between the students and the teacher.
Practices of ethical education in schools
Ethical education focuses on building schools as spiritual communities. Good ethical education initiatives must: (a) touch the teachers’ attitudes and judgement (and is hence more empowering); (b) transform the student’s experiences (eg. increased respect for others); and (c) enable a buy-in from school leaders.
The school environment is a key, including the physical, social, emotional and overall relational environments. Mapping out these ethical spaces in schools can enable these spaces to be underpinned by sensitivity and aesthetics. They must be integral to school life.
The ethical educational project is about constructing ethical spaces that are relevant for students’ current experiences in schools and for our world today. In particular, we need more creative language to talk about this kind of education. We need to give names to these ethical spaces and work with teachers, students and others to co-create them.
It is equally important to offer teachers the kind of ethical space considered for young people (eg. dealing with bullying). Such spaces must be defined by the school and not detached from the normal practices of the school. For example, INSET days could offer rich spaces to explore the ethical, including the teachers’ own experiences of relationships.
The ethical must also apply to how learning is evaluated and reviewed so that evaluative practices continue to support the relational. This would be in total contrast to the individualist approach to testing which is not only oppressive, but also destroys relationships.
The power of examples through stories of good practices is highlighted. For instance:
(1) Two circles in a history class, the inner and outer. When a student has something to say, he/she moves to the inner circle, and can then offer the space for others to contribute by moving to the outer circle. This class demonstrates listening, engaging, giving voice.
(2) Counselling as a relational practice. Ethical spaces are defined by boundaries which are necessary for people to feel safe. A buddy system means that the students or the teachers can support each other in working through personal struggles through relational support.
(3) “Educating Together” in Ireland. This is an independent NGO that runs schools that guarantee equality of access and esteem to children “irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background”, are learner-centred in their approach to education and are run as participatory democracies, with respectful partnership between parents, pupils and staff. They are part of the state system. (https://www.educatetogether.ie/)
(4) Child Friendly Schools in China, supported by UNICEF. The project supports quality relationships, child well-being and whole-person learning. This is an illustration of shifting from a competitive approach to learning to learning to care. Other examples include democratic schools in Israel, in particular the bilingual Arab-Israeli schools.
(5) Play as an excellent way for children to learn ethically, eg. swimming together. The ethical is extended to beyond the boundary of the school, into the families, and other informal learning spaces. Play equally strengthens the relationships amongst children and adults.
Viewing it in this way, it would seem that in ethical education, the relational really matters. In other words, our project is to explore relational ecology.
Proposed ways forward
There was overwhelming enthusiasm to continue this dialogue and discussion about ethical education in schools. The group proposed four follow-up activities:
1. Re-Grouping: The proposal is to regroup at a later date to continue the conversation. The GHFP is willing to convene and host a second meeting.
2. Writing: The decision is to put together a collection of our articles and write the introductions and conclusions to the book collectively. Scherto and Garrett have been tasked to write a book proposal for the consideration of the Cambridge University Press’ series on innovation in international education.
3. Partnership: The idea is to find strategic leverages of change for developing ethical education in schools, such as working with UNESCO, and with schools including the Child Friendly Schools in China, the Educate Together schools in Ireland, and the teacher training programme in Israel.
4. Research: The suggestion is that at a later stage, we might apply for research grants to explore the ethical education case studies in these partners.
International Symposium on Religion Spirituality and Education for Human Flourishing.
24-26 FEBRUARY 2012, Dar Moulay Boubkar, Marrakech, Morocco.
Co-Convened by Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace and UN Alliance of Civilizations ‘Education about Religions and Beliefs’ Project.
An edited book of papers, ISBN 978-1-137-37389-2 is published by Palgrave Macmillan. The book is entitled: RE-DEFINING RELIGIOUS EDUCATION: SPIRITUALITY for HUMAN FLOURISHING. Please visit the Official publication page.
INTRODUCTION : For a large proportion of the people in the world, spirituality is an important part of being human and often thought to be an essential element of a flourishing life. Today’s world is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and so there is a pressing need to educate in order to develop a deeper awareness of the spiritual dimensions of our lives. In this context, we are interested specifically in exploring the part that religious education can play in cultivating human virtues and spirituality. Under various names, such as ‘education about religion’, ‘faith education,’ ‘religious studies,’ and ‘religious education,’ the teaching of religious beliefs has already been integrated into the national curricula of many countries. However, the focus of religious education is generally to impart knowledge about religions, and perhaps gesture towards some inter-religious understanding. This way of approaching religious education tends to regard religion as an academic subject, and because such education is at arms-length, the spiritual and experiential aspects of religion are not made directly available to students.
The Symposium will aim to go beyond the current knowledge-centred approaches to religious education and offers a space to discuss and debate the following questions:
In what ways can education of/from religions better contribute to young people’s spirituality and to the flourishing of their lives?
How can these contributions of religions be better integrated in schooling?
OBJECTIVES : The objectives of the Symposium are:
To establish a common platform or framework for understanding the positive contributions of religions towards spirituality;
To identify the ways in which educational systems can facilitate or nurture such spirituality;
To examine the pedagogical implications and challenges of such educational programmes;
To identify a set of good questions for further inquiries and possible research.
METHODOLOGY and PROCESSES : Prior to the Symposium, each of the participants will write a scholarly paper to address some aspect of the main questions that the Symposium aims to explore. These papers will be circulated to all the participants before the event and will serve as resources for the discussions/conversations during the event. The Symposium is envisaged to last three days. Each day, there will be plenary sessions, group discussions, and optional sessions of religious and spiritual practices offered by the participants from their own traditions.
Visit the Official UNAoC/ERB site for Education About Religions