New developments for RE in Germany

Traditionally, Germany is known for its model of confessional RE. Over the last couple of years, voices have become louder for more cooperation between the different RE lessons. The churches in Lower Saxony, one regional state in Northern Germany, are now opening a new chapter: they are campaigning for the introduction of jointly responsible Christian religious education in all types of schools in the state.

Religious Education and Brexit

Religious Education and Brexit

Implications of Brexit campaign in the UK for Religious, Citizenship, Moral, Intercultural, Political and Human Rights Education

Robert Jackson – Professor of Religious Education

The fact that the majority of young voters in the UK voted to remain in the European Union indicates some awareness of the inevitable pluralisation and globalisation of societies. It may also indicate some success from educational programmes – although the erosion of subjects like citizenship education and religious education in England through policies of the Conservative government (and largely the responsibility of Michael Gove) limits the effectiveness of such good work. I know that the quality of religious education (RE) teaching is mixed (and there are good reasons for that), but I am aware of wonderful RE secondary teaching and classroom discussion in response to incidents such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks (an example reported in Jackson 2015), and of many primary schools where values relating to human dignity and care and respect for one another are fundamental to the life of the school.

The racism and xenophobia expressed during the Brexit campaign: 

  • Shows the need for more adult education about citizenship, politics and political discourse, human rights, and religious and cultural diversity. This needs to include education about the ethics of political discourse (the end justified the means for key politicians), and the idea of political office being an opportunity for service to other citizens;
  • Shows the need for collaborative and interdisciplinary work, involving educators in fields such as citizenship, religious, human rights, moral, political and intercultural education working together;
  • Illustrates the manipulative power of the right-wing popular press (and other media) – and therefore shows the vital need for better education for critical reading of media accounts of migration, religious plurality etc (there is a chapter about this in the Council of Europe Signposts book (Jackson 2014, ch6, and the Council of Europe has produced various resources to help students take a critical approach to media accounts [http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/autobiography/AEIVM_Tool_en.asp]; there are also some research findings on media representations of religions and recommendations from the European Commission REDCo project, especially from the Norwegian researcher Marie von der Lippe; again some of this material is referenced in Signposts);
  • Shows the vital need for human rights education, especially exploration of the concept of human dignity, from a variety of perspectives (including, but certainly not confined to, religions). Again, the Council of Europe has various resources relating to human rights education as well as education for democratic citizenship and for intercultural dialogue;
  • Shows the need for discussion and reflection (by young people in schools, but also by adults) as well as for accurate information. From the point of view of studies of religions in schools, I have argued in various places for an inclusive form of religious education in publicly funded schools, which features well prepared teacher-moderated classroom discussion/dialogue as well as the sharing of accurate and well selected information (some recent publications are listed below); I have seen some really good examples of this (and know of many others recorded through European research), which illustrate that it is possible to do it;
  • Shows the importance of a collaborative, international perspective on human rights. Theresa May’s remarks on human rights are entirely focused on the UK and see no need for collaboration and interaction with others (Magna Carta rules…). This is totally against the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was so strongly supported by Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt, and which still permeates the Council of Europe and its educational work. Every project I have been involved in with the Council of Europe since 2002 has involved international and often interdisciplinary teams, working closely together with common objectives. It has been a privilege to take part in this kind of activity and it should be mirrored in school education (there are some good examples already, of course, but more needs to be done).

Further thoughts:

  • We need a critical approach to human rights education that recognises some of the contextual factors which helped to shape how the human rights codes are expressed. There needs to be space for the interpretation of certain requirements; especially, rights need to be linked to responsibilities. The right to freedom of speech carries with it some responsibilities. In the Brexit campaign, we saw very little responsibility expressed towards the electorate, and a good deal of manipulation through the use of fear. (Some aspects of the UK Prevent policy inhibit classroom dialogue unnecessarily – See Jackson, R. (2016)
  • there are also vital issues about funding, the supply of appropriate degree courses, , teacher training (including developing skills to manage classroom dialogue), in-service training and sources of advice;

Finally, to reiterate, I am convinced of the importance of collaborative work across different fields and across nations. The Council of Europe and the European Wergeland Centre set a good example.

References

Jackson, R. (2014) ‘Signposts’: Policy and Practice for Teaching about Religions and Non-Religious Worldviews in Intercultural Education, Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing. ISBN 9789287179142 (pdf freely downloadable)

Jackson, R. (2015) ‘Inclusive Study of Religions and Other Worldviews in Publicly-funded Schools in Democratic Societies’ in Kristina Stoeckl and Olivier Roy (Eds.) The Future of Religious Education in Europe, San Domenico di Fiesole: European University Institute, 7-18. Free to download ‘Open access’ e-book

Jackson, R. (2016) ‘Inclusive Study of Religions and World Views in Schools: Signposts from the Council of Europe’, Social Inclusion, 4, (2) 14-25 DOI: 10.17645/si.v4i2.493   ISSN: 2183-2803 free download

Note: I have written my own personal account of the conduct of the Brexit campaign which is online with a German translation.

New logo

EFTRE is refreshing its visual identity. In spring, the board adopted the new logo which is now in use. It keeps a similar look but is presented in a more modern way. In addition, a new website will follow during this year.

Ahmed Mohamed – a case of religious discrimination?

EFTRE workshop demonstrates how to deal with the religious dimension in intercultural education

Around 25 Religious Education experts from around Europe gathered together on Zoom for the second EFTRE online workshop on Friday, 19th March 2021. Dr Angelos Vallianatos from Greece offered a session on the recently published teacher training module Signposts. He himself had been involved in the development of this resource published by the Council of Europe and the Wergeland Center.

After a short introduction presenting the background, origin and development of this practice-oriented publication, Dr Angelos Vallianotos introduced the concrete case of Ahmed Mohamed. This 14-year old American boy had been arrested for allegedly bringing a bomb to school – although this object had simply been a self-engineered clock. How can we approach this case from an intercultural education point of view? That was the task for the following small working groups phase. With the help of short video sequences along with questions and worksheets, participants entered into rich exchange about prejudices, discrimination and democratic culture.

In the end, all participants were very grateful for this opportunity for self-reflection and working together with colleagues from all around Europe. The workshop gave valuable input on how to use the training module in teacher training, at school or for any other Religious Education setting.

Links:

Find the free accessible teacher training module for download here.

More information about the Ahmed Mohamed case in Wikipedia.

Invitation to EFTRE workshop on ‘Signposts’ on 19th March 2021

The European Forum of Teachers of RE (EFTRE), one of CoGREE’s members, offers a free online workshop on:

Signposts on dealing with religion and non-religious worldviews in intercultural education – A teacher training module.

SIGNPOSTS (edited by Robert Jackson) is a Council of Europe publication focusing on how the study of religions and non-religious world views can contribute to intercultural education in schools in Europe. SIGNPOSTS provides advice on tackling issues arising from the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education. Since its publication, a teacher training module has been developed which builds on the key elements of the publication in a practical and engaging way and this seminar offers an introduction to that module.

Link to Signpost

Link to the training module

Workshop key data

This will take place on Friday, 19th March 4pm CET (so -/+ one hour, depending on where you are in Europe!) and last no more than three hours. It will be conducted in English.

There will be:

  • a brief welcome from the Chair of EFTRE, Lesley Prior
  • a keynote presentation by Dr Angelos Vallianatos from Athens, Greece who helped to develop the module
  • group discussions and activities
  • concluding remarks and farewells.

To receive the zoom link, please write a short message to EFTRE executive member Bianca Kappelhoff (). The Zoom venue can only accommodate a maximum of 100 participants. So, the first 100 people who log in will be given priority.

Workshop leader will be Dr. Angelos Vallianatos

Dealing with religion at school nowadays is a controversial issue, in the context of Religion Education but also in the whole the school life. In this workshop we will approach the European Wergeland Centre – Council of Europe publication, its content and use in teacher training and we will try some characteristic parts of it in action. Dr. Angelos Vallianatos (PhD in Theology) has worked as a teacher and a School Advisor in Athens, Greece. He is trained in Intercultural Education, Human Rights and Citizenship Education in Greece and in Council of Europe (CoE) educational programmes. Since 2005 he participates in Council of Europe, Wergeland Centre and Arigatou International educational work as expert and trainer, creating and implementing educational training programs. He has authored, participated in authoring groups, published and translated educational material, texts and thesis and also lectured at international and Greek educational conferences, about his scientific field, EDC/HRE, intercultural education, didactics and the use of new technologies in educational process.

Written by Bianca Kappelhoff

Video Talking heads

What does Religious Education contribute to Education?

Talking Heads – Video snippets from practitioners

Challenges for Religious Education in the C21st – What does RE contribute to the general aims of education?  

This mini-project is aiming to collect a range of views from practitioners (teachers, teacher educators, researchers and others) involved in Religious Education from across Europe. If you would like to contribute then please make a 30 to 90 second “talking head video”* giving your answer to the question above. You can then either send the video to Paul Hopkins () or upload it to YouTube and send the link to Paul. Please make the video in landscape format. Any Qs please contact Paul at the above address.

If you were at the Dublin conference then please do consider making a contribution you might want to respond to the ideas from the speakers on RE’s contribute to future thinking, to inter-cultural dialogue, to mysticism or to building bonds and bridges.

*Please make the video in landscape format and in English (or in Home Language with a transcript in English) in any video format but with the best sound you can manage!

ADD REST OF THE VIDEOS

Bert ROEBBEN 
Professor of Religious Education
​University of Dortmund. Deutschland, Germany
Elisabeth FABER 
Teacher of Religious Education
Danmark, Denmark.
Dorthe ENGER
Teacher of Religious Education
​​Hasseris Gymnasium. Danmark, Denmark.
Essi IKONEN
Church Training College
Suomi, ​Finland.

50 colleagues at EFTRE online workshop

It was the first time EFTRE offered this kind of online event – and it was a huge success. More participants than expected logged into zoom to focus on “Teaching RE in the times of Covid” – a challenge that faces RE teachers all over Europe.

After a warm welcome from EFTRE chair Lesley Prior from London, Bert Roebben from Leuven in Belgium shared his ideas on this theme. In his keynote, Bert reflected on how corona has changed provisions and visions of RE in schools in Europe. He emphasised that we all are navigating on “shifting grounds” and therefore need to re-envision RE within this process. In this context, he not only drew attention to our interactions with pupils – whether that might be face to face or in the digital classroom – but also to the self-understanding of RE teachers. According to Bert, teachers also need to reflect on their own identities and on how they can accompany and support their pupils as they negotiate these “shifting grounds”.

After a short exchange in small groups via breakout sessions, the participants came back together to listen to the second input, this time contributed by Sonja Danner from Vienna, Austria. She gave examples on how to start a conversation with students about their experiences during the corona crisis. From a practical point of view, she shared methods in which ways she uses an approach involving humorous cartoons and other images to “break the ice”. These examples put everyone in a good mood for a second round of exchange via breakout sessions.

In the end, the up to 50 colleagues from around 14 countries agreed: this was a great opportunity to connect and exchange but way too short! The EFTRE executive promised to look into how to organise similar events on a more regular basis. So, EFTRE hopes to see you soon in another Zoom seminar!

Bert Roebben keynote presentation (PDF)

Bert Roebben keynote recording (video)

Written by Bianca Kappelhoff

EFTRE board starts planning conference 2022

We are staying hopeful! That was the message from the EFTRE board meeting on 21st November 2020. Even though the delegates had to gather on Zoom instead of the Mediterranean city of Valencia (Spain), the humour was good and everyone agreed: We want to plan the next conference scheduled for 2022 as a face-to-face meeting. Naturally, the dynamic evolution of the pandemic is being monitored and the programme developed in such a way that it is transformable to a digital setting.

In a lively discussion, participants collected ideas for the different parts of the conference: keynote speakers, workshops, city visits and social gatherings. In relation to the last two points the location of the conference itself has so much to offer because it is Rome! With its rich history, monuments and art collections and not least due to its significance for the Catholic tradition and beyond, Rome offers an inspiring setting for the conference. EFTRE Conferences always take full advantage of their locations with lots of opportunities for first hand learning experiences in the host city. This approach is also reflected in the search for an appropriate conference theme and there were reflections on the current provisional title, “Living Religion” – the EFTRE Executive will develop these ideas in the coming weeks and months.

Apart from the major discussion about the conference, delegates adopted several proposals from the Executive concerning the arrangements of finances, the development of a new website and more efficient systems of membership management.

Letter from the Chair of EFTRE

Dear Members and Friends of EFTRE,

As I sit here at my desk at home in London, I am aware that it is almost exactly a year since our most recent EFTRE Conference. Our Irish hosts promised us ‘Céad Mile Fáilte’ (A Hundred, Thousand Welcomes’) and we were not disappointed! The event offered the usual EFTRE ‘mix’ of thought provoking key note lectures, inspiring workshop activities and fascinating study visits as well as wonderful social events where we could meet old friends and make many new ones. All the evaluations – both formal and informal – show that delegates very much appreciated the wealth of opportunities to enhance their professional development within a warm and mutually supportive environment. Once again, our heartfelt thanks go to Sandra Cullen (EFTRE Representative for the Republic of Ireland) and all her colleagues at Dublin City University who arranged everything so beautifully for us with the support of the members of the EFTRE Executive and also to Norman Richardson (EFTRE Representative for Northern Ireland) who organised a much appreciated supplementary programme across the border and based in Belfast.

At the end of November, members of the EFTRE Executive gathered in Copenhagen. After meeting with some representatives of the main RE teachers’ associations in Denmark, they began to review the last Conference and to plan the next one. This is to be held in Rome in August 2022 and so we were joined in Denmark by Orazio Ruscica (EFTRE Representative for Italy). We agreed that the programme would have a similar balance and shape to those that have preceded it, discussed some possible themes and also explored some other activities for EFTRE. We were ready to develop some exciting new ideas and returned home refreshed, energised and full of plans for the future.

But of course, we – like so many other organisations and individuals around the world – have been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. These last few months have been some of the most challenging many of us have faced, both professionally and personally. Huge sacrifices have had to be made, significant limitations have been placed upon us and we have been forced to adapt to a whole range of unexpected and very demanding circumstances. Wherever we live and work in Europe, 2019-20 was an academic year like no other and all of us have been obliged to discover new ways of teaching RE.

EFTRE too has been affected by this unprecedented crisis – the first casualty was our planned Board Meeting in Valencia in March, arranged by Jose Garcia (EFTRE Representative for Spain) and his colleague and great friend of EFTRE, Carmen Montaner. As the situation in Spain developed and travel restrictions came into being, we were forced with much regret to cancel our gathering there and instead, members of the Executive met online. We used this opportunity to discuss EFTRE’s financial arrangements and reflected on how to manage membership more effectively, as well as the creation and design of a new, more interactive website for EFTRE and some possible exchange projects between members.

In the weeks and months since then, we have all been dealing with other priorities, but our EFTRE links are still there – members of the Executive have kept in close touch with one another throughout this time, offering help, advice and support via our WhatsApp Group and sharing ideas and experiences. We now need to renew our focus and consider the most practical ways in which we can continue our work together.

This last year has seen Europe – and indeed the whole world – struggle to address not only all the changes imposed on us by the pandemic, but also other key issues which we will have to address within the context of teaching and learning in RE. We have seen increased concern about the effects of climate change and witnessed the rise of populism and become increasingly aware of discrimination against certain groups within our societies; we need to wrestle with the implications of these factors in relation to what we teach and how we teach it. For EFTRE, this means we will want to consider very carefully how to approach our future projects and there is obviously a need for us to select a very clear, current and relevant theme for our next Conference.

We do have a Board Meeting in Valencia re-scheduled for this autumn on 21st November but it is unlikely that it will go ahead while movement around Europe is so difficult and arrangements are so uncertain. If necessary, this could of course proceed on that date via an online platform, where the main task would be to develop our programme for the Conference in 2022. We must look forward with hope and optimism! We will keep you informed!

In the meantime, I know that some of you have already begun the new academic year while for others the holiday period has only recently come to an end. Here in England, I returned to work this week and our schools should be re-opened fully too although so many people still have concerns about the safety of pupils, staff and the wider community. But whatever difficulties you are facing in your own country and situation, I send you all good wishes from EFTRE for a happy, healthy and successful year and look forward to hearing from you about how you are managing! Do stay in touch with us and thank you for your interest in EFTRE!

Best wishes,

Lesley Prior, Chair of EFTRE

New date EFTRE board meeting

Covid-19 unsettled almost all our calendars. That doesn’t exclude EFTRE! The board meeting, originally planned for the end of March had to be postponed. Now, a new date has been found. It will take place on 20th and 21st November 2020. Save the date! The place will stay the same. So EFTRE is looking forward to finally visiting the colleagues from Valencia, Spain!