ICCS together with its partner the IV hast just published the most recent issue of their common newsletter. In this rich edition you can learn more about a research project about Religious education and Covid-19, about an innovative Erasmus+ project about sustainability and spirituality and new approaches of a common Christian Religious Education in Germany.
You can find links to teacher training possibilities and publications about the future of Religious Education in Europe. Of course, you will also find information about the most recent and upcoming events of the two publishing organisations.
I realised recently that it is just over twenty years since I first became directly involved in the work of EFTRE!
In the late summer of 2001, I travelled to Scotland to take part in the EFTRE Conference being held that year in Edinburgh. I seem to remember that I had been strongly attracted to this event from the moment – several months before – when I had first received the initial publicity about it. On reflection, I think there were probably several reasons for this:
first, I felt that engaging with colleagues from across Europe would offer me invaluable opportunities to consider my own work in the context of new and fresh perspectives
second, the Conference focus on handling truth claims in RE was highly relevant to me, the programme itself offered an excellent range of lectures, seminars, workshops and other activities and the price of attendance – at least for me – seemed to offer real value for money
and finally, I have to admit that the prospect of spending time in one of my favourite cities with interesting people I had never met before was very appealing!
On all three counts, I am delighted to say that every one of my expectations was wholly fulfilled and what was true for me in that initial encounter with EFTRE remains true today. Through EFTRE, my work continues to be enriched and informed by collaboration and cooperation with colleagues in similar roles across Europe, EFTRE still has a strong commitment to hosting high quality conferences and other events and I have had so many wonderful times in wonderful cities with wonderful people, many of whom have become very dear friends as well as colleagues.
But much has also changed in the last two decades – just days after the EFTRE Conference in Edinburgh came to an end, the world was reeling after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Since then, we have endured many other such attacks and not least on European soil. RE, a subject which often claims to make a particular contribution to the cultivation of respect for others and the promotion of community cohesion has had to face the challenges imposed by all such attacks, whatever their motivations might be.
RE has also had to begin to grapple with other major concerns that have emerged more strongly since this century began – issues relating to climate change, to the marginalisation of certain ethnic and religious groups, to the role and status of women in society and to attitudes to sex, sexuality and gender. More recently of course, the pandemic has had a profound influence on the way many people think, act and feel and there have been – and will be – many more matters that challenge us in our professional and our personal lives.
As religious educators, we seek to provide the means to help our children and young people to navigate their way through this complex landscape and to engage with what is serious to them and to what is serious for others. At a time when increasing religious plurality and increasing secularism are to be seen in many of the countries from which we come, our task has perhaps become more complex than ever before.
EFTRE cannot claim to provide simple and easy solutions to the difficulties we face in these respects, but as our name suggests, we do provide a forum or meeting place where we can come together – virtually and in person – with those who are in a similar position to ourselves, although our contexts are never precisely the same. Our new website will be an invaluable tool for us to use in this respect, along with our other online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. We also plan to continue holding seminars several times a year on topics which should be of interest to all our members and friends. These will be via Zoom but we hope to conduct some of them in person when we can travel more easily and then they will coincide with Executive and Board Meetings in our various host cities and countries.
Finally, our forthcoming Conference will provide a more extended opportunity to identify, explore and evaluate some of the ways in which RE can create bridges over troubled waters, offering the spaces in which we hope every child and young person we support can receive the help they need to make sense of themselves and their place in their own country, in Europe and in the wider world. We very much hope you will want to part of that event and look forward to seeing you there!
You are interested in how to use storytelling for making a case for Religious Education? Within the framework of the Cooperating Group on Religion in Education (CoGREE), the two EFTRE executive members Lesley Prior and Bianca Kappelhoff, recently co-organised an event series about exactly this topic:
“Let’s tell our stories – the positive impact of religion in public education”
Read the report and access the presentations of the keynote speakers her below.
A year before the event, the EFTRE Executive has now taken a decision about the theme of next conference. From 25-28th August 2022, colleagues from the RE community all around Europe are invited to Rome to work together on the theme “Bridges Over Troubled Waters – RE in Changing Times”.
The idea is to focus on how children and young people experience religion and belief in their everyday lives and to reflect on what that means for teaching and learning meaningful RE. Pupils across Europe are facing a lot of potentially troubling developments from the current pandemic, to climate change, to questions of equality and discrimination. All these developments carry profound questions about how we want to live together as humans. What should RE look like in order to equip these pupils with the knowledge, understanding and skills to navigate their way through these tumultuous waters? This will be at the heart of the Conference.
As always, the EFTRE Conference will be composed of a mixture of keynotes, practical workshops and local visits. Rome as a location is obviously particularly rich in cultural and historical sites not only linked to the Catholic tradition but also to other denominations, religions and worldviews. EFTRE always aims to include a wide range of perspectives in its programme. Stay tuned for more details and check www.eftre.net for further information in due course!
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.
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).
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;
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.
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.
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.
Find the free accessible teacher training module for download here.
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.
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.
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!