Online Conference on storytelling and RE

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.

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.

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.

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

Corona virus and RE distance learning

We have gathered here some useful links for teachers.

BBC

Learn & revise: Religious Studies

Bru-uno.de

On this special page of bru-uno.de, at present constantly updated, possibilities are compiled how (vocational school) religious education can be successful in times of Corona.

Comenius institute

New platform by “rpi-virtuell”, the virtual RE institute that is part of the Comenius institute, with tasks and work sheets for students that can be sorted by grades or topics of interest.

Church of Wurttemberg

Offer by the regional Church of Wurttemberg with links for RE lessons but also tips what do to with smaller kids at home, information about pastoral care and Church services online.

European Commission

Coronavirus: online learning resources

NATRE

FREE resources for you and your pupils

Religions-pädagogisches Zentrum Heilsbronn

Materials for Religious Education structured by topics.

Teach:RE

Religion and Worldviews: Subject knowledge for teaching