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‘Signposts’: Policy and Practice for Teaching about Religions and Non-Religious Worldviews in Intercultural Education,

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Signposts can be downloaded free of charge from the European Wergeland Centre website: http://www.theewc.org/uploads/files/00Signposts%20Web%2016X24_web%20PDF%20TEXT%20FINAL.pdf How can the study of religions and non-religious world views contribute to intercultural education in schools in Europe? An important recommendation from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)12 on the dimension of religions and non-religious convictions within intercultural education) aimed to explain the nature and objectives of this form of education. Signposts goes much further by providing advice to policy makers, schools (including teachers, senior managers and governors) and teacher trainers on tackling issues arising from the recommendation. Taking careful account of feedback from education officials, teachers and teacher trainers in Council of Europe member states, Signposts gives advice, for example, on clarifying the terms used in this form of education; developing competences for teaching and learning, and working with different didactical approaches; creating “safe space” for moderated student-to-student dialogue in the classroom; helping students to analyse media representations of religions; discussing non-religious world views alongside religious perspectives; handling human rights issues relating to religion and belief; and linking schools (including schools of different types) to one another and to wider communities and organisations. Signposts is not a curriculum or a policy statement. It aims to give policy makers, schools and teacher trainers in the Council of Europe member states, as well as others who wish to use it, the tools to work through the issues arising from interpretation of the recommendation to meet the needs of individual countries. Signposts results from the work of an international panel of experts convened jointly by the Council of Europe and the European Wergeland Centre, and is written on the group’s behalf by Professor Robert Jackson.
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... In this article, I reflect upon how intercultural theology can provide a critical and constructive foundation for reflecting on the intercultural dimension of the non-confessional study of religions and worldviews in public schools. Interpreting intercultural theology as an in-between theology that addresses the oscillation between the particular and the universal (Gruber 2018;Wrogemann 2021), I ask how attention toward context and crossboundary relations may critically challenge a common world religion-oriented didactic within the subject of religious education (RE) (see, e.g., Anker 2017;Enstedt 2020;Jackson 2014;Skeie 2009). When the teaching of RE relies on a classification system rooted in Western Protestant Christianity, which presents faith traditions as homogenous and unchanging over time, the intercultural potential of the subject can easily be reduced. ...
... For this reason, RE in schools has become an important tool for preparing students for intercultural interaction and collaboration. Both non-confessional and confessional approaches to RE have been faced with the challenge of increased globalization and pluralism, resulting in the need for a stronger emphasis on interdenominational and interreligious learning (Jackson 2014;Schreiner 2007). As can be seen, for example, in the work undertaken by the Council of Europe (2022) on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, RE education, regardless of model, has the potential to enhance students' understanding of worldviews and the beliefs of people that differ from their own and to enable students' competence to navigate and feel at home in a diverse society. ...
... Such a way of framing religion, however, has been critically questioned for several reasons. In his influential work on non-confessional RE, Jackson (1997Jackson ( , 2004Jackson ( , 2014 critiqued the tendency to conceptualize and reify religions into abstract systems of specific beliefs and practices. According to Jackson, such a conception of religion runs the risk of being one-dimensional, as it primarily draws attention to the institutionalized sides of faith traditions. ...
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This paper asks how intercultural theology can inspire a critical and constructive reflection on the intercultural potential of non-confessional religious education (RE). Taking the Norwegian non-confessional RE subject as a starting point, the paper draws attention to the tendency to present religions, worldviews, and denominations as single entities with distinct characteristics. As emphasized by Jackson, Jones and Meyer, and others, a systemic-oriented approach will largely capture the institutionalized sides of religion. Consequently, in schools, the intercultural dimension of RE can easily be reduced by emphasizing students' need for encyclopedic knowledge about different traditions, overlooking how religion is embedded in social life and transforms, develops, and interconnects through everyday practices outside of institutionalized religious life. This line of argument sets the stage for the next part, examining how intercultural theology can create critical awareness of the inner diversity and interconnectedness of denominations and religious traditions. The paper argues that the descriptive and normative framework of intercultural theology can inspire educators to reflect critically on the intercultural dimension of a non-confessional RE.
... The development of RE in Finland has reflected the increasing influence of transnational actors: the Finnish case has to be seen against the broader European educational framework and policy documents concerning RE, such as the Toledo Guiding Principles 22 and the Council of Europe's publication on religion and intercultural education, Signposts. 23 In these documents, RE is increasingly framed as closely linked to intercultural education and seen as an instrument for the promotion of social cohesion. Its aims are formulated in the language of the competency-based discourses of education influenced by neoliberal educational thinking. ...
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Finland has a rather unique model of non-confessional worldview education that draws on pupils’ “own worldview”. Internationally this model has been applauded for ensuring freedom of religion and belief, but in Finland it is regularly debated. In this chapter we employ a wider notion of worldview education that takes into account the role of worldviews in school culture and allows scrutiny of how all education is nested in a system of values and can be analysed as education into (and from) worldview. We introduce the foundations of worldview education in Finnish basic education, and analyse negotiations about the inclusion of worldview plurality in the every-day life of schools in light of our empirical studies. We argue that, despite the official multiculturalist and inclusivist ideals, unrecognised monoculturalism prevails in Finnish schools as majority worldviews are not seen as worldviews but deemed universal and therefore neutral. This universalism induces perceptions of religions and worldviews as “the problem” in school: while more superficial cultural differences are celebrated, recognition of diversity at the more profound ethical, ontological and epistemological level would demand willingness to question the universality of the core values and ideals of the education system. We discuss the necessity and prospects of departing from monoculturalism and moving towards critical worldview education.
... A reflection on education in the religious sphere becomes particularly relevant today, in a pluralising context in which the religious dimension, and the reference to Islam in particular, is charged with meanings that belong to the semantic domain of conflict, even violent conflict, while remaining obscure and poorly known 6 . International scholars, in fact, recognise the importance of reflecting on religious education at school, since it can also work as a strategy to prevent violent 'radicalisation' (Ghosh and Chan 2018), if framed in an approach based on encountering and recognising the 'other', on critical thinking and reflexivity (Hull 2009;Jackson 2015). As we have already argued, in fact, an important element of the plurality in Italian schools is religious diversity. ...
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In international documents and guidelines, the educational and school environment has been identified as one of the privileged contexts for policies and interventions to prevent violent 'radicalisation' processes. The greatest emphasis is placed, in the most recent documents, on the promotion of an educational method based on open and peaceful dialogue, reflexivity and critical thinking, which helps to connote the school as a 'laboratory of democracy'. The chapter initially dwells on the very concept of 'radicalisation' and its use in political, media, but also scientific-academic discourses, proposing some reflections on its explanatory scope and on the 'risks' it introduces, through the conveyance of automatic and stereotyped associations and 'victimisation' processes. We then examine the case of Italian schools, characterised by cultural and religious plurality and by a significant presence of Muslim pupils, which leads to the request, coming from various sources (from the families of these pupils, but not only), to propose a new way of addressing the religious theme within school walls. In this sense, if it is possible to trace the proposal and implementation of virtuous projects and initiatives aimed at promoting an intercultural approach to study and the 'experimentation' of cultural and religious differences in daily life inside and outside school, nevertheless, at a national level, they lack organicity and systematicity, being more related to the initiative of individual school institutions. Lastly, the chapter goes on to analyse some project proposals recently proposed around these issues.
... A reflection on education in the religious sphere becomes particularly relevant today, in a pluralising context in which the religious dimension, and the reference to Islam in particular, is charged with meanings that belong to the semantic domain of conflict, even violent conflict, while remaining obscure and poorly known 6 . International scholars, in fact, recognise the importance of reflecting on religious education at school, since it can also work as a strategy to prevent violent 'radicalisation' (Ghosh and Chan 2018), if framed in an approach based on encountering and recognising the 'other', on critical thinking and reflexivity (Hull 2009;Jackson 2015). As we have already argued, in fact, an important element of the plurality in Italian schools is religious diversity. ...
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The term radicalization has been used over the past decades with different interpretations. Coolsaet used the “catch-all concept” (2011, p. 261) to define the trend that many constructs use one idea in reference to different phenomena. Radicalization has, for many years, been synonymous with terrorism, with a particular focus on violent radicalization rather than radical meaning/thinking. Many other meanings in this sphere have been developed and used. For example, Schmid notes that even within scholarly and public debates not all forms of political violence are all-terrorist or all- extremist (Schmid, 2011). Widespread uses and abuses of the term radicalization have appeared in the media and more broadly in the public sphere. This has created confusion regarding the various meanings of the term, and ultimately delegitimizing the role that some forms of radicalism have had, throughout history, in promoting democracy and social justice. It is therefore important to reaffirm the distinction between violent radicalization and nonviolent radicalization (Schmid, 2011). We know that radicalization should not necessarily incorporate the idea that a subject performs a violent act, or that the radical position assumed may be connoted a priori as negative or dangerous. Radicalization is a situated phenomenon. Developing a radical point of view is a variable that can be understood and evaluated in connection with rights, community practices, and the opportunities people have to discuss and contrast these ideas. People can adopt radical ideas, although they may be considered radical with respect to the social or collective norm, they are not necessarily extremist or contrary to democratic norms and values. Radicalization can also lead to different legitimate forms of democratic coexistence if the dialectic debate is allowed into a social context. What is considered radical in a social, cultural and specific historical time cannot be considered so in another. Some nonviolent radical people have played an extremely positive role in their communities, as well as in a wider political context. They have generated forms of political action based on participation, advocacy programs, awareness campaigns or groups of consciousness that grow through dialectics or critical reflection. Sometimes the progress in societies and civil rights has been the result of some form of radical thinking. But radicalization might also be better understood as an evolutionary process. Many people develop radicalized thinking through a specific life experience in a spectrum that can in no way reach violence or be closed to other points of view. People experience radicalization more or less consciously as the result of a process of sedimentation of meanings and perspectives that can become rigid and impermeable to debate, dialectics and confrontation over time. Violence can be an expression of this extreme state, where violence is interpreted as the only or right way to assert and to impose an idea. This book has been developed around this debate of radicalization, and the authors are aware that this notion of radicalization could be difficult to comprehend as the subject is convoluted and at times contradictory. But the intent of this collective work is not to propose a dictionary definition of radicalization or stabilize a positional idea about it. We would like to propose some studies to support a deeper and more complex understanding of this phenomenon called radicalization through seeing it through different points of view. In the following chapters there is not one unique scientific area involved or different levels of analysis. We have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to show the complexity of a part of this scientific debate and we explored the phenomenon through a theoretical and empirical approach. Some of the authors describe qualitative and quantitative research connecting radicalization with other constructs developed in sociological, psychological, educational studies. Other researchers develop ways to understand radicalization from a theoretical point of view. They have attempted to find connections among theories rather than reduce it to one singular framework. There is, however, a common frame of work that guides the chapters of this book -the concept that the first way to prevent and contrast the use of violence in the radicalization processes is through education. We well know the importance of the security approach and that collaboration is necessary, but goals can differ and likewise so can methods of prevention. In the book’s title we have used “everyday life” as a reminder that radicalization takes place in the initial stages of informal learning contexts. Peer groups, family, sport teams, workplaces and social media are spaces where people can radicalize their positions. In these spaces of everyday life, we can find companions, authorities, and beliefs ready to validate more radical ideas. This book, divided into two principal parts, aims to explore the phenomenon of radicalization with special attention to the influence of informal learning processes. The first part consists of chapters that use a theoretical framework while the second part presents empirical research. We think that this division can help the reader understand both challenges: which theories and constructs could be developed to better understand the radicalization processes? What are some examples of radicalized experiences in social life? We hope that social workers, educators, psychologists, politicians and other professionals involved in prevention can find examples and new words for describing their work, and to plan new programs, activities and interventions. Each one of us can potentially develop personal, political, religious, or ethical perspectives that could be considered extreme, at least from others’ points of view. Radical views only become problematic when they legitimize, encourage, or validate violence or forms of extremist behaviors, including terrorism and acts of hatred which are intended to promote a particular cause, ideology, or worldview. Individuals going through a process of radicalization can encourage, assist, or commit violence in the name of a specific system of beliefs because they are convinced that their assumptions are absolute and exclusive, and not framed within a personal or social history that can be re-read and re-negotiated.
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This article presents preliminary findings from a study designed to evaluate, develop and disseminate a cards resource developed to support dialogue and learning about EDI. Experience of creating cards to explore disciplinary thinking at the Universities of Hertfordshire (UH) and East Anglia (UEA) (Jarvis and Clark, 2020) was instrumental in the design. The resource is based on the concept of using ‘serious play’, a ‘special kind of intense learning experience’ (Rieber et al., 1998, p.30, 29, original emphasis) to support reflective, inclusive and transformational learning (Peabody and Noyes, 2017). Staff and students at UH and UEA who facilitate and attend sessions at which the cards are used are contributing to the research. Before sessions, facilitators are briefed about the guidance, the cards, and possible exercises for using them. At the end of sessions, facilitators and participants are invited to take part in a reflection activity. Facilitators are asked about the context, the activity, observations of participant response to the cards, their learning, the facilitator’s learning, and plans for future EDI activities. Participants are questioned about the role of the cards in their learning and thinking, what was learnt, and how this will impact their interaction with others. Preliminary findings indicate how participants are thinking about their working contexts, in particular how they initiate conversations around their personal lives, and share stories relating to equality, diversity and inclusivity, in order to make abstract terms more vivid. This study responds to a need to develop research-informed resources to use to encourage respectful, inclusive dialogue to address EDI topics with staff and students in higher education. Drawing on the preliminary findings shared here, new terms are being added to the current card set together with a blank card to allow users to generate their own cards; and a new resource comprising EDI stories is being considered.
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