400 teachers and school heads trained to manage controversy

The project “Teaching Controversial Issues in the Nordic countries” has so far reached up to 400 teachers and school heads.

As part of the pilot, carried out for the Nordic Council of Ministers, EWC has worked together with thirteen school teams from Norway, Finland, Island, Sweden and Denmark, addressing the challenges of teaching controversial issues and how these can be met.

“It seems to us that teachers have been very willing to address sensitive issues in class but do not feel that they have had the knowledge or tools to do so”, one participant wrote in an evaluation form.

The Pilot has focused on providing school leaders and teachers training strategies and techniques which promote open and respectful dialogue in the class rooms.

“There is an interest and joy in learning the methods amongst teachers, teacher trainees, students and pupils”, another participant noted.

A number of national actions have been initiated as a result of the pilot and over the past six months approximately 400 teachers and school leaders have been trained in the use of the Council of Europe manuals Teaching Controversial Issues and Managing Controversy. Workshops have also included students from the Nordic countries.

“Working on these issues with school leaders and teachers from all the Nordic countries has shown that there is an urgent need for strategies and tools which are easily applicable in the daily life of schools. The manuals from the Council of Europe is a good starting point for this, and it’s very valuable to learn from the teams how they are used and adapted to the situations in their schools”, says Jennie Holck-Clausen, EWC project manager.

The manuals are, as part of the pilot, being translated into all Nordic languages and will be available online in 2018 and will as such be more accessible for the support of school leaders and teachers.

The whole Nordic pilot group will meet again November 14, to discuss and share success stories, challenges and provide input and recommendations for future implementation of teaching controversial issues in the Nordic countries.

"Nobody can think that one is not concerned with the possibility that anyone instead of using democratic methods takes on violence to express themselves. The school is primarily a safe place for learning and development. But in school, one should also ensure that every student is seen and heard, even when expressing opinions that may awaken uncomfortable feelings in the adult. It is important that the Nordic countries work together to strengthen the skills of carrying out difficult discussions constructively. Every youth has the right to feel important and see that they do not need to use force to be taken seriously”, says senior advisor Maria Edel from the Finnish National Agency for Education.

The project is part of the 2017 Norwegian Chairmanship programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers. 

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