Delegates from around the world met in Turku, Finland, for the 17th International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV). Well over 100 papers were exchanged and discussed, including discussions of research, scholarship, teacher training and policy development.
Professor Robert Jackson represented the University of Warwick and the European Wergeland Centre. His paper pointed out the relevance of European research to policy development in the Council of Europe, and traced the work of the joint Council of Europe and European Wergeland Centre committee concerned with disseminating an important ministerial recommendation on teaching about religions and beliefs across Europe
. The paper charted of the work of the committee in producing a roadmap for use by policymakers, teacher trainers and schools across Europe in adapting the recommendation to their own particular national contexts. The work of the committee is expected to be completed in December 2013.
Professor Jackson also took part in a press conference in which journalists asked about developments in the Council of Europe in relation to the particular debates currently taking place in Finland.Picture: Professor Wolfram Weisse, Hamburg University; Professor Recep Kaymakcan, Sakarya University, Turkey, and Professor Robert Jackson, University of Warwick and EWC, after the press conference.
Robert Jackson's paper concludes as follows:
"On the basis of the Council of Europe Ministerial Recommendation, the questionnaire sent to national representatives on the education committee of the Council of Europe, feedback from stakeholders, the results of recent research and case studies of developments in policy and practice, a series of key issues will be identified and discussed in the roadmap in a way that should be helpful to stakeholders in resolving debates at a national or regional level. So far, the following provisional issues have been identified for discussion and development:
- Terminology: a guide to different terms and their different meanings in particular contexts will be provided in order to reduce misunderstanding and to establish a clear vocabulary for dealing with the general area of education about religions and non-religious convictions.
- Competence (what are the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours required to be able to understand at depth and engage with a plurality of religions and non-religious convictions?) The discussion will consider competence in relation to self-awareness as well as awareness of others’ beliefs, values and ways of life. This section will deal with both teacher training and student competence. Some examples of ways in which competence might be achieved through the use of particular didactical approaches will be given.
- The representation of religions (different ways in which religions are represented or portrayed in textbooks, and other sources); attention will be given to the ‘internal diversity’ of religions, and to helping teachers to develop their sensitivity towards young people in their classes from different backgrounds; attention will also be given to ways in which teachers and students might analyse media representations of religions.
- The provision of ‘safe space’ for student-to-student dialogue within the school. Recent international research on this topic will be reviewed, and the relevant issues will be highlighted.
- Issues concerning the classification and incorporation of ‘non religious convictions’ or ‘non-religious worldviews’ into this field will be identified, discussed and illustrated by examples from different parts of Europe and Canada.
- Issues and debates concerning human rights in relation to this field will be considered.
- Guidance on developing policies on linking schools to local communities and organisations, and developing contacts with other schools, including international contacts will be provided.
Picture: Prof Jackson speaking at the conference dinner
Finally, mechanisms for promoting discussion at national and regional levels will be suggested as well as mechanisms for providing feedback to the Council of Europe and the European Wergeland Centre. It is hoped that the road map will stimulate and contribute to constructive discussion, policy-making, teacher training, classroom practice and community links in different parts of Europe, and perhaps beyond."
The Finnish organisers, led by Prof Arto Kallioniemi of the University of Helsinki, did an excellent job in helping the conference to run smoothly and in welcoming delegates to Turku.Picture: Dr Olga Schihalejev (Estonia), Dr Dzintra Iliško (Latvia), Prof Arto Kallioniemi (Finland and conference organiser), Prof Robert Jackson (UK and EWC).