North-South Centre - European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity

 

The Challenges of Diversity at School in the Euro-Mediterranean Region
Teacher Training Workshop, Beirut, Lebanon 27-29 May 2009

 

Organisers: Anna Lindh Foundation, Programming Unit

Trainers: John Keast and Pascale Mompoint-Gaillard (also contributors to the resource)

Facilitators: Nayla Tabbara and Nour Farra Haddad, from Adyan Organisation

Participants:

22 participants who were not previously familiar with the resource coming from the following 11 countries: Belgium, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Ireland, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom

6 participants familiar with the resource who acted as ‘mentors coming from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and the UK

Other contributors to the resource: Dr. Wafa Sawaftah (Jordan) and Eric Hellicar (Cyprus)

Opening session
27 May 2009, from 9:30 to 11a.m with speeches by:
Ms. Salwa Baassiri, Secretary General of the National Lebanese Commission for UNESCO and head of Lebanese national Anna Lindh Foundation network
Ms. Gemma Aubarell, Programme Coordinator
Dr. Antoine Messara, President of the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace and member of Anna Lindh Foundation Advisory Council

OUTCOMES OF THE WORKSHOP

During the workshop, participants were explored the following topics: Teaching about Religious Diversity in the Euro-Med; Networking about Teachers and Schools; the “How to Cope with Diversity at School” resource for teaching about religious diversity, and recommendations for education at a Euro-Med level.

Teaching about Religious Diversity in the Euro-Med: Main conclusions

Religious Diversity in the Euro-Med

    The reality related to religious diversity differs from one Euro-Med country to another, including the countries represented in the workshop. In many cases, new forms of diversity continue to emerge. However, it often takes some time for new minorities to be recognized.
    While diversity exists, there are realities where some people reject this diversity because of fear. The result is division and sectarian ghettoization.
    An appreciation for religious diversity is a means for people to understand the universality of human nature, the unity behind the diversity.
    Schools should be responsive to this religious diversity.

Teaching about Religious Diversity in Schools- The Reality:

    In many cases, teachers and schools are afraid to tackle the subject of religious diversity directly.
    Other schools teach about religious diversity but not for religious diversity. When religion is taught, religious facts are presented but the most schools who the spiritual experience of religion is not touched on.
    Single-faith school teach about religion but tend not to offer or promote diversity.

Teaching about Religious Diversity in Schools- Recommendations:

    Religious diversity should be taught across the curriculum.
    Methods should be developed to explore religious diversity in a safe way, for both students that have faith and those who do not.
    Teachers should be adequately trained to address the issues of religious diversity in their classrooms.
    Resources should be developed for other groups and institutions that have a great influence on students’ perceptions and attitudes, mainly parents and the media.
    Students should be engaged in common faith-related activities, such as participating in each other’s religious feasts. It is also important for students to learn about the home experience of practicing religion.

Proposals for Networking and Action

    Participants stressed the importance of creating partnership among schools and teachers as well as the sharing of experiences through networks and a variety of tools.
    Implementing actions individually or in partnership with other schools is a way to move from knowing to doing.
    It is important to engage teachers and students in projects where they can interact together directly, such as exchange projects. However, the issue of funding is an important one.
    In certain cases, it is wise to begin with topics that are not controversial.
    To teach about religious diversity, teachers can begin by choosing from the resource topics that are of relevance to the curriculum in their contexts.
    In projects, it is important to involve parents as well as society institutions.
    The internet is a good site for partnership among schools and students, through developing online collaborative projects and exchanges.
    It is a good idea to implement projects that involve the common creation of a work of art, music or theatre.
    Different experiences of project to promote diversity and networking were presented from among and beyond the experience of the participants, such as an exchange between schools in Ostende, Belgium and Morocco; Media-analysis student project involving different schools, Capoeira project in Syria, Living library project, etc.
    It is important to develop our identity as a Euro-Mediterranean region.

In the final session of the workshop, participants developed together action plans for common actions.

“How to Cope with Diversity at Schools”: Testing of Religious Diversity Resource

The “Mentors” tested the following units with the other participants:
Unit 1- Art: Session 3
Unit 6- Language: Session 3
Unit 10- Peace and War: Session 2

Participants provided their feedback on the use of the units, ways in which units can be adapted in the classroom, how unit can be integrated in curriculum and advice on future improvement of the unit. Participants agreed that the resource is no more than a guide, and that each unit or activity needs to be adapted to their particular context.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FOLLOW-UP

Participants should apply the units and the training receiving in their own contexts and curricula, with the encouragement and support of the ALF. They should share their experiences with other teachers.
The ALF should provide for larger orders for and distribution of the Resource to participants’ own networks. The resource should be made available on-line very soon.
Teachers should be provided with resources that present information about the beliefs, doctrines and practices of different religions, for teachers without a training in religions or religious education.
Resource should be improved and updated, based on feedback of participants.
Resource should be made available in other languages.
The ALF should make an online space/forum available, where teachers can share their experiences, have access to other interesting resources, young people and students can communicate, upload material, etc.