The Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated an ongoing global need for social justice. In particular, it highlights wide gaps between ideals and practices pertaining to the shared goals of quality and equality in education. These gaps are evident across the most and least wealthy of countries. In particular, the pandemic has unmasked different forms of discrimination and exclusion, marginalising children and young people who are already disadvantaged.

Many religious/faith/spiritual organisations and communities have long played an important part in reaching out to the excluded, caring for the vulnerable, and encouraging equality in education. During the pandemic, these organisations and communities have been particularly active in identifying and helping those most at risk, engaging multiple stakeholders, and collaboratively making the provision of quality education more accessible.

By establishing an Education Task Force, the G20 Interfaith Forum (G20i) will be able to draw on insights from relevant faith-inspired practices to articulate a forward-looking vision of reimagined education. To this end, the Task Force, in collaboration with the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation (GHFP) Research Institute, launched (1) a Desk Review, and (2) a Survey, aimed at deepening our understanding of inclusive and caring education, and identifying educational programmes where religious and faith inputs are central to their underpinnings. This exploration illustrated that at the core of a common global agenda of quality, equality, and social cohesion are practices of inclusive and caring education, with many inspirational examples linked to approaches anchored in faith. (The term faith is used broadly here, to include religion, faith, belief and spirituality.)

Download the summary of the research report which will serve as the basis for G20i’s global high-level expert consultation during which relevant policy recommendations will be put forward.

As part of the G20 Interfaith Forum’s Education Task Force, the GHFP has launched a research into Inclusive and Caring Education from a Faith Perspective. The research consists in two parts: (1) a literature review to understand better how religion/faith/spirituality tends to define inclusive and caring education; (2) a questionnaire survey to seek examples and case studies of faith-inspired approaches to inclusive and caring education.

For further information, please read G20-Interfaith-Forum_Edu-Task-Force.

We welcome all faith-inspired educational projects and programmes that have a focus on inclusion and diversity to share their practice HERE.

The World’s Biggest Conversation

Human-Centred Education is delighted to share Education Reimagined: Shaping Our Children’s Future, Together from our friends at School of Sophia. The World’s Biggest Conversation also feature our very own Dr Scherto Gill as a keynote speaker.

Join a wonderfully interactive conversation with parents and educators across the globe. As part of the UN’s 75th Anniversary Celebrations, this special 3-hour group discussion takes place online, on Friday 26th June 3-6pm BST, as we re-imagine how to shape a brighter future for the next generation. What are the lessons you’ve learned by staying at home with your children? What future do you most wish to create for your children and grandchildren?

Join the conversation and be a part of the global movement towards greater solidarity. Hosted by Priya Mahtani (School of Sophia), there will be guest contributions from Christopher Clouder, Torin Finser and Scherto Gill as speakers, and creative contributions from Kevin Davidson, Els Vrints & More! Free to join. Registration however is essential. Find out more on their website https://www.schoolofsophia.org/er-un75 

Relational Evaluation in Education

Gergen&Gill2020_Beyond-the-Tyranny-of-Testing_Relational-Evaluation-in-EducationKenneth J. Gergen and Scherto R. Gill

This book is a the most timely contribution to address our current educational impasse. It

  • Offers a compelling alternative to the measurement-assessment orientation to evaluation that undermines learning and well-being in schools today
  • Improves on the patchy critiques of testing and grading by offering a coherent account of the historical and cultural assumptions on which the measurement-testing tradition is based
  • Richly illustrated with school-based examples that inspire the possibility of a relational approach to evaluation of students, teachers, and whole schools
  • Provides concrete, classroom-rooted practices that can stimulate discussions among school leaders and policy makers

The book leads the dialogue and imagination about a post-Covid world where systemic transformation in education is possible, and where education can nurture the holistic well-being of our students in an inclusive and engaged way. See more about the book HERE.

During Covid-19 pandemic, many schools are closed, exams cancelled, and without the stress of testing, education continues in truly creative ways: Learning becomes both local and global, engagement is mix-aged, reflective, and mutually supportive, and evaluation is carried out relationally and collaboratively. No longer constrained by performance outcome, schooling at home is enriching and enjoyable. Instead of focusing on attaining grades, students find themselves imagining the kind of world humanity should be living in, the persons they want to become, and the things they would like to do to contribute to a better future. The questions remain:

  • “What educational system would sustain such enthusiasm for learning?”, and
  • “How might schools be re-structured to kindle children and young people’s passion for world-making?”

In our recent book, with the same title, we have explored what a systemic transformation may look like and how the classroom-based innovation and teachers and students initiated approaches to learning can inspire positive structural changes in schools.

Beyond the Tyranny of Testing: Relational Evaluation in Education

Kenneth J. Gergen and Scherto R. Gill

Abstract

Measurement-based assessment in education is byproduct of a bygone era. As grades and test scores now become the very goals of education, learning suffers, along with human relationships and well-being of students and teachers. In this book, we propose an alternative to the current assessment tradition, in which schools are no longer conceived as factories, but as learning communities and sites of collective meaning-making. Prioritized is relational process that assessment practices tend to undermine. Relational process is constituted in our well-being, from which we draw understandings of the world, what counts as knowledge, learning, meaningfulness and goodness. A relational orientation to educational evaluation is thus proposed, highlighting evaluation as co-inquiry and value-creation. It aims to stimulate learning while simultaneously enriching the vitality of relational process. To illustrate, a wide range of innovations in evaluative practice is offered to bring these ideas to life. Case studies are drawn from both primary and secondary schools, demonstrating how evaluation can sustain continued engagement in learning and relating. Likewise, a relational approach also applies to evaluation of teachers’ practices and schools’ progress as a whole. As the book shows, the former enhances teachers’ professional development, the latter nurtures the learning communities. Additionally, a relational shift in evaluation opens a space for systemic transformation, including the flourishing of interactive and dialogic teaching and learning practices, flexible, varied and co-created curricula, as well as a culture of mutuality and collaboration. Such a transformation speaks to the demands of a rapidly changing and unpredictable world.

This year, the GHFP was invited by Beijing Normal University to teach a credit course on HCE. Dr Scherto Gill and Professor Kenneth Gergen, a fellow of the GHFP, provided the lectures together.

Participants are masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students. The lectures focused on the theories and practices of Human-Centred Education. The course concluded with a peer-evaluation day when students reflected on their own learning and discussed how they might take some of the ideas to their own research and work. A high note was reached when one of the students burst into tears about her awakening to this humanising view of students and the potential such human-centred approach might have in transforming lives of children and the society.

On 16th October, 52 school principals and their key members of staff travelled from different corners of the country to attend a one-day lecture on HCE provided by both Dr Gill and Prof Gergen. This lecture was likewise appreciated by the Principals, but they felt this was only a beginning. Schools in China are eager to learn how to integrate HCE practices in classrooms.

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find out who and what you are!” (student participant)

Saturday Satya is a co-curricular programme, originally designed and created in 2007 as part of the Eton-Slough-Hounslow Independent & State School Partnership initiative and Eton College’s Wisdom Project, with the support of the GHFP.

Satya is a Sanskrit word for ‘truth’ or ‘ultimate reality’ and refers to the virtue of being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. Saturday Satya is a series of Saturday morning sessions in which a group of young people from diverse backgrounds are challenged and guided to explore their understandings of themselves, others and the world around them in more empowered and nuanced ways.

Saturday Satya supports students’ whole-person development and growth, enabling individuals to strengthen a sense of themselves and to gain an appreciation of others and their different perspectives. The programme’s activities enable the students to develop self-conceptions and personal identity through building understanding in three interrelated areas:

  • Understanding oneself: Students are more able to see themselves in new and more positive ways, such as feeling more confident and more creative, with a more positive self-image. 
  • Understanding others: Students get to know and understand individuals from different social and cultural backgrounds, which in turn helps them interrogate or develop their own perspectives, including learning to develop attitudes of acceptance and respect for differences.
  • Understanding one’s own orientation within the wider community: Students are enabled them to explore cultural roles and their own socio-political and religious orientation within or outside of these contexts.

In supporting the development of students’ self-conceptions and personal identity, the programme offers rich opportunities for students’ social, moral, spiritual and cultural (SMSC) development, as defined within OFSTED guidelines. 

Human-centred pedagogies embedded in the programme’s activities and the teacher-mentors’ practices play a pivotal part in supporting these learning opportunities and in creating rich and safe learning spaces:

  • A Pedagogy of Care: This involves the cultivation of genuine, human relationships between teacher-mentors and students, built on trust, respect and care. This approach to relationships, alongside an open and ‘no-right-answers’ approach to learning, helps to create safe and nurturing spaces where young people feel able to explore and examine their own and others’ ideas and perceptions without fear of failure or judgement. This ethos of the Saturday Satya is enriched by the teacher-mentors’ willingness to listen deeply to the voices of students and to care for and respect their individual needs.
  • A Pedagogy of Whole-Person Engagement: The activities of Saturday Satya are rich and diverse, engaging students on many different levels, and thereby supporting their whole-person development. Some activities engage students through their physical senses, some challenge them through their intellect and some invite them to explore their emotional landscapes. Still others engage their creativity and imagination and others prompt them to be reflective or encourage them to be contemplative.
  • A Pedagogy of Presence: Through meditative practices, silence and stillness, and activities which give students opportunities to bear witness to each other’s experiences, they are enabled to be truly present to the here and now. By leaving behind the pressures and anxieties of home and school life, and being able to engage fully with their experiences within the sessions, students are empowered to learn in engaged and meaningful ways. The teacher-mentors embody this presence, allowing themselves to be truly available to students, rather than ‘performing’ the role of a teacher.

In this way, the Saturday Satya’s pedagogical practices enable the teacher-mentors and students to live values which are fundamental to young people’s well-being in education.

The Saturday Satya programme provides participants with significant opportunities to learn and develop holistically, strengthening their sense of who they are and promoting an openness to otherness and an appreciation of diversity. The pedagogies of the programme feature respectful, caring, imaginative and open-minded approaches which help create safe spaces and enable students to explore different aspects of themselves and engage with others’ perspectives.

If you would be interested in developing Saturday Satya or a similar programme with young people in your school or area, please do get in touch via the website.

The GHFP’s HCE pilot in a school in La Tebaida, Colombia, is witnessing transformative experiences in their students. Mentoring sessions provide a safe space for students to share their lives in ways they have seldom done before. Students feel deeply touched by the care shown by the pastoral team; they feel their lives matter and their well-being is respected.

The teaching team engage in various ongoing professional learning and development activities, to support them to work together in a concerted way. These activities include:

  • Sharing their respective learning biographies as a basis for each teacher to articulate their personal ‘theorisation’ of learning and approaches to teaching. This sharing in turn helps bring teachers closer as their appreciation of each other’s narrative and life histories deepens. 
  • Forming mentoring partnership pairings. Pairs observe and provide feedback to each other on activity design, classroom teaching, and interaction with students.
  • Weekly meetings dedicated to reading HCE theories together and discussing how the key philosophical ideas might be relevant and applied to the school’s situation, especially in terms of how teachers relate to students. This weekly meeting is also a social time when the team share stories of the week over coffee. The message is clear: professional development is fun, enlivening and relaxing.

A Child’s Garden of Peace (ACGP)* is a collaborative effort to create gardens where children can play in peace. Children, parents, teachers and other members of the school community take part in developing the garden together. Once established, children will continue to work with others in nurturing the garden, learn to care for the plants, and grow food for themselves and their families. It is an excellent example of HCE in practice as it locates learning within community relationships and thereby enrich these relationships and in the processes of caring – caring for children’s learning and well-being, caring for the flourishing of the community, and caring for nature.

The GHFP sponsored the garden project (el huerto) in Puebla, Mexico. This is a collaboration with the Fundacion BP Casa Cuna Palafox y Mendoza, a child care center serving poor families with children aged 0 to 5. The garden is fully integrated in the daycare centre’s educational activities. The project engages children in all aspects of the garden, including composting food waste from the kitchen, planting vegetable gardens, herbs and fruit trees and collecting and making food. Young children learn first hand about the food they eat and explore the life cycle of nature.

*A Child’s Garden of Peace is founded and directed by Dr. Illène Pevec

On Wednesday 20th March, our HCE team in Brighton welcomed local Well-Being Leaders and Coordinators from across Brighton and Hove to join us for a twilight seminar on “A Whole School Approach to Well-Being in Secondary Schools“.

well-being_treeThe seminar offered an opportunity to explore and share good practices on well-being and inclusion and to make links with local colleagues. We began with an inspiring keynote from Professor Colleen McLaughlin, Director of Education Innovation at the University of Cambridge, to spark discussion and raise pertinent questions, followed by facilitated open dialogue and sharing, through which participants will be encouraged to develop a rich understanding and awareness of critical issues relating to student (and staff) well-being in secondary schools.

The event was free to attend, sponsored  by the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP), a Brighton based international think-tank dedicated to promoting well-being and whole-person learning. The GHFP is also the sponsor of the Human-Centred Education Programmes.

If you would be interested in attending or hosting a similar event in your school (or another setting!), please do get in contact via our website. We work with diverse teams to develop professional learning opportunites that are tailored to the needs and interests of the group, faciliating open dialogue spaces where staff can explore ideas and ask critical questions.

For a school to become a learning community, it requires processes whereby leaders, staff members, students, parents and others in the community integrate and live out human-centred values and imbibe a human-centred culture. Redesigning the school involves a systemic approach to transformation in five core areas:

  1. Uniting all stakeholders around a common vision and a shared set of values. The more a school and its members are clear and aware of its vision and values, the more likely they will live and embody the values of care and respect, the more such values become the very fabric of the community.
  2. Adopting a set of HCE policies, agreed upon by the community as a whole, which will guide practice in the school. These policies must be aligned with the main aim of education as the holistic development of the students as whole persons.
  3. Introducing some elements (curriculum areas) of the HCE curriculum, in accordance with the school’s conditions and situation. These should be introduced in conjunction with HCE pedagogy and evaluative practices.
  4. Nurturing a HCE culture, in which there is no fear (e.g. of failure, of authority, of teachers, of punishment, of speaking one’s mind). This is a starting point for the creation of a culture of caring, respect and mutuality.
  5. Developing institutional processes to train and support teachers. In doing so, teachers will begin to relish newly defined activities within the HCE curriculum and welcome new opportunities for personal and professional learning. This involves shifting teachers’ mindset from teaching as instructing and delivering, towards teaching as dialogue, collaboration, co-creation and facilitation.

For support with integrating an HCE approach in your school, including teacher training and professional development, please do contact us.

A learning community:

(1) Is integrated in the local community. Ideally, a human-centred learning community is within walking distance of local businesses, community centres, residential areas and public services (e.g. hospitals, police stations). This enables young people to more easily make links with the local community, including through work experience and visits, and raise the profile of the school in the community by its proximity.

(2) Has flexible teaching spaces. The traditional classroom setting with rows of tables and chairs has long been challenged. From a human-centred perspective, the diversity of curriculum activities demands flexibility of space. Such flexibility might allow horseshoe-shaped classrooms, or the group to sit in a circle, both of which enable the class to meet face-to-face. A human centred teacher is not on the centre of the stage; she facilitates and guides, but she is also part of the group.

(3) Has large indoor spaces with natural light. These spaces are particularly valuable for Group Emotional Exploration Time. Young people need spaces where they can feel free to make noise and where they can be physically more distant from one another. Too often classrooms feel crowded and controlled. Large spaces where students feel less constrained are likely to provide opportunities for more creativity and emotional development.

(4) Provides students access to green outdoor spaces. These have similar benefits to large indoor spaces but with the advantages of fresh air and no walls! Inspiring green outdoor spaces can also offer students an alternative working environment when they do not wish to study indoors, as well as opening opportunities for developing gardening and other outdoor skills, for instance, during Independent Project Time.

(5) Offers students the opportunities for organised sports. The school should allow students uncomplicated access to a sufficient range of sport-specific apparatus. eg. a sports centre or sports ground.

(6) Has a large and fully stocked library. The school’s library facilities need to be extensive due to the independent nature of much of the study in a human-centred school. Students need access to a wide range of materials. Ideally the library has sufficient comfortable study space close to the books where students can carry out independent study. Where possible there should be a digital library and a audio/visual library, as well as online and physical records of students’ writings, arts and performances.

(7) Offers access to technology and specialist facilities. A human-centred school should have sufficient technological resources (computers, Internet-based educational resources, etc.) to enable students to access learning materials to carry out their own research, as well as supporting technology-based learning styles. Students would ideally also have access to specialist facilities and technology such as darkrooms, cameras, laboratories, design technology apparatus and art supplies.

(8) Provides quiet spaces for solitary time. These are spaces where young people and adults are able to spend time alone, to reflect, think or simply to clear their minds. Giving members of the school community the possibility of removing themselves from the often intense social and academic environment and seeking their own company is a way of respecting them. Time spent alone can be powerful in enabling young people to be more thoughtful and less stressed, and it can help them connect with the spiritual and with nature. Both outdoor and inside spaces would make it possible for students and staff to seek solitude at any time.