The project targets primary and second-level teachers who are engaged directly in Ethical Education, value-based subjects such as Religious Education or Philosophy, and other subjects with a value base such as History or Civic Education as the main project beneficiaries. In the 2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of ET2020, the role education has in “ensuring that the human and civic values we share are safeguarded and passed on to future generations, to promote freedom of thought and expression, social inclusion and respect for others, as well as to prevent and tackle discrimination in all its forms, to reinforce the teaching and acceptance of these common fundamental values and laying the foundations for more inclusive societies through education – starting from an early age” is reinforced(417/25).
As our European societies becoming increasingly diverse, it is important that all children and young people are given the opportunity to identify the societal worth of diversity, whether in religious beliefs, gender, ethnicity or other forms.
Ethical Education plays a unique role in achieving respectful, diverse democracies as it “seeks to develop a clear understanding of difference across belief systems,while also emphasising what is common and shared. Ethics, in developing individual critical thought and values, seeks to develop personal responsibility while also looking to the common good (NCCA, 2015 p.11).
Despite this, there are no European networks for Ethical Education, practices vary widely and opportunities for professional development are limited to that provided informally by organisations such as those represented as partners in this project or are closely linked to denominational faith formation courses.
In 2013, some of the partner organisations were responsible for the development of a user needs analysis (Schlenk & Meier 2013) which found that over 60% of the 120 (20% clearly identified that they are unable or don’t know) teachers surveyed indicated a lack of readiness to some degree to teach ethical subjects because they receive no professional training in this area.
Teachers said they would value “didactical guidelines, tool boxes including a diverse range of tools like power point, Videos, animations, role plays and others and teaching material in digital form but also paper-based tools”. The proposed project will meet this expressed need through the development of a Teachers’ guide on resource and an online course on Ethical Education Methodologies for teachers.
The diversity of approaches to Ethical Education across Europe (Grayson, H. et al 2014, Schlenk & Meier 2013) highlights the limitations in creating resources such as class plans which may not be applicable in some school settings. It highlights the need for teachers to be guided to develop their own Ethical Education content with their students, specific to their classrooms and subject areas.
Despite the variety of contexts in which Ethical Education is addressed across Europe, the project will benefit from its transnational approach by ensuring the professional learning opportunities developed are not limited by national agendas or organisational priorities but can build on the previous experiences of our european colleagues and sharing the examples of good practice in classrooms across the union. It allows teachers to see outside of their classrooms and outside of their national contexts to identify how their colleagues are dealing with ethical issues in similarly complex classroom realities. Focussing on the commonalities and impact of Ethical Education in Europe, despite in diverse national contexts, will contribute towards greater understanding by our European representatives of the role Ethical Education can play in securing the Union’s vision for education as outlined in ET2020.