Below is our submission to the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, submitted on 14 January 2015. To download a printable version, click hereReligion in Public LifeIVET Submission to the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life 2015
This submission is made by the International Values-based Education Trust (IVET) in relation to the Commission's consultation on Education and Training.Background
IVET is a charity whose objectives are to improve human outcomes through greater engagement by people with their own values. Our current focus is on improving the impact of values education in schools and colleges. Values-based Education is adopted in around 10% of UK schools, and in a proportion of schools in a further 20 or so countries around the world.
Our assessment for success is based on changes in behaviour that create improvements in wellbeing; behaviour; relationships; learning environment; and academic attainment.Context
Our work is based around schools and communities. They identify the values they feel are important, as the launch pad from which to create an impact through engaging with those values. A significant proportion of values-based schools are religious schools. Their values tend to be strongly centred around the values that emanate from their religious scriptures and practices.
We would stress one factor that the Commission may want to pay particular attention to. Within diverse communities, one person's belief about how others within their community should behave is a source of friction where the other person has a different belief. There is a strong role for interfaith dialogue. It can help alleviate pressures that arise through ignorance. But where the respective beliefs are fundamentally opposed to each other, no amount of discussion is going to sway the other.
By contrast, the universal, positive human values have the power to unite. Most people relate to the concepts such as fairness, kindness, compassion, trust, tolerance and patience. They tend to be based in deep human emotions and needs, that cut through social, cultural and religious divides.
Our experience suggest that an education system that places more focus on effective nurturing of these positive human values provides a substantial contribution to mutual understanding, tolerance and co-operation.
In the UK, religious influence has waned considerably during the past century. People no longer accept religious dogma. Yet there is still enormous respect for religious values. We believe that religion will have a far greater influence over the next century if it can focus on sharing its values over imposing dogma.Question 1 : Current syllabus
In common with much of the school system at present, assessment of a school's performance is strongly weighted towards an ability to regurgitate academic knowledge of different beliefs and practices. We presume the driving motivation is that improved understanding of others' beliefs clears away prejudice built on ignorance. There is poor recognition of the divisiveness where basic disagreements about other people's beliefs exist.
We believe schools should be empowered to provide far more effective ways to introduce values that religions have in common, as part of a wider process of engagement with values.
Our experience, based on a great deal of research, is that values education is far more effective when it is authentic. Values work much better when they are nurtured from within. They become divisive when imposed. Effective values nurturing requires schools to become places where students experience universal positive values first hand, where a common values vocabulary evolves and where students are given the space to reflect on their values and behaviour.
Where religious values are taught within this context, they are likely to have a far greater impact.Question 5 : Recommendations
We would like the Commission to recommend:
The Role for Religious and Human Values
- an increase emphasis on teaching of religious values, as part of a greater emphasis placed on teaching values.
- adoption of formal recognition of approved alternatives for measuring the impact of values education. Schools would then have they ability to measure their performance and express their performance in this area
- placing a far more substantial status on success in values education than it does at present. In the specific context of religious education, it will provide a measurable focus for religious education that is seen as relevant even by the majority of people who have very low affinity with religion.
The current school system places a disproportionate emphasis on academic performance in relation to formal measurement of the success of education, for both the school and for students. Since it is impossible to know what students are going to need to know during their varied adult lives, it is a slightly bemusing emphasis.
Values-based Education is a tool to help students develop their Personal Competence. We believe schools should place a substantially greater emphasis on developing students' Person Competence. This covers aspects of their character such as attitudes, understandings, emotional intelligence, ethical intelligence, self-belief. Adults need to have learnt how to bring together an exceptionally complex series of competences, dispositions, skills and experiences in a vast array of situations order to develop the effective, harmonious relationships with others that deliver personal fulfilment in life, social cohesion and economic power. Our experience is that schools are fantastic places in which to help students develop this level of holistic competence. One of the several fundamental components is the ability to form effective and meaningful relationships with others. Values plays a significant part on this process, which is where the need for effective values education comes in.
The major religions have a significant part to play in contributing to the wider values education. If successful, it will have a profoundly positive impact on the direction the world will take in the coming century.