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Values area

by Frans Lander, Cultural Advisor of the Dutch Ministry of Education and Culture.

(Conference pronounced at the I Meeting of the International Community of Experts of NSF on 15th December 2004)

“..true communities are bound by the values, norms and experiences shared among their members. The deeper and more strongly held those common values are, the stronger the sense of community is”. (Fukuyama “The great disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstruction of Social Order”1999)

(Frans Lander, at the left on the photograph)

1. Obviously when we speak about values in the context of a trend-watch system, one has to consider the way in which values within our society are evolving, how they are transferred and how mutual relationships between citizens are established in order to preserve social cohesion.
Increasing evidence shows that social cohesion is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable (The Worldbank).
In my introduction I do not argue about the difficult philosophical concept of values themselves. During the 19th century the idea has been developed that questions related to what “ougt to be” in opposition to what “is” are deriving from of an unique general theory of values, theory which has to concern everything that can be important for every one what ever may be his point of view or his situation. In the general theory of values, published by Louis Lavelle between 1951 and 1955, values are based on self-consciousness et conscience of God. (I don’t want to argue here about the different objective theories concerning values, such as the factual or the more meta-theoretical definition of values).

I prefer to emphasize the fact that major changes are affecting our societies to the extent of jeopardizing the nature of values and their transmission and citizenship to future generations.
In different countries debates are organised about values and norms; for the Prime Minister of the Netherlands the item is a key-issue of his government and of the EU-presidency.
In Norway the Commission on Human Values has published its first report in 1999: Values – Community and Diversity. Developments in our society request an analysis of the conception and experience of values and a public debate on challenges concerning values and ethics of society .

The first major change is the perpetual functional differentiation of society. There is a greater number of “subsystems” in which we participate (including the world of ICT, public services, work environment, markets, etc.) The relations between citizens have become more and more complex. Intercontinental mass migration, the expansion of interactive communication technology have changed our societies. In particular the large number of migrants introducing new religions and new values, has altered our societies in to more heterogeneous and multicultural communities. Today about 20 million Muslims are living in Europe.
The recent events in my country , the murder of the writer and director Theo van Gogh, several attempts to burn down Islamic schools and mosques, show a downward spiral of tensions and violence, especially with regard to Muslims and non- Muslims.

The Netherlands has always been a moderate, tolerant and open society. The eruptions of violence show underlying tendencies of feelings of insecurity, of misunderstanding, mistrust, rejection and discrimination.

The values on which our western society is based are questioned. Tolerance, mutual respect, the rule of law, human rights in particular the freedom of expression, the rights of migrants and of women, political pluralism are at stake. Theo van Gogh has become a symbol of the freedom of expression, as supported by Voltaire when he argued with an opponent:

“Sir, I totally disagree with you, but I will give my life for your right to express yourself”.

Many parents are not fully equipped to accommodate the changes when raising their children. Migrant parents have to prepare their children for a society, of which they often even don’t know the language and culture not to mention the virtual world and its networks.

Families become smaller and smaller, thus looking less like a micro-society offering children a safe but rich social environment, where they can prepare for society at large.

Other major changes are: individualisation, globalisation and actually also the fear terrorism.
Finally there is also a multiplication of institutions and their interfaces. Presently citizens are involved in a variety of institutions that require civic commitment. Some of these institutions, such as the European Union, are rather complex. To many people don’t feel any longer represented by the traditional political parties; there a dangerous gap between people and public authorities, which creates chances for populists or one-item-parties.

Therefore we have every reason to reflect on the meaning of citizenship and its related concepts and values. The complexity of society and its institutions requires a more sophisticated sense of citizenship. Here too parents, often lack the knowledge and experience to impart new norms and values to their children. The major change impose new requirements on the role of education in this process. Schools have to invent new forms of social cohesion that match with the complexities. Different skills and knowledge are required.

For those reasons I would like to underline the importance of citizenship and the role of education with respect to citizenship.

2. It is the right moment to do so, since the Council of Europe has proclaimed the coming year, 2005 European Year of Citizenship through education.

“The Year aims at making people aware of the fact that citizenship is not only a legal and political concept, but an all-embracing one. On the one hand citizenship implies that
all citizens should have full enjoyment of human rights and feel that they are protected by the democratic society. On the other hand citizenship implies that all citizens need to get involved in matters that concern life in society and act throughout their live as active an responsible citizens respectful of the right of others.”

(Frans Lander speaking with Mikel Murga, Professor of the MIT)

Responsible citizens are able to live together, they have a sense of belonging to and awareness of values and principles of freedom, political pluralism, human rights and the rule of law.

On conceptual level different international organisations as UNESCO, the OECD and the in particular the Council of Europe, as well as the European Union have examined and analysed
democratic citizenship and defined the concept of knowing to live together, which is the vital element of social cohesion. There is now a comprehensive list of competences (knowledge, skills and attitude) available with respect to education for democratic citizenship.

The key competences are:

  • functioning in socially heterogeneous groups: the ability to relate well to others
    recognise and accept differences
  • make choices, consider alternatives and subject them to ethical analysis
    shoulder shared responsibilities
  • establish constructive, non aggressive relations with others, resolve conflicts
  • develop a critical approach to information, thought patterns and philosophical, religious, social, political and cultural concepts, at the same time remaining committed to the fundamental values and principles of our western society (Council of Europe, 2002)

The European Union enumerate in its report “ Accomplishing Europe through education and training”(1997) three dimensions of citizenship:

  • the cognitive dimension (a basis of information and knowledge upon which people can take action and do so with confidence)
  • the pragmatic dimension (practising citizenship, gaining experience by action)
  • the affective dimension (a sense of attachment to the societies and communities to which people belong).

The Lisbon Strategy (EU 2001)

As is well known the Lisbon agenda covers a comprehensive set of ambitions: realising the most competitive knowledge economy in the world, while strengthening social cohesion creating more and better jobs and guaranteeing sustainable growth.

In the recent report of the Ministers of Education (November 2004) to the European Council the ministers see themselves “challenged by the question how to deal with increasing social and cultural diversity amongst their citizens, partly a consequence of globalisation and migration. The resulting diversity coincides with far-reaching trends of individualisation and the widespread use of in formation and communication technologies. All this is coupled with a changing role for institutions such as family and religion, which traditionally were central in maintaining the social fabric of society”.

The ministers emphasize the role of education with respect to social cohesion and democratic citizenship.

As follow-up of the Lisbon strategy the Council presented in 2002 in Barcelona a detailed work programme. In the report “Education and Training 2010” an important proposal has been put forward for a set of key competencies for the knowledge based society. Different groups are commissioned to work out the different items.

In the draft “framework for Key Competences in the Knowledge-based Society” (November 2004 – Group B)) a complete overview of the key competence is given. A large part of those is devoted to civic competences, interpersonal, intercultural and social competences and cultural awareness, which include several competences of democratic citizenship as defined by the Council of Europe.

Group G in charge of social cohesion and active citizenship is addressing key issues related to learning to live together. This group also develops indicators for learning to live together.
Last week I have been able to note of the comprehensive and valuable work of the different subgroups. I was very pleased to see that the competences and indicator not only refer to economic growth but as well to social cohesion and democratic citizenship.

As been said the ministers consider that education “ serves to transfer knowledge about the role and working of societal institutions and regulations and competences that enable the person to comprehend and apply them. Activities in a reflecting learning environment serve to transfer the values, beliefs and convictions that form the binding element in the functioning of society, such as promoting respect for human dignity and tolerance for the values and beliefs of others.”
Through its cultural role education can contribute to preserve and to renew the common cultural background in society that form a prerequisite for social cohesion.
(Frans Lander and René Aga, Member of the Council of Advisors of NSF)

The ELOS Project

Within the framework of the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union a pilot project has been set up: Europe as learning environment for schools. We have launched this project for European schools of secondary education during a conference in November this year on “Education for democratic Citizenship for European schools”.
The project wants encourage schools to educate European citizens by using Europe explicitly as a learning environment, to design a European open space of education at their level through the establishment of sustainable partnerships aimed at renewing their respective educational practices.

The pilot’s objectives

The general aim is: to offer high quality education which recognises the European Union as an entity and which prepares youngsters for their role as European citizen through acquiring competences as laid out by the Ministers of Education in the Lisbon strategy.
The pilot seeks to reconcile national and European objectives in a strong and recognisable concept that can be adopted by schools which are in a need of further profiling their European cooperation.

It is the school themselves that have to organise a high quality education with an exit level of at least the level of national examinations but with a higher ambition.

The main features of the project are as follows.

a. The ELOS project is aiming at a democratic citizenship in Europe by realising a substantial number of competencies as mentioned in the report of the Education Council of 14 February 2001 in Lisbon (Lisbon strategy):
· scientific, practical and technical (basic) skills (sound knowledge of mathematical terms and concepts, ability to follow and assess chains of arguments, to handle mathematical symbols and formulae, disposition of critical thinking, respect for truth as a basis for mathematical thinking etc.)
· knowing to function in socially heterogeneous groups in an international context
(understanding codes of conduct, awareness of concepts of individual, group, society and culture, being able to communicate constructively different social situations, showing interest and respect for others etc)
· making interactively use of communication instruments (linguistic, communicative and ICT skills; communicate in different languages; digital literacy, ability to search, collect and process electronic information, respect ethical principles in the interactive use of internet etc.)
· thorough knowledge of relevant aspects of the own culture and the ability to represent these with reference to other European cultures; knowledge of Europe and the European Union
· awareness of social and political responsibility with a thorough knowledge of the working of democracy and a conscious democratic attitude (knowledge of civil right and the constitution; participation in community, readiness to respect the values and privacy of others with a propensity to react against anti-social and ant-democratic behaviour etc.)

b. The ELOS project wants to create a European learning environment. This implies that students follow a part of their study and/or traineeship in another EU Member State. An Elos school is characterised by an intensive teaching and learning of more than two European languages. The school has sustainable relations with partner schools in other EU countries. The school timetable will allow for social activities and recognise that learning goes beyond school walls. Schools will preferably make use of native speakers and language assistants.

c. The ELOS project assumes a combination of learning and working. A close relationship between school and the world of work e.g. industry, services etc. is desirable, whilst recognising that intensive learning is taking place during such activities. Such out-of-school activities are explicitly part of the curriculum and the results will be described in a portfolio and taken into account in the final evaluation of the student.

The pilot starts in the school year 2004-2006; this year is a preparatory year. Fifteen Dutch schools and their partner schools in EU-countries are involved.

Elos tries to educate European citizens, who are aware of the values of our society and capable to contribute to a democratic society.

Acerca de René Aga

. Dr en CC Químicas por la Universidad de Lovaina (KU Leuven) · Senior socio de SECOT en Bilbao. · Seniors para la Cooperación Técnica. · Voluntariado de asesoramiento empresarial, del emprendimiento y profesional. · Administrador y co-editor de la página web y blog de SECOT Bizkaia/Vizcaya · Colaborador de la Fundación Novia Salcedo y miembro externo de su ICARO Think Tank. · Autor en el blog "Construyendo Capital Humano". · Propietario y editor de los blogs "Desde la Educación hasta la Innovación" (https://e2i.blogspot.com/) y "Pienso luego soy" (https://vanzeebroeck.blogspot.com/) . Collaborador con la revista Industria Química (Premio Iberquímica 2020):https://e2i.blogspot.com/2020/12/congreso-y-entrega-de-premios-de.html

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