Recommendations for radicalisation prevention policy for schools based on the project’s experience and knowledge creation
This text is based on 2 years of practical experimentation with the participation of secondary schools, teachers and young students from all across Europe.The aim of the text is not to summarise or evaluate the project’s accomplishments, but to paint some critical perspective landscapes fuelled by the project; critical as the general mentality in Europe is increasingly working against the innovation agendas promoted by the Commission. In other words the text contributes to an understanding of what further steps should be taken in the core fields addressed.Thus the text might inspire new European initiatives based on and going further than the CHRIS project.
Practically useful CHRIS materials for schools and teachers can be found on the project’s website: https://chris-erasmusplus.eu/
“Prevention is key: it is crucial to invest in interventions that are aimed at removing the breeding ground for radicalisation to prevent these processes or stop them as early as possible.”
RAN Collection Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism (European Commission, 2016)
In the application we present CHRIS as follows:
State of the art knowledge and practical experience on radicalisation prevention in schools is excellently collated and summarized in the 2016 EU Commission publication “Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism”, produced by the Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network. The CHRIS project is guided and directed by this publication, which is demonstrated across the application.
The CHRIS project is one of the first projects in Europe to take the Commission’s Young People’s Co-creation Agenda seriously and to implement this Agenda to create valuable contributions to radicalisation prevention in schools, based on the full, authentic and uncompromised co-creation of young students from a diversity of European countries.The CHRIS approach is guided by the fact that young people’s co-creation is a SINE QUA NON for efficient and future-oriented radicalisation strategies in European schools.
The CHRIS project is embedded in a long-term European strategy:
The “CHRIS Schools” project will be followed and complemented by a “CHRIS Community” project submitted to the October 2016 Erasmus+ Youth Call and addressing radicalisation prevention in community contexts.
The wider perspective is a Knowledge Alliance application to be submitted in 2017 or 2018, bringing together powerful radicalisation prevention resources.
The CHRIS project will involve young students in secondary schools in the development of sustainable ways of countering radicalisation in schools, based on in-depths engagement in what produces radicalisation potential in relation to teenage identity formation and through real-life and real-time community collaboration – and with the aim to build capacity to co-create the project outcomes.
The CHRIS project will take radicalisation prevention in schools to a didactic level and mobilize young students’ hidden and unfolded knowledge to do so.
Therefore the project will take the participating young student teams through 3 phases of capacity building and co-creation: Feeling Me Feeling School (identity), Open Schooling (reality and community) and Co-creation (design of radicalisation prevention in schools).
The project will build capacity and in particular critical capacity, social conscience and ability to interact among the young students to be co-creating the project results, including through virtual collaboration between the students from the pan-EU partnership and climaxing the collaboration through a 5 days intensive mobility event, the CHRIS Co-creation Encounter.
The project will move radicalisation prevention beyond delivery of content and beyond punctual and event-based interventions and towards a didactic level: countering the development of early radicalisation potential through offering young people solid life-wide narratives, (gender) identities and missions, including empowering to political narratives and identities.
The CHRIS project is based on 2 important assumptions, resulting from state of the art research:
- Involvement in engaging, including in exciting learning activities, work forms and life-wide missions is a more powerful prevention measure than punctual delivery of anti-radicalisation content and eventing, as it links to the formation of identity along the teenage years
- Powerful radicalisation-countering in schools can only be created in close collaboration with the young students themselves, unlocking their hidden knowledge and unfolding their co-creative potential, also because most anti-radicalisation communicators are embedded in a culture and discourse very different from 21st century boys and girls
The project will engage 2 teams of 5 young students from each of the 5 participating schools along the entire project. The young teams will be supported by 2 teachers from each participating schools.
The full participation of the young students has been formally endorsed by the school managements, as documented in the Letters of Endorsement attachment.
The project’s knowledge partners will guide and inspire the project practice and will work with the young teams to produce the final outcomes.
The project will produce the following key outcomes:
- CHRISresource - virtual radicalisation prevention in school resource center
- CHRISguide – guide pack on radicalisation prevention in school for primary and secondary schools across Europe
- CHRISvideo – 30 minutes video on radicalisation prevention in school, co-created and co-produced by the young students
- CHRISresearch – recommendations for further and focused research based on the project experience and knowledge creation
- CHRISpolicy – recommendations for radicalisation prevention policy for schools based on the project experience and knowledge creation
CHAPTER 1 Radicalisation prevention and educational policy
“Critical thinking is a key element in harnessing individuals against extremist. As such, activities should promote dialogue and exchange – not closing down discussions to avoid addressing issues. Interventions should avoid telling young people what to think, avoid pressuring, preaching, moralising, judging or trying to convince. This can prove to be counter-productive and further entrench their views. There is strong neurological evidence that in a state of threat (whether perceived or real) all people think (and react) more simplistically and tend to move towards extremes in their views. This in turn again feeds support for the extremist mind-set. To influence these cognitive processes, interventions should not focus on the content of ideology or particular beliefs but on the structure of thinking and make this structure more complex. Increasing the complexity with which people think about the issues that other radicalizers exploit serves to reduce vulnerability to the messages of extremism as a broad-based form of primary prevention.”
RAN Collection Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism (European Commission, 2016)
CHRIS AND THE COMMISSION’S ANTI-RADICALISATION AGENDA
CHRIS forms part of the Commission’s radicalisation prevention agenda.This agenda is not concerned with intervention once radicalisation has taken place and is acted out, but with such strategies that prevent the production of radicalisation potential.This is a totally different challenge than intervention in radicalisation acted out. It is also worth noticing that the agenda is focused on radicalisation potential, not about radicalisation.Once radicalisation potential has been produced, the young people are easy targets of radicalisation and radicalised communities. This also indicates that we believe that radicalisation will not take place unless radicalisation potential is produced: radicalisation recruitment needs something to link to in the young person. Such radicalisation potential might consist in feelings of injustice, feelings of exclusion, feelings of not belonging, resulting in: anger, frustration, confusion, hatred, humiliation, isolation, etc. and might be produced in very many social situations and in very different young people.
There is no clear radicalisation production history and no clear profile of young people at risk of radicalisation.
Many young people developing radicalisation potential are never radicalised.Many young profiles that we believe at risk of radicalisation are never radicalised. Sometimes young people considered not at risk of radicalisation are radicalised.The first conclusion for radicalisation prevention in schools is therefore: targeted and focused intervention in connection with young people at risk of radicalisation is not possible, as such young students are almost impossible to identify. Second conclusion is: what schools can focus on is a) help preventing the production of radicalisation potential, and b) help re-channel radicalisation potential in progress.
Importantly: radicalisation in schools must be integrated in and make sense to the general educational missions of schools. Schools should not assume social roles, police roles or similar.
The challenge is about offering young people experiences of learning progress, experiences of positive social belonging and possibilities to decide and interact on matters they feel essential, that radicalisation potential might not need to be produced. And if radicalisation can be noticed being in progress, it might still be re-channelled by immersive learning experiences & a social experiences providing the young student with resilient and strong subjective and social narratives. The students must experience democracy in the sense of being listened to and acknowledged as some, who contributes to the common good of society by way of interacting.
The question is, of course, how can schools do that?
LIFELONG AND LIFE-WIDE SUSTAINABLE RADICALISATION PREVENTION IN SCHOOLS
First of all, it must be made crystal clear that such complex challenges go far beyond what can be expected from school and teachers.Second, there is not guarantee for success, even if qualified radicalisation prevention is put in place in the schools.Radicalisation and the production of radicalisation potential depend on multiple factors, and most of them are out of reach of schools and teachers.What schools and teachers can do is to contribute to radicalisation prevention and re-channelling radicalisation energies in progress. This is in itself a major challenge, as it calls for considerable didactic innovation.
The first generation of guidelines and school recommendations are valuable and useful, but less focused on what we call lifelong and life-wide sustainable radicalisation prevention in schools and the creation of resilient young personalities with the capacity to immerse into constructive and reflective missions and engagements.
We therefore claim that what schools and teachers can do is:
That is, offer young people experiences of learning progress, experiences of positive social belonging and possibilities to decide and interact on matters they feel essential, so that radicalisation potential might not need to be produced. And if radicalisation can be noticed being in progress, the school might still be able to re-channel these experiences by immersive learning & a social experiences making it possible for the students to develop resilient and strong subjective and social narratives. The school can offer the students experiences of democracy in the sense of being listened to and acknowledged as some, who contributes to the common good of society by way of interacting.
Such radicalisation prevention tries to target the deeper levels of radicalisation by interfering with the energetic economy of radicalisation potential. We know that even strong negative or aggressive feelings can be re-channelled in constructive directions if the proper resources and opportunities are in place. At first glance one might believe that activities in school addressing radicalisation directly are the most efficient radicalisation prevention mechanisms.Such activities might be open dialogues in the class, visits from experts or the police in the school, dialogues with community players, etc., etc. Such activities are typical today for schools engaging in radicalisation prevention.
We call them traditional school approaches to radicalisation prevention.The problem is that this approach suffers from the typical Western educational misconception: that young people at risk of radicalisation can be “persuaded intellectually” to change their mind!
The punctual activities approach is not able to penetrate into the deeper levels of production of radicalisation potential, the energetic economy of radicalisation potential, and even though such punctual activity might not do any harm or even contribute positively to articulate radicalisation thematics, they cannot be expected to contribute much to efficient radicalisation prevention.
Efficient radicalisation prevention in school needs to go deeper…
[Please refer to CHRISresearch for recommendations for research in this field]
RADICALISATION PREVENTION AT DIDACTICAL LEVEL
In short, there is – and this is the very background to the CHRIS project – a clear lack of recommendations and guidelines taking radicalisation prevention to a didactic level, rooting radicalisation prevention in work forms, engagement mechanisms and immersive real-life and real-time missions, thus countering the production of radicalisation potential.
So, what schools can do at a deeper level is:
To offer young people experiences of learning progress, experiences of positive social belonging and possibilities to decide and interact on matters they feel essential.
Evidently, schools cannot provide the students with such experience through classroom teaching that by the way, in its more rigid forms, tend to add to radicalisation rather than prevent it.
How can schools, then, offer the young students such immersive learning & social experiences that radicalisation potential might not need to be produced?
Through various forms of open schooling approaches engaging young students in dynamic, immersive real-life interaction with the community, with the real world around them – and through the social networks they are participating in 24/7.
Thus, through open schooling, the surrounding community is involved in the school day in a way that supports students' learning and well-being. The open school hereby contributes to variation in the school day and to differentiate teaching, so that it meets and challenges the individual student's academic level.
Why does open schooling, taking its departure in problem-based learning have the capacity to do this?
Open schooling in its authentic and un-simulated forms has the capacity to absorb radicalisation potential energies and build strong and exciting personal narratives, because:
- open schooling activities makes it possible for the students to interact with a lot of people and organisations and thus creating new forms of social networks for the young students
- open schooling makes it possible for the students to engage in important and exciting real-life problems and challenges that build self-confidence and pride in the young students
- open schooling allows much more action and problem oriented learning forms than classroom teaching and are therefore able to engage different types of young learners
- open schooling can, unlike most other didactics, may produce epic experience among the young students: the duration of the open schooling engagements, the depth and dynamics of the engagements and the exciting and game-like work forms are able to reach epic levels and thereby contribute strongly to the production of sustainable narratives in which the young students can take place
- open schooling work forms allows much more for the absorption and re-channelling of potentially negative, aggressive or hostile energies than most other didactics
- open schooling is, with its real-life engagement, its social dynamics and long-term serious missions, able to build considerable personal pride and satisfaction in the young students, known to be one of the most efficient radicalisation countering measures
- open schooling provides the young learners, including the less academic learners, with experience, identities and networks on which they can base their learning and civic engagement for many years
However, as we shall see later, the problem is that European education systems do not allow the development of such open schooling and therefore indirectly weaken schools’ contribution to radicalisation prevention.
THE WEAKNESSES AND HYPOCRACY OF THE EUROPEN RADICALISATION DISCOURS
National policy-making in Europe, including educational policy-making, is rather producing radicalisation than preventing it.
The reasons are several:
- national curricula are not providing schools and teachers with the needed room to move for experimentation to for example develop didactics to help prevent radicalisation
- national educational policy-making is not contributing to the implementation of the European Commission’s innovation in education
- increasingly overloaded curricula and almost hysterical quantitative testing is causing disengagement from schooling among young student that find traditional schooling more and more irrelevant to their lives
- the general political will in Europe to challenge and overcome traditional and outdated education systems is extremely weak and there is not sign that this will change
There is an abstract will in European education to prevent radicalisation, but it remains without practical consequences.The European radicalisation discourse is in itself weak and questionable: in oversimplified ways it puts all sorts of “unwanted” behaviour into a single bag called “radicalisation and extremism”.This label is expected to cover all sorts of violent and unwanted behaviour, in particular among young people: religious radicalisation, sport-related violence, political extremism and all sorts of terrorism.Simplification can sometimes lead to clarification, but in this case the European simplication of what radicalisation is, is more dangerous than helpful.
Why is that?
For two important reasons:
First, putting all sorts of radicalisation in one bag prevents us from understanding any of them, as they are totally different, emerge from different social sources and are acted out in very different ways.
It seems as radicalisation is everything that is not directed towards middle-of-the-road traditional parliamentary politics, from Greenpeace to major terrorist attacks.
Second, because the discourse in this way becomes moralistic and normative: radicalisation, extremisms, aggression and non-parliamentary action is by definition undemocratic and unwanted.
The irony (and also the hypocrisy) might be that precisely radicalisation might be needed to preserve and defend various forms of democracy in a Europe in which many national states are systematically moving away from fundamental principles in what we call democracy.
The European radicalisation prevention agenda will never be efficient if European policy-making and political institutions are not able to move away from and change their obsolete positions and practices.
The European policy-making agenda is strongly linked to possible radicalisation prevention in education.
STRONG STRATEGIC FOCUS ON INNOVATIVE TEACHER EDUCATIONS
Two major challenges are forced upon school teachers in this context:
- the ability to tackle such sensitive topics as radicalisation and extremism
- the capacity to provide open schooling learning to secondary school students
Teachers are not trained for either of these challenges. They are basically trained in subject-based classroom teaching, not in handling religious extremism or organising long-term real-life community based learning processes.
Already at this point we should perhaps step back and say: why are we trying to persuade pioneer teachers to engage in such more or less impossible missions?
In particular as these pioneer teachers often receive little support from the school and from national educational authorities.
Why are we, then, still inviting pioneer teachers to experiment with radicalisation prevention through open schooling?
First of all because we believe that radicalisation prevention is imminent and urgent; second, because we after all believe that schools working together can accomplish more than schools not doing anything.
What is clear, though, is that the present teacher generations will never really be able to tackle the new enormous challenges, forced upon them by the 21st century realities.
The challenges appear and are truly gigantic (and we must remember that schools and teachers are already overloaded with restrictive curricula and constant quantitative testing):
- creating entrepreneurial education
- building innovation interest
- innovating science education
- experimenting with open schooling
And now, contributing to radicalisation prevention…
The inevitable conclusion is that Europe needs a revolution in teacher education, no less!
Because the teachers of the future cannot go on being trained through constantly adding new competences and new mastery; they will not be able to manage that.On the contrary, teachers’ basic training needs to be fundamentally changed to meet the challenges of 21st century teacher roles: from subject experts to facilitators of a variety of very different learning initiatives and approaches.The European Commission, and its research and education programmes, should therefore in collaboration with national educational authorities establish a very strong for example 5 years focus on the fundamental innovation in teacher education.The focus might be supported by experimentation in the research and educational programmes.
CHAPTER 2 CHRIS lessons learne
“Involve students in prevention initiatives: those initiatives in school where young people are able to become positive influencers are often very successful as peer influence can be very powerful.”
RAN Collection Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism (European Commission, 2016)
Let us reflect on some lessons learned with policy relevance from CHRIS in the form of small flashes. The aim of such lessons learned is to provide elements to a platform on which new experimentation (research and practice) can happen:
A complex and pioneer project like CHRIS is not characterised by one single mission: accomplished or not.
CHRIS had, as an initiative linked to the European radicalisation prevention agenda, very many missions, such as:
- to start to talk openly in schools about radicalisation among the young students; this certainly happened in CHRIS
- to establish dialogues and interaction with the community concerning radicalisation and radicalisation prevention; this certainly also happened in CHRIS
- to allow young students to go deeper into the challenges of radicalisation instead of joining the usual anti-radicalisation campaigns; this happened to some extent in CHRIS, but more experimentation is definitely needed
- to provide open space for the articulation and acting-out of radicalisation energies going beyond what schools normally can provide; this sensitive challenge needs much more experimentation
- to deliver useful guidance and material to schools and teachers; this has been quite well accomplished in the project, taken into consideration the limited opportunities to practice open schooling within the CHRIS project framework
- to deliver powerful research and policy recommendations for further research and experimentation and for policy change; this is well accomplished in CHRIS through its research and policy papers
On the other hand it must be stated very clearly that the long-term, programmatic and strategic perspective in CHRIS was out of reach to schools and teachers in a small Erasmus project with very limited funding.
The long-term strategic vision is radicalisation prevention taken to a didactic level through open schooling.
A full experimentation with this long-term vision is not possible for very many reasons:
- Erasmus+ provides very limited funding for long-term and deep experimentation (in fact 250 euro per months per partner)
- the curricula are so overloaded that very little room to move is available to the teachers
- the community is not at all prepared to engage in open schooling; it needs to happen step by step and through many circles of interaction
- teachers and students are taking the first steps to understand and benefit from open schooling and from what open schooling can do for radicalisation prevention
The long-term strategic vision - radicalisation prevention taken to a didactic level through open schooling – calls for many years of research and experimentation and in particular a very strong interaction between research and practical experimentation based on students’ co-creation.
RADICALISATION PREVENTION IN SCHOOLS?
It is not evident that schools have important roles to play to prevent radicalisation among young people.
Basically schools and teachers are not able to tackle such challenges at all.
And even more critically, one might ask: are typical schools in Europe able to work with radicalisation at all?
Do they have the proper resources, the needed time, the need space for experimentation, the need support, etc.?
The answer is crystal clear: of course, they don’t.
So, what pioneer schools and in particular teachers are doing is to integrate various elements of radicalisation work in different subjects.
Often this is about dialogues with radicalisation resources, visits to such resources – or studying a case of radicalisation.
Such activities might occasionally include open discussions in the class.
No doubt such activities are positive and useful – and create a general sense of and awareness of radicalisation among young people.
On the other hand, such activity will not help prevent radicalisation, as demonstrated across the CHRIS research and policy papers.
CHRIS did indeed qualify activities linked to radicalisation and to understanding radicalisation, but it is not possible in a single Erasmus+ project to take the giant steps from punctual radicalisation dialogues to systematic open schooling for radicalisation prevention.
As long as radicalisation prevention activities in schools are based on the present resource situation, such activities should be designed and planned with caution: qualified radicalisation prevention needs at least basic resources, and if such resources are not in place the activities might make little sense.
In that case it might make sense for a school to collaborate with youth organisations outside the formal education system.
THE RADICALISATION DISCOURSE IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
The education systems and schools in the Western world and in Europe are not “neutral” institutions in the societies.
They might believe that themselves, but they are not. They transmit and promote a long line of Western ideologies, openly and between the lines.
This might not be a problem in the everyday lives of schools, but in connection with radicalisation it is indeed a big problem.
If this problem is not addressed properly, it might question the value of the entire radicalization prevention mission.
Why is that?
Because one of the most fundamental conditions when working with radicalisation is something that normally never happens: we need to put all the explicit and implicit values of our dialogues and context on the table!
If not, the dialogues are not free, open and credible.
This means first of all that the schools, on behalf of the education system, need to put its values, ideological bindings and half-hidden agendas on the table.
This is not easy, and normally it does not happen.
Did it happen in CHRIS?
Only partly, but we learned how important this is in the dialogues with young people and in particular in dialogues with “young people presumed at risk of radicalisation”…
What kind of things might be put on table from the education system?
Typical things would be:
- in the education system the brain is more important than the body
- in the education system intellectual skills are more important than physical and social skills
- in the education system we appreciate self-discipline and self-control
- in the education system we do not like aggression, too much physical behaviour or any form of violent expression
- in the education system we celebrate intellectual democracy: the one with the most reasonable argument should win
- in the education system we pretend to be open and inclusive, but mostly in theory
[Some teachers might feel offended by this list, but they are not individually responsible for the political, social and cultural values of the European education systems J]
We believe that these value systems strongly influence schools’ and teachers’ ability to work with radicalisation among young students – perhaps even much more than we think and would like to imagine…
To be fully fit for working with a sensitive and demanding theme like radicalisation, the education system needs to deconstruct itself at all levels: from research and policy to the individual teacher, also to enable the crucial co-creation from the young learners.
CHALLENGING EDUCATIONAL POLICY IN 21ST CENTURY EUROPE
For schools and teachers to engage seriously in radicalisation prevention today and in the future it is not enough to integrate small elements of radicalisation prevention elements in traditional classroom teaching.
This means that serious radicalisation prevention in schools by definition challenges traditional education policy.
Today’s educational policy in Europe is moving in the opposite direction of the needed innovation:
- educational authorities are increasingly unwilling to design, fund and implement innovation in education, unlike what was the case 10-20 years ago
- innovation in education is increasingly depending on a) private institutions and b) a few pioneer public institutions trying to overcome the limited room to move
- educational authorities are increasingly oriented towards international quantitative performance measuring and are therefore giving priority to short-term results no matter how such results are obtained
- educational authorities are increasingly overloading curricula, putting more students in the classes and controlling teachers’ work
The national educational policy winds blowing over Europe is therefore to a great extent contradicting the European Commission’s innovation strategies, producing an increasing gap between European and national educational policy.
The Commission’s education innovation is therefore increasingly depending in the Commission’s own funding programmes.
In short, this means that European funded research and experimentation take place in a sort of vacuum not followed up or supported by national initiatives.
Some professionals argue that while the Commission is making an effort to promote radicalisation prevention in schools, the national governments are indirectly producing such radicalisation.
RADICALISATION PREVENTION AND IDENTITY
One of the most important lessons learned from radicalisation prevention experimentation and also from CHRIS is the importance of addressing radicalisation in early schooling: precisely in the years when the young teenagers are forming important elements in their identity and personality.
Research clearly indicates that the prevention of radicalisation potential and the building of strong, flexible and self-reliant identities among young teenagers is the most efficient form of radicalisation prevention.
However credible such findings, we still need much more in-depth research and experimentation in this field, asking such incredibly important questions as:
- in what ways might radicalisation potential be produced and linked to identity formation in the teenage years?
- in what ways might different learning and social experiences prevent this from happening?
- what are the mechanisms in what we call “strong, flexible and self-reliant identities” and what is the meaning of “sustainable narratives” countering radicalisation potential?
More in-depth knowledge and practical evidence in these fields is crucial to efficient radicalisation prevention in schools.
Closely linked to such research and experimentation challenges are similar questions addressing the impact of innovative didactics such as open schooling on the young people’s identity formation: how are open schooling experiences in the teenage years contributing to “strong, flexible and self-reliant identities” and what are the mechanisms in open schooling creating such impact?
These research and experimentation needs are highly relevant to the new generation of European educational funding programmes, such as the Horizon and Erasmus+ successors.
RADICALISATION PREVENTION AND GENDER IDENTITY
What we know is that teenage boys and young men seem to be much more readily “radicalised” than the girls.
No matter if we look at religious extremism, football violence or political “radicalisation”, we see very few girls and young women.
Even if young girls and young women might increasingly be involved in such activity, the more readily radicalised individuals are still boys and young men.
A general reason might be found in the fact that young boys’ “mental and social economy” is very different from young girls’.
The different ways of moving through the teenage years are well known.
The simple conclusion is that radicalisation prevention in schools is about teenage boys.
Teenage boys and young men seem to grow much more radicalisation potential than girls – regardless of the social, economic and cultural context.
Differences in this pattern might be found in 21st century youth, but on the other hand this pattern seems to be quite stable and robust across time and cultures.
What does that tell us?
At least it tells us that radicalisation prevention measures in school should be extremely relevant to teenage boys.
This is important as teenage boys are much less impacted by “intellectual persuasion” than girls. This form of radicalisation prevention consists, as indicated earlier, in dialogues in the class, in dialogues and discussions with radicalisation resources and in debates on what is right and wrong.
Girls are more readily influenced by this “discussion discourse” than teenage boys, which is why girls are doing better in the present educational system.
On the other hand boys are more readily impacted by experience from practical learning processes, action learning and through acting out their growing mental and physical energies through the learning processes.
Without going deeper into this gender challenge, a first conclusion is that precisely open schooling didactics are more efficient for teenage boys than the typical educational “discussion discourse”.
This underlines the need for open schooling didactics in connection with radicalisation prevention in school.
CHAPTER 3 THE GREAT CHALLENGE: RADICALISATION, NARRATIVES AND EPICS
“Educating young people: education of young people on citizenship, political, religious and ethnic tolerance, non-prejudiced thinking, extremism, democratic values, cultural diversity, and the historical consequences of ethnically and politically motivated violence...”
The CHRIS project was developed around the following questions.
Let us use the CHRIS experience to indicate some possible response points to these questions:
HOW CAN POLICY-DRIVEN RADICALISATION PREVENTION GUIDELINES TO BASIC SCHOOLING BE TAKEN TO A DIDACTIC AND EPIC LEVEL, AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS?
- considerable research and practical experimentation is needed if radicalisation prevention is to be efficient in schools, as indicated across this paper
- local and national educational authorities need to engage and support such research and experimentation
- educational policy needs to be re-directed to create room to move for schools and teachers
HOW CAN SCHOOLS ENGAGE IN A STEP-BY-STEP IMPLEMENTATION OF RADICALISATION PREVENTION AT DIDACTIC LEVEL, AND HOW CAN SCHOOLS BUILD CAPACITY TO DO SO?
- pioneer schools can at organisational level develop radicalisation strategies in which limited but systematic radicalisation prevention experimentation is a priority
- such 3-5 years strategies should establish solid collaboration with dedicated resources outside the school system, for example with youth organisations, political organisations and innovative bodies in the community
- such schools need to seek various forms of combined funding from various sources: local government, community stakeholders, research bodies and universities and from European programmes
- schools should not engage in such activity alone but always in partnerships with other resources
WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF SCHOOL MANAGEMENTS AND THE PUBLIC AUTHORITIES TO WHICH THE SCHOOLS REFERS IN IMPLEMENTING RADICALISATION PREVENTION AT DIDACTIC LEVEL?
- without the full support of the school at organisation level, such radicalisation prevention experimentation is not possible or sustainable
- the school should team up with strong alliance partners and put pressure on national educational and youth authorities to support the initiatives
- pioneer schools and teachers need to develop powerful promotion of their initiatives, including explaining the long-term benefit for society
- schools should engage young students actively in the full circles of such strategy and promotion activity
TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD SUCH SUSTAINABLE RADICALISATION PREVENTION INVOLVE, INCLUDE AND BE DRIVEN AND CO-CREATED BY THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES, WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THIS AND HOW CAN IT BE PRACTICED?
- groups of teenage students should be involved in the full life circle of pioneer schools’ strategic engagement in radicalisation prevention
- schools should involve the students in all steps of planning, implementation and sharing
- the schools might also include young people from youth organisations in the community
- schools should acknowledge that only through authentic co-creation from teenage students the radicalisation prevention measures can be efficient and link efficiently to the world of 21st century youth
- pioneer schools should exploit students’ co-creation in the promotion of their initiatives, including when seeking funding for the initiatives; student’s co-creation should be used as a powerful branding
TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD RADICALISATION PREVENTION IN SCHOOLS INCLUDE AND PERHAPS EVEN BUILD OM AN OPEN SCHOOLING APPROACH, CREATING REAL-LIFE AND REAL-TIME DIDACTICS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH RELEVANT COMMUNITY RESOURCES, AND WHICH ARE THOSE RESOURCES?
- in principle, pioneer schools should base long-term radicalisation prevention on full-scaled open schooling
- in most cases full-scaled open schooling is not possible due to restrictive curricula and a lack of room to move; in this case schools should develop compromises as close to open schooling as possible
- the open schooling compromise should include considerable community alliancing and collaboration, also to provide additional resources (funding and time) to the experimentation
- schools might decide as an element in the open schooling compromise to give priority to long-term engagement of a few student teams instead of superficial engagement of a large number of students
- if possible pioneer schools should engage the student teams along a 3-4 year period to be able to produce and evaluate the impact of such open schooling based radicalisation prevention
- the school and its alliances should exploit European funding to the max, including research engagement as well as practical experimentation initiatives; European funding should form part of the school’s long-term radicalisation prevention strategy
CHRIS RECOMMENDATIONS for support to schools’ engagement in radicalisation prevention
“Any type of educational programme aimed at educating young people on citizenship, stereotypes, discrimination, extremism, democratic values and addressing radicalisation and violent extremism, will only be successful when implemented in a broader educational setting in which the school has developed a clear vision on how to deal with radicalisation and extremism in the school.”
Let us briefly summarise what can be done at the different educational levels in support of pioneer schools’ engagement in radicalisation prevention based on open schooling approaches:
- the radicalisation prevention engagement should be integrated in the school’s long-term strategy and be given priority at organisational level
- initiatives driven by teachers and students should receive active support from the school as organisation; teachers should never be “left alone”
- the school should support the co-creation from student teams along the full strategic life circle
- the radicalisation prevention initiatives should be supported by a long-term strategic plan, for example a 3-5 year plan
- the school should support the open schooling approach through strong and reliable community alliances and partnerships with for example research bodies, interested universities, youth organisations, other schools and innovation resources in the community
- schools and their alliances should exploit European funding to the max and include European funding in the strategic planning
- schools should decide to focus the experimentation on a few student teams and a team of dedicated teachers; upscaling might, then, take place in the following strategic period
- if possible schools should team up with teacher educations in the city or region as these institutions have a natural interest in the experimentation; a win-win situation can readily be established
- strong and dedicated plyers in the community should be mobilised in support of the experimentation: radicalisation is not an educational challenge, but a collective societal and political challenge
- even if local authorities do not wish to support the experimentation actively, local authorities might serve as “a green light” for the activities and for the community engagement
- the experimentation is important for all citizens and should be shared and promoted systematically: the community should in time feel ownership to the initiatives
- the pioneer school might wish to share systematically with other schools in the community, and perhaps become a role-model school
- national level support is in most cases the most challenging for schools and teachers
- national support might include the following types of stakeholders: national educational authorities, national educational funding, national educational research and innovation bodies, universities with a special focus on radicalisation, private companies with a focus on 21st century youth research and NGO’s working with young people
- in some cases innovative minded national teacher educations might be an alliance
- schools engaged in important experimentation can be a partner in research and innovation projects; sometimes help can be found in the national Horizon administration; schools might promote their interest in the European research networks and in for example LinkedIn
- schools can and should exploit the European funding in Erasmus+ and what follows after 2020: schools can coordinate Erasmus+ projects as well as be a partner in such projects; schools can also combine several Erasmus+ initiatives to create strong synergy
- when a pioneer school develops radicalisation prevention strategies the European engagement should be an important element; therefore such schools and teachers should engage in informal European networks with an interest in radicalisation prevention and open schooling; the networks should be systematically expanded along the strategic engagement
- it is highly recommended for pioneer schools to train the leading teacher team to work at European level: build European networks, promote the school’s European interests, find good alliance partners to work with and to step by step build capacity to create own European initiatives
- schools might in some cases wish to partner up with European resources outside the school to support the European engagement
- systematic European engagement is normally only possible when integrated in long-term school strategies
- European funding should be regarded increasingly important as national funding seems to be more and more scares and unreachable
- a very positive side-effect of European engagement is the creation of an international atmosphere in the school; the school can indeed promote itself as an international school
A NEW AND POWERFUL COMMISSION EFFORT
Radicalisation and similar acting out forms are extremely important European challenges.
Radicalisation prevention is expected to take place across all societal sectors, including in schools and youth organisations.
Radicalisation prevention in schools and in education in general is closely linked to and depending on innovation in education, such as the concept of open schooling as it is defined in this project.
This is often totally neglected.
Radicalisation of young people is also very closely linked to the “youth and politics” agenda: young Europeans are often assumed to increasingly disengaging from politics, democracy and European values.
Young Europeans’ radicalisation and ordinary disengagement from politics and society is expected to increase in the future and may represent a very serious problem in Europe and to the European Union.
It therefore makes much sense to call for a new and powerful Commission effort to engage schools, young people and communities in finding out how Europe can come to understand doing politics in new ways. In other words, Europe must acknowledge that there is a need to widen and redefine the concept of doing politics as for Europe to link in new ways to its young people. That will make Europe able to examine, wider develop and not the least support new forms of civil political engagement as to create meaningful European narratives based on the young people’s co-creation.
Such powerful efforts might for example include:
- more focused radicalisation prevention and youth calls in Horizon and 2020 successor
- research and innovation projects requesting direct interaction with schools, youth organisation and young people
- stronger coordination and synergy between research projects and practical experimentation projects, between Horizon and Erasmus+
- upgrading Erasmus+ to allow for and support long-term experimentation with sufficient funding
- re-thinking the dominant idea that school projects are small projects with modest funding
- establishing strong cross-sector projects allowing for open schooling initiatives, not linked to educational sector
- returning the management of educational projects to the EACEA and the Commission, as the management of these projects and programmes by national agencies has been a clear-cut failure, weakening the programme, the projects and the impact of the initiatives
ANNEX CHRIS CRITIQUE OF ERASMUS+
The following critique of Erasmus+ is based on concrete CHRIS experience.
The need for projects like CHRIS to engage in critical evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme is evidenced across this paper: pioneer schools and teachers engaging in demanding radicalisation prevention experimentation have very few local and national support opportunities and therefore the only programme for school experimentation in Europe, Erasmus+ and what might follow from 2020, becomes extremely important for the schools.
As indicated in this paper it is increasingly difficult for schools and teachers to move and to engage in the needed experimentation.As also indicated the European programmes is one of the few opportunities for schools and teachers to engage in educational innovation, as national funding for such activities is becoming scares.
Erasmus+ and its successors therefore become extremely important to practical educational innovation in Europe.It is the only Commission programme for educational innovation in practice.One single programme for changing traditional and obsolete education for the new generations of Europeans - this emphasizes the importance of the programme.
Based on the CHRIS experience we ask: to what extent is the Erasmus+ programme able to create the needed support measures for schools and teachers to innovate education?
We wish to point to some serious weaknesses in the programme, making it difficult for schools and teachers to use the programme efficiently.It is important to bear in mind that Erasmus+ might be the only option for most schools to raise support for the experimentation so strongly promoted by the Commission.In this perspective many schools do not quite understand why Erasmus+, as the successor of the Lifelong Learning programme, seems to have been turned into a sort of discount programme.This does not match the importance of the educational innovation, as described in this paper.In fact we have described the immense obstacles schools and teachers face when making an effort to contribute to the Commission’s educational innovation agenda.
A general critique of Erasmus+ is that it has been handed over to the National Agencies.This has led to a long line of strange and less understandable practices in the different projects, as most National Agencies seem to follow own interests and administrative principles.Projects are increasingly oriented towards national interests, not towards European interests.The conclusion is that the management of Erasmus+ by the National Agencies has led to a devaluation of the programme.Several National Agencies are systematically cutting project budgets by 30-40%, making considerable co-financing necessary in the implementation.
This and other NA practices seem to threaten a basic and sacred principle in European programmes: the independency of external expert evaluators.This is a serious violation of European principles and should be firmly addressed and corrected by the EACEA and the Commission.The financial structure of Erasmus+ has been simplified compared to the Lifelong Learning programme.This is in itself positive, but the simplifications have also resulted in considerable implementation difficulties for schools.The difficulties are in particular to be found in two major budget areas.School partners are now expected to implement the projects at 250 euro per month.In some countries this amount will buy one single work day per month.
Taking into consideration the complications involved in this kind of educational innovation, such an amount can unfortunately only be regarded an insult and a lack of respect for schools and teachers.The extremely low funding of project implementation is a constant frustration and demotivation for most schools.The second major weakness is linked to mobility funding.
A project like CHRIS is extremely student-oriented and therefore the project’s 5 days mobility event was the climax of the project – for many reasons, including the quality of the final outcomes.However, the mobility funding is so low and the rules so inflexible that it is almost impossible for partners to bring students and teachers together.Once again this leads to considerable co-funding from the partners, from parents – or from other sources; and it threatens the European dimension of the projects.
In general, the Erasmus budget structure is more focused on formal results than on the practice on which the results should be based.In total, for most schools the participation in serious Erasmus+ projects requires considerable co-financing.This is not a problem in itself. The problem is that the Erasmus+ programme is not a co-financing programme, unlike other European programmes.
The Erasmus+ programme has therefore placed itself between two positions:
- if the programme is supposed to be fully financed, the budget must be upgraded to meet the real challenges the projects are facing
- if the programme is a co-financing programme, this should be made very clear, and the level of co-financing should be defined
The conclusion is that considering that the Erasmus+ programme for most schools is the only way to support the Commission’s educational innovation, the programme has far too many weaknesses, in the financing as well as in the management of the programme.
This calls for considerable re-thinking when designing the Erasmus+ successor(s).