The phenomenon of violent radicalisation and the ways to prevent it from the school environment was the theme of the online conference organised by KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Centre, as part of the European Erasmus+ project “PRACTICE – Preventing Radicalism though Critical Thinking Competences”. In particular, PRACTICE’ s ultimate goal is to empower teachers through capacity-building activities aimed to equip them with better tools in order to address diversity in the classroom, as well as to understand and prevent radicalisation processes in educational settings.
The discussion, that was coordinated by the project manager of KMOP Afroditi Azari, was attended by more than 370 people. During the online event terms such as racism, polarisation, social exclusion, radicalisation and violent radicalisation were analysed.
Antonella Alessi, head of the PRACTICE project from CSC, pointed out that the ultimate goal of the programme was to fulfil two basic needs: On the one hand, to provide teachers with the necessary tools in order to develop students’ critical thinking about controversial and sensitive issues, as well as to better understand values such as diversity and acceptance. On the other hand, it aims to strengthen teachers in order to become the “mediators” in reconciling the different views of students. Alberto Biondo, EU department coordinator of CSC, focused on the roots of PRACTICE project saying: “To have a nonviolent relation means to learn how to communicate: if you want to communicate you need to understand your counterpart, the other. You need to see the other as a collaborator”.
Afroditi Azari reviewed the findings of the comparative report, emphasising in the factors that may lead to violent radicalisation such as social, religious, trauma, identity crisis. “Results indicated that education professionals believe that there is a connection between critical thinking and radicalism prevention; however, there are no official methods for the prevention of extremism through critical thinking development. Thus, Continuing Professional Development programmes on the use of critical thinking skills for the prevention and combating of extremism, support from the State and NGOs, tools, strategies, materials and resources are needed” Ms. Azari said.
Margit Helle Thomsen, owner and director of development at MHT, presented The Teacher’s Handbook that was created as part of the project. As she explained, it aims to provide advices and guidelines in terms of: 1) Testing peer-based learning processes, where students through their collaboration show mutual recognition and respect for differences. 2) Strengthening awareness of signs in the classroom of lack of wellbeing, exclusion and alienation. 3) Introduction of radicalisation and other sensitive phenomena in the classroom.
Dr. Vasiliki Artinopoulou, professor at the Department of Sociology of Panteion University, referred to modern approaches to radicalisation in education. She pointed out that the concept of radicalisation is full of misinterpretations, with the most typical example being defined as radicalisation a predictable bad behaviour. However, she added, radicalisation remains a rather problematic term because it depends on how we define three contexts: politics, security and the context of integration.
Naya Boemi, coordinator of the Theatrical Education project, referred to the school’s role in preventing violent radicalisation and highlighted methods related to critical pedagogical theory and social theatre – such as the Theatre of the Oppressed. In particular, she explained that the first method helps in the realisation of the historical-social reality and the second one in the cultivation of teamwork and collective action.
Stacey Robinson, psychologist and European project manager at MEH, presented the policy recommendations resulting from the project. Sebastian Schwäbe, project manager from BLINC Germany, explained how the theoretical background of the research was linked to the students. In particular, he said that despite the fact that there were several limitations due to the pandemic, the students managed to create a podcast in order to develop their skills and to capture in an experiential way what they have learned during the programme. About the innovative training also referred the project manager from Villa Montesca Italy Valeria Puletti, as well as the project manager from Compass Austria Silvia Desheva.
PRACTICE addresses current challenges and needs of preventing radicalisation in school and of supporting opportunities for teachers’ continuing professional development in this area, by developing, testing and disseminating an innovative approach, using participatory methods collaborative process, that involve 7 partner organisations and 40 schools at local, national & EU level.
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