Introduction and Network information
Description of the Network
COMCULT stands for "Common Culture".
The main aim of the network is to define and promote values necessary for peaceful coexistence in Europe and to give life and an inner acceptance to the purely legal definition of EU citizenship as described in the founding treaty of the European Community. Identification with common values, with the rights and duties of an EU citizenship will be to a greater or lesser degree a long process for all EU citizens, a process in which the cultural heritage of each citizen is involved and which will have its bearing on cultural particularities of individual social groups, ethnic groups and nations within the European Union.
2. Concrete aims
Utilizing the knowledge of experts from research and of already completed COMENIUS projects.
Providing teaching materials to help teachers with a new European outlook in teaching values.
Promoting transnational discussion and communication on questions of evaluation and identity in schooling.
Taking this discussion out to the public. This is also necessary because the mass media at present still have a largely national bias; criticism of digression from a European canon of values is often seen as interference in the internal matters of a member country, since a consciousness of common values has still to be developed.
For reasons of organisation the general topic "Value orientation or Value education" has been divided into four sub topics:
Common and different values in the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Inter-religious dialogue)
Although the number of Jews in European countries is relatively small after the persecutions and mass-murders before and during World War II, there still exists in some of them a sometimes open or under-the-surface anti-Semitism.
Bearing in mind the catastrophic consequences of this in the 20th century, we must be on the watch to prevent this intolerant, aggressive attitude spreading further and possibly being directed against other religious or ethnic minorities, in particular against Moslems, of whom there about 4 million in France alone and in Germany about 3 million. Proof of religious discrimination and conflict appear from time to time in the press in some EU member countries.
Integration of different cultural and ethnic minorities in national or state majorities (Intercultural dialogue)
The need to integrate ethnic-cultural minorities into their respective societies already exists today in almost all European countries and will grow even more if the EU wants to provide economic and social security for an ageing population with a low birth-rate. European countries do - for a number of reasons - find it difficult in different ways to avoid ethnic-cultural conflicts and find satisfactory solutions for integration. Acts of violence with xenophobic undercurrents have shown that in Germany there is great potential here among those who have learnt nothing from the atrocities of the past. But in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Great Britain, too, there are occasional outbreaks of massive ethnic-cultural conflicts. This is also latent in Hungary and Bulgaria.
Some deep thinking about the background and well-considered action are tasks for schools, society and politics in almost all European states.
Transition from formerly socialist states to so-called post-communist societies and to a new transnational identity (Transformation process)
The transition from former socialist states through old or new national states to a changed role in a future European Union meant profound changes - or in the case of the Balkans - even war - for the countries of the former Eastern bloc. This transition process is still under way and does not only have an economic aspect but also deeply affects the system of values in the societies involved. Modernists and traditionalists have formed new political parties which sometimes are not afraid to revive national myths of history, or even in the worst of cases to legitimize "ethnic cleansing" as in Kosovo.
Separatist tendencies, regional and national search for identity (Regional conflicts)
Although almost all European states have started out on the road ending in a common "European Union", there are states, regions or social groups that are not content with their present territorial boundaries and already have identification problems. Or is regionalism a "defence" against real or perceived discrimination? How can a European Union solve such problems? One should think here of Northern Ireland, the Basque country, Corsica, northern and southern Italy, the Balkans, Turkey and Cyprus. In relation to this, the value of belonging to an ethnic or national group must be discussed, or when transnational rights should or must become the pillar of co-existence for Union citizens.
If individual member states of the European Union already find it difficult to find satisfactory solutions for all four topic areas, how much more difficult will it be when common regulations have to be found on a European level. Every large social group, whether state, union, federation or confederation of states, needs a minimum consensus on values and rules, otherwise it disintegrates. The discussion over war in Iraq has again shown this very clearly. Indeed, the draft for a constitution presented by the assembly in Brussels on 28.10.2002 gives the" preservation of common values" as one of the most important aims of the EU (Art. 2 & 3).
From these preliminary considerations it is clear that the COMCULT network topic is and must be of common interest when we look at the further development of the European Union.
First of all when setting the pedagogical and didactic aims in developing COMCULT teaching materials there is, of course, a discussion of ethical theories, whereby teleological as well as deontological issues are considered. Modern thoughts of communitarianism, utilitarianism and discursive ethics will play a role in the search for the principles of a canon of values. In the same way sociological analyses and political theories of the present will have a bearing on the search for suitable teaching materials.
As for method, teaching is to be carried out in three different ways:
In traditional teacher-oriented or group teaching, with the students acquiring knowledge from ready-supplied materials and instruction from the teacher.
In cross-subject and internet-supported teaching, where students can choose sub-themes from the whole field of the network topic to work on, individually or in groups, and using the internet both as a source of information as well as a means of communication with other students - including across borders.
In lessons mediated by using internet. While doing so groups of students in the network schools will compile a common product, and this will include the making of a digital video film on the theme of the network in cross-border cooperation. Prices for camcorders and channel capacity have changed so much in the last few years that this kind of cross-border cooperation has moved into the realms of possibility and is to be tried out in the COMCULT network.
The different teaching methods have been chosen to find out what kind of teaching is best suited to attaining the targets set and to illustrate better the advantages and disadvantages of each method at later in-teaching training courses.
The COMCULT network does not want to introduce a new school subject in " education of values", but only to combine efforts that in the classrooms of Europe
partly seen, in particular in Religious Instruction or Ethics, and in
Civics or History.
The COMCULT network has given careful consideration to this state of affairs in its practical organization and chosen the sub-topics so that they can be divided and taught with different emphasis according to the geographical position of the partner institutions. True, that might not be ideal with regard to living together in the EU, where understanding all the correlations is a necessary basis for realistic political action which does not lose sight of the whole.
Examples will in any case be presented to show how to promote a consciousness of a "common culture" through a combination of aspects. Without doubt this angle is new to education in some EU countries, but without pilot projects it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful discussion, still less to transnational (European) understanding.
Young people in many European countries will gain further insight into the foundations of our co-existence within the EU and into the significance of a common canon of values. They will be encouraged towards independent learning and communicating.
Generally teachers will have to work more in teams through the network and their role will become more like that of a counsellor than that of merely providing facts.
One particular target group in some European countries will be teachers of ethics or comparative R.I. for young people who do not attend the R.I. classes of the Christian churches or for Moslems who do not receive Islamic instruction. Teachers in general are not sufficiently prepared for such teaching as the universities do not offer adequate training, in Germany and France not even for Islamic teachers at state schools.
Teaching of values is not only a matter for schools. Without the cooperation of parents, schools can do only a little and even school administrators and educational policy-makers have to be persuaded to provide the necessary organization conditions for the best possible education in values. These extra-scholastic target groups will also be approached at specially organized regional conferences through the network.
It is more difficult to judge the effects on educational policy, as reform phases alternate with periods of relatively little change and these phases are not the same in all European countries. After the publication of the PISA study the need for reform seems to have been recognized in some countries, so that the results of the COMCULT network could offer an important contribution for discussion, particularly with regard to independent learning and the curricular and scholastic prerequisites that go with this (e.g. in so-called seminar courses).
It introduces a topic of importance to all for the further development of the EU into teaching and public debate.
It extends the historical-political perspective of teaching hitherto to a cohesive one for the whole of Europe, including central eastern and southeastern Europe.
It leads to intensified cross-subject and cross-border cooperation in teaching and learning.
It demands intercultural education and combats violence, racism, xenophobia and social isolation.
It explores new ways in project teaching by using camcorders together with Internet (ICT).
It measures the effects of the teaching by using tests specially developed for this.
It provides comparison data for the evaluation of different teaching methods and promotes discussion of teaching methods at in-training teaching courses.
In connection with four transnational conferences (cf. Work Plan) during the first two years of the project, materials (texts, pictures, maps) will be compiled, corresponding to the theme "Common Culture" and to those, which are mentioned under point 3. These materials will comprise between 200 and 240 pages. They are needed either for traditional or group teaching or for Internet supported education of all partner institutions. Therefore corresponding translations are necessary.
The materials will be published on Internet and can be downloaded from there.
The activities of the network are rather different, partly they are carried out one after the other, partly they are running at the same time.In particular the following working steps have to be co-ordinated:
In evaluating the COMCULT network one has to differentiate between two types of evaluation:
From time to time the work of teachers and students will be evaluated by a small group, or evaluation team, according to the project's objectives in order to gather information on which activities or materials should be improved for the better fulfilment of the project's aims. The evaluation team will also take suggestions from the network institutions und use them where possible for improvement. This work can only be undertaken by teachers as it concerns questions of content or method in teaching.
A second type of evaluation is the evaluation of questionnaires.
The impact of teaching strategies will be monitored by a complex field
study. Before teaching begins the first three groups, mentioned under
point 4 Teaching and learning methods, must fill in a questionnaire
to record the starting situation under points a) - e) (Pre-test):
At the end of the course or school year the questionnaires are to be filled in again (Post-test), to determine which points, and how far, have changed. The questionnaires are to be filled in anonymously so that the answers received are as truthful as possible.
Producing reliable tests and evaluating them is a matter requiring a great deal of know-how.
For this task we have obtained the services of the ARNOLD-BERGSTRAESSER-INSTITUT für Kulturwissenschaftliche Forschung in Freiburg. This Institute has decades of experience in the evaluation of educational projects financed in many countries of the world by international organizations (UNO, EU, World Bank and GTZ).
The research pattern is based on a few theoretical assumptions. We expect variably significant changes - according to the teaching method used - on the above-named 5 levels a) - e). To what order of magnitude this occurs remains to be seen.
The institute's monitoring concerns corrections where necessary in
the teaching, if the statistical evaluations show inexplicable irregularities.
It has been known for some years that the internet alone cannot disseminate project outputs unless it receives specific requests for information. The COMCULT network has therefore planned a whole series of conventional, regional and transnational conferences to present the project outputs.
Besides this the individual partners will organize meetings with closer contacts in their own languages, to disseminate the innovations in the COMCULT network.
Initially in the development and draft phase there will be only a small number of students of the partner institutions involved in network activities. During the production and testing phase the number of participating students will increase and in the third project year also additional associated schools will co-operate already.
Initiation of further COMENIUS 1 und COMENIUS 2.1 projects
During the term of the COMCULT project results will also be disseminated by new created COMENIUS 1 school partnerships. Their representatives will already take part in the transnational conferences of the project. In the same time all together three or four COMENIUS 2.1 projects will be initiated, which will continue and specifically extend certain ideas of the COMCULT network. Hereby project results also are to disseminate by teacher training and in service training institutions.