A new global schools programme– Face to FaithWhat is Face to Faith? “Face to Faith is an amazing platformFace to Faith is a schools programme set to teach our school children toleranceup by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and respect for other religions. It getswww.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org. them to think about the major religionsIt is a compelling educational programme that engages of the world and hopefully learn tostudents of different faiths and none across the world in understand them. Being in contact withlearning directly with, from and about each other. their counterparts from other countries belonging to different faiths willWhat are its main aims and certainly broaden their minds and willobjectives? definitely help in stretching themselves beyond their own belief systems, at the1. To promote cross-cultural understanding – equipping same time help them to work together young people with key 21st century skills needed to to solve the 21st century problems. live in a world of diverse faiths and beliefs.2. To provide young people with the knowledge, skills Religion is a sensitive subject and the and competencies needed for meaningful inter teachers are wary of talking about any and intra-faith dialogue across a range of cultures, kind of religion in the classroom, but containing diverse and sometimes conflicting views.3. To give students the knowledge and skills which thanks to Face to Faith, it is a perfect will enable them to resist extremist voices, and setting for interfaith dialogue; to enable them to approach faith in a rational and address cross-cultural understanding open-hearted way. and break down religious barriers. Religion has the capacity to inspireHow does Face to Faith work? intolerance but it also has the potentialUsing video conferencing and an online community, to play a constructive, not destructivestudents of different faiths and none work together to role. We would like to explore differentinvestigate specific global issues; discuss a range of religions’ capacity to make a positiveopinions, values and beliefs; and explore the reasons for contribution to the community and thesimilarity and difference. Face to Faith helps to address world at large. I personally feel thisthe misrepresentations of religious belief that young programme will make the students intopeople are sometimes exposed to which can lead to global citizens and they will be able toextreme views and behaviour. look at the problems and solutions ofWhat resources does Face to the world as one.” Ms Simmi Kher, FTF Coordinator, IndiaFaith provide for schools?• A set of optional teaching resources based around global issues• Teacher training and post-training support• A series of facilitated videoconferences• Access to a secure and moderated online community• A set of proposed community engagement challenges
Is Face to Faith trying to convert “It is an honour for Amman Baptistpeople to religion? School (ABS) to be a Lead School for the FTF programme, for we view thisNo. Face to Faith is designed to improve young people’sknowledge of different religious and faith traditions, opportunity as a means to enter awhich is a key skill in today’s global society. It is not world of a different faiths, cultures andteaching into religion but about religions and world backgrounds.views, which are important for young people tounderstand if they are to be effective global citizens, The best of what FTF has to offer isplaying a meaningful role and share experiences in a the chance for students to engage withworld where differing viewpoints and perspectives are other students who are different inkey features of everyday life. many aspects and on different levels and find common grounds for growthIs Face to Faith trying to create and development.one global, lowest-common- As educators we believe that our circledenominator religion? of influence will ripple to students andNo. Addressing this issue Tony Blair himself said at a expand to the whole community whilstspeech at Westminster Cathedral in 2008: we learn to accept others as they are.“The Foundation will expressly not be about chucking Whatever our differences, we can unifyfaith into a doctrinal melting pot. It is not about losing in achieving ultimate goals concerningour distinctive faith. It is about learning, living and universal issues that relate to allworking with others of a different faith.” mankind.Face to Faith is designed to encourage young ABS is keen to ally with many schoolspeople to recognise the similarities between faiths ....We are so energized and excited …”and more importantly to respect and deal with the Ms Carol Jadoun, FTF Coordinatordifferences between diverse and sometimes conflicting and Teacher, Jordanworldviews. By learning about those of differing social,cultural and religious perspectives, young people buildtheir awareness of the role of faith in their lives and inthe lives of others.Will the Face to Faithprogramme, whetherintentionally or not, convertchildren to a different religion?Face to Faith is designed to educate and learn, not toconvince or convert. Good, effective learning createsunderstanding, overcomes prejudice and establishesan invaluable and unique opportunity for reflectivedialogue. We don’t have to agree. We can challenge.But we can only communicate and grow if we respecteach other’s opinions.
Surely Face to Faith is only “After thirty years of engaging inrelevant in those countries religious education with the goal ofwhere religious education is promoting interfaith dialogue among different religious traditions andtaught in schools? peoples, I have finally glimpsed a wayOn the contrary. Face to Faith has been developed forward without parallel. The Faceby an international group of educational experts who to Faith program is unique and far-have devised a flexible programme that contributes reaching in its potential to promoteto a range of curricula subjects from the humanities, religious literacy among young peoplereligious and cultural studies to social sciences. The from different nations and religiousprogramme can be used to support the programme traditions. And with this literacy, thecomponent of the Global Perspectives IGCSE offered program offers a capacity to replacein 140 countries by Cambridge Assessment and ignorance with knowledge, and withaspects of the International Baccalaureate Middle that knowledge, the capacity to banishYears Programme. fear of the “other” with tolerance and understanding. This is clearly a brilliantWhat age group can take part? idea whose time has come.”Currently Face to Faith is aimed at 11-16 year olds. Professor Harry StoutDoesn’t this programme justimpose a Western perspective on delays and low resolution images. In countries andschools involved? regions where IT infrastructure is poor, we have setThe programme has been devised by an international up Face to Faith videoconference hubs for groups ofgroup of educational experts to ensure that it reflects schools to share.the needs of school systems around the world. It hasbeen devised as a flexible, modular programme so thatit accommodates a wide range of learning requirementsand starting points. Face to Faith is always keen toincorporate and endorse ideas from other perspectivesthat foster reflective thought and contribute towardsmeaningful inter and intra-faith dialogue, debateand tolerance.Face to Faith relies on videoconferencing. Isn’t thatexpensive technology whichlimits the engagement to well-endowed schools?We provide all schools interested in Face to Faith withfree access to the appropriate video conferencingtechnology. The minimum broadband requirementsare 284kps. Video conferences can run with lessbandwidth, but the quality is much poorer, with audio
How are the needs and interests “Thank you so much to all of you forof students without a particular making today’s VC possible. When Ifaith or belief addressed? first heard about this program I thoughtFace to Faith is uniquely structured to encourage it sounded like a good idea. When Iyoung people to investigate big global issues; to share went to the in-service and then startedtheir opinions, their personal beliefs and values; and preparing for the VC I realized it is anto explore the reasons for both similar and different outstanding program, and after today’sperspectives. In this way, it is as much for those who VC I now know it is an absolutelyhave a religious faith as for those who do not. Our fantastic program. Our boys were highaim is always to acknowledge, respect and make as kites afterwards and could have keptuse of the plethora of perspectives at hand in order going for another 2 hours I reckon.”to enrich student life. The programme is designed to Mark Ellison, Teacher, Australiasupport, encounter and exchange between those ofdifferent faiths and none, with the aim of improvingunderstanding and respect for differencesin worldviews.How many schools are currentlytaking part?We currently have over 250 registered schools and aimto have over 400 by the end of the year. By 2012, weaim to be working with over 1000 schools.In which countries is Face toFaith currently operating?Schools in the UK, US, Canada, India, Pakistan,Singapore, Indonesia, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories,Jordan, UAE, Egypt, Philippines, Israel and Australiaare currently engaged in Face to Faith.Face to Faith solely for thosefluent in English?Face to Faith syllabus material is currently circulatedin the English, Arabic, French and Hebrew. However,there are plans to translate the resources intoadditional languages once the programme is moreestablished. Interestingly, many schools find thatFace to Faith is a useful contribution to their English-language programmes as it provides the opportunityfor students to practice their English language andconversational skills.
How are the teachers with no “This is very different, and it is goodreligious education training able being different. We get the directto teach this programme? viewpoint of students living over thereThe authors of the Face to Faith programme are acutely and that increases the reliability of theaware that few teachers around the world will have information. Through the programmehad explicit experience of teaching Religious Education. we can talk to and communicate withThe Tony Blair Faith Foundation hosts local two day our global peers on a daily basis ,teacher training workshop to guide teachers through which is an opportunity we wouldn’tthe programme and address any challenges they may ordinarily have.”face in its implementation. A comprehensive set of Student, Indialesson plans and resources designed by educationalexperts that can be adapted to suit teachers’ needs arealso provided. How much does Face to FaithFace to Faith will ensure that continuing teacher cost a school?training workshops are provided in each country – Currently, Face to Faith is offered free to schoolseither by the Face to Faith’s Teacher Trainer, who including the installation of video conferencingis a qualified in Religious Education and conducts software.these workshops around the world; or by accreditedrepresentatives within the country, who are local What skills will students learncoordinators or teachers from the Lead School. Furthermaterials are available through the online community, through the Face to Faithand we encourage teachers to work together to form programme?supportive communities within each region. E-learning Face to Faith helps students develop verbal, oralmaterials for additional teacher support, as well as presentation, research, technological and problem“teacher only” video-conference opportunities are solving skills as well as developing the confidence toalso available. present their own perspectives and opinions, while being able to respond effectively and respectfully to theHow is one Lead school going differing beliefs of others. The programme is innovative as it positions students as active researchers, enquiringto provide adequate support for about different faiths and as providers of information,countries as big as, for example, sharing their own experiences of their faith. In thisthe USA or India? way, the programme gives students agency and voice in their own learning. Moreover, Face to FaithInitially one Lead School is appointed in each of our introduces new video conferencing technologiesparticipating countries. Each Lead School then takes into the classroom and gives students the tools toresponsibility for recruiting and training a cluster of communicate with their peers across the globe.schools within their respective region or city. Over time,the plan is to appoint Lead Schools in numerous towns, Finally, the programme is designed to highlight bothcities, regions and states in the larger countries. A local similarities and differences between people fromcoordinator is appointed in all our countries in order to diverse faith and cultural backgrounds. Learningsupport schools in implementing Face to Faith. Our local how to cope with and to accept differences will helpcoordinators have been drawn from our Lead Schools. students to develop empathy; thereby enabling themThey liaise closely with their counterparts and the Face use newly acquired conflict negotiation and resolutionto Faith Manager in order to implement the programme skills to interact peacefully in their own communitieseffectively within their respective countries. and beyond.
How much have parents been “Schools in my country are so eager toconsulted, and were there any join and become part of this initiative.objections to their children being Ignorance is the source of enmity and hatred. By securing serious ongoinginvolved in this programme? access to information through dialogue,Parents have been widely consulted in the development shifts in thinking of both studentsof Face to Faith to ensure we address any concerns. and teachers will occur. This will helpMaterials and resources are available to view, to to break down all aspects of stereo-ensure transparency. In our experience when parents typing. We believe that making peacehave learned more about the project, they recognised means connecting with people, despiteits huge educational potential and accepted the religion, race or colour.”participation by their children. Indeed, it has led to Dr. Ghassan Abdallah, Face to Faithfurther co-operation. Some schools have arranged video Co-ordinator for the Palestinian Territoriesconferences between groups of parents to help improveunderstanding about the programme and abouteach other.How is Face to Faith beingevaluated?Professor Robert Jackson and a team of researchersfrom the World Religions Education Unit at WarwickUniversity UK are carrying out an independentevaluation of Face to Faith. The team uses bothqualitative and quantitative data collected from onlinediscussions, activities and video conference dialogue.In addition, we advocate the use of self and peerassessment in the classroom so that both students andteachers can measure the success of the programme.Face to Faith facilitators hold regular evaluationsessions via videoconference with both students andteachers in order to collect further evidence of howsuccessful Face to Faith is in combating extremistviews and raising tolerance and understandingbetween different religious and faith traditions.To find out more about the programme contactFace to Faith Manager - Dr Leila Walker - at theTony Blair Faith Foundationleila.firstname.lastname@example.org
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