Education plays a crucial role in empowering children to become active members of the society in which they live. Through learning, fundamental civic values and behaviours are conveyed in order to create inclusive societies characterised by diversity, pluralism and tolerance.
At the European level, the ‘Declaration on Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education’ (also called the Paris Declaration) goes in that direction. This document was the outcome of an informal meeting of EU education ministers held in Paris on 17th March 2015. On that occasion, priorities of action were established at EU national, regional, and local levels for improving the quality of education, training and youth systems as an essential tool for fostering equity and promoting social inclusion and personal development in Europe.
It is only by considering all these factors that education policies can have a real chance of building inclusive societies.
Differences of culture, nationality, language and gender in education systems often interact with factors such as low self-esteem, learning difficulties and social exclusion. In addition, discrimination and violence in schools lead to lower outcomes, higher drop-out rates, and obstacles to the integration of minority students.
The FRIENDS project seeks a solution for that!
FRIENDS is a 24-month project co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union under Key Action 3: Support for policy reform: social inclusion through education, training, and youth. Its aim is to contribute to national and European strategies in response to the “Paris Declaration”, fostering social inclusion and intercultural understanding in education systems through the implementation on a wider scale of an innovative whole-school approach known as the Quiet Time based on the Transcendental Meditation programme (Quiet Time/TM programme).
This innovative whole-school approach is based on twice-daily “quiet time” breaks, a few minutes at the beginning and at the end of the school day, during which a simple, scientifically documented psycho-physiological technique, the Transcendental Meditation programme, is practised by students, teachers and other school staff. It has been scientifically proven that this natural and easy to learn approach has a significant impact in improving the personal and academic achievements of students, creating a general environment of peace and calmness and making social behaviour more tolerant and inclusive, while teachers at the same time find that their ability to cope with stress and with the diversity of the learning environment is increased.
Moreover, building on the exploitation of an EU-funded project (called “EUROPE –Ensuring Unity and Respect as Outcomes for the people of Europe”), the FRIENDS project seeks to disseminate and replicate the Quiet Time/TM programme on a wider European scale, involving new countries and a wider target which includes formal and non-formal education, and students from the age of five up to adult education.
Being an innovative and learner–centred approach, the Quiet Time/TM programme has the potential to have a great impact on European education systems so that learning environments can foster equity and social inclusion and where disadvantaged learners are not discriminated and indeed feel respected and valued.
Students and learners
In every partner country, students and learners, in particular those with minority, disadvantaged or migrant backgrounds (from the age of five to the end of secondary school, and adult students) have been the primary target group of the FRIENDS project which aims to improve their personal and academic achievements and increase in the classroom pro-social outcomes such as tolerance, moral reasoning, resilience and coping ability
An important feature of this innovative and inclusive learning approach is that educators and teachers receive the psycho-physiological support they need to deal with the increasing diversity of the learning environment, because the role of the teacher is key to helping learners to fulfil their potential
Parents are actively involved in the QT/TM programme. This promotes their strong engagement for social inclusion in the schools and in the surrounding communities.
Being an innovative whole-school approach, the project can adapt to different educational settings. So both formal and non-formal education institutions have been involved in the project especially those with a percentage of learners with a minority or a migrant background.
Italy, Portugal, Belgium and UK were the four countries involved in the project’s implementation
Through the implementation of the Quiet Time with Transcendental Meditation programme, the FRIENDS project has shown the potential of the programme to foster the role of education systems in promoting inclusive education, intercultural understanding, social cohesion and mutual respect, and preventing discrimination and violence in schools.
The project findings have been turned into practical information for policy and decision makers in the education and training sectors at EU level, in order to support them in the policy reform process for improving the quality and efficiency of the education system. The relevant reports addressing policy recommendations and support are also published on the EU Erasmus+ Portal.
At the scientific community level, further evidence has been provided through the Quiet Time/TM programme evaluation framework and its results, which have been shared through dissemination activities in scientific conferences and seminars.
Dissemination through face-to-face and online learning communities has contributed to raising awareness in the wider public about the benefits and achievements of the Quiet Time/TM programme
WHAT RESULTS HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED?
The FRIENDS project has been aimed at supporting teachers, educators and school leaders, and at fostering the education of disadvantaged learners through the Quiet Time/TM programme. The programme has been shown to have the potential to promote inclusive education, improve academic achievements, combat discrimination on all grounds, and prevent bullying and violence in schools.
The QT/TM programme was implemented in four countries in Europe: Portugal, Italy, the UK and Belgium with a total of about 1,800 students and learners, 900 school teachers and staff and 200 parents trained in the QT/TM programme. The majority of the 1,800 students and learners were primary school children. Other students and learners included students of secondary schools, art schools, migrants and long-sentence prisoners.
Over 40 individual schools or clusters of schools were actively involved in the project and in the various steps of training. Most of the schools in the project had a high percentage of disadvantaged students who were either socially disadvantaged or belonging to ethnic minorities or with migrant backgrounds; or, in some cases, students who, for various reasons, had been removed from mainstream education.
As part of the scaling-up activity, other organisations joined in, including a university and the National Music Conservatory in Portugal; organisations promoting sports for inclusion in the UK; an organisation offering shelter to immigrants in Belgium, and a long-sentence prison in Italy.
The project involved primarily young children, aged 5 to 11. This is an interesting cohort because research on well-being and techniques such as QT/TM for young children is not as widespread as it is for adolescents.
The results of our study show the significant benefits of QT/TM for students, teachers and the school communities, and specifically:
Increased resilience, vitality, personal realisation and subjective well-being. In the field of behaviour and interpersonal relationships: less disruptive behaviour, decrease in relationship problems and behavioural control problems. Better emotional balance together with better academic achievement and better personal outcomes for students/learners. The qualitative study shows that students recognise QT/TM as a resource to deal with adversity, stress and anxiety, along improvement of their grades to a greater focus on tasks.
Decreasing stress, anxiety, negative affects, and burnout, and a simultaneous increase in job satisfaction, optimism, positive affects, and well-being.
Teachers, students and parents report the creation of a more inclusive and harmonious school community, increased tolerance and respect for diversity, warmer and closer relationships between students and teachers, and a more peaceful school atmosphere providing the basis for inter-cultural dialogue and understanding.
D 5.5 – Overall conclusions, policy recommendations and lesson learned
This report covers the overall conclusions of the evaluation. It includes: statistical analysis and discussion of the quantitative data collected as well as the application of categorical content analysis of the qualitative data collected. This part covers the results and discussion of: (a) the training of administrators, teachers and staff (e.g. anxiety and job satisfaction); (b) the training of students; and (c) the different surveys. The report includes recommendations for policy making, lessons learned and conclusions of the Lessons Learned Log
- An analysis of the status quo with the aims: (a) to establish how the well-being of students is an essential ingredient for inclusive education, (b) to establish how Quiet Time with Transcendental Meditation can contribute to the well-being of students and teachers, and (c) to present relevant existing evidence on the QT/TM programme;
- Learning communities established at local levels involving school communities, local authorities, NGOs, businesses and key stakeholders, to exchange experiences relating to the implementation, dissemination and scaling up of the Quiet Time/TM programme;
- Presentations in scientific seminars, conferences and congresses; scientific articles published in specialised journals and websites, with the aim of raising awareness of the benefits of Transcendental Meditation in educational and scientific environments;
- Policy Making Framework (PMF) providing material and guidance to allow interested parties across Europe to customise the outputs of the FRIENDS project for their local context.
What has been done?
Through the FRIENDS project, from the beginning of the 2018/19 school year until January 2020, the Quiet Time with TM programme has been implemented in more than 40 cluster of schools, individual schools and non-formal educational institutions in the four selected countries (Portugal, Italy, Belgium and the UK).
Throughout the project’s lifetime, its objectives have been reached by putting into practice the following activities:
Since the very beginning of the first school year, qualified and certified teachers of Transcendental Meditation started training school teachers, educators and staff, beginning the systematic steps of implementing the Quiet Time with Transcendental Meditation programme into schools. This was possible because the national Transcendental Meditation organisations in the FRIENDS partnership: Maharishi Foundation (United Kingdom), Cooperativa Cultural Ciencia e Tecnologia Vedica Maharishi – CCCTVM (Portugal), Associazione Meditazione Trascendentale Maharishi Italia (Italy), Maharishi Institute of Vedic Science (Belgium), ensured high quality implementation
Students, whose parents gave their consent, were trained in, and started to practise, the Transcendental Meditation programme during Quiet Time periods in their classrooms. A sample of students was tested before and after the implementation of the Quiet Time/TM programme to evaluate its effectiveness, with a focus on inclusive education indicators.
Involvement of parents, parents’ associations and committees which all played an active role in: (a) involving additional schools, parents, and parents’ associations in the project; (b) involving other Teacher Training Centres; (c) expanding the implementation of the FRIENDS project in different regions.
Involvement of Regional Teacher Training Centres in organising professional accredited training in QT/TM for teachers and staff, which will form the basis for the sustainable establishment of QT/TM training in different Teacher Training Centres
The generation of multiplier effects through the creation of local learning communities in five European countries, to exchange knowledge and experiences, enhance public awareness of the project’s results and promoting the upscaling of the Quiet Time/TM programme’s in other European contexts
Expansion of the programme’s implementation in schools in Spain, and in other European countries such as Ireland, Germany, Romania and Iceland
Project dissemination has been conducted at multiple level to generate the above-mentioned impacts: through online channels and face-to-face meetings, in different thematic fields (educational, political and scientific communities), and at different territorial levels (local, regional/national and European)
Involvement of policy makers at local, regional and national levels and of networks like the UNESCO Network of Associated Schools (ASPnet) to enhance project visibility and to establish a concrete basis for the sustainability of the project
To know more:
2nd FRIENDS report of the implementation activities of 2 years project (January 2018 – January 2020)
This report provides an overview of the activities that took place in the FRIENDS project which was implemented in four European countries (Portugal, UK, Italy and Belgium) between January 2018 until January 2020.
Click on the cover to discover more.