Education plays a crucial role in empowering children in becoming 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 European level, the ‘Declaration on Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education’ (also said Paris declaration) goes in that direction. This document was the outcome of the informal meeting of EU Education Ministers held in Paris on 17th March 2015. On that occasion, priorities of action have been established at EU National, regional, and local level for improving the quality of the Education, Training and Youth systems as an essential tool to foster equity, promoting social inclusion and personal development in Europe.
It is only by considering all these factors that education policies may have a real chance of building inclusive societies.
Differences of cultures, nationalities, languages, gender in educative systems often interplay with factors as low self-esteem, learning difficulties and social exclusion. In addition to that, discrimination and violence in schools lead to lower outcomes, higher drop-out rates, and obstacles in the integration process 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 the 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 answer to the “Paris Declaration”, fostering social inclusion and intercultural understanding in educative 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, is practiced by students, teachers and other school staff. It has been scientifically proven that this natural and easy to learn approach has a great impact improving personal and academic achievements of students, creating a general environment of peace and calmness and making social behaviours more tolerant and inclusive, while teachers at the same time see empowered their coping abilities for dealing with stress and with the diversity of the learning environment.
Moreover, building on the exploitation of an EU funded ongoing 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 that includes formal and non-formal education, and students from the age of 5 to adult education.
Being an innovative and learner–centred approach, the Quiet Time/TM programme has the potential to create a great impact on the European Education system where learning environments can foster equity and social inclusion and where disadvantaged learners are not discriminated and indeed are feeling 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 5 to end of secondary schools, and adult students) have been the primary target group of the FRIENDS project in order to improve their personal and academic achievements and increasing in classrooms 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 for dealing with the increasing diversity of learners, being the role of the teacher key in helping learners fulfil their potential
They are actively involved in the QT/TM programme, promoting their strong engagement for social inclusion in the schools and in the surrounding communities.
Being an innovative whole-school approach, the project is adaptable to different educational settings.
So, 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 4 countries for project’s implementation
Through the implementation of Quiet Time with the Transcendental Meditation programme, the FRIENDS project has shown the potential of the QT/TM programme to foster the role of the 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 sector at EU level in order to support them in the policy reform process, improving the quality and efficiency of the Education system. The relevant reports addressing policy recommendations and support are published also on the EU Erasmus+ Portal.
At the scientific community level, further evidence have been provided through the Quiet Time/TM programme evaluation framework and its results that have been shared through dissemination activities in scientific conferences and seminars.
Dissemination through face-to-face and online learning communities contributed to raise the awareness of the wider public on the Quiet Time/TM programme benefits and achievements
WHAT RESULTS HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED?
The FRIENDS project has been aiming at supporting teachers, educators, and school leaders and at fostering the education of disadvantaged learners through the Quiet Time/TM programme which has shown to have the potential to promote inclusive education, improving academic achievements, combating discrimination on all grounds, and preventing 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 children of primary schools. Other ‘students/learners’ included students of secondary schools, art schools, migrants and long-sentence prisoners.
A total of more than 40 clusters of schools and individual schools have been actively involved in the project and in the various steps of training. Most of schools in the project had a high percentage of disadvantaged students: socially disadvantaged, or belonging to ethnic minorities or having migrant backgrounds, or, in certain cases, students that for some reason had been put out of mainstream education.
As part of the scaling-up activity other organisations joined in, including the National Music Conservatory and a University in Portugal, organizations promoting sports for inclusion in the UK, an organization offering shelter to migrants 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 for young children as for adolescents.
The results of our study show significant contribution of QT/TM for Students, Teachers and the School Community on:
Increased resilience, vitality, personal realization and subjective well-being, while, in the field of behaviour and interpersonal relationship, less disruptive behaviour, decrease in children relation problems and behavioural control problems; better emotional balance, together with better learning and personal outcomes of students/learners. The qualitative study shows that students recognize 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, as well as simultaneously increasing 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, a more peaceful school atmosphere providing the basis for inter-cultural dialogue and understanding.
- An analysis of the status quo with the aim to (a) to establish how well-being of students is an essential ingredient for inclusive education, (b) to establish how Quiet Time based on Transcendental Meditation can contribute to wellbeing of students and teachers, and (c) to present relevant existing evidence on the QT/TM programme;
- Learning communities established at local level involving school communities, authorities, NGOs, businesses, and key stakeholders to exchange experiences related to the implementation, dissemination, and scaling up of the Quiet Time/TM programme;
- Presentations in scientific seminars conferences and congresses, scientific articles published in specialized journals and websites for raising awareness on the TM benefits in the educational and scientific environments;
- Policy Making Framework (PMF) providing material and guidance allowing interested parties across Europe to customize the outputs of the FRIENDS project for their local context.
What has been done?
Through the FRIENDS project, Quiet Time/TM programme has been implemented since the very beginning of the 2018/19 school year in more than 40 cluster of schools, schools and non-formal educational institutions of the 4 selected countries (Portugal, Italy, Belgium and UK) until January 2020.
Throughout project lifetime, the project’s objectives have been reached developing the following activities:
Since the very beginning of the school year, TM qualified and certified teachers started training school teachers, educators and staff, beginning the systematic steps of implementation of the Quiet Time with Transcendental Meditation programme in schools. This was possible because the national Transcendental Meditation organizations in the FRIENDS partnership as MAHARISHI Foundation (United Kingdom), Cooperativa Cultural Ciencia e Tecnologia Vedica Maharishi – CCCT (Portugal), Associazione Meditazione Trascendentale Maharishi Italia (Italy), MAHARISHI Institute of Vedic Science (Belgium), ensured a high quality Quiet Time/TM implementation
Students, whose parents gave their consent, have been trained and started to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique during Quiet Time moments in the classrooms. A sample of students have been tested before and after Quiet Time/TM programme’s implementation to evaluate its effectiveness with a focus on inclusive education indicators.
Involvement of parents, parents’ associations and committees which played an active role in involving additional schools, parents, and parents’ associations in the project, in involving other Teacher Training Centres and in expanding the implementation of the FRIENDS project in different regions.
Involvement of Regional Teacher Training Centres organizing professional training in QT/TM for teachers and staff accredited to their career and forming the basis for realising the sustainability of QT/TM training in different Teacher Training Centres
Generating multiplier effects through the creation of local learning communities in 5 European countries to exchange knowledge and experiences, enhance public awareness on the project results and the possibility for Quiet Time/TM programme’s upscale in other European contexts
Expansion of the implementation in schools in Spain and in other European countries such as: Ireland, Germany, Romania, 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 level (local, regional/national and European)
Involvement of policy makers at local, regional and national level and networks like the UNESCO Network of Associated Schools (ASPnet) to enhance project visibility and putting concrete basis for the sustainability of the project