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!
In every partner country, at least 150 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) are 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 will be greatly involved in school life, 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 will be involved in the project especially those with a percentage of learners with a minority or a migrant background.
Italy, Portugal, Belgium and UK will be the 4 countries for project’s implementation
Through the implementation of Quiet Time with the Transcendental Meditation programme, it will be fostered the role of the education systems in promoting intercultural understanding, social cohesion, and mutual respect and preventing discrimination and violence in schools
The project findings will be turned into practical information for policy and decision makers in the education and training sector at EU level to support them in the policy reform process, improving the quality and efficiency of the Education system
At the scientific community level, further evidence will be provided through the Quiet Time/TM programme evaluation framework and its results that will be shared through dissemination activities in scientific journals and seminars
Dissemination through online and face-to-face learning communities will contribute to raise the awareness of the wider public on the Quiet Time/TM programme benefits and achievements
WHAT RESULTS WILL BE ACHIEVED?
The FRIENDS project through the Quiet Time/TM programme aims at supporting teachers, educators, and school leaders by fostering the education of disadvantaged learners through the promotion of social inclusion, improving academic achievements, combating discrimination on all grounds, and preventing bullying and violence in schools.
This would be possible through:
Better learning and personal outcomes of students/learners, increasing their critical thinking and self-esteem;
Improved teachers’ well-being, their capacity to cope with stress and dealing with diversity in learning environments.
The creation of more inclusive and harmonious school communities, with increased tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for diversity providing the basis for inter-cultural dialogue and understanding.
- An analysis of the status quo for a strategic implementation will be conducted regarding the Quiet Time method and its effectiveness in promoting social inclusion to identify possible barriers and enablers for its up-scale on a wider European level;
- 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;
- Scientific articles published in specialized journals, websites and presentations in scientific seminars and congresses for raising awareness on the TM benefits in the educational environments
- Manual of best practices and roadmap to guide policy makers in the implementation of the Quiet Time/TM programme in other European policy framework and contexts in the education field
What will be done?
Through the FRIENDS project, Quiet Time/TM programme will be implemented since the very beginning of the 2018/19 school year in schools or non-formal educative institutions of the 4 selected countries until January 2021.
Throughout project lifetime, project’s objectives will be reached developing the following activities:
An analysis of the status quo on the Quiet Time/TM programme will be conducted to identify potential barriers and enablers for maximizing its impact and proceeding to its strategic implementation on a wider European level.
Since the very beginning of the school year, TM qualified and certified teachers will start training teachers and educators on TM practice to allow them to establish the follow-up of the Quiet Time/TM programme. This would be 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), ensure a high quality Quiet Time/TM implementation.
Students, whose parents gave their consent, will be trained, and start to practice the TM during Quiet Time moments in the classrooms. They will also be tested before and after Quiet Time/TM programme’s implementation to evaluate its effectiveness with a focus on social inclusion indicators.
Generating multiplier effects through the creation of local learning communities in 4 European countries to enhance public awareness on the project results and the possibility for Quiet Time/TM programme’s upscale in other European contexts.
Project’s dissemination will be 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).