Face to Faith Programme aims to offer an authentic and meaningful environment in which students can develop key 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem-solving.
By Simmi Kher
Across the seas, in a conference room students of Bal Bharti Public School, Dwarka and students of Westhoughton School, Bolton, UK sat talking to each other as if they were in the same room. This was made possible by the Face to Faith Programme of Tony Blair Faith Foundation which aims to offer an authentic and meaningful environment in which students can develop key 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem-solving. It also aims to improve young people's cultural/religious literacy, which is a vital skill in an increasingly complex, global society. Eyes glued to the plasma screen television and speaking to their peers at Westhought students were eloquent, honest and curious – which is a great starting point for any successful Video Conference. They had obviously really taken in the messages about communicating honestly in a respectful way.
Today one of the greatest challenges that the world faces is to allow people of different faiths, creeds, religions, beliefs to live together by celebrating the differences, which makes each individual unique. Collaboration, communication skills, information and media literacy
are all to be regularly found on the syllabus, acknowledged as vital tools for the 21st century.
We can already see how new technologies are stimulating radically new approaches to teaching and learning. Launched last June a global education programme 'Face to Faith' from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, is designed to support this initative. By means of video-conferencing and an online community, students of different faiths work together to investigate specific global issues; discuss a range of opinions, values and beliefs; and explore the reasons for similar and different views. By learning about those of differing social, cultural and religious perspectives, young people build their awareness of the role of faith in their life and in the lives of others. As the name of the project suggests, it is based upon direct encounters between groups of young people from around the world, and is focused upon ideas of identity and belief. In India, 40 schools are enrolled as part of the programme. These schools have been connected to schools internationally as well as nationally. These students of different faiths work together to investigate specific global issues, discuss a range of opinions, values and beliefs and explore the reasons for similar and different views. By learning about those from differing social, cultural and religious perspectives, young people build their awareness on the role of faith in today's world.
All schools participating in Face to Faith undertake an introduction module focusing as it does upon developing the skills to enable meaningful dialogue. This is key which guides them through the principles and approaches of the programme and prepares students to engage in dialogue with those of different faiths. Thereafter, the programme is entirely flexible, offering subsequent modules focused upon major world issues approached through the perspectives of faith. Each of these issues modules also encourages students to get involved, in a very practical way, in meeting the challenges of those issues. Currently offering three distinct yet complementary modules on the topics of charity, poverty and wealth; environment; and the Art of Expression.
Within 'Face to Faith' we are operating within a wide range of educational cultures, from those that are student-centered to those that are extremely traditional and didactic. We use a three-stage model to help empower students (and teachers) with the skills of dialogue
Each module is offered as a full course, which requires an average of seven hours' class time, or as a short course, requiring approximately three hours' teaching time. There are also five short projects available for those schools which simply would like to try a one-hour taster session. Schools are also encouraged to design their own modules/projects and share these with the Face to Faith community.
Face to Faith is a global educational programme comprising of:
The video conferences between partner schools are a vital element of the Face to Faith programme. These vary in format in terms of certain dimensions.First is the structure. The students prepare their thoughts and ideas on a common issue, for example, the environment and present these to one another. Next is presence of Guest speakers. The students can pose questions to guests from a particular faith background