Urgency and aims of the symposium

unfolding-human-potention-symposiumlogo-geel-vrijstaand-kleinWhat’s at stake?

The role of education in the development of our societies must urgently be reconsidered. In our invitation letter, we have already addressed the urgency we feel for this symposium, and the broader dialogue that it aims to contribute to. At stake are our open, liberal democracies, and the sustainable well-being of our society as a whole. Connectedness between people, on several dimensions, is eroding. Not only the connection between groups of people in society as a whole, but also the connection of people working together in school and the workplace, and, it could be argued, even the connection with our inner selves.

We are convinced that education has an important responsibility. Education is not a cure-all for difficult problems that we face. Education cannot compensate for society, it is part of society, so the disconnections of society are part of education too.

But we think it cannot be ignored that education deeply affects the way children develop their worldview, and a perspective on how they themselves can contribute to a sustainable, human society. Education offers the opportunity to renew the connections that have been eroded, and in that way can provide the conditions that are needed to let everyone be able to participate in society, and take their responsibility for a sustainable way of living.

To be able to take up this responsibility, a perspective on education is required, that acknowledges that education, and human development at large, is an inherently uncertain endeavour, and intertwined with moral dilemmas, for which no objective ‘best answers’ exist. This also means that we cannot avoid the question what our personal responsibility is in this respect.

Article by Rolf Winters, director of film ‘Down to Earth’: The writing is on the wall… on all walls!

Aims of the symposium

Firstly, our aim is to generate a new, broader general perspective on education, which would eventually lead to a new vocabulary, a new grammar of talking about and describing education practice. How should we understand the practice of education and, immediately connected to this question: the practice of teacher education? In our view, what still is lacking is a coherent, meaningful framework to discuss and study the ‘unfolding of human potential’ in a broad sense.

A new framework will not be created in just one conference. In that sense, this symposium should be seen as part of ongoing reflection process, that started with a previous conference held in Brussels in 2013, and will hopefully be followed by new conferences in the future. We aim to further build a broad coalition of organizations that share this interest.

Secondly, the aim is to give participants the opportunity to develop a new perspective on what constitutes good development of children in general, and more specifically, what is asked of education, to make this development possible.

How we talk about education, and the development of children, is determined by certain perspectives and underlying ideas that often remain unspoken. This hampers the discussion on what change is needed in education. What we aim for is to create the circumstances in which participants can take a fresh look at education practice, not so much from an outside view (of existing, mainstream research and policy), but an inside view, within which education practice emerges as experienced and realised by the actors themselves, closely entwined with their local, personal knowledge and moral considerations.

New meaning, new insights in an ungoing process

With this symposium, we aim to offer the possibility for participants to engage in dialogue with others, to uncover and question the hidden beliefs, held by themselves and others. New meaning and new new insights will be developed, that participants take with them, each to their own professional environment.

Although we propose to use dialogue as the main mode of communication, this doesn’t mean the conversation starts with a blank canvas. Over the years, NIVOZ and Learning for Well-being have gathered a broad body of knowledge of practice examples and academic expertise, that we are offering as points of reference to the dialogue. Therefore, we have invited several examples of educational practice, and some academic experts that will inspire and guide our explorations during the symposium.

We aim to contribute to an ongoing process of emancipation of education practice and its actors. This is needed, in our view, because to arrive at an education process that encompasses all preconditions for the unfolding of human potential, we need educators that make and account for their personal choices.

 

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