Symposium: Child and religion:

On 18th of September OIDEL, in collaboration with ISERL (Institut Supérieur des Religions et de la Laïcité) and LABEX COMOD, organized a Symposium on “Child and Religion” in the BIE premises (Bureau International d’Education in Geneva). Presentations included one from Bernard Hours who talked about how secularized Catholicism had concrete expressions,  another one from Louis Rousseau who shared the good experience of multiculturalism in Quebec and how this experience was transferable; Then Stefano Caporal explained the Lautsi case followed by another speaker, Lionel Obadia, who stressed the importance of observance and mimic with regard to religion. Among the many other presentations, we would like to share with you more fully three of them:

“Children’s cultural Rights: Identity, Universality and Tolerance” –Alfred Fernandez

Alfred Fernandez talked about “Children’s cultural Rights: identity, universality and tolerance”. He focused his intervention on analyzing the main subjects described in the article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The main aspects developed on his intervention were the conception of education as the development of the child to his full potential, the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the development of the respect for the child’s parents, cultural identity language and values.

Alfred Fernandez developed the concept of culture. Among the massive intellectual debate to define this idea he highlighted the UNESCO definition that is worded as follows “ culture that gives man the ability to reflect upon himself (…) It is through culture that man expresses himself, becomes aware of himself, recognizes his incompleteness”. It is in this sense that culture becomes the “right to be” or, as the Delors’s report considers culture, as the “way to be” a human being and education as the “learn to be”.

Linking culture with the right to education, Alfred Fernandez analyzed the cultural character of the right to education, firstly quoting article 5 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity “all persons should be entitled to quality education and training that fully respect their cultural identity”. This declaration is really important and interesting as it is the first international norm connecting these two realities.

Finally he proposed a reflection on the sense of education, summarizing the three main metaphorical definitions of education as initiation –Kant, Peters-, as a path – Socrates, Kierkegaard- and as socialization process – Berger, Luckmann. Kant thought in this sense that man cannot be a man if it’s not for education. This idea was more developed by Philippe Meirieu affirming that education is the introduction of a cultural universe.

In conclusion, Alfred Fernandez said that it was the moment to reflect on and consider education systems as based on cultural identities, constituted by three stages: education to cultural identity, education to tolerance and education to universal or human rights. He underlined that there was no need to invent anything or to make new legislation since all these tools did already exist in international law. However, these concepts or elements had to be better understood by the international community, a more favorable and plural way.

The objectives of education in the Convention on the Rights of the Child: a pedagogical perspective. Jorge Ferreira- New Humanity

The focus of Jorge Ferreira’s P1080544intervention was the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With passion he began to stress the importance of the Convention as the first recognition de facto of the international community of the child as a subject of law.

It is really interesting to see how the Convention is defining the child as a natural being with cognitive, affective, social, moral and spiritual capacities – all of them different from any other human being on earth. All these capacities exist in children in essence but need to be potentialized through education.

This fact leaded Jorge to the subject of which are the objectives of education according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in its article 29. These objectives are the development of the personality, promotion of the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the development of the respect for child’s parents, their identities, languages and values, the preparation of the child for life in a free society and the development of respect for the natural environment. Jorge Ferreira underlined that the effective concretization of these articles meant the real promotion of the well being of the child. This idea is really linked to the right of development in the terms of the article 2 of the Declaration on the Right to Development; in this regard the objective of education must be understood as all those things that enable children to become adults, strengthening all their potentialities.


After explaining the theoretical framework, Jorge Ferreira analyzed its materialization in the actual socio-cultural situation. He said that in a society where the human being is seen as a means of production it is hard to find and develop the well being. Most of the consequences of this reality are tangible such as the economic crisis, the cultural crisis, the environmental crisis, etc. However there is also a psychological consequence due to the lack of sense of interdependence between humanity caused by an absence of a holistic and global vision in education as well as many other fields. According to Jorge it will be via the promotion of the right to integral development and solidarity that we, humanity, will be able to succeed collectively and favor well being. Understanding the human being as an object turns human being against himself as an authentic, unique and irreplaceable???of the social and economic life. We already know the consequences on mental health of a human being considered as an object. According to WHO, mental problems – such as depression – increasing disorder behaviors such as anorexia or bulimia within children and teenagers and the increasing number of suicides are becoming huge problems in Western society. All these issues can be understood as the main psychological consequences of this utilitarian conception of the human being.

Jorge finished his intervention encouraging the educational community to find a new paradigm by reformulating the objectives of education which would be:  children should be the finality of educational programs, the inclusive school should be a reality following the UNESCO criterias, the school should go along with the pupils during their formation, the school should promote and teach the universal values such as justice, fraternity, love, beauty, respect; and finally the school should collaborate more with the parents given that they are primarily responsible for the education of their children.

The religious model of education in Spain- Jaime RossellP1080569

Mr. Jaime Rossell, dean of Law in Extremadura University, talked about the religious model of education in Spain. From a juridical point of view, we were introduced to the constitutional norm that protects religious freedom. Article 16 of the Spanish Constitution explicitly says that “ideological, religious and worship freedoms are guaranteed” and it adds that “no one can be forced to state anything about his ideology, religion or beliefs”.

The same constitutional provision establishes that no religious confession will have “state character”. This is known as the principle of secularity or non-confessional state. Thus it lays the idea of equality of all persons and communities under the law, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Due to historical reasons and due to the Catholic tradition of Spain, the first legal instrument in religious affairs adopted after the 1978 Constitution—just a week later—was the Acuerdo entre el Estado Español y la Santa Sede (“Agreement between Spain and the Holy See”). The main difference between this instrument and the laws concerning other confessions is that the Acuerdo’s nature is one of international treaties, which means that its repeal or amendment has to be done following the provision of the treaty itself or following International Law rules.

The situation for other faiths is quite different. The relation between the State and those religions lays in a legal basis, a law issued by the Parliament. There are three regulated communities: the Evangelic churches (Law 24/1992), the Jewish community (Law 25/1992) and the Muslim one (Law 26/1992). The communities of these faiths are articulated in federations to best respond to their needs.

In the second part of his intervention Jaime addressed the particular issue of how the religion was integrated in the educational model. The main ideas of the current law (Ley Orgánica para la Mejora de la Calidad Educativa, LOMCE) are that, on the one hand, teaching Catholic religion is compulsory for the educative centres but optional for the students. Then, religion will not be compulsory, it can be substituted by the recently created “Social and civic values” subject. On the other hand, the teaching of the other religious minorities will be subjected to the dictates of the particular law. For instance, the students will have the right to receive lessons in the public and semi-public schools (centros concertados); the teachers will be assigned by the Federación de Entidades Religiosas Evangélicas de España, the Federación de Comunidades Israelitas or to the Comisión Islámica de España. These federations will also establish the curriculum of the subject always taking into account that it cannot clash with the character of the centre.

We will be happy to share with you more information and the conclusions of this symposium shortly.



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