The Peace Classes are an active methodology developed in different schools within multicultural cities in Belgium to help kids, parents and teachers to better understand one another, build empathy, acquire and develop collaborative behaviours through value sharing, emotions and personal development.
- Holding organisation: Education Globale et Développement
- Status: Belgian association (asbl)
- Financing: no sustainable funding/ Schools pay for the programs (they can get help) punctual help from the Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles, Brussels Region and Walloon Region.
- Recognised federation as “”Youth movement” (groupement de jeunesse)
- APE subsidy to promote employment ‘Aide à la promotion de l’emploi”
- Public partners: the Walloon Region/ Wallonie-Brussels Federation
- Private partners: holidays trainings: different prices for individuals according to their incomes.
- People involved in the project:
- 10 schools/ 30 peace classes in the Brussels Region and in the Hainaut Province.
- 3 to 5 permanent animators /2 pedagogic and logistic coordinators/ 7/8 volunteering animators/administrative/ accountability volunteers
- Contact Persons: Anupam Premanand/ contact à peaceducation.org
- Main project link: http://www.peaceducation.org
The peace classes are a specific and tailored answer to acknowledge diversity in multicultural areas while putting the emphasis on practical value sharing, (friendship/empathy/helpfulness) social competencies development, civic behaviour and peace, environment setting. Not only do pupils learn how to respect one another, help each other learn and grow, they also learn to value teachers, parents and siblings who are fully involved in the process.
The local context
The challenge of inclusion in Belgian multicultural neighbourhoods was key to the development of the Peace Classes:
- Need to tackle school violence
- Need to better understand social development tools and levers
- Need to overcome ethnic and social misunderstandings.
The project potential is huge as it creates a favourable learning and listening environment for different actors of education and can be replicated in numerous contexts through an adaptive methodology.
The starting point
The project is a convergence of 2 factors:
- A local need in Belgium to tackle school violence in deprived areas
- A multicultural citizens' team with experience working in different countries like North America, Norway, Africa and India, with a will to develop a methodology for peace in the Belgian context.
This project emerged in Belgium (Brussels) after a brainstorming session with local NGOs and likeminded people working or interested in ways to improve the social climate in deprived areas of Brussels. Mixing citizens and associations, the debate came up with the problems of social development and violence at school and how to address it in an innovative way. Some experienced persons, working on developing projects around education in ethnic-troubled areas and personal development, decided to test a methodology for peace within the Belgian context. Following this event, a small group of volunteers organised itself to intervene in one school during lunchtime, proposing cooperative games and extra-curricular activities. After a few months, they noticed a change in the way children were behaving in the streets of the city: they were becoming more disciplined. By the end of June, the results were positive; children were more receptive and self-disciplined.
The process and methodology has been enriched over time Started with volunteering teachers and animators
- 1st year: only 1 school: extra-curricular activities and cooperative games during lunch time.
- 2nd year: 3 schools and interventions every week during class time
- 3rd year: another school involved
During the first Five Years: over 10 volunteers were working on the projects
How does it work today?
Meeting Rhythm: A class gets involved for the entire school year with one animation session per week. Animators come every week performing an activity within the class. After one teacher has been trained in the methodology or has experienced a peace class, the animator comes every 3 weeks. It enables the teacher to get involved in the process and adds a multiplier effect as animators are able to cover more classes.
Evaluation: Key points from the beginning of the project Development of self confidence, capacity of public speaking, children are better integrated into the group, over-active children become calmer, children learn to cooperate (competitive spirit is transformed into one that is more cooperative). Children learn self-discipline. They learn to become more calm by themselves.
Evaluation at different levels:
Institutional development: over the years, the institution developed thanks to a certain progression of different elements : the status of animators slowly shifted from volunteers to professionals, the institution could rent an office and have its own meeting room, the methodology of the Peace classes, and particularly the collaboration with teachers, evolved over time, and the budget and finances available to the organisation have also developed over the last few years.
Kids: A few questions on their evolution during the process of the Peace class at the end of the year
Principals/Teachers and animators: one full day every 3 months animators all meet together to share their individual experiences, to see what their challenges are and how they can overcome them as well as gain innovations through each other’s experiences. Principals and teachers meet once every three months to analyse, reflect, evaluate and learn.
Methodology: 4 types of activities are being developed gradually over the year
- Friendship activities
- Value development activities
- Conflict Resolution activities
- Self-awareness on world peace activities
The curriculum has adapted over time and is being adjusted to the reality of the class For instance: if the kids don't have adequate writing skills and are therefore not able to write - allow them to draw instead.
Finances: Schools that get involved in the process can find public subsidies to contribute to the association’s Class of peace organisation. (“Brussels Dispositif d’accrochage scolaire” from the Brussels region)
Target people Kids between 4 and 12 years old in a few schools/ in some homework schools or tutorial schools” écoles de devoir” and during camps over the holidays.
Partners School principals: a partnership contract is made with schools at the beginning of the year. The School must keep one hour per week for the animators/trained teachers (as part of the citizenship program) to organise the Peace class activities. The principals can provide feedback on the improvement of the education team relationships and the kids' results.
Teachers/ animators: they are models for the kids and can provide a serene and safe environment for the kids during the Peace class and beyond. They are active players in the class process: they give feedback and adapt the material to the kids’ reactions/needs, they are trained to listen to the parents and encourage them to participate to make the children's education a co-responsibility through creative communication.
Families and parents: lately, families have been more involved: in the beginning, parents would just listen. Multicultural Background parents: how to involve them directly in the methodology? The idea came first to have them participate in preparing and bringing a meal from their own country to share. Long-term involvement for parents/family:
- Recounting the children’s behavioural change at home and with his siblings
- Homework for children: the children are asked to practice the activities with their parents/ siblings/ friends/ neighbours.
- Discussions on the education of children/ new possibilities.
The dialogue has dramatically improved between parents and teachers.
Added-value of the project and making resources available
Qualitative evaluation/Children improvement: Less aggressive postures, positive personality development, shy children become more sociable, over-active children are more balanced, improved mutual understanding between teachers/parents, better school results, core personal qualities gain (honesty, calmness, generosity..)
General remark: This preventive work with underprivileged children helps to develop their social and cultural resources as well as to work against stigmatisation. This methodology could prevent the recurrence of common social difficulties. Not only do children benefit from this program but so too do the teachers, parents and families.
Personal recall: “There was one very active kid; he couldn’t respect instructions/rules and wasn’t very well disciplined. In the self-evaluation, the little boy was sad to leave the school and the Peace class.” There is confidence among the association that this program may help children develop better social skills and be valued in a different way than in the regular system.
Key success factors:
- Methodology involving teachers:
- Evaluation every 3 months with the teachers to find solutions all together.
- Gradual responsibility share: During the second year in peace class, the teacher facilitates the program (animators intervene every three weeks). In that, the teacher is not only able to apply the methodology in “the peace classes” but also to apply this attitude in other subject classes with a global positive outcome.
- Continued training of stakeholders: constantly improve their competences and bring gradual understanding of one another.
- Contribution to the change of mind-sets among teachers: difficulty in the beginning for teachers to let the room to the animators and modify some of their habits, education processes.
E.g. A teacher was regularly absent (bored and depressive)/ slowly she changed her behaviour/ she started speaking positively to the children, developing a better atmosphere and being more enthusiastic about her class
- Financial resources: the way in which to receive support from public authorities: a lot of time and energy to access public funding.
Future perspectives Different projects are already in process:
- Outside classes: one day afternoon training
- Camp during holidays
- New target: developing activities and material for older people (between 12 to 18)
- Parents and grandparents workshops: once a month/ how to manage the family (with the help of many disciplines to cover personal, psychological and sociological aspects)
- Pilot project in one school: once a month parents would experience the same activities as the children. In parallel: one room for the parents/ another room for the children.
Other ressources L'ECEC a French Canadian entrepreneurial school-system focusing on the global life of the children and local communities Online in French: un système-école entreprenant, innovant et à valeur ajoutée éducative,au service du développement viable et de la santé globale de nos jeunes et de leur communauté.