What are the current challenges facing education?

Church and Education - Challenges, Principles and Perspectives of Protestant Responsibility for Education and Church Educational Action

An orientation aid from the Council of the EKD, 2010, published by Gütersloher Verlagshaus, ISBN 978-3-579-05911-2

1. Challenges

In this part of the orientation guide, seven challenges are described, which exemplify the upheavals the church is facing today in the field of education. No comprehensive analysis of the current ecclesiastical or social situation is intended. The focus is rather on educational tasks in children and adolescents as well as on the attempt to make people aware of the fundamental changes that are currently to be expected and that decisive decisions are being made in the field of education for the future. Against this background, it can be seen why the church is faced with far-reaching decisions as well as planning and structuring tasks which in many respects require a reorientation of the church's educational activities.

1.1 Religious change: Church communication in the tension between identity and relevance

One can speak of a religious change not only with regard to the presence of different religions in Germany, but also with regard to the religious communities themselves, not least the Protestant Church. This change cannot be adequately grasped with older distinctions between "church and world", for example. Even a secularization in the sense of the loss of religion as well as the increasingly dwindling importance of religion in the life of individual people is no longer accepted in social-scientific and empirical research on religion. As a signature of the time, religious individualization is often not regarded as individuation, as it is required by some psychologies as a form of personal maturation, but as the dissolution of binding religious guidelines for the individual. To the extent that religion becomes an individual project for shaping life, religion changes in a lasting way. The concepts of subjectification, biographicalization, aestheticization and religious bricolage, which are common in religious research, highlight various aspects of this change. In the area of ​​the church, too, so the individual church members are now often aware, the views represented by the church on the one hand and the individual beliefs on the other hand do not necessarily coincide. Such differences have become reflexive in the meantime, and what is more, they are considered "quite normal". After all, everyone can believe what he or she wants! Nobody has the right to interfere! Young people often put it this way, and their parents have long since included children in religious individualization. The epochal change in the style of upbringing and the change in the family also have serious effects on religious family education, not least in terms of far-reaching individualization even in childhood. At the same time, it cannot be overlooked that at least some young people today are increasingly looking for fixed orientation and permanent membership in a familiar community.

For church educational action, the change in religion creates the fundamental difficulty of making the content associated with the Protestant understanding of education understandable in such a way that children, young people or adults understand it as meaningful for their own lives. Specifically, it is about a perception problem, a language problem and a participation problem. The forms of religion practiced in Germany today are often within the horizon of the history of the impact of Christianity, but they only include an awareness of the historical context to which they owe themselves, but only in rare cases. Therefore, these forms of religion can hardly be adequately perceived with the help of the conceptual instruments of traditional dogmatics alone. At the same time, this means that the gospel cannot be easily communicated in the form of the Christian-ecclesiastical language. This language is perceived as "foreign", "remote from life" and sometimes even as "repulsive". And finally, above all, religious individualization, like all social individualization processes, tends to make any form of constant participation in church offers or a conscious decision to become a member of the church, based on firm convictions, unlikely. This also applies if leaving the church is not immediately considered.

The consequence of this situation is the tension between identity and relevance, with which church education is now inevitably confronted. The identity and profile of the church are becoming more important and must also be held against religious change. But how can church offers then still be experienced as relevant in terms of the forms of religion that are lived? Conversely, the church can open up to practiced forms of religion in order to gain relevance. But how then is your Christian identity still recognizable? Can there be ways out of this tension? What are the options if identity cannot be increased at the expense of relevance and if relevance cannot be increased at the expense of identity? How can we achieve that the connection between identity and relevance of the church becomes recognizable?

1.2 Demographic change

The low birth rate, which is still falling in some regions, creates enormous challenges for Germany as a whole today. The birth rate belongs in the context of a more far-reaching demographic change, which also includes the effects of migration. This change leads to a situation in which many of the traditional requirements no longer exist. This can be illustrated using the example of working with children and young people. In society, but also especially in the church, there are fewer and fewer children and young people, while the number of older adults is increasing. Various factors, in particular the interplay between birth rates and migration effects, are causing the relative proportion of Protestant children and adolescents in the church to drop even further. Children and adolescents tend to become a social minority, and the baptized children and adolescents face a growing proportion of non-baptized children and adolescents without denomination as well as children and adolescents with a non-Christian religion.

In the first place, in view of this situation, the question arises whether the church can and must maintain its previous educational offers or whether there will be too few children and young people for this in the future. Offers such as the children's church service are no longer a matter of course in all places, because at least in some communities no meaningful group size can be achieved. And how can ecclesiastical day-care centers make a Christian profile plausible if the baptized or Christian socialized children have become a minority in the facility? Even denominational religious education is sometimes reproached that it is hardly useful if learning groups can at best be set up through cross-year combinations.

A withdrawal of the church from the above-mentioned pedagogical fields of work would have far-reaching consequences even from a superficial perspective. Since there are no alternative offers in sight, such a withdrawal would be tantamount to an increasing dissolution of the intergenerational relationship in the church. Children and young people would receive far less religious accompaniment, although they are more dependent than ever on accompaniment and educational opportunities in the emerging minority position. But how can conventional offerings be maintained if demographic change continues?

1.3 Scarce financial resources and the question of securing the future

Demographic change inevitably also has a negative impact on the financial strength of the church: It is the members who, with their church taxes and donations, essentially carry the work of the church. In the long term, noticeable financial restrictions must be expected with a decreasing number of members. These restrictions put the church before selection decisions, since not all previous offers can be financed equally. A new church financial management will in future make the costs and the financing of church offers and services more transparent - but it will also challenge clear management decisions. The responsibility for future generations in the church in particular makes the questions raised by demographic change with regard to the financial feasibility of offers for children and young people even more urgent. Which priorities should be set? How important should education-related expenses be? Isn't it advisable to look at educational opportunities from this perspective and to focus on this?

Undoubtedly, many people are reached through educational offers who otherwise have little or no contact with the church. Such offers can make a significant contribution to gaining a positive relationship with the church. In view of the scarce financial resources, however, one should ask: In what ways can church educational work actually open up access to the church and how does it counteract a loss of membership among the younger generation?

1.4 Migration and globalization

Migration and globalization have already been mentioned in terms of their importance for demography and the economy. However, its theological and pedagogical implications go far beyond that. The finding reported in the German Education Report of 2006 that a third of the children in pre-primary education already have a migration background makes this clear in a nutshell. Migration and globalization are changing the entire cultural, but also the religious situation in Germany. Many of the children with a migration background are Muslims. In the case of children and adolescents, the proportion of the Muslim population is far larger than the calculations, which are usually based on the population as a whole, indicate. In addition, globalization research rightly points to the cultural dimension of globalization processes, which includes, among other things, an increased awareness of plurality. Plurality is not just a consequence of migration, but in cultural and religious terms migration contributes to further pluralization. Other cultures and religions are no longer distant and exotic, but have also gained an everyday presence in Germany, at least in the minds of many people. This exemplarily shows that heterogeneity is no longer the exception, but rather, unlike in earlier times, an everyday normality. The fact that the experiences of plurality differ from region to region and that there are apparently permanent differences between town and country and between East and West Germany does not change this. Rather, such differences increase the experience of plurality again.

Without it being possible to speak of a planned changeover, educational programs sponsored by churches, for example in Protestant day-care centers, in fact often refer to members of non-Christian religious communities. The church has to deal with other cultures and religions. And other cultures are also gaining influence in the Protestant Church itself, for which the repatriates from the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union can be cited as an example. The references in the sense of regionality (parishes, church districts, regional churches, etc.) and nationality (church in Germany), which were more or less assumed as a self-evident orientation for the church's educational activity in the past, must be redefined and, last but not least, from a cultural point of view, the requirements of integration Internationality and globalization are coordinated. As a result, further clarifications of the theological and pedagogical significance of mission, ecumenism, dialogue and conviviality become urgent in a new way.

The situation of plurality determined by migration and globalization, among other things, makes competing options equally plausible: On the one hand, there is a growing desire for profiling in order to escape the danger of confusion, indifference and relativism. On the other hand, the church will only be able to successfully carry out a mission for society as a whole, in relation to the general public, if profiling also means openness. The understanding of ecumenism, which from an evangelical point of view includes the worldwide church, but not other - i.e. non-Christian - religions, is just as exciting. From the evangelical point of view, an overstretching of the ecumenical understanding is to be rejected because it neither leads to theological clarifications nor to a helpful way of dealing with lasting differences for society. Nevertheless, new questions arise at this point. How can approaches such as ecumenical and global learning be further developed in such a way that they also relate constitutively to religious plurality? Conversely, are such approaches adjusted through their Christian ties to a community formation that is consciously closer than the community of all people implied by the concept of globality?

1.5 Change in culture

The change in culture has many facets. It concerns the forms of life, the changes of which are particularly noticeable in the family and their changing forms. Likewise, it relates to the understanding of man and reality and thus to worldviews, which are still argued over and over again, for example between faith and science. For many, the apparently still unsolved question of how the belief in creation and the theory of evolution can be reconciled has in the recent past become a widely perceived sign of unresolved conflicts and far-reaching inquiries into the Christian faith (cf. in school, EKD 2008). The consequences of believing in science are apparently still not sufficiently recognized. The change in culture continues to extend to the handling of time, the experience of time and the organization of time. The individual lifetime and the »time stress« experienced by many are affected by this, as is world time, which in the course of globalization seems to be becoming a new unified time.

All these aspects, the list of which can be expanded almost at will today, also include challenges for the church's educational activity. So far, most attention has been paid to the change in the leading media, which is described as the transition from words to words and images in the mass media and as an appreciation of popular culture. The influence of the media, especially the mass media in their various forms, from radio and television to the Internet and other digital media, seems to continue to increase, not least in the lives of children and young people.

The mass media have been described as a distinct obstacle to communication for the Church and the Gospel because they make the presentation and reception of the one word more difficult. Others, however, point to the religiously productive role of the media. In particular, the popular culture conveyed and cultivated by the media is highly religious, so that one can even speak of a separate »media religion« - as the form of religious experience generated or stimulated in media presentations. Popular culture conveyed by the media has become a central medium for creating meaning for many people.

However, the consequences of the new media for religious socialization have still hardly been researched. In particular, there is a lack of empirical impact studies, as would be indispensable for a serious assessment of possible consequences. The question of whether serious religious education can also be achieved through the mass media is just as open. Education and (mass) media are not mutually exclusive. Reference is often made to the historical connection between the Reformation and the media revolution, which in the 16th century was primarily associated with the invention of the printing press. But how and with what media can this connection be renewed today? Even the defenders of the "media religion" do not want to claim that the gospel is simply embodied in it. Rather, this form of religion is also on the horizon of religious change and in this respect confronts the church again with the challenges of identity and relevance. Is the media an area in which the church is investing more and from which it should then expect a significant contribution to its educational activities? Have the attempts so far made in this regard, for example with church radio, Bible TV, religious films and talk shows, as they have been financially supported by the Church in recent years, really successful?

In all of this, it must be kept in mind that cultural change and its challenges for the church go much further than changes in the media. Even the successful attempt to ensure that the mass media do justice to the demands of the understanding of education represented by the church would in itself not be a sufficient answer to the change in culture. Therefore the overarching question remains: How can the educational activities of the church adapt to the change in culture without losing its Christian substance?

1.6 Living with growing social, cultural and regional disparities

We can speak of social, cultural and regional disparities and tensions on several levels: for the individual societies, including German society, but also in the global horizon and with regard to individual life situations and biographies. Life in the »risk society« (Ulrich Beck) is characterized by the awareness of numerous and far-reaching burdens that are unevenly distributed and that in some situations have far more severe consequences than in others. At the same time, all people in society are faced with the experience that many risks cannot be controlled by the individual. This is particularly true with regard to global risks, as they are described in keywords such as “climate catastrophe” or “conflict of cultures”. With the struggle for locational advantages, globalization processes put the welfare state structures under pressure and, with global "practical constraints", call into question the possibility of democratic decision-making. In one's own country this corresponds to the scissor-like opening between rich and poor, but the already mentioned migration and globalization-related tensions between ethnic and national groups in society also belong in this context. Other disparities arise from German history itself, for example in the relationship between East and West Germany or between different regions also within the different parts of the country and federal states. The education system plays an ambivalent role here. It has long been recognized and empirically proven several times that the education system produces both: winners and losers, and this is particularly evident in Germany.

Growing up is increasingly determined by such disparities. Even children and young people are grappling with relevant issues, such as the risk of unemployment, a lack of social security and the finite nature of resources. But such questions affect the individual children and young people in very different ways, depending on their life situation and biographical perspective, which can fluctuate between a pronounced optimism and the no less pronounced conviction that they have no chance themselves.

With its approaches of ecumenical, global and interreligious learning, church educational work was often ahead of its time. With her role as a pioneer, she understood well the sensitivity of young people with regard to future problems, who often reacted earlier, more quickly and with greater determination than adults to emerging risks, for example for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. The approaches mentioned have not lost their importance. At the same time, church educational work is confronted with new challenges and demands that put its credibility to the test. Is global learning already sufficiently adjusted to the growing disparities? And what effects are actually achieved with this approach in learning processes? Has interreligious learning been sufficiently involved in the new sharpness of the contradictions and conflicts between the religions? And with all of this: What does the church's educational action mean with regard to the disparities described? What life chances and options does church educational work, for example, open up to young people who, according to today's expectations, have little chance of a paid job in Germany?

1.7 Education as a subject of measurement

The term "measuring" is to be understood literally: As never before, education in Germany - as in other countries, especially in the western world - is recorded with the help of empirical methods and comparative studies are carried out on educational success. The competencies to be acquired in the educational process are determined in a way that in turn is conducive to empirical testing. Educational standards represent another instrument that is intended to allow a comparative recording of the competences acquired or not acquired in each case. The forms of measuring and remeasuring the educational landscape as a whole that are addressed are just as much in the horizon of international competition for location advantages as in that of the necessary accountability in a system that wants to give the individual educational institutions more freedom of action. In all of this, it remains to be critically examined whether education is not shortened and narrowed in favor of measurability (see dimensions of the human).

At the same time, the concept of remeasurement refers in a broader sense to shifts that affect several levels: the actors in education; the relationship between state and non-state sponsors; the social and temporal limits of the state-standardized education system. This is easy to see from the increased establishment of all-day schools. This is combined with a social and temporal delimitation of school beyond the half-day school that has hitherto been widely used in Germany. Other partners from child and youth work or in the form of sports and music clubs or other cultural providers are included in the school work. Activities previously assigned to the leisure sector move into the context of the state-regulated school (cf. all-day school - in good form! EKD 2004). Another example is the elementary sector, for which there were only few binding guidelines in the past. With the orientation and education plans agreed between the providers, which have now come into effect for the first time for the elementary sector, the importance of public responsibility is also increasing in the elementary sector and voluntary offers are becoming compulsory areas. This is linked to important new opportunities for education, not least for children from their parents' homes, who offer the children little stimulation and support in this regard. However, the questions that, from the church's point of view, are associated with such a re-measurement (cf. religion, values ​​and religious education in the elementary sector, EKD 2007) should not be ignored.

Both aspects of the remeasurement present considerable challenges for the church's educational activity. Efficiency and quality of church educational offers are no longer accepted for granted today. Unlike in earlier times, church sponsorships do not yet provide an adequate answer to quality questions. This applies to church participation in religious instruction in schools as well as to church sponsored schools or other church institutions in the elementary sector. In another way, it also applies to offers in the community such as confirmation work or youth work, the plausibility of which can no longer simply be assumed. The principles of religious freedom, carrier pluralism and civil society engagement are also affected by the remeasurement in the broader sense. Even if this is not intended, the delimitation of schools or the expansion of state responsibility can lead to a shift at the expense of free, non-state sponsors. This contradicts the self-image of the church as a provider of day-care centers and Protestant schools (schools in Protestant sponsorship, EKD 2008). Democratic-pluralistic requirements would then only be given secondary consideration compared to claims based on the performance of educational offers.

If the church wants to hold on to its role in the field of education with a view to the remeasurement of the educational landscape and educational responsibility, it will not be able to do this without increased efforts - including targeted investments. There can be less and less obvious continuity of traditions in the field of education in view of the demands associated with the remeasurement. How can the church get involved in the opportunities that are opening up with these changes without the church's educational activity losing its specific profile?