A German think-tank Aktionsrat Bildung around Mr Dieter Lenzen, University of Hamburg (Germany) has defined twelve megatrends for schools and education, which will play a major role in teaching within the next ten to fifteen years. According to their research and subsequent discussion in the think-tank panel, these megatrends are (in the given order as published by the Aktionsrat Bildung):
-Change in values
-Change in the meaning of religion(s)
-Awareness of sustainability
-Migration and integration
-Demographic changes towards an aged society
-Urbanisation vs. rural areas
-Social inequality – dynamic social processes
-Change in vocational training and trades
-New awareness of health
-Change in family concepts
To the astonishment of many, religion and Religious Education (RE) comes third in this list of megatrends for schools. The global world is not only defined by national borders, or cultural groups, but also – and more and more so, it seems – by religious affiliation or religious identification. Immigration poses a challenge to Germans, as their religious affiliation is dwindling. Non-believers (nearly 30 million) make the biggest group among the German population, followed by Roman Catholics (24 million), Lutheran Protestants (23 million) and Muslims (more than 4 million). However, many newcomers in Germany define themselves as “religious person” or “believer” – which will not remain without impact on the German (or European) society.
Mary Ward would not have been much impressed by these findings. She was open to changes, open towards other religious groups, even though we should be doubtful whether her approach to other denominations or beliefs would be acceptable in the 21st century. She had expressed her willingness to go and teach among the “Turks and heathen”, i.e. Muslims, however, this idea never really came to fruition, probably because she was dissuaded to do so…
… in any case, this willingness to engage in communication with people from other religious backgrounds should be something that we as teachers should have in mind if and when we want to prepare our pupils for the needs of the next few decades in an increasingly non-believing and at the same time staunchly believing global society.