The core values promoted by the JCMA, Secondary School Project fits in perfectly with overall research and understanding into educational values frameworks and should be an inherent and continuing part of the educational curriculum.
The National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (Commonwealth of Australia 2005) outlines the nine values of Australian Schooling, all of these fitting perfectly into the aims of the JCMA project. These being Care and Compassion, Doing Your best, Fair Go, Freedom, Honesty and trustworthiness, Integrity, respect, responsibility, understanding , tolerance and inclusion. As a guiding principle recognises that “schools are not value free or value-neutral zones of social and educational engagement” (p.5) this further encourages projects such as JCMA to enter schools and enter into dialogues around inter-faith issues.
On a wider more global picture a conference on Education for Shared Values for Intercultural and Interfaith Understanding was organised by the Australian National Commission for UNESCO and National Commissions and other agencies of the Asia-Pacific region, and held in Adelaide in December 2004. It’s beliefs include that education has a key role to play in the immediate and long-term process of building peace and intercultural and interfaith understanding. The conference called on education systems and institutions to explore ways of incorporating (1) common and agreed values; and (2) educational content capable of promoting intercultural and interfaith understanding into a schools curriculum.
The JCMA project fits into these aims and it is hoped that it will continue to do so in an ongoing way following along the Goodness and Kindness program in NSW and becoming a core curriculum component.
These values shared by diverse cultural and faith traditions but also extending beyond them do not deny value differences, but are essential to preserving the dignity and rights of individuals and the harmonious co-existence of people of all cultures and faiths.
A basic understanding of the diverse range of cultures and faiths and their histories is a starting point towards greater mutual understanding and respect. Such understanding also is important in challenging stereotypes and preconceived ideas. For these reasons it is important that school curricula include among their objectives an understanding, appreciation and a welcoming of the diversity of human cultures, practices and beliefs, as well as the diversity of nature and the environment.
The conference called on education systems to review, build and promulgate knowledge about the most effective ways of promoting values and intercultural and interfaith understanding through pre-school, school and tertiary curricula, including out-of-school and non-formal education programmes.
Drawing on the statement that “the development of intercultural and interfaith understanding is more likely to result from direct personal experience (eg, cultural exchanges/immersion, opportunities to share cultural traditions, celebrations, music, languages, etc) than from indirect teaching about cultures” the JCMA project has given young people the opportunity, albeit for a very brief time, to share in another’s cultural traditions and religious outlook.
There is a need for further research to identify effective educational practices in the development of intercultural and interfaith understanding. Better assessments, improved indicators of effectiveness, improved systems for recognising and acknowledging successful teaching, and better ways of disseminating models of effective practice are desirable.
The intention to promote shared values and intercultural and interfaith understanding through curricula is unlikely to succeed if it is not supported by an institutional ethos and policies that reflect values such as non-discrimination, equality, equity, respect and justice. Unfortunately changing the institutional ethos was not in the scope of the JCMA project.
The conference recognised the necessity of preparing and supporting teachers to model and promote values for intercultural and interfaith understanding. The JCMA project called upon teachers and school support staff to assist in the facilitation of small groups, thus their involvement was essential to this project