Community education promotes awareness and understanding of society’s many cultural and interest groups.
Beyond the filtered and insulated cocoon of family, school and friends is the wider community.
It’s a strange word; community. Regularly used in the press but usually in a pejorative sense of isolated interest groups. Society is fragmented and many would argue increasingly so. So a curriculum that promotes awareness and understanding of those outside the cocoon can only be positive. It broadens pupils’ perspectives and nurture values such as compassion, tolerance, respect, social responsibility and citizenship.
The four elements of a community education in schools
The first is a formal academic programme, such as Citizenship. Citizenship addresses aspects of social, legal and political structures. Importantly it encourages participation in social discourse and democracy.
The second element integrates community topics into the existing school curriculum. This can be through humanities lessons that consider different cultures, ethics and philosophies. It can be through the trips and visitors programme – a visit to a synagogue for example. Some schools have assemblies to consider a “thought for the day”. Most commemorate special events such as Armistice Day, and, more recently, discussing what is meant by “British Values”.
The third element is going out into the community to volunteer. At primary level volunteering may mean school choirs visiting retirement homes, hospitals, hospices and shelters. At senior school older pupils have the opportunity to volunteer through extra-curricular activities such Adventure Service Challenge, Community Service Organisation and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
The fourth element involves fundraising, usually for local and national charities. Activities range from paying to not wear school uniform for a day to organising specific fund raising events. Raising money for a named school in a developing nation has particular relevance and poignancy. Even if the activity is a fun event to raise funds for Comic Relief or Children in Need it broadens the pupils’ minds and sensitises them to a world less fortunate than theirs.