Pupils who can manage change and take risks are best prepared for the future. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of national, regional and local measures and actions to promote empathy skills in European education is hindered by the lack of political will, education strategies and guidelines.
Raising empathy awareness in schools can have a positive impact on their learning environment, influence future decisions, help in the understanding of the intentions of others; their actions and feelings, and help both students and teachers anticipate the short and long-term consequences of what they do.
The concept of competency implies more than just the acquisition of knowledge and skills; it involves the mobilisation of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to meet more complex demands. Future-ready students will need both broad and specialised knowledge. Pupils will need to apply their knowledge in unknown and evolving circumstances. For this, they will need a broad range of skills, including social and emotional skills (e.g. empathy, self-efficacy and collaboration).
The methodology and pedagogical approaches that Empathy for Children intends to implement, monitor, develop and assess are those advocated by Mrs Iben Sandahl. Iben Sandahl is an internationally-renowned public speaker, best-selling author, psychotherapist and educator. She has more than 20 years of experienced insight into child psychology and education, which in a most natural Danish way of practicing parenthood.
Iben Sandahl’s methodologies are embedded in Danish BA Teacher Education Programmes and incorporate different approaches, including group work, discussions and lectures, all of which are conducted in a spirit of intellectual freedom, equality and democracy with the skills to plan both the academic as well as the educational (learning environment) aspects of the teaching and learning.
Empathy for Children aims to give all pupils the best opportunities for all-round development and learning. The methodologies build on the principle of differentiated teaching. The teaching is organized in such a way as to strengthen and develop the individual pupil's interests and through common experiences and situations, providing them with experience which prepare them for cooperation in the performance of tasks. All this develops a pupil's awareness, imagination and a confidence in their own possibilities and backgrounds such that they are able to commit themselves and willing to take action.
All this lays the foundation for developing empathy skills and understanding of others. The evaluation phase of this project will be a combination of pilot schools' experiences, including the experiences of pupils, teachers and parents. The project’s structure foresees:
5 days transnational training to prepare teacher-trainers
national training to disseminate the acquired skills
19 months piloting in primary schools.
The intellectual outputs of the project will be a multilingual Empathy toolkit and guidelines for teachers and stakeholders (including policy makers) in order to include Empathy in the European education curriculum. The main target groups are the teachers/parents and pupils. The goal is to involve 10 schools in each partner country in order to build a research community. Each school will involve 4 school classes with an average of 25 pupils (= 40x4x25 = 4000). This means that at national level training will involve at least 40 teachers who will be tasked with building a research community in the classroom. Considering that parents will also be involved (4000x2), the number of participants will be more than 12.000
Empathy for Children will have a direct impact on the evolution of European education curriculum including Empathy in the primary school curricula.