Guidelines for the development of religious tolerance praxis in mono-religious education institutions
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Research problem: This research focused on the following problem statement: What guidelines for the development of religious tolerance praxis could be drafted for mono-religious higher education institutions, and why? Research aims: Arising from the problem question, the research aims were firstly to determine, theoretically, the nature and essential features of religion (Chapter Two), secondly, to determine theoretically the nature and essential features of religious tolerance (Chapter Three) and thirdly, to determine theoretically the nature and essential characteristics of a mono-religious educational institution and how it conceptualises and operationalises religious tolerance (Chapter Four). This was done by means of a comprehensive literature review. The fourth aim was to conceptualise and draft guidelines for the development and operationalisation of religious tolerance praxis in mono-religious higher education institutions (Chapter Five and Six). Research methodology: My formal data generation was determined by the title and the scope of my research. I narrowed down the title in my study of the available body of scholarship to the conceptualisation of three related aspects, namely religion, tolerance and mono-religious higher education institutions. The purpose of the data generation was to obtain data from which possible guidelines could be articulated to understand and improve religious tolerance within a mono-religious higher institution. I limited the area of my research to an in-depth study of one research area, namely the mono-religious, private higher education institution, AROS. Identifying AROS as my research site played an important role in regard to the kind of information that I managed to generate for the study. AROS (Academy of Reformed Studies and Training) represents the location of and for my case study and, as such, it determined the unit of analysis for my formal data generation. I chose AROS as my research site because it is a mono-religious higher education institution in South Africa, and mono-religious higher education institutions form a core component of my study. I have, since 2009, been engaged as a lecturer in Religious Studies at AROS (the specific mono-religious higher education training institution that represents the area of and location for [i.e. the unit of analysis for] this specific study). The empirical investigation focused the fourth aim. It conceptualised and drafted guidelines for the development and operationalisation of religious tolerance praxis in mono-religious higher education institutions by means of individual and focus group interviews. These were based on interpretivism as my chosen epistemological paradigm. The purpose of the interpretive paradigm was to develop a better understanding of the way in which staff members and students at the mono-religious higher education institution made sense of the context within which they live and work. The qualitative data collection and methodology required considerations with regard to ethical conduct between myself and the role-players, i.e. the researcher, the Ethics Committee (NWU Faculty of Education Sciences), AROS, the role of the directors, lectures, students, and official documentation used. As the researcher I prepared the necessary documentation, the interview protocol and interview schedule with which to enter the field. Once the generation of data was completed the data were transcribed. The method of qualitative data analysis included four phases: Phase I: organising the data by using a computer software program, Atlas.ti™, which enabled me to break large bodies of text into smaller units. Phase II: perusing the data to get a sense of the whole data set. This enabled me to write different memos with categories for and interpretations of religious tolerance. Phase III: categorisation of data by identifying diverse themes, subcategories or subthemes. This allowed me to sense what the data might mean. Phase IV: integrating and summarising data by describing relationships among the categories, packaging the data into organisational schemes or offering certain propositions for developing guidelines for religious tolerance praxis for mono-religious higher education institutions. The collected qualitative data were analysed by means of the Atlas.ti™ software programme as a result of which seven guidelines for religious tolerance praxis for mono-religious higher education institutions emerged. Guidelines for improving religious tolerance praxis in mono-religious higher education institutions The conceptualisation and drafting of guidelines for the development and operationalisation of religious tolerance praxis in mono-religious higher education institutions were the result of the literature review and the empirical investigation. The following seven guidelines were developed from the literature review and the empirical investigation: * An orientation and induction programme should be implemented for all new members of staff, which, amongst others, will provide a clear explanation of the institutional identity of the mono-religious higher education institution. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should compile a clear and simple description of their vision and mission statements that communicate clearly their institutional identities with all interested parties. These interested parties would typically include the accreditation authorities, prospective and present students, the staff members themselves, as well as all other legitimate stakeholders and role-players. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should have in-house debates about their institutional identities, and they should exchange academic programmes and site visits with other higher education institutions so that they may learn from each other. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should include the following values for improving their own thinking with regard to tolerance: love, peace, critical thinking, respect, honesty and hospitality. These values should, however, also be included in the curriculum and policies of the institution and they should be accurately phrased and seek to provide a clear understanding of each of these values. * The development of critical thinking should be built into the institution’s policies, curricula, inter-staff communications and staff development programmes. This could also be achieved by, for example, encouraging lecturers to participate in national and international academic seminars and conferences. Lecturers should also be encouraged to conduct in-depth research on the work of different scholars with different religious beliefs, persuasions and convictions and thereby gain real understanding of and appreciation for their work and their understanding of religious beliefs, persuasions and convictions. This knowledge could then be utilised to improve, design and draft the institution’s own curricula on a continuous basis. * Academic programmes which could improve the understanding and importance of honest, authentic dialogue should form an integral part of the curricula of the mono-religious education institution. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should include a quality assurance division within the institution itself, for the purpose of subjecting policies and academic curricula to critical reflection and benchmarking by other academic institutions. This reflection will improve not only knowledge of the self, but also knowledge of the other, and thereby possibly enhance the academic quality and openness of the institution. Primary findings: From my study I have found that in any tolerance theory the aspects of the self, other and the space in which the self and the other interact need to be present. Without the space in which the self and the other interact, religious tolerance isn’t possible, because tolerance isn’t tolerance without the active recognition and engagement between the self and the other. I found, furthermore, that creating the space in which the self and the other interact, is necessary to create an epistemological dilemma. An epistemological dilemma is caused by a back and forth movement (oscillation) between the self and the other in terms of some or other set of opposing normative polarities. The epistemological dilemma is necessary for enhancing religious tolerance, because it causes a decision-making battle between different theories of knowledge (of the self and the other) trying to offer alternatives to two extreme normative polarities, e.g. between the absolutistic and relativistic theories of knowledge. The starting point then for all theories on tolerance should be to think of all of them as possible activators of the epistemological dilemma. If an epistemological dilemma does not exist, one would then either resort to absolutism or relativism. In my study I found that within absolutistic and relativistic theories of knowledge religious tolerance is not possible, because both these theories of knowledge lead to one single identity, not recognising the other. Based largely on the findings with regard to the empirical part of my study, it could be concluded that the activation of an epistemological dilemma merely represents the starting point for any theory on tolerance and that one should always strive to move beyond basic, ordinary religious tolerance towards tolerance as recognition and hospitality. For this I developed the dramaturgical theory of tolerance, which not only activates the epistemological dilemma by practically triggering oscillation between the self and the other, but also moves beyond basic, ordinary tolerance by creating an open, dialogic and multilogic sanctuary where the self and the other could interact and experience authentic conversational safety from pursuit, persecution, disrespect, ridicule or any other danger or form of personal embarrassment or indignity. To improve tolerance in a mono-religious higher education institution such as AROS, it is therefore necessary for them to consider moving beyond their initial, embedded understanding of tolerance, towards understanding tolerance within an open, shared dialogic and multilogic sanctuary of honest, unreserved hospitality. This notion of an open, shared dialogic and multilogic sanctuary should be built into the institution’s policies, curricula, inter-staff communications and staff development programmes. The guidelines I drafted, I believe, can aid in creating such an open, shared dialogic and multilogic sanctuary, which would enhance religious tolerance praxis for mono-religious higher education institutions. Recommendations: Based on my study I recommend that mono-religious higher education institutions improve their operationalisation of religious tolerance praxis by implementing the guidelines which I have developed. From these guidelines, I furthermore wish to recommend the following: * Mono-religious higher education institutions should study their respective countries’ national policies on religion in/and education with a view to incorporating relevant aspects regarding religion into their own curricula. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should search for possible contradictions in their own policies and address such contradictions through, amongst others, scheduled open (public) discussions and debates among all stakeholders and role-players. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should study various theories with respect to dialogue and train their students and members of staff in the art of authentic dialoguing. * Mono-religious higher education institutions should clearly and honestly state their own institutional identity and communicate it regularly to (and with) all stakeholders and role-players.
- Humanities