This study is a reflection on the interpretation and practice of the concept of active pluralism in the Flemish formal education.
Transforming societies, marked by increased religion, respectively ideology diversity, are posing complex challenges for European educational systems.
In Belgium, the right to education is regulated by Article 24 of the Constitution. Article 24 contains the ‘neutrality principle’ of which different interpretations exist. Consequently, Flemish formal education institutions (Vlaams officieel onderwijs) have established a general approach (further: direction) which defines how they deal with (e.g.) ideology diversity. Community education promotes ‘active citizenship’. Formal education (organized by the province, cities and municipalities) presents itself as ‘(active) pluralistic’. These directions seem to lead to different approaches in ‘managing’ (e.g.) ideology diversity.
Surprisingly, what remains under-debated is the overarching question of how the Flemish formal education institutions, both in form and content, ‘accommodate’ ideology diversity while taking these abovementioned directions into account. Within the scope of this research, which is Flemish formal education institutions, the study aims to a) evaluate the extent to which these institutions meet the standards of international, European and national law as to freedom of religion and freedom of education, and b) explore the top-down education policies; and c) examine how ideology accommodation is put into daily practice at schools.
Further, the study helps to broaden our views to include educational responses to ideology diversity.
The research project combines a variety of qualitative data collection methods in four stages: reviewing literature; conducting semi-structured interviews; studying school regulations; and carrying out case studies (data capture comprised a mix of semi-structured interviews, observations and field notes in secondary Flemish formal education schools).