“Managing Conflict through the process of Humane Education in Schools”
The Cycle of Abuse refers to conflict within domestic settings and shows the relationship between animal abuse, abuse of humans and domestic violence. This ‘Cycle’ can potentially be broken through a process known as Humane Education, which is based on a non-threatening format that does not impose a belief system, but attempts to create a platform for independent critical thinking, so individuals, even a young child, can evaluate information and make informed choices. It is an area of study that fosters in individuals a sense of empathy that extends to the web of life – to humans, animals and the natural world, recognising that all are interrelated.
In 2012, after 6 years of research and collating data relating to areas of conflict in society within China, ACTAsia prepared a 2-year Humane Education programme for children aged 5 – 8 years, and a pilot programme was trialled in 2 State schools in China, known as ‘Caring for Life’ (CLE) programme. A CLE ’Curriculum’ of educational resources, adapted for the Chinese culture and education system is provided to teachers.
The CLE programme trains teachers through at least 3 workshops to offer a 12-session learning course that is conducted throughout an academic year (September – June) split into 6 sessions per academic term under the mandatory curriculum subject of Moral Education. Several teaching strategies are used in the CLE programme, including developing empathy, activity-based learning, cooperative learning, activities designed to develop critical thinking, and empowering children to serve as messengers to other family members.
This programme was well received by teachers and principals of the participating schools. In the 2013-2014 academic year, the programme was introduced to 7 primary schools in 3 cities; the pilot research project we’re describing today was conducted at these schools.
Aim of the Pilot Research Project: To establish through the process of teaching humane education in primary schools in China, the effect of the programme on i) the frequency of students’ pro-social behaviours; ii) the frequency of students’ disruptive behaviours; and iii) on students’ knowledge of and attitudes about Caring for Life issues.
Methodology: Evaluation of the programme was recommended and overseen by Professor William Ellery Samuels, Director of Assessment & Accreditation, City University of New York, Staten Island, USA.
Participating students completed CLE Student (CLES) Questionnaire, before and after the programme. The CLES questionnaire was adapted from Ascione (1983). to measure self-reported knowledge and attitudes about five caring-for-life domains: i) web of life; ii) animal sentience: iii) responsible pet ownership; iv) dog bite prevention; v) empathy and compassion.” Each domain was measured by four items, making the CLES questionnaire 20 items long.
Participating teachers completed the Teacher Observation of Classroom Adaptation–Checklist (TOCA-C). Originally developed by Kellam, Branch, Agrawal, and Ensminger (1975), to measure the frequency of developmentally adaptive and maladaptive child behaviours.
Overall Results: These results indicate that the programme can produce reliable improvements in children’s pro-social and disruptive behaviours as well as to improve their knowledge and understanding of Caring for Life issues. The effect was greatest here on knowledge of Caring for Life issues, but was also large for the effect on pro-social behaviour. The effect on disruptiveness was smaller for most schools, but this may be because we reached a “floor” effect such that these scores could not have gone much lower than from where they started, but we cannot tell from this study. The size of the effects on these outcomes is admirable for an education programme that is only conducted during one period per week.
To date, a continuation of the programme is running in 8 cities of 7 Provinces with 14,000 children; 600 trained teachers and 94 schools are participating in the programme.