Education, identity and diversity


Prof. Doret de Ruyter and Prof. Bert van Oers

How do you teach children how to live a good life, within a society that is culturally, morally and religiously diverse? What values and standards should be maintained, and which ideals pursued? Children pick up all sorts of messages from their home environment and from the society in which they grow up about how they should live their lives, and what constitutes appropriate conduct. All of these cultures, concepts and messages are thrown into the mix at school, especially in places such as sports fields. How should teachers deal with this, and what are their own personal ideals?

The programme can be broken down into two lines.

  • Line 1: Ideals and identity of childrearers/educators and children

The focus of this line is children’s personal development, and the principles maintained by parents and teachers in this process. We also look at the way children develop, conforming to the ideals that dominate in our diverse society. We are particularly interested in the cultural, religious, and moral ideals of parents, teachers and young people and how these are reflected in childrearing within families and in education at schools. In addition, we also explore the need for special schools and for religious education in relation to the development of children’s identities.

  • Line 2: Meaningful education and citizenship

    This line explores ways in which childrearers/teachers and teaching practices can best prepare children and young people for their role in our diverse society. The goal is to guide the development of well-informed, critical, and responsible citizens. What critical contribution can they make that will help society to flourish while giving their own lives meaning in this context? There is considerable interest in research on the acquisition of high-quality knowledge and skills in a play-based, exploration curriculum. This raises questions such as what can teachers do to give children’s play greater substantive depth, and is this goal necessarily a good idea?


Research questions

Theoretical reflection and empirical research are used to examine the cognitive, moral, social and religious aspects of childrearing and education, with a particular focus on identity development and civic education. The research programme takes as its starting point those pedagogical questions and topics that are of particular interest to parents, teachers and educational policymakers. Some

Examples of this are:

  • Is optimum development a desirable childrearing/educational ideal?
  • How can religious education and civic education be combined?
  • How can play be used in primary education to foster exploratory learning among pupils while they are working together under the supervision of a teacher?