This week, several of us have been participating in the activities of the European Evangelical Accreditting Association. Gathered with other Visitation Evaluation Team members for a couple of days in the Mennonite-Anabaptist Academic Centre in Bienenberg (near Basel), we talked together about the purpose and the challenges facing theological education in Europe today. The issues discussed reminded us what the father of the modern education, Jan Komensky, emphasised 400 years ago: education must be concerned with the growth of human person.
The search for the most effective form(s) of education in Europe must address the issue of excellence of academic standards, expressed in the ‘internationalisation’ of knowledge as well as the encouragement of the ‘flavour’ of local traditions embedded in different national educational systems. These are the concerns behind the Bologna process, which must accept diversity as part of its system even as it attempts to bring broad agreement enabling credit transfer.
Yet there is a missing component here: the moral value of education, which gets largely ignored by the actions driving Bologna. It is precisely here that peer accreditation among Christian theological institutions, such as EEAA, is important. They remind that as much as the strive for academic rigour is important and right, the purpose of Christian education is to enable the church to become a better witness to the world in the need of God’s grace and redemption. Discussions about different forms of education – formal, informal, nonformal; residential and distance – must continue in the context of this task. The way we see it (and the way we read the Gospel), the task requires a learning community of disciples, such as we try to be here in Prague; then, such centres of committed learning in line with the highest academic standards, enable others, who cannot come for full-time studies, to benefit more than they would, say, by taking an on-line course or working with individual visiting teachers. Obviously, education must be creative (especially in our uneasy times!), but such learning community for us seems to be a vital element.
– Parush and Lina