From November 5th to November 10th, 2023, GPENreformation and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana invited around 60 members and ambassadors of the network from a total of 15 countries as well as 40 teachers and education officials from Ghana to Koforidua, Ghana. Together they discussed digitalisation in Protestant schools worldwide. The theme of the conference was “Seeds of Hope in Complex Times – Protestant Education in the Digital Age”.
Digital education opens up new educational opportunities. However, pupils need more than an education focussed on technical possibilities: They need the corresponding social skills to deal with digital tools and methods appropriately. Digitalisation is changing the way we live as individuals and societies. It is changing how we interact with each other, how we absorb information and how we participate in public debates. This means that understanding the mechanisms of the digital world we live in and the ways in which we actively participate in it are of crucial importance. Therefore, the school of the future must utilise digital educational materials, tools and access where they add value and always reflect on the ethical responsibility that comes with it.
In addition, the globally differing opportunities for stable internet access and the provision of hardware and software pose a threat to the development of educational quality in many countries, as this can lead to further global injustices. For these reasons, GPENreformation will work politically to ensure that state funding for digital equipment in schools is also available to non-profit Protestant schools. The conference was an important step in this direction.
The first day of the event focussed on the status quo of digital education in Protestant schools. Dr Susanne Timm from Germany and Dr Frederick Njobati from Cameroon gave the keynote lecture on “Evidence and Consequences for digital Learning about Boundaries”. This was followed by reports on the respective status of digitalisation from Ghana, Tanzania, Brazil, the Philippines and Germany. This was followed by a workshop in which further experience reports from the individual participating countries were collected.
The second day focussed on innovative digital education concepts. The keynote lecture on “A Vision for Christian Education in a Digital Age” was given by Prof Dr Bernard Bull from the USA. The subsequent impulses dealt with innovative approaches to digital education in Rwanda, Cameroon and Germany with regard to Covid-19, climate neutrality, human rights and peace education. Building on this, the day’s workshop continued to explore innovative approaches and the challenges of digital education in the participants’ countries of origin.
The third day was dedicated to the future of Protestant schools in the digital age. Prof Dr Birte Platow from Germany gave the keynote lecture. She dealt with “Theological-ethical Aspects of Digitalisation” with a focus on dealing with artificial intelligence. The substantive part of the conference concluded with a workshop to develop theses for a statement to be issued by the conference with regard to digitalisation at Protestant schools. This statement will be published on the GPENreformation website shortly after it has been finalised.
The workshop was followed by a panel on the further development of GPENreformation’s network structures. The idea of setting up steering committees within the network, in which the ambassadors can deepen their joint work, was enthusiastically received by the participants.
In addition, the GPENreformation Council was unanimously reconfirmed and expanded by two members. The committee now includes Rev Dr Birgit Sendler-Koschel (Germany), Dr Jonathan Laabs (USA), Rev Samuel Mutabazi (Rwanda), Prof Dr Annette Scheunpflug (Germany), Lovejoy Abadiano (Philippines), Berend Kamphuis (Netherlands), Mimii Rubindamayuigi (Tanzania) and Bishop Eraste Bigirimana (Burundi).
In addition, 44 new Ambassadors were recruited during the conference. They will represent GPENreformation in their regions and countries.
Excursions to the surrounding area took place on the last two days. Special experiences were the trip to the Asetifi Stoneage Community Development Park and the visits to Protestant schools in Koforidua. All participants will certainly have fond memories of the conference.