Center for Civic Education
Democracy and the New Millennium
The Council of Europe's Study Strategies for Learning Democratic Citizenship:
A First Step Towards a European Framework?
Dr. Karlheinz DuerrA paper presented at
State Centre for political Education Baden-Wuerttemberg
Democracy and the New Millennium
Note: Most of the Study summarised here was written by Vedrana Spajic-Vrkas and myself, with Isabel Ferreira Martins providing the chapter on "Adult Education." I will not, therefore, claim the authorship of the present paper without crediting Vedrana Spajic-Vrkas as co-author.
The challenge of a European approach to Learning Democratic Citizenship
The fundamental changes that have taken place in Europe since the beginning of the last decade of the 20th Century have led to new and complex challenges in the established as well as in the new democracies. While the Western European countries are faced with accelerating economic, social, technological and political changes, the countries of the Central and Eastern European region seek to consolidate their newly established political and economic orders, overcome the heritage of the past to develop a new political culture and instil their citizens with the ideas of democracy, human rights, and rule of law.
Both developments are characterised by the removal, replacement or suppression of traditional ideas, values, conventions, behaviours and norms. A comprehensive rebuilding of social, economic and political structures is taking place everywhere; it requires new competencies, skills and knowledge. Learning processes are at the core of these developments. It is only by learning that comprehension, commitment and knowledge can be transmitted, acquired and shared. In this overarching process, the very idea and practice of learning itself is changing: Learning is no longer restricted to the earlier stages of human life, to formal systems like schools and universities or professional training processes. In this situation of rapid, constant and enduring change, learning becomes a life-long task.
The demands for learning processes articulated by individuals, groups, the society and the economy alike require new objectives and approaches. Autonomous, critical and complex thinking, the readiness to accept responsibilities, future-oriented and innovative attitudes, are some of the criteria which serve to determine modern educational processes. Democracy is the political system that gives room to such learning. However, if it is true that, historically, situations of fundamental change tended to contribute to instability, the idea of Democracy needs in such situations to be seen as the core element of all learning processes.
The autonomous, critical, participative and responsible citizen is the central requirement for any society that respects the principles of democracy, human rights, peace, freedom and equality. If, as Abraham Lincoln stated, democracy is to be understood as "government for the people, by the people, and of the people", then three important conclusions might be drawn:
- Firstly, the term "citizen" does not merely imply a legal status within the political system; rather, it implies competencies, skills and capabilities that must be transmitted in a life-long learning process. There is, therefore, a need for a reflection on the changing notions of learning as well as the contexts, contents and requirements of learning processes that are the cornerstones of education for democracy.
- Secondly, Learning for Democratic Citizenship becomes a comprehensive task that cannot take place in formal institutions alone; rather, learning takes place in diversified formal and non-formal settings involving the co-ordination and co-operation of all relevant institutions and organisations.
But what is the institutional framework of such learning? Since learning processes are today still characterised by the dominance of the formal educational sector, we must bring them into a much closer interaction with another increasingly important field of democratic learning -- the society.
- Thirdly, in the course of these developments, the relationship between the transmitter and the learner will change dramatically. The question of how people (i.e. individual citizens) are to be qualified to meet the requirements inferred by their citizenship in an effective manner will become more and more important.
This aspect underlines the fact that methods and approaches will be of prime importance for successful and sustained Learning of Democratic Citizenship. Since formal education is no longer the only supplier of knowledge, it is faced with increasing pressure to develop more effective and attractive forms of learning. Innovative methods of teaching and learning will be decisive factors in the constant efforts to claim and maintain the acceptance and motivation of the learner.
These aspects reflect, in a manner of speaking, the basic understanding between the three authors who were asked by the Council of Europe to compose a Study on the Strategies for Learning Democratic Citizenship. The Study is, as we see it, a first step that could eventually lead to a European Framework for Learning Democratic Citizenship. Whether such an aim will ever be reached we do not know.
The Council of Europe's Programme
"Education for Democratic Citizenship"
The basis of the Council of Europe's work in this field was formulated in a Declaration issued by the Second Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Council of Europe. In October 1997, the assembly expressed their view that "the far-reaching changes in Europe and the great challenges to our societies require intensified co-operation between all European democracies". The Summit went on to say:
(...) "Aware of the educational and cultural dimension of the main challenges to be faced by Europe in the future as well as of the essential role of culture and education in strengthening mutual understanding and confidence between our peoples: - (we) express our desire to develop education for democratic citizenship based on the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and the participation of young people in civil society." (...)
The aim to strengthen democratic stability in the member states was the main focus of the Action Plan attached to the "Final Declaration". In Chapter IV of the Action Plan, the Summit stated:
"Education for democratic citizenship: the Heads of State and Government decide to launch an initiative for education for democratic citizenship with a view to promoting citizens' awareness of their rights and responsibilities in a democratic society, activating existing networks, ..."
The emphasis on "citizens' rights and responsibilities" and on the need for "active citizens' (and in particular young peoples') participation" within a "civil society" reflects the increasing concern among politicians and other public figures, scientists and educators about the state of the democratic culture in Europe. Other focal points of the Declaration and Action Plan pointed to the need to stimulate the "respect for human rights and the rule of law", the view "to building a freer, more tolerant and just European society based on common values", and, in general, "cohesion, stability and security in Europe".
In consequence of the Summit's Declaration, the Council of Europe, being the largest and oldest intergovernmental organisation in Europe, established its major programme "Education for Democratic Citizenship" (EDC).
The Study presented here is one of the major projects which were carried out within the EDC programme. The composition of the group of authors reflected to a certain degree the major European regions: Southern Europe (Isabel Ferreira Martins, Portugal), Central and Eastern Europe (Vedrana Spajic-Vrkas), Western Europe (Karlheinz Duerr).
The Study "Strategies for Learning Democratic Citizenship"
The Study can rightfully be described as one of the three fundamental publications that resulted from the EDC programme.
The Study consists of two parts:
- A Description of the context in which LDC takes place
- An Outline of the methods and practices that are used in Europe today.
However, in the course of our work we realised how extremely complex the situation of LDC in Europe is. Therefore, we felt that more practical material was needed, in particular a collection of good practices and models for teaching and learning that could be easily adapted to other circumstances. In addition to writing the Study, I also directed the work of two students on a collection of such exemplary projects and approaches from all over Europe. The result was also published as a report -- The Synopsis of Approaches, Methods and Practices. The Synopsis is by no means conclusive; its work in progress and we hope to continue with it.
Here I need to focus on the Study, but because it contains so many elements, I cannot go into details. I believe there is consensus on the underlying objectives of LDC:
- to provide skills, knowledge and competencies
- to create a basis for active participation
- to create opportunities for dialogue and discourse
- to stimulate awareness of rights and responsibilities
To achieve these aims, the learning process must involve three dimensions:
- a cognitive dimension - a social dimension - an affective dimension
Part 1: LDC in Context
The first part of the Study focuses on
- the relationship between rights and responsibilities
- the changing environment of LDC
- the contexts between LDC and related approaches
Relationship between rights and responsibilities
Education has an important role to play in the "training" of the citizens for active and responsible citizenship in a democracy. Therefore, learning and education have the task to provide orientation for the present and future citizens with regard to their rights as well as their responsibilities.
Practising educators, in turn, must be prepared to discuss the importance and character of duties and responsibilities with their target groups, in particular with young people. There are several duties or responsibilities essential for a functioning democracy, for example
- the duty to participate
- the duty to inform oneself
- the duty to inform oneself about and try to understand other cultures
- the duty to try to understand other opinions
Education for democracy (learning about, for, and in democracy as a "culture of rights and responsibilities") can take place in various active or passive forms:
- in a more or less receptive or even passive manner (reading newspapers and reports, watching political issues on TV etc.)
- as a learning within the general process of political socialisation
- as everyday exchange of ideas and opinions (discussing politics, joining debate clubs)
- in the form of active voting in elections on all levels of the political system
- as learning by doing (party work, voluntary work in political parties)
On the basis of these general observations, we arrive at some sort of a very provisional description (I emphasise: not a definition!) of Learning for Democracy:
Learning Democratic Citizenship comprises a highly diversified set of practices and activities developed as a bottom-up approach. These activities are to help pupils, young people and adults to participate actively and responsibly in decision-making processes of their communities. The overarching purpose of such learning and doing is to promote and strengthen the democratic culture which is based on an awareness of and a commitment to shared fundamental values, such as human rights and freedoms, equality and the rule of law.
Such learning takes place for the benefit of the learner and for the benefit of the society as a whole. It must provide life-long opportunities for acquiring, applying and disseminating information, it must establish and strengthen values and skills linked to democratic principles and procedures in a wide range of formal and non-formal teaching and learning environments.
If this sounds complicated, well, so be it: there is not and cannot exist a single definition of LDC on a continent with such a multitude of cultural, historical and educational experience. However, I would like to point out one more common conclusion which, I believe, any experienced educator in America will agree to:
The whole environment of LDC is changing rapidly.
The Changing Environment of LDC
In a world characterised by rapid technological and social change, the nature of all learning processes also changes rapidly. Since we witness the emergence of a "knowledge or information society", knowledge becomes a productive factor; the transfer of knowledge takes place via media rather than interpersonal communication, and the acquisition of knowledge takes place as a lifelong process. At the same time, knowledge is global in character; space and time, hitherto the determinants and boundaries of all learning processes, are dissolving and learning potentially takes place anywhere and anytime. The challenge of lifelong learning is therefore closely connected with the question of the integration of the new media into the learning process.
All learning aiming at strengthening democracy as a "culture of rights and responsibilities" is faced with the fact that the institutionalised processes of learning and knowledge acquisition (i.e. in schools, at universities, in adult education and evening classes etc.) will increasingly be supplemented by new forms of learning - just-in-time learning, learning-on-the-job, media- and computer-supported learning. These forms, in turn, require new communicative and co-operative skills; furthermore, they require media competence as a precondition for accessing such knowledge.
Against this background of a general change of the educational conditions, the learning environment of EDC is changing dramatically, while at the same time the complexity of the knowledge required for "informed and responsible citizenship" increases. The learning environment changes from the predominant "institutionalised learning" (in the school, for example) to newer forms of learning:
- "individualised learning" offers the chance of self-directed learning, independent of limitations of time and location.
- "co-operative learning" can take place in two forms:
The relevance of such existing and future developments for EDC can be summed up as follows:
- direct social interaction with additional use of computers;
- network-supported co-operative approaches, like "virtual class-rooms", "school online networks" etc.
Besides these more global changes, there are also changes in the immediate environment of the learner:
- The more traditional approaches to the methodology and didactics of EDC will lose their predominance.
- Against the background of global learning opportunities, the limitations of time and location will virtually evaporate.
- Project- and problem-oriented approaches will gain in importance, bringing with them new methodological forms and a new didactics of EDC.
- The ambivalent issue of "authenticity", too, will gain in importance in the learning process about democracy, because it will be increasingly difficult to define "authenticity" in a medialised world.
- Approaches like simulation games, role plays, case studies, active online research studies etc. will gain in importance, because the new communication media are particularly suited for such tasks.
- changes in the way we live: greater mobility, migration, insufficient security (social security, violence, inter-ethnic conflicts, xenophobia, breaking-up of families, decline of social institutions)
- changes in the way we organise our lives: increasing use of science and technology in everyday life, unlimited access to information, loss of orientation, but also increasing knowledge gaps and increasing inequality in access to "better jobs"
- changes in the way our societies are organised: increasing gap between the reality of fragmentation and the need for community, shifts in the notion of democracy from representative to participative governance (making problematic but necessary decisions more difficult), empowerment of citizens, weakening of state power
- changes in the way we perceive ourselves and others: shifts from modern to post-modern understanding of the individual and the society; shifts from the doctrine of armed peace to the idea of positive peace which demands the protection of human rights, equality and democracy
- changes in the way we think about our future: increasing concerns about the future of our lives, our societies and of future generations, usually formulated as a "responsibility for the protection of future generations' rights"
- changes in the way education is understood: shifts from the defined purpose of education (formal and compartmentalised knowledge) towards the emphasis of functional knowledge and life skills and competencies; shifts from an understanding of education as "schooling based on one-way knowledge transfer" towards education as "knowledge construction and acquisition through experience, participation, investigation, research and sharing".
These changes are reflected in the way educational reforms are nowadays developed and implemented: Generally speaking, educational reforms have become more context-sensitive and holistic. They encompass a broad range of issues: from educational objectives, contents, methods and strategies of teaching/learning, including assessment, through the organisation and management of schools, to the questions of teaching materials, school climate, students' rights and responsibilities, teachers training and their code of ethics, links to other educational institutions and the world of work, organisation of educational research, school-community relations, etc. In addition, the reforms are becoming more and more responsive not only to the diversified citizens' needs but also to the needs of international community as they are expressed in regional and international standard-setting documents, and bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements.
If these conclusions sound too optimistic from a more national viewpoint, it needs to be pointed out that the task was to describe general trends that can be observed in the world of education today. The basic elements of the trends described are doubtlessly visible, but we stand at the very beginning of these educational reforms. Reforms are by nature almost always too slow and too weak, but if educators ever stopped being optimistic, the effects of learning would be disintegration and decline.
The fundamental changes outlined make it clear that LDC should never be understood as a single, isolated subject. It has strong connections with a number of other disciplines, such as philosophy and ethics, geography, sociology, economics and so on.
The idea of learning for democratic citizenship is based on a great number of innovative approaches that have emerged as educational responses to social, scientific, and technological challenges. The diversity of educational innovations reflects the differences in priorities; some focus more on human rights, others aim at strengthening social cohesion by promoting peace and non-violence, while others again focus on citizens' responsibilities, on promoting cultural pluralism and tolerance to diversity or even on issues of global interdependence.. Besides, some approaches are to be found as compulsory or optional school subjects; others permeate educational process cross-culturally, and others again are implemented extra-curricular or through community actions.
These are only some of the approaches we discovered throughout Europe. There is nothing really surprising in these results - as educators we are all aware that other educators are still alive and kicking and trying to develop new ideas and to achieve the best results possible under their respective circumstances. Therefore, if we were surprised at all, it was with regard to the vast differences that exist in the implementation of such innovative ideas. But although the approaches differ in focus and in implementation strategy, their long-term goals are the same - promoting responsibility for sustainable democracy based on universal human values. Since this is precisely what education for democratic citizenship is all about, we felt it was necessary to define similarities and differences between education for democratic citizenship and other innovative approaches.
The Study provides short descriptions of the relationship between LDC and civic education, human rights education, intercultural education, peace education, and global education.
The final aspect of the first part of the Study focuses on the setting in which LDC takes place.
The Settings of LDC
In this section of the Study, we attempt to outline the three places in which LDC takes place:
- formal education - i.e. the school, teacher qualification and increasingly formalised media-supported learning, higher education;
- Adult education - here we included a more detailed general description of the potential and importance of adult education in this field. Here, it needs to be emphasised that adult learning has to take into consideration the rather different strategies and methods applied.
- Non-formal education: We included here short explanations of the changing concept of education - the increasing realisation that non-formal learning takes place everywhere and in many different settings, and it becomes obvious that loose and unofficial "networks" are more often than not the non-formalised setting in which such learning takes place.
Again, I cannot go into details here. I would like, however, to point out the general basics of the discussion involving the school in this context.
One of the most commonly used definitions of school throughout its history is that it is an institution of great social importance entrusted with the task of transmitting to younger generations knowledge, values, beliefs and behaviour important for political stability, social cohesion, economic well-being and cultural continuation of the community. Although the 20th century social critics have seriously questioned school's mission on the ground of, inter alia, its reduced relevance for life success and its role in the reproduction of social inequality and injustice, for the majority of young people in the world school still plays an important role in their cognitive and social development.
However, its traditional formative function has been profoundly challenged in the last decades under the influence of political, scientific and technological developments. Need for strengthening democracy and civil society, on the one hand, and the diversification of non-formal and informal educational services and delivery systems, on the other hand, as well as the promotion of the right to education as the right to chose the type of education according to one's needs, have made schools adopt new educational strategies and new types of relations within and across its borders.
By providing diversified contents and means for active learning in a supportive educational climate, schools become "democratic micro-communities" in which rights and responsibilities of all the players are horizontally distributed and daily exercised with an aim to ensure individual and collective empowerment.
Another important aspect in this field is the training of teachers.
As with many other issues of education for democratic citizenship, the structure, contents, intensity and objectives of teacher training in Europe show considerable diversity. Furthermore, the situation has changed rapidly in the past decade, due to reform efforts in teacher training that were carried out in many educational systems across Europe. Therefore, much more research work will be needed to determine the present situation of teacher training for education for democratic citizenship in Europe. However, for the purpose of this study, some general observations seem possible:
· Political Science is frequently considered the "leading discipline" in the qualification of civic education teachers. Implicitly or explicitly, its core issues and contents ("policy, polity and politics" and its sub-disciplines of national and international politics, political theory, political sociology etc.) are included in or form the backbone of teacher training curricula for civic education.Besides the more general pedagogical aims at which all teacher training is directed, some of the most important objectives of teacher training for education for democratic citizenship are focused on the following processes:
· Many civic education teachers acquired qualifications in other Social Science subjects (such as Pedagogy or Sociology) or in the Humanities (for example, History or Philosophy). Because of the relatively marginal importance of civic education and education for democratic citizenship issues in the educational system, a specialised training for civic education teachers (that is, in Political or Social Science) is in many countries not an educational priority. Moreover, the lower the school level for which a teacher qualifies, the less important his or her original choice of an academic discipline seems to be. Thus, in elementary schools, civic education issues are more frequently dealt with by Geography teachers or in context of the native language than in secondary schools in which special civic education curricula usually exist.
· The percentage of teachers that teach civic education and are specifically qualified for teaching the subject is - in comparison to other school subjects - relatively low. This applies to most, if not all, European countries. In Germany, for example, the percentage of qualified civic education teachers is no more than 55-60 percent (i.e. around 40 percent of civic education lessons are provided by teachers not actually trained for the subject ("Fachfremder Unterricht").
· The "status" of civic education is low in comparison to other school subjects - not only in educational policies and in (national) curricula, but also in the teachers' own perspective. Some teachers might even be tempted to think that civic education is an "easy subject" involving little preparatory work and that it is "low on facts, but rich in empty chat". It is open to debate whether such views are a reason or a consequence of the "structural deficits" outlined above is open to discussion.
· transfer of education for democratic citizenship related knowledgeTeacher training for civic education takes place in three organisational forms: pre-service training, in-service training, and further education. A newer development is the advent of formal and informal electronic further education opportunities.
· transfer of didactical-methodological knowledge and competence
· approaches to multi-disciplinarity with view to the "reference disciplines" of education for democratic citizenship
· enabling competent use of scientific methods and experience
· acquisition of social and pedagogical skills
· acquisition of formal qualifications (certificates as pre-condition for teaching).
These forms are described briefly in the Study
. To sum up: the first part of the Study aims at providing an overview over the background of LDC - the importance of teaching and learning about rights and responsibilities, the description of the present situation of LDC in Europe, the changes in our learning environments that influence our notion of democracy, the educational reforms that are conceived and more or less speedily implemented throughout Europe, and the relationship between LDC and other approaches. An important chapter of the first part is dedicated to the settings - that is, formal education, non-formal education and adult education.
Part 2: Methods and Practices
Of course such a description would have been futile without an additional outline of the methods and practices for LDC that prevail in Europe. I shall deal here only with the general characteristics we formulated in the Study.
· be based on multiperspective, interdisciplinary and contextual approach to teaching and learning for democratic change;It is here that we point again to the three dimensions that should be involved:
· include the development and combination of specific cognitive, affective and practical skills and competencies that enable the individual to better respond to the needs of participative democracy and its risks;
· include the lifelong acquisition, acceptance, implementation, and further strengthening of citizens' rights and responsibilities;
· be aimed at the empowerment of the citizen, understood in terms of individual and collective capacity for action and change based on an increased awareness of socially important choices;
· involve the environment that recognises and further develops horizontal patterns of interdependency of the individual and the group;
· recognise the conditions that help restoring social ties by promoting citizens' multiple identities and social inclusion;
· aim at co-operation and partnership in designing and implementing educational strategies for the attainment of civil society's goals, between all players and sectors at local, national and international level.
- the cognitive dimension
- the social dimension
- the affective dimension.
The skills, attitudes and competencies that must be transmitted in the learning process are all based on these dimensions. We differ between
- basic skills of citizenship, such as critical and argumentative thinking, problem-solving skills, knowledge application skills, assessment and evaluation skills etc.
- and specific skills needed for active participation, team-working, communication, intercultural contacts, conflict-prevention, mediation, assertiveness, lobbying etc.
All those skills will, of course, be useless if not based on respective attitudes. These we see primarily as social and pro-active attitudes which are usually particularly relevant in social contexts and environments, such as the community, where respect, attachment, belonging, defence of weaker members or values are particularly important. As examples of such attitudes I mention here only the commitment to the democratic principles, to the rule of law, to equality, or the belief in the importance of personal responsibility for the common weal.
Besides these more general or universal skills, the Study focuses also on the skills and competencies which are needed by the actors in education for democracy.
The Learner and the Teacher
As a multifaceted and a multidimensional approach, education for democratic citizenship aims at replacing the traditional teaching-learning scenario in which the teacher's role is reduced to transmitting of knowledge and skills and the student's role to listening and, hopefully, to acquiring the content of the transmission. Education for democratic citizenship presupposes a wide range of possibilities for learning that exist in a "learning society". It crosses over the borders of school and community and challenges divisions between formal and non-formal education, between curricular and extra-curricular activities as well as between schooling and socialisation. It, therefore, promotes reciprocity of learning and teaching and incites permanent exchanges of teachers' and students' roles. At the same time, by focusing on acquisition of skills and competencies that enable social action and change, education for democratic citizenship retains all the characteristic of a purposeful human endeavour that combines theoretical sophistication with public discourse.
In this context, teachers appear more as organisers of multiple learning opportunities and as bridges between society's resources and their users. They mediate and facilitate access to information and permanently check their competencies in face of new social, political and technological challenges, as well as in relation to the needs of their learners. On the other hand, learners actively participate in the educational process by co-deciding on the contents, methods and strategies of teaching and learning for democratic citizenship. Teaching thus becomes an interactive process in which educational goals are negotiated and in which different experiences are horizontally exchanged and shared collectively.
Reciprocity marks the whole process, including assessment and evaluation. Two-way assessment and the use of qualitative data to measure learning outcomes, have profound impact on teaching and learning. Such practice makes both teachers and learners responsible for educational action and its outcomes.
This presupposes not only the modification of traditional teachers' and students' roles and competencies but calls for the introduction of the new ones. Modification of traditional teacher's competencies refer to:
· compartmentalised vs. interdisciplinary knowledge on: subject matter; theories and issues of human nature and growth; adequacy of different learning theories for particular educational goals (behaviouristic, cognitive, humanistic); principles of teaching/learning process; and the organisation and management of group activities;It is said that one of the most important of teacher's traits is self-efficacy, i.e. her/his belief that students can learn and that she/he can teach or help them learn. In the context of learning for democratic citizenship the issue of self-efficacy points out at some additional teacher's competencies that may be crucial in the process of helping the learners become responsible citizens.
· linear and static vs. multiple and dynamic teaching process in all its dimensions, including: a) planning or setting diversified goals; b) flexible management of class or group; c) diversified instructional models, from direct teaching, through open education to co-operative learning; and d) sensitive and reciprocal assessment and evaluation
· cognitive vs. multiple education goals that match complexity and change in modern world, focus on individual commitment to the improvement of life conditions and promote mastery of procedural skills and responsibility for action.
School and Society
The School is an important social institution. Like for any other social institution - the family, the churches etc. - its purpose can be relatively clearly defined: most basically, it is directed at contributing to the transfer of knowledge, norms and values, the reproduction of the dominant culture and of the social structure of its surrounding society. Therefore, it supplies an important element to the functioning of the society, its identity and its purposes.
Yet, with regard to the learner, the School also acts as an important "socialisation agency". As such, it is involved in the formation of young people and the transfer of norms and values.
Finally, however, the School itself, being, in most cases, a governmental agency, is also by necessity an administration or bureaucracy - a factor that is critically important for the understanding of its inherent authoritative structure, its dependency on laws and by-laws, curricular decision-making and administrative functions.
The basic functions of the School are fulfilled in three ways:
- the School transfers knowledge and competencies
- the School plays an important role in the process of social and political integration
- BUT: the School also contributes to the unequal distribution of social status in a society.
With view to these three basic functions, it is obvious that the role of the School is not limited to the "systematic organisation of learning processes", but is also directed at providing a much wider social, political, economic and cultural orientation in the life of the students. As a place where different genders, age groups, religious confessions and, increasingly, ethnicities and cultures meet on a daily and continuing basis, the School offers numerous opportunities for social learning and practical social experience.
The individual and the society
The preparation of young people for their role as citizens of a democratic society is a central task of the education process, and in particular, of Education for Democracy. The aim of such education is to empower the individual for "responsible and informed citizenship". Such citizenship is an inherent part of the "civil society"; general key requirements for the civil society are:
· self-organisation: the structure of small, independent, voluntary organisations set up and joined by individuals with the purpose to solve community problems or to develop and propagate new approaches to their solution.These requirements are not given by nature and they do not come about automatically; rather, the dispositions of the individual towards the society need to be taught and learnt. Education for Democracy has the task to act as mediating process for the knowledge required for participation in a civil society and as preparation for social connectedness and participation in all fields of life. If, as seems to be the case, modern civil societies require more participative and better informed citizens, then the profile of educational processes that are directed at empowering people for such participation, need to be adapted to the new demands.
· community spirit: this refers to classical civic virtues, the acceptance of responsibility in a society or community, but also the support given by the community to activities that aim at the "empowerment" of people.
· voluntary civic engagement: participation cannot be limited to voting; it is an on-going process of raising one's voice in public matters and decisions. This sort of engagement means that political decision-making and social activities should be seen as mutually supportive with view to problem-solving; voluntary engagement can play an essential role in that process while at the same time freeing governmental resources for other purposes.
· civic competence: this requires interestedness in political processes, readiness to participate, contributions to or even membership in political parties and voluntary groups and associations. Civic competence should not be confused with political competence - the ability to understand and discuss political issues on an informed basis.
· a culture of dialogue and communication: Communication is essential for any modern society, but with view to public purposes it needs to be structured and organised, in particular with view to controversial issues. The individual needs to acquire basic communicative competencies in order to participate in such a high-speed, information-packed dialogue.
· tolerance of others and the ability to compromise: Controversial issues require for their solution a form of exchange that is based on the ability to accept compromise. And since most modern societies are multicultural in character, compromise involves also some form of recognition of other cultures and attitudes.
Methodology - an overview
The last chapters of the Study intend to provide an overview of some basic methodological aspects. For example, it is important to recognise the interdependence of objectives, content and methodology. All learning for democracy is characterised by a variety of given conditional factors (such as age, learning ability, pre-formed knowledge) and a set of variables (such as interest, motivation, needs, social experience).
It should be kept in mind, therefore, that the "methods" of EDC are not simplified concepts of "how to teach", i.e. concrete ways like a teacher-centred or more didactic forms of instruction.
What characterises the modern debate about Education for Democratic Citizenship is its underlying perception of a broad pedagogical concept of the "methodology of EDC", comprising
- the reflected selection of a topic or subject-matterConditions for LDC
- the formulation of objectives (aims) of the transmitting process
- the organisation of the learning process and the selection of a teaching strategy
- the presentation of contents
- the evaluation of the outcomes.
In this chapter, the Study outlines some of the environmental conditions that characterise LDC:
- school-related conditionsGuiding principles
- society-related conditions
In the final chapter, conclusions are drawn as to the understanding of LDC as an innovative approach to teaching and learning in modern societies.
· Education for democratic citizenship is understood as an innovative approach to teaching and learning in modern societies. It is primarily concerned with finding efficient ways for preparing a citizen to meet the challenges and risks of a changing democracy by promoting his or her knowledge and skills necessary for a productive and responsible involvement in matters of common concern.
The main purpose of learning about and learning for democratic citizenship is the strengthening of civil society in which all the citizens will be able to learn throughout their life by living in a democratic environment.
· Education for democratic citizenship is based on knowledge, skills and personal commitment. It starts from the presumption that only an informed and knowledgeable citizen may efficiently meet the needs of an expanding civic society. However, it stresses the importance of combining declarative, procedural and constructive knowledge, of understanding the basic concepts as core values, as well as of acquiring basic skills and developing pro-social attitudes that guarantee further promotion of democracy.
· The central notion in learning for democratic citizenship is an empowered citizen who is responsible for autonomous actions and relations with other citizens, groups and institutions of a civil society . This implies that the quality outcomes of learning for democratic citizenship depend to a great extent on the societies' resources and institutional provisions. This relates primarily to teachers' professional knowledge and skills in dealing with individual differences as well as on their capabilities to give and to receive information openly and with respect for their students' future roles in society. The spirit of mediation, negotiation and exchange of ideas and practices in the constructing of a shared culture of rights and responsibilities, of mutual reinforcement in this process, as well as of responsibility for the outcomes, is of a paramount importance in learning for democratic citizenship.
· Education for democratic citizenship is not a ready-made model for democratic development. It can not be directly transmitted from one country to the other. It must remain a creative educational effort based on a country's specific history and visions of democratic development and on its human resources. However, co-operation, co-ordination and partnership in all directions (horizontal and vertical) and at all levels in developing and implementing programmes, activities and actions for education for democratic citizenship is a European necessity. The outcomes of learning for democratic citizenship should be measured in terms of the restoration of social ties, the strengthening of social justice, and the renewed belief in democratic institutions, as well as in the promotion of an equitable and sustainable development. Besides, it should be the tool for narrowing the gap between eastern and western countries that encompasses economy and social fabric. By making the citizens aware of the possibilities and obstacle to democratic change and by preparing them for an effective action at different levels of decision-making processes, education for democratic citizenship has the potential to this end.
In the final paragraph, the authors express their desire that international co-operative agencies, such as the Council of Europe, should provide the opportunities for dissemination of ideas, research results and the examples of good practice. In this context, it is necessary to carry on regular surveys on the European level and to establish an electronic data-bank in this field. The data should include detailed information on examples of good practice throughout Europe, the results of scientific research of such practices, and should allow for comments and suggestions from various educational players. Co-operation of all educational actors is indispensable here. This includes schools of all levels, teachers' and parents' organisations, students' and youth organisations, international and national NGOs, churches and media, trade unions, research institutes, enterprises, as well as local and national administration and international organisations.
LDC - in a nutshell
· deeply rooted in the idea of Europe as an integrated and culturally diverse area of democratic stability;
· multifaceted and multidimensional innovative bottom-up approach to facilitating active participation in democracy;
· aims at helping pupils, young people and adults participate actively, creatively and responsibly in decision-making processes;
· provides life-long opportunities for acquiring, applying and transmitting information, values and skills in a broad range of formal and non-formal educational and training contexts;
· presupposes the use of a wide range of possibilities for learning that exist in a "learning society";
· crosses over the borders between school and community and challenges the divisions between formal, non-formal and in-formal education, between curricular and extra-curricular activities as well as between schooling and socialisation;
· promotes reciprocity of learning and teaching and incites permanent exchanges of teachers' and students' roles;
· strengthens a dynamic and sustainable democratic culture based on awareness and commitment to shared fundamental values: human rights and freedoms, equality of difference and the rule of law
· strengthens social cohesion and solidarity and promotes inclusive strategies for all groups and sectors in a multicultural society.
<<Center for Civic Education homepage
Send comments regarding this page to firstname.lastname@example.org
Send comments regarding this page to email@example.com