Education for Democracy Panel Presentation at ECPR in Prague

The European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) held its 2023 General Conference in Prague between 4 and 7 September. The panel was a good opportunity to present our different starting points that brings Democrat partners together for a shared aim: supporting education for democracy.

The panel focused on the opportunities to strengthen contemporary responsible democratic citizenship, that is the capacity of citizens to act as autonomous democratic agents in a responsible way. This has become an increasingly urgent need due to several recent and ongoing crises in Europe. The challenges such as mediatisation, technocratisation, disenchantment, radicalisation, populism, securitisation, digitalisation, illiberalism and others put pressures both on the democratic system and citizens.

The different papers discussed the conceptual and practical perspectives and innovative techniques supporting responsible democratic citizenship with a special attention on citizenship education. Both content and process related aspects can support the development of citizens as reflexive, autonomous and constructive democratic agents and address the challenges outlined above.


The normative tensions and opportunities in strengthening responsible democratic citizenship

Leif Kalev, Maarja Hallik – Tallinn University

Western democracies nowadays face various pressures. The challenges such as mediatisation, technocratisation, disenchantment, radicalisation, populism, securitisation, digitalisation and others directly feed into the tensions in democratic citizenship and the contemporary citizens need to navigate these in practice. One important aspect in building responsible democratic citizen agency in this context is making sense of the various ideations and normative perspectives embedded in democratic citizenship and developing integrity, reflectiveness and resilience vis a vis these different expectations. The paper will discuss the different perspectives on democracy and citizenship as sources of both tensions and opportunities and outline linkages to contemporary political, governing and educational practices that could strengthen responsible democratic citizenship.

A Global Perspective on Responsible Democratic Citizenship

Georgios Kostakos – FOGGS

Responsible democratic citizenship is a central issue not only for European states but for democracies of varied cultural origins around the world. Moreover, the polity of reference for democratic citizenship is not only the state or the (continental) region, but expands to the global level, especially in today’s globally interconnected world. This paper will focus on the latter aspect that is will review elements of democratic citizenship vis-à-vis the network of multilateral institutions and regimes that has developed in the post-World War II period, namely the UN system of organizations, and its core “constitutional” documents, the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is there in terms of institutions and processes that engage citizens in a responsible and empowered/empowering way at the global level, how is such a “global citizenship” shaped, and what may be lacking to make it appealing and inclusive, especially for young people today?

A competence scheme for responsible democratic citizenship

Dr. Karsten Krüger, University Barcelona; Maria Caprile – Notus

Internal and external factors put under siege the European model of liberal democracy. To reinforce the resilience and sustainability of democracy, DEMOCRAT develops a conceptual vision of Education for Democracy (EfD) and defines a competence scheme for responsible democratic citizenship. The aim is to elaborate curricula for (EfD) through a participatory approach, based on a framework of responsible democratic citizenship competences (RDCs), to test them in open, local, innovative learning projects and to develop a toolbox to support the development of transformative EfD practices in the EU and beyond. Based on reference works as the Reference Framework of Competence for Democratic culture (Council of Europe 2016), the European Framework for Personal, Social and Learning (EU 2020) and the Framework for Key Citizenship Competences (WeareEurope, 2016), but also Westheimer & Kahne (2004) and Johnson & Morris (2010), Democrat will outline a scheme of RDC competences, which will be discussed with experts, practitioners and political responsible at 6 national workshops. The conclusions of these discussions will be discussed at a transnational workshop again with European experts, practitioners and policy makers. Based on this participatory approach, Democrat will elaborate the RDC competence framework, which will be presented at this conference.

Participatory school leadership as a form of responsible citizenship education

Eszter Salamon, Luca László, Brigitte Haider – IPA

Decreasing participation, especially of younger generations as active citizens in community, elections and civic life is a worldwide phenomenon. Participatory practices in schools, engaging parents, children, teachers and others are effective for school stakeholders to experience active citizenship in a safe environment, and as well as the consequences of opting out of decision-making. Both parental engagement and child participation also have a direct positive effect on learning outcomes of the children, but also support the lifelong learning of parents and teachers. In the framework of some successful European transnational projects the necessary training, mentoring and coaching frameworks for teachers, parents, children and other stakeholders, as well as methods for school innovation for participatory leadership were developed and piloted, and in some cases upscaled. They have been accompanied by research-based policy advocacy. These would be presented here.

Responsible Democratic Citizenship: conceptual considerations from the Irish educational context

Benjamin Mallon, John Lalor, Justin Rami – Dublin City University

This paper explores the forms of citizenship conceptualised within the Irish education system. Drawing on national curricula at primary and secondary level, as well as further educational policies which shape these sectors, and initial teacher education, the paper considers the frameworks which shape the practice of Education for Democracy (EfD) in Ireland. Against an analysis of ongoing education inequalities, socio-economic challenges and questions regarding broader political participation, the paper will explore literature in the field of EfD (and related fields) within the Irish context, and presents an analysis of the multiple dimensions of democratic citizenship as theorised and practised across each stage of the Irish education system. This analysis will be situated within broader political systems, across the island of Ireland and neighbouring islands, and also within both a European and Global context.

Responsible Democratic Citizenship Education: perspectives into teacher education and learning sciences

Niclas Sandström, Maija Hytti – University of Helsinki

Notwithstanding the prominence accorded to EfD in public discourse, even a quick look at civic education in Europe reveals that it is typically not seen as a top concern for educational systems in their formal agenda and curricula. Köhler et al. (2018) list five different ways (a separate subject; integrated into another subject; mainstreamed into all subjects (cross-curricular theme); extracurricular activity (clubs, student councils); result of the school experience as a whole) to approach the context of citizenship and civic education. The Teacher Education Development Programme for 2022-2026 released by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture emphasizes lifelong learning to meet the needs of learning in 2020s. Whereas the goal of DEMOCRAT is to address the acknowledged shortcomings of present education strategies by fostering comprehensive EfD based on a transformative learning and educational approach, this paper looks at the issue through competences for democratic culture from previous research (Rautiainen, 2019), and focuses on giving an outline of developing teacher education. The overview reflects the skills sets envisioned in the DEMOCRAT project to the future goals that can be foreseen to be crucial for the teacher profession in terms of continuing professional development (CPD) and sustainability conceptualised as lifelong learning.

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