Living Democracy Project
Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education
European teaching and learning materials translated, adopted and tested for Greece.
In the framework of a Swiss project approach, teaching and learning materials for Citizenship Education and Human Rights Education will be translated and published for the Greek Educational public. The “Living Democracy” manuals, as they are called provide teachers with high-quality lesson materials which have been tested by educators in several countries and are flexible enough to enable both experienced and trainee teachers to introduce citizenship and human rights education into their schools in a fun, interactive and challenging way. They draw on expert authors from different parts of Europe and cover the whole age range from primary to secondary or high school. Once the materials are translated, they will be tested in several schools. Once they are approved they will be published on special website where everything will be published free and open to all users from all grades.
Here a short background information: The Council of Europe, which is the oldest European organization, was set up in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II. Its aim has always been to build free and democratic societies in Europe. The Council of Europe is active in many fields, including culture and education. Over 50 years, it has launched a number of co-operation projects in education in order to promote a culture of democracy and human rights throughout Europe.
At the beginning of the 1990s, as a result of the accession process of the new democracies of central and Eastern Europe, the Council of Europe underwent a considerable transformation: the Organization’s membership more than doubled within a period of 10 years. In such times of change, more systematic work on democracy learning was needed. In 1997, a new project, Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC) was launched by the Heads of state and governments of the Council of Europe. This project has since grown considerably, acquired a strong human rights dimension and is now called the Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights (EDC/HRE) project.
By launching this project, the governments of European states acknowledged that people must learn how to become democratic citizens, that they are not born with these skills. At the end of the 21st century, European societies were faced with many problems, such as political apathy, migration movements resulting in increased social diversity, environmental threats and increasing violence. Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights was seen as a contribution to solving such issues. EDC/HRE is about promoting concrete participation in public life throughout one’s life, about responsibility, solidarity, mutual respect and dialogue. It is in the unique pan-European setting of the Council of Europe that the best experts in the field from all over Europe, have met over the last 10 years to work on this issue.
The first years of the project were devoted to defining concepts. Several basic publications were issued on the necessary strategies and skills for practicing democratic citizenship.[i] In 2002, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a Recommendation on education for democratic citizenship (Recommendation Rec (2002) 12). This is still the only political text on this issue adopted at European level. It specifies that EDC should become “ a priority objective of educational policy-making and reforms”[ii] . In 2002, a network composed of one person from each member state was set up to assist the Council of Europe with introducing or developing policy and practice in this field. This network, now better known as the EDC/HRE coordinators’ network, soon became an invaluable asset for enabling more systematic work to introduce EDC/HRE to be undertaken in several member states. Specific projects were implemented in regions such as South East Europe. 2005 was proclaimed the European Year of Citizenship through Education with the slogan “Learning and Living Democracy”. The 2005 “Year” was a special moment for raising awareness in member states about EDC/HRE. Almost all member states took part in the “Year” in one way or the other, and the feedback from the various partners has been overwhelmingly positive.
However, it was clear from the beginning that introducing education for democratic citizenship and human rights in concrete education policies in member states is not an easy task. If a few countries are fairly advanced on this issue, most of them are not. Introducing EDC/HRE into the education system often means a new philosophy in terms of methodologies and work organization. Studies carried out in the framework of the project, including the “All-European Study on EDC policies”[iii] pointed to a strong need for practical instruments to help moving from policy to practice. Therefore, the preparation of instruments and tools, exchange of good practice and increased co-operation among and within member states are now the priorities of the project. There are three main areas of work: policy development, the training of education professionals and the democratic governance of educational institutions. For all areas the Council of Europe has developed a series of practical instruments like this series of manuals for Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.
[i] Cf. Durr, K. et al. (2000), Bîrzea, C. (2000), Audigier, F. (2000), Carey. L. et al. (2000)
[ii] Recommendation Rec (2002) 12, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to member states on education for democratic citizenship
[iii] Bîrzea et al., All –European Study on EDC Policies, Council of Europe publishing, 2004