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Council of Europe - Competencies for Democratic Citizenship, Human Rights and Intercultural Understanding

Creating a Democratic Culture through high quality curriculum and teaching

The Council of Europe Competency Framework for Democratic Culture

The Council of Europe recently supported the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) to lead a small project to consult with teachers in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales about a competency framework developed to support education for democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural understanding.

The Council of Europe has identified four key purposes of education:

  1. Preparation for the labour market
  2. Preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies
  3. Personal development 
  4. The development and maintenance of a broad, advanced knowledge base 

But what are the competences needed for performing effectively as citizens in a democratic and culturally diverse society?

Democratic culture requires more than institutions and laws; it requires committed, competent and engaged citizens who can contribute positively to supporting democracy, human rights, cultural diversity and intercultural relations. Education is key to developing such competencies.

The UK and Ireland as member states of the Council of Europe and are involved in an education policy network to develop and promote democratic culture through education for:

  • Democratic citizenship
  • Human Rights 
  • Intercultural understanding 

To support these goals the Council of Europe has developed a toolkit of competencies for teachers, educators, academics, policy makers, NGOs and others to use in a range of ways. The competencies describe the knowledge, understanding, skills, values and attitudes that pupils demonstrate. 

The main purposes of competency descriptors are:

  • to support the assessment of the current level of proficiency with regard to each of the competences, for an individual or for a group, with a view to identifying areas of further development and learning needs or identifying achieved proficiency after a period of learning;
  • to serve as a reference and a toolbox for educators in designing, implementing and evaluating educational interventions, in formal and non-formal settings.

The Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) project included consulting with teachers in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales about the competency framework, how it relates to national curriculum frameworks and how they might use the framework in planning and evaluating their curriculum provision and teaching.

The findings confirm teachers found the competency framework useful in a number of ways:

  • relevant to national curriculum frameworks and many different subjects but especially in relation to Citizenship in England, Civic Political and Social Education and wellbeing in Ireland, Citizenship and Learning for Life and Work in Northern Ireland, Personal development in Wales and Social studies and education for sustainable development and global citizenship in Scotland.
  • informative when teachers are considering the quality of education provided including how well curriculum provision develops pupils as democratic and active citizens 
  • useful in supporting and reviewing their teaching for example to consider the breadth and balance of what is being taught to pupils in the different phases of educatione.g. primary and secondary and what might need adjusting 
  • helpful when considering pupil assessment and progression in the different aspects of democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural understanding in terms of knowledge, understanding skills, values and attitudes and how well they are making progress.

The competency framework is free to download and is available as three volumes:

  1. Context, concepts and the model of competence
  2. Descriptors of competences for democratic culture 
  3. Guidelines covering various aspects of education 

For more information visit

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