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15th May 2018 4:31pm Blogs

There is a refreshing enthusiasm about Citizenship Education in Europe

Growing interest about Citizenship Education in Europe.

Blog – Liz Moorse

Liz Moorse is Chief Executive of ACT and has recently been appointed by the DFE as UK expert representative to the Council of Europe’s new Education Policy Advice Network for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights.

I recently attended my first meeting in Copenhagen (23-24 April 2018) of the new Council of Europe Education Policy Advice Network (EPAN) for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights. This was my first experience for a number of years of representing the UK at a European meeting at which an impressive 43 of the 47 member states were present.

This inaugural meeting was co-hosted by the Ministry of Education in Denmark who show a refreshing enthusiasm about their work on Citizenship education in schools. In Denmark the Ministry has been working to strengthen Citizenship and Human Rights education in their National Curriculum which reflects the Danish Constitution and focuses on four themes:

  • History of democracy
  • Governance
  • Rights and duties
  • Freedom of speech, assembly and religion.

It was a real pleasure to be made so welcome by colleagues at the Council of Europe and to have the opportunity to meet so many colleagues from across Europe who are all committed to the same educational goal, to develop high quality Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights education in schools. The conference was the launch of the new Reference Framework of Competencies for Democratic Culture, which includes the fondly referred to ‘butterfly diagram’ setting out 20 key competencies.

The Competency Framework supports a whole school approach to Citizenship education and is framed around values, attitudes, skills and knowledge and critical understanding. Learning targets and outcomes have been described for each competence. These descriptors are intended to help educators design learning situations that enable them to observe learners’ behaviour in relation to a given competence. The detailed guidance also makes suggestions for different ways the Framework can be used to support effective Citizenship education in schools including:

  • Curriculum
  • Pedagogy
  • Assessment
  • Teacher education
  • Whole-school approach
  • Building resilience to radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism.

The Competency Framework is underpinned by the Council’s recommendation that education has four main purposes:

► preparation for the labour market;
► preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies;
► personal development;
► the development and maintenance of a broad, advanced knowledge base.

The conference Included a number of workshops and presentations themed around curriculum, teaching and assessment. In the curriculum session we heard fascinating presentations from colleagues in Finland and Andorra, two very different member states where the Competency Framework can be seen in curriculum frameworks. Both reviewed their national curriculum in the past few years and have successfully connected curriculum, teaching frameworks and assessment frameworks into a coherent whole. They are now seeing the impact of this coherence on the quality of teaching and outcomes for pupils.

The next EPAN meetings will be discussing in more detail what member states can do to take forward and use the Comptency Framework with schools and promise to be as equally fascinating at this first conference.