What do we understand for European Education for Democratic Citizenship?

Dec 2020

This paper is inspired by a conversation and the contribution of Professor Bryony Hoskins, Roehampton University, London

What do we understand for European Education for Democratic Citizenship? In this complex educational approach not always easy to be understood, but very important for the nowadays context. Some first input about EEDC comes here from the lecture of Professor Bryony Hoskins, Roehampton University, London, in the context of project EDU4EUROPE. The community of practice on EEDC (European Education for Democratic Citizenship) includes young people, youth workers, youth leaders, teachers, policy makers and researchers. The youth field has a variety of labels that are used for their educational practice including but not limited to Global Citizenship Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainable Development, Education for European Citizenship, Citizenship Education, Education for Democratic Citizenship and European Education for Democratic Citizenship. There has been an ongoing discussion in the field as to the extent that these terms actually refer to similar concepts and function instead as organization branding or if the wording used indicates substantive differences.

Legal definition of Citizenship

Any discussion regarding defining education on citizenship in all its diverse forms begins with a discussion on the definition of citizenship. In legal terms, citizenship refers to the legal rights and obligations given to an individual by the state in which they are citizens, denoted by their nationality. As Marshall (1973), a key thinker on definitions on Citizenship writes, ‘Citizenship is a status bestowed on all those who are full members of a community. All who possess the status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed’. The legal definition highlights the important relationship between the citizen and the state and the rights given by the state to the individual. A number of in-depth critiques have been made regarding the use of the legal definition of citizenship when understanding the functioning of democracy and the role that individuals play in its maintenance. First, citizenship as a legal concept does not account for individuals who are not citizens but have rights and responsibilities and live in our communities. Second, it is also the case that having legal rights is insufficient to enable equal possibilities for all citizens to exercise their rights and gaining and maintaining rights requires constant action and vigilance from citizens, and a legal definition does not encompass these processes (Hoskins and Kerr 2010).

But then what is Education for Democractic Citizenship?

The Council of Europe, led by the formal education sector, defined Education for Democratic Citizenship when developing their international Charter on this topic. EDC is defined in the Charter as; Education, training, awareness raising, information, practices and activities which aim, by equipping learners with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviour, to empower them to exercise and defend their democratic rights and responsibilities in society, to value diversity and to play an active part in democratic life, with a view to the promotion and protection of democracy and the rule of law. (Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship & Human Rights Education 2010) In our frame is important to define European Citizenship Education European Citizenship like national citizenship has a legal definition for persons who are national citizens of an EU country .

Historically European cooperation was built from the desire to transcend nationalism after the second world war and for EU nationals their countries membership of the European Union has afforded them supranational rights (suc as to work and travel in any EU country without discrimination, participate in the political life of the EU from any EU country, petition the European Parliament about an issue that affects you, etc) (European Commission 2020).

The European youth field over the last 20 years has moved away from the legal definition of European Citizenship and conceptualizes Europe as a concept which goes beyond the institutions in order to be more inclusive to people who live in the geographical region of Europe and who are not EU nationals and to make the concept more accessible and meaningful to young people’s everyday lives.

An alternative definition that has been argued more recently is that EEDC can be understood as global citizenship education in a European context (Hoskins and Lavchyan 2019). These authors argue that Europe has its own complex history, innovation and varied practices in relation to the world and EEDC can be a place to critically reflect on these and to propose actions for change. A balanced picture for this concept of EEDC is needed that includes critical reflections on European’s role in colonialism and the treatment of migrants and more positive experiences of European cooperation, democracy and successes on Human rights such as through the European Convention on Human Rights. The crucial step in EEDC from this perspective is that people in Europe learn not only how their decisions, actions or lack of action effects the diversity of others who live in Europe but also consider the impact of their decisions on different groups of people who live in the rest of the world (Hoskins and Lavchyan 2019). The learning and actions that young people take from their EEDC experience could then be shared with other regions around the world. The choice of definition may depend on the readers profession i.e. if you are a youth worker, a teacher or work in a national agency or international institution. It may also differ according to the readers geographical location in Europe and legal status in relationship to EU citizenship. Whether these differences should influence an individual’s selection of their definition EEDC is an open question for the youth field to discuss.

Webinar 13 November 2020

Edu4Europe is a forum on European democratic citizenship education, bringing together up to 120 practitioners from the youth and education fields, researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations, and other entities involved in European democratic citizenship education.

It provides space for exchange, mutual learning and joint exploration of education for European democratic citizenship. The first forum took place in November 2019, at the European Youth Centre of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, focusing on the topic of future visions of Europe, looking at directions the European policies may take and how to involve young people in shaping this European future through educational processes.

The Edu4Europe forum aimed to:

give an overview on existing experiences and networks related to education for European democratic citizenship (EEDC);
offer a space for practitioners and active entities to discuss on meanings and dilemmas on EEDC;
explore the visions for the future of Europe and the role of EEDC therein;
strengthen youth work through sharing practices from several fields on EEDC;
connect to policy and policy makers on EEDC, by bringing current issues, practices, needs and debates to their attention

Here you can find more informations

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