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Civic education should be seen not just as a subject

Shahidul Alam Swapan

Published: 07:58, 12 June 2024

Civic education should be seen not just as a subject

Should political education be a compulsory part of the secondary school curriculum? How can we improve democracy education to better prepare students for civic engagement?
Civic education should be seen not just as a subject but also as an experience of life at school. The dialogue on rights, duties, the common good, democracy, citizenship, etc. must be confronted with the conditions that children and young people assume and live in this common space and then linked, transposed and compared with community life in the region or country in which they live. I think civics should be a compulsory subject in primary education. It gives pupils an overview of democratic politics. It should include at least

Why I need a civics course

The purpose, definition, advantages and disadvantages of democratic politics. The relationship between democratic politics and me

An overview of democracy

The organisation of discussions/debates on recent social issues and referendums.

Yes, and they should be complemented by practical workshops, discussions and comedy plays that take into account good and bad civic 'examples' from other countries. That's how we understand and grasp. civics classes, it would be more effective to make it compulsory to teach the activity entitled , youth debate: This is where the heart of democracy lies. Civic education should be introduced at least at the secondary school level, with practical exercises based on the example of Taiwan. The principle of active participation in public affairs should be encouraged through clear examples. The same applies to the functioning of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. This is not difficult, as these are intuitive practices that students learn easily. We must also respect the fact that if the majority wins, we will have to adapt to the many "ifs" and "buts". And also that the majority in time can be replaced by a new vote. I've never understood teachers who fiercely (!) oppose these elementary civics lessons: they are either ideological anti-democrats or maximalists who should have no place in state schools.

Firmly believes that opinions that are not mainstream should also be discussed. If this wasn't done sufficiently during the coronavirus crisis, it should be addressed. However, the idea that "opinions are silenced" is (also) a far-right conspiracy myth and is not true. Anti-vaccination campaigners (like opponents of Western support for Ukraine today) sometimes face headwinds; nobody is silenced here, which is not even possible in a liberal society with so many social media channels available to everyone. Integrating democratic competences in subject areas. On some occasions, schools have a dedicated subject area on citizenship education, political education, or civics. Indeed, whilst some countries have a relatively minimal provision for citizenship education in the curriculum, in other countries, citizenship education is present across all compulsory levels. On other occasions, the promotion of democracy is directly considered within other subject areas such as social studies, social science, history or geography.

This is the case, for instance, in many other countries, such as Norway, Spain, or Portugal. Research suggests that formal learning about citizenship might facilitate that students embrace a democratic culture. You can harbour learning activities that teach the values, attitudes, skills, and knowledge and critical understanding that learners need to be able to contribute to a democratic culture. This can be done in specialist subjects but also more widely. For instance, in mathematics, teachers may convey the historical significance of contributions from different civilisations. In language and literature, teachers can select texts that tackle social and political issues such as race and gender discrimination.

Some teaching and assessment practices (e.g., cooperative learning, peer assessment) are much better placed than others (e.g., traditional 'lectures', tests) to promote democracy and facilitate the learning of democratic skills by children and young people. In democratic governance, schools are like mini-societies where different people with different interests coexist. Like many other types of community, schools also have governance structures. Whether or not these structures are democratic has a major impact on how children and young people learn about democracy. Students who are directly involved in school decision-making are more likely to develop democratic skills. Schools with participatory decision-making structures and procedures, including powers for teachers, pupils and parents, are better placed to promote democracy. The Council of Europe supports schools across Europe that are committed to facilitating democratic structures of governance through the Network of Democratic Schools.

Governments must value education and devote resources to it, just as they strive to defend their citizens. Literacy keeps people informed through newspapers and books. Informed citizens are better able to improve their democracy.

The education systems of democracies do not exclude the study of other political doctrines or systems of government. Democracies encourage students to develop reasonable arguments based on careful research and a clear understanding of history. Democratic norms and practices must be taught so that people understand and appreciate their opportunities and responsibilities as free citizens.

Education for democratic citizenship includes knowledge of national and world history and of fundamental democratic principles. If pupils benefit from a democratic education, particularly in the development of identifying the needs of others and developing compassion, this is likely to be reflected in their everyday interactions. The benefits of individual growth mean that there will be more positive influences in social interactions, which could lead to a decrease in negative behaviour. In addition, offering pupils the opportunity to participate in a non-discriminatory classroom that recognises the importance of equal opportunities will help to lay the foundations for non-discriminatory actions in adulthood, which again could lead to a reduction in negative behaviour. Education can create well-informed citizens to vote for and competent leaders to vote for.

It can eradicate all forms of corruption. It can promote individual differences while preserving common values. Education is a normative enterprise, in that it is guided by fundamental social values and the imperative of social justice. These values and imperatives fully inform every dimension of educational theory, policy and practice. Self-determination requires careful thought and rational deliberation about social values and, in turn, about the imprecation of justice that informs the purpose and practice of education. Individuals who have learned to be free will need to be concerned with the development of self-discipline and autonomy, ethical principles as a guide to conduct, sensitivity to injustice and inequality, an understanding of human motivations and aspirations, a discriminating appreciation of a wide range of human values, and a spirit of democratic compromise and cooperation.

Abraham Lincoln said: "Democracy is of the people, for the people, by the people". It is perhaps the only form of government that gives power to the man in the street. A number of countries have endeavoured to introduce democracy because it is an impartial, transparent and effective form of government.

The writer is a Geneva-based private banking compliance security expert, columnist and poet.

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