Can democracy be taught and what is the role of the educational institutions for democratising our societies?

This was the topic of the Roundtable “ Teaching Democracy: Education and Active Citizenship”, during which former Ministers of Education of Bulgaria, academics, and education experts from Southeast Europe debated on the most viable policy options for advancing civic education and fostering democratic engagement in today`s Southeast Europe.
Held in the symbolic “Vrana” Palace of King Simeon II in November 2015, the event was organised by the European Liberal Forum,  in collaboration with the Liberal Institute for Political Analyses and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Southeast Europe.

In the light of the ongoing debates on educational reform in Bulgaria and the need for stronger civic engagement, especially among the young people in the country, a resolution, reflecting the experts` stance on the issue was elaborated and adopted online.

The text of the resolution follows below, and the PDF version of the document is available for download here: Resolution_Teaching_Democracy_EN


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Resolution

 

in support of active citizenship through civic education

 

Adopted within the framework of the Round Table “Teaching Democracy: Education and Active Citizenship”

25 November 2015, “Vrana” Palace, Sofia

 

We, the participants in the round table, having taken into consideration that:

  • active citizenship is the core of every functioning democracy;
  • active citizenship means the involvement of citizens at all levels of the democratic system and contributes to the building and upholding of a democratic society;
  • individuals build their own future and to enable them to do so, civic education must be available;
  • education in democracy should take the form, above all, of democratic practices, as democracy is a way of life;
  • a lasting trend has been observed of loss of trust in public institutions;
  • the majority of young people in Bulgaria are unaware of their civil rights;
  • there is lack of interest among young people in active democratic participation and engagement with issues of public or social interest;
  • the young need good and solid examples of civic participation and civic engagement to enable them to develop their own civic responsibility and commitment;
  • the country’s education system fails to meet the modern standards and requirements, and is largely affected by existential problems;
  • the role of the media, the civil society and the family should be recognized in the education process;
  • there is an increasing shortage of properly trained and motivated professionals in education;
  • the education system currently does not provide the civic education needed, and the school subject associated with it is taught only in the final years of secondary education;
  • an education system should be developed to produce active citizens through the teaching of democracy and democratic values, and the promotion of critical thinking and public engagement,

 

Have agreed on the above findings, and therefore insist on the following:

Introduce civic education in the curriculum for all levels of school education;

Make civic education present throughout the entire system of education, which, in spirit and content, should promote and encourage active civic participation and civic responsibility;

Provide opportunities for training and career development of teachers in civic education;

Ensure opportunities for student self-governance and self-organization at school in the provision of civic education and the teaching and learning of democratic values and practices;

Take into consideration assessments, analyses, and proposals from teachers, students, parents, and external experts in the process of producing, modifying, and amending educational legislation in the area of civic education;

Enable the involvement in the education process of various institutions offering informal education, organisations and experts in the area of democratic/ civic participation and the related legislative amendments;

Ensure a broader perspective in the process of education through the inclusion of the humanities, disciplines with social orientation, sports and arts. Promote an individualized teaching approach encouraging student creativity and general knowledge to attain a more complex understanding of citizenship;

Improve the overall quality of the education system to be reflected also in the area of civic education.

 

Participants in the round table:

  • Anelia Atanasova, President of Women’s Liberal Network;
  • Daniel Kaddik, Director of the Project Office for Southeast Europe of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom;
  • Daniel Valchev, Professor at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Minister of Education and Science 2005-2009;
  • Hristina Hristova, President of Institute for Family Policies;
  • Ikmal Dzhomova, President of Youth Tolerance Foundation;
  • Kaloyan Damyanov, President of the National Association of Resource Teachers;
  • Ljubomir Karimanski, Professor at University for National and World Economy – Sofia;
  • Mariana Bancheva, Director of Educational Policies at Institute for Progressive Education;
  • Michaela Pentcheva, Board Member of the Association of Youth Organizations;
  • Ognyan Gerdjikov, Professor at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, President of the National Assembly of Bulgaria 2001-2005;
  • Paulina Mihailova, Board Member of the Liberal Institute for Political Analyses;
  • Petar-Emil Mitev, Chairman of the Board of Institute for Social Values ​​and Structures “Ivan Hadjiiski”;
  • Prof. Dr. Rumyana Kolarova, Secretary for education, science and civil society of the President of Bulgaria, Minister of Education and Science August-November 2014;
  • Sergey Ignatov, Minister of Education and Science 2009-2013;
  • Svetla Strumina, newspaper “Uchitelsko delo”;
  • Yani Yanev, Vice-President of Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar”;
  • Sc. Yanka Takeva, President of the Syndicate of Bulgarian Teachers;
  • Zinaida Zlatanova, Minister of Justice 2013-2014, Head of the European Commission Representation in Bulgaria 2008-2013.

 

 

February, 2016

Sofia, Bulgaria

 

 

Daniel Kaddik                                                                         Paulina Mihailova

Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom                 Liberal Institute for Political Analyses