New cycle of Practicing Citizenship

The new cycle of the Practicing Citizenship programme was launched at the Council of Europe Youth Centre in Budapest, February 5 - March 2. The snowy and chilly weather outside of the meeting venue was an absolute contrast to the vigorous and warm atmosphere at the “Citizenship Education: new developments of the Council of Europe” seminar, which united 49 education professionals and experts from the Russian Federation, Poland, Norway, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Besides introducing education professionals from the Russian Federation to the newest developments in citizenship education of the Council of Europe, such as the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture and Teaching Controversial Issues, the seminar also marked the launch of the new 2017 – 2020 programme cycle of the “Practicing Citizenship programme” – aimed at improving the ability of education professionals to apply in practice the policies, recommendations and approaches of the Council of Europe in citizenship and human rights education.

The programme is carried out by the European Wergeland Center together with the Association of the Schools of Political Studies, however was initially started in 2013 through the partnership of the European Wergeland Centre and the Moscow School of Civic Education. It was therefore particularly symbolic that the seminar was opened by those who have been at the forefront of the programme: Mrs. Ana Perona Fjeldstad - the executive director of the European Wergeland Centre; Mrs. Lena Nemirovskaya and Mr. Yury Senokosov – the founders of the Moscow School of Civic Education.

During their opening address, they stressed the importance of education, Educators and Teachers in the ever-changing world and the need for societies to learn how to live together in peace. Mr. Yury Senokosov, also urged to remember that civic education is also about enlightenment and encouraged us all to recognise this light in ourselves and others, share it and nurture it.

Following the opening address, the focus on the development of new competences, needed for peaceful coexistence was expanded by Professor Martyn Barrett (University of Surrey) - the leading expert of the Council of Europe flagship work on the Reference framework of Competences for Democratic Culture. Professor Barrett presented not only how the framework was developed, but also the underlying philosophy and how the framework can be used by practitioners in the field of education. He also introduced the Global Competence framework developed by the OECD,and demonstrated in what ways the two frameworks are similar.

The participants also had the chance to get acquainted with the experience of the Russian Federation in international and national studies focused on citizenship competence development, during a session led by Professor Andrey Ioffe (Moscow City Pedagogical University) - PISA and Council of Europe Expert, who presented the results of the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study.

The next three days of the seminar were dedicated to more interactive sessions.

Working with the Head trainer of the programme Mrs. Marzena Rafalska – European Wergeland Centre and Council of Europe Expert, the participants explored the topic of Controversial Issues. Besides engaging participants in interactive exercises, Mrs. Rafalska underlined the importance of creating a safe space – which is core to discussions of controversial issues and the role of the teacher in this process. Many, have later expressed how important this theme is and informed that they will use the “Teachning Controversial Issues” manuals and what they learnt during the sessions, in their work with students and education professionals.

Meanwhile in the parallel sessions Professor Rolf Gollob (Zurich University of Teacher Education) - Council of Europe Expert, urged the participants to reflect on the evolution of learning and how and why we learn, by presenting the concepts of “Hot and Cold societies” as well exploring the concept of competences, also by engaging participants using interactive methods.

Several sessions, led by Professor Andrey Ioffe, were dedicated to the development of training skills, during which participants could develop and present their own activities in citizenship and human rights education.

The participants also had a chance to reflect on their roles as multipliers, discuss on how the new Council of Europe materials could be used in their professional activities as well as explore further possibilities for interregional cooperation.

Work continued outside the sessions. Sometimes discussions about cooperation, human rights, citizenship education and its further development continued well into the night. It seemed that even after 4 full days together there were still so many ideas to discuss and inspirations to share!

This spirit was shared by the representatives of the “Aurora” and “Haver” organisations, which we visited on the last day of the seminar. Mr. Daniel Mayer presented the history and the work of “Aurora” which serves as a community hub, bringing young people together and providing a space for NGO’s working in the field of youth engagement, citizenship and human rights. While Mr. Péter Neumann, presented the work of the “Haver” Foundation which aims to combat antisemitism through work with schools and students. The representatives of the Foundation later took us on a walking tour in the historical Jewish quarter of Budapest.

The seminar might have ended, but the new knowledge, ideas, inspiration and new friends remain.

We sincerely thank all the experts and participants for their work during the seminar and look forward to continuing our cooperation within the Practicing Citizenship Programme.

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