Photo: Estonian Institute of Human Rights
The Forum marked the conclusion of the „Baltic Partnerships for Human Rights Education and Education for Democratic Citizenship“ implemented by the Estonian Institute of Human Rights, the Youth Leaders’ Coalition from Latvia and the Cultural Centre In Actio from Lithuania. The key focus of the project was to make use of and adapt the manuals developed by the Council of Europe for citizenship and human rights education. As a result the manuals “Teacher training in EDC/HRE – how to develop the ability of students to assess information from media and social networks?” and “Teaching controversial issues – developing effective training for teachers and school leaders” were translated and are now available for use in Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian. Furthermore, numerous dissemination and training activities as well as piloting was carried out. The project also supported introduction of these tools in the education systems of the three participating countries.
Although much has already been done, the participants of the forum have agreed that further initiatives need to be taken to provide training and support for education actors who could benefit from use of the manuals. Some possible examples that could be built on were presented during the forum, including the EWC project “Teaching Controversial Issues in the Nordic Countries” and various initiatives of organisations from the Baltic States.
When discussing teaching controversial issues, forum participants underlined the need to educate parents, not limiting the training only to schools or education actors. Those working with children and youth need also to question if the issues that are controversial for them are indeed controversial for students, parents and others in the community. When asked to indicate the obstacles or challenges teachers face when dealing with controversial issues, participants outlined lack of time, lack of knowledge, confidence and commitment as well as absence of specialized training and attitude of parents as the main factors.
Besides discussing the challenges related to teaching controversial issues, the participants could choose to engage in sessions dedicated to discussion of teacher competences needed to develop skills to assess information from media and social networks and national developments in EDC/HRE (policy making).
All participants of the forum agreed that the available manuals are important tools since a “school is a place where students acquired not only knowledge but also skills and abilities to live in a society that changes all the time”. Both manuals are key for developing critical thinking skills which are seen as important not only in the context of the Council of Europe Competence for Democratic Culture framework but is also outlined as a key skill for future jobs by the World Economic Forum.
In addition forum participants suggested that “issues should be tackled earlier i. e. in preschool education”, “parents should not be abandoned, they should be involved and educated and be more active”. There was also a wish for stronger cooperation on the interregional level, for example when integrating EDC/HRE in curricula. Finally, forum participants urged not to “abandon the teachers alone” referring to the need for more support from relevant stakeholders when working in citizenship and human rights education.
The forum was funded within the Framework of a Joint Project between the European Commission and the Council of Europe and was attended by representatives of the Ministries of Education and experts from the Baltic States, the Council of Europe, including the co author of the manual “Teaching Controversial Issues” David Kerr, as well as over 70 participants – teachers, university lecturers, teacher trainers, representatives of Civil society, NGO’s, parents’ associations, youth organisations etc.
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