Education for Democratic Citizenship
In 2016 Danish schools teaching the age groups from 6 to 16 will have to find space and time on the already crammed timetables for an week’s teaching on democratic citizenship. This initiative has come about in the wake of the Paris bombings and a meeting in Brussels of Ministers of Education in November 2015.
The week in 2016 is being planned to focus on citizenship, democracy, and rights, and it is hoped that the new teaching materials will provide ideas and methods for the teachers at all levels so that the ideas can be included more and better in the teaching of all the subjects on the curriculum.
Specialists in the teaching of these subjects will travel round the country and run courses for teachers to introduce new teachings materials prepared for this and to encourage development of activities and materials for this.
Some teachers welcome this initiative, but others say that they already include these issues in their teaching, but that there is not enough time to implement the issues satisfactorily because the timetable is so crowded. ‘It takes our focus away from the general aim of making our children fully rounded people by giving them a solid base of civil and cultural education alongside all the subjects and makes us just aim at certain targets that we have to reach. It takes time to steep oneself and a class in the understanding and comprehension of the values in democracy. It has to be played into children, acted out with them, discussed with them, for them to truly realize what democracy is, and we are not given enough time for that. It seems somewhat superficial.
Mehdi Mozaffari, professor at the Center for Research into Islamism and Radicalization at Aarhus University, is positive about the new initiatives from the Minister for Education. He stresses that it is important to discuss in class what elements and factors are a challenge to democracy. ‘If we tell the children why democracy is a good thing, we must also discuss what works against democracy. We must teach them about totalitarianism, despotism and dictatorship so that the students know that there are other forces and value systems at work than democracy in the world. The students have to know what is evil, and what challenges a peaceful society. It is also important that the initiatives become a starting point for a debate. But schools must also stimulate the reflection skills, so that the students begin to question themselves and their friends about their own values. If this ambition is successful, it may have a positive effect on the risk of radicalization. The risk of young people becoming interested in non-democratic cultures will be considerably smaller.’
Teachers are delighted that there will be new materials to support the issue and agree that schools are the first focus area for this kind of teaching. Even the leader of the organization for Danish School Students, Silke Fogelberg, is pleased, but says that the ideas and the discussions must not only be heard in that one week, but must be kept up and integrated whenever possible in all the subjects. ’ Focus is good, but regular reminders and maintenance of the values are just as important’, she says.