Since February 2015, we, alongside seven other European civil society organisations – Zentrum polis (Austria), La Ligue de l’enseignement de Bourgogne and Cidem (France), The DARE Network (Belgium), Der Arbeitskreis deutscher Bildungsstätten (Germany), La Fundación Educativa y Asistencial Cives (Spain) and Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej (Poland) – have been working to develop a European citizenship educational module for students aged 8 to 12 years. Now, two years later, we are very pleased to announce the publication of our “ENGAGE: Learning democracy with children aged 8-12″ (VOL II)” handbook. This handbook offers educators in the formal and non-formal education sector eleven different methods to engage in democracy learning with children between the ages of 8 to 12.
The ENGAGE project has involved working with our partners to create a handbook that would provide teachers and trainers with the specific tools and practices required to address the rich and multi-faceted subject of citizenship education. In Europe’s current unstable political and societal context, which recently has seen the growth of the populist right, the UK voting to leave the European Union, and a multitude of additional challenges such as rising racism, xenophobia and extremism, it is clear that concepts of inclusive EU citizenship can be extremely fragile. The ENGAGE project, with its focus on democracy and citizenship specifically developed for 8 to 12 year olds, thus aims to provide a solid base of learning upon which ideas about citizen engagement can be instilled.
The first step in the process of developing the handbook was identifying the common challenges encountered by educators when teaching citizen engagement to their pupils. Despite the eight partners having diverse policy and educational backgrounds, our research found that in fact there were a number of key barriers to teaching citizenship engagement that were shared by teachers across the European spectrum. Furthermore, they also indicated that their initial teacher training had, at best, left them ill-equipped to tackle the often complex subject of citizenship. Resources for teaching citizenship were often seen as being inadequate and time spent on the subject too short to ensure long term pupil engagement. Teachers also suggested that they found it difficult to deal with conflicting narratives, world views and ideologies within their classrooms, especially with children who had only a limited exposure to the wider world.
Based on this feedback, the consortium set out to work out a curriculum for the handbook based on three dimensions:
- Dimension I: Me and the Others
- Dimension II: Society and the World
- Dimension III: Participation in Democratic Society
Rather than focussing on theoretical learning, the learning activities of the ENGAGE curriculum focus on the development of competencies and skills. Within that, that primary aim is to foster coexistence and interaction with others, and further, to empower pupils to exercise their own civil rights. The methods espoused in the handbooks have been successfully tested by educators in all of the participating countries, and the handbooks contain all the necessary information on methodology, policy context, objectives for lesson plans and links to existing curricula. Furthermore, links to additional learning activities tackling each of the subjects discussed in the curriculum are provided.
We are very excited to finally be launching our handbooks, and about the fact that they are also available in a number of languages – English, French, Polish and Spanish. All the handbooks can be downloaded from the project website here