On 15-17 December 2014, the Working Group (WG) “Citizenship Education” met in Prague within the framework of the Sub-grant Programme initiated by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. The meeting was hosted by Agora Central Europe. It was a first step in a two-phase project, whereas the second step will be a joint visit to Brussels. Fourteen members from EU countries and Russia participated in the meeting.
The main aim of the workshop was to closely get to know each other, discuss current challenges and opportunities of civic education, and plan future steps of the WG. In the course of the meeting, participants visited the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and learnt about their programmes for teachers on how to present modern history and how to tackle previous non-democratic regimes. They also visited the Czech NGO “People in Need”. The project “One World for Schools”, which is based on screening documentaries with human rights thematic, was presented. Participants also met Czech experts on citizenship education and learnt about the Czech context and developments.
Along with discussions on mutual understanding of how the citizenship is perceived as well as the most important values for citizenship education – critical thinking, tolerance, respect to other people, or ability to oppose unjust laws, current challenges of citizenship education in Russia were confronted. Russian participants mentioned a tendency to substitute citizenship education with patriotic/orthodox classes. Formal approach is widespread in Russia, and teachers basically distribute the information they were told to. Therefore, the WG “Citizenship Education” agreed that activities focused on critical thinking and media education would be needed for Russia. Besides, it would be important to convince parents and teachers that it is vital for their children and it is not a wasting of time.
As future steps, the Working Group agreed that a platform for sharing best practices in citizenship education would be developed – along with a databank of methodical materials and other resources both from Russia and the EU. These materials would be accessible through various channels. The participants of the meeting also decided to organise a meeting with specific focus on new methods and approaches in civic education only. As citizenship education is not a neutral concept, they saw it useful in the future to jointly engage in lobbying activities in order to pursue common values and to prepare opportunities for development of citizenship education in Russia.