CCD Organizes Workshop on Civic Education at World Movement for Democracy Assembly in Lima
October 25, 2012
By: Chris Brandt
The Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD), in partnership with the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), organized a workshop on civic education at the World Movement for Democracy’s Lima Assembly on October 17, 2012.
The workshop, entitled “Civic Education: It’s Not Just About Voting,” brought policymakers and civil society leaders together to brainstorm best practices and ideas to improve civic education. Additionally, two democracy education experts, Li Hua Chen of the Municipal University of Education, and Abraham Magendzo of the Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano, provided their insights on democracy education in Taiwan and Chile, respectively. David McQuoid-Mason, Professor of Law at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, moderated the discussion.
CCD’s President, Bob LaGamma, delivered opening remarks in which he emphasized the importance of democracy education as a tool for democratic consolidation and urged participants to contribute best practices. CCD intends to use the ideas compiled at the workshop in a manual of best practices in democracy education, which will be published in 2013. Michael Kau, former President of TFD, also delivered opening remarks, in which he presented a framework to focus the discussion, asking which actors should be engaged in civic education, what the curricular focus should be, and who should fund civic education initiatives.
Professor Chen discussed a program at an elementary school in Taiwan that engages students at the local level. Students learned about the pollution and erosion of a local beach that caused its closure, and were encouraged to discover its causes and effects, and finally to take action to repair the damage that was done. Programs such as this encourage students to be active citizens. They also inspire citizens in the broader community to get involved, including parents, teachers and other local leaders.
Professor Magendzo emphasized the importance of training teachers to teach democracy education. He noted that many teachers do not know anything about democracy or citizen participation, so it is important that they are equipped with the skills and the know how to teach the subject effectively. He also stressed that democracy education should be transversal, that it should be taught across disciplines, and not limited to the social sciences.
Participants then broke into small groups and brainstormed best practices in six thematic areas: What is Democracy?; How Government Works in a Democracy; Checking the Abuse of Power in a Democracy; Human Rights and Democracy; Elections and Democracy; and Citizenship Participation in a Democracy. Rapporteurs from each group then presented their ideas, which were recorded and will be included in the manual of best practices. Many excellent best practices were presented. One group suggested that democracy should be modeled in the learning environment, through student government elections and decisions such as where to go on field trips. Another group urged that NGOs and community groups within a country interact regularly so that best practices can be exchanged.
The workshop was conducted with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund, which has provided CCD with a grant for its extensive democracy education activities. In addition to Mr. Kau and Dr. Chen, TFD provided support for three other workshop participants.
To read more about CCD’s democracy education project, please click here.
For an interview with democracy education expert David McQuoid-Mason, please click here.