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Good practice examples from the EPALE event on citizenship education

David Mallows
Kalba: EN
Document available also in: FR ET EL

/lt/file/citizenship-education-good-practice-successful-projectsCitizenship education good practice successful projects

Citizenship education good practice successful projects


Between 20-24 May 2019, EPALE organised an online event to collect good practice examples about citizenship education. We had contributions from a wide range of adult learning professionals from across Europe, with discussion focusing on the concept of citizenship education, approaches taken to motivate and retain learners, as well as invitations to learn more about specific projects and to attend relevant events. In this article, we will provide a summary of the discussion with links to the projects and resources mentioned by contributors.


Reflections on the concept of citizenship education

There were a number of posts in which participants discussed the concept of citizenship education.

  • Project Manager Tino Boubaris from Germany focused on the way in which recent migration flows have exposed profound contradictory policies within the EU, reflected in different (and sometime nationalistic) responses:

‘Walls, political and physical, are going up across Europe. Additionally, we are living in a time of challenge and political polarisation resulting from a loss of confidence in our previous societal and political institutions.’

For Tino the ‘time is very ripe for adult education to extend its thinking and make a significant contribution to both individual and societal wellbeing. Regarding value-based citizenship education, it is important to state that adult education’s responsibility is not focused on telling adults how to behave, but how to understand the complex issues of societal life.’

  • Julija Melnikova, an EPALE ambassador for the Klaipeda region in Lithuania, talked about her work as a sociology lecturer at Klaipeda University: ‘During the lectures we usually discuss with students various issues relevant to today's society. One of the topics we have been discussing recently is social networking and civic society. The openness of the internet fosters the formation of so called ‘culture of freedom’, which in turn fosters the development of a new model of civic communication. Modern sociologists are even developing a new concept of ‘virtual civic society’, which is being characterised by greater democratic position and higher civic participation and inclusion. During discussions we analyse social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and the 'wisdom of crowd’ as the precondition for the formation of virtual civic society. The EPALE platform, with its user-generated content, also serves as an example of civic communication,’ said Julija. 
  • Maria Silvana D’Addario, EPALE Ambassador for Puglia, Italy, described citizenship education as ‘an intertwining of cognitive, affective and motivational aspects, between knowledge, values and attitudes’. She noted that research carried out in various countries shows the great importance of inculcating not only knowledge but also values, such as tolerance, respect and solidarity. Maria further argued that forming responsible, active citizens means not only teaching the fundamental norms of the legal systems of which we are part, but also helping everyone to find themselves in the understanding of others, in history and in the news.
  • Nevenka Bogataj explained how in Slovenia ‘active citizenship’ is translated as aktivno državljanstvo. ‘Active means that the participants are engaged in any form of collective action e.g. group learning, teamwork, community development. Therefore they are able and willing to contribute to the common good, not only for personal benefits.’ She noted the political and emotional connotations of the term in adult education in Slovenia and suggested the use of study circles as good practice in active citizenship (link in Slovenian). Readers are particularly invited to the subsection Publications where English contributions might be found as well as a map
  • Assistant Director Mehmet Kaya from Turkey warned of the dangers of social media: ‘The ease of access to smartphones and the use of the internet leaves citizens exposed to dangers such as fake news, manipulation, and internet fraud.’ He called for more adult education as a response.
  • For Turkish teacher and deputy director Halil Ibrahim Kilınç people should not accept the news in the press and social media and should question the populist discourse used by politicians. He also suggested that ‘knowing and using the rights of citizens is of great importance for the development of societies’.
  • EPALE UK Ambassador Brian Caul also called for adult education to respond to concerns about European citizens’ ability to ‘make their voices heard, challenge bigotry and intolerance and suggest plans that respect diversity and create a better society for the common good’.
  • For Lecturer Brid Connolly from Maynooth University, Ireland, adult education is on the side of freedom and rights, against populism.

‘We have to be clear about what populism means. In many ways, the social movements that brought us into the 21st century could be framed as populism, as the democratic processes could not always embrace liberation movements. Ultimately, social movements could lead the way to greater freedom, the most significant probably is and was the women's movement, but also the quest for equality for sexual and gender minorities, race, ethnicity and class. We can't confuse these liberation movements with those who desire to undermine human and cultural rights, the mark of populist movements.’

  • For Teodor Ghitescu from the Muntenia Training and Performance Institute in Romania, ‘the most important component of civic education is knowledge of the constitution, so that each of us can understand who and how our present and future evolution is shaped’. Teodor shared an analysis of the Romanian constitution (link available in Romanian).
  • Project Manager Giulia Pelliccia introduced us to the Pop-Up Europe: Delivering Europe to its citizens project (link available in Italian and English), which aims to enhance the empowerment of staff in Municipalities to motivate people to become active European citizens.


Citizenship education projects and good practice examples

Participants also suggested a number of practical ways to approach citizenship education.

  • For Deputy Director Georgios Giotopoulos from the Patras Public Vocational Training Institute in Greece, art observation and other aesthetic experiences can be used to enhance students’ critical thinking. ‘It is a method that can underline – among other characteristics – the importance of creating empathy within learning environments, as part of a general transformative learning strategy.’ The starting point is the ‘transformative learning through aesthetic experience’ method by which learners are encouraged to re-examine their previous attitudes and assumptions through their contact with works of art. He shared an article on the importance of creating empathy within learning environments, a paper on transformative learning through aesthetic experience in secondary and non-formal education, and a research synthesis on applying critical thinking and empathy in formal school education (all three links available in English).
  • Tino Boubaris presented the Val.EU Guide, which is intended to provide teachers and learners with the necessary foundations for an open, fruitful and knowledge-based discussion of European values. At the same time, the guide encourages teachers in adult education, but also other educators, to engage in the teaching of European values in their courses, and to successfully plan and implement teaching and learning activities. You can download the guide from the EPALE Resource Centre (available in English and German).
  • Tino also presented the VNB (Association of Education Initiatives in Lower Saxony) – an officially acknowledged state-wide adult and youth education institution, and an umbrella organisation with a network of more than 200 education partners. The Association develops innovative projects for a diverse and inclusive education, targeting young and adult learners as well as staff members in adult and vocational education, and using state-of-the-art methodologies such as Design Thinking and collaborative learning.
  • Kristyna Fantová from the Czech Republic gave an example of citizenship education provided by the private organisation Via Foundation. The organisation’s programme called The Community in Which We Live aims to create a public space where citizens are strongly engaged. ‘I believe that this programme has a great overall impact on the participants,’ said Kristyna. Find more about the programme (available in English and Czech).
  • The EPALE National Support Service in the Netherlands shared information about three relevant projects:
    • It Starts with Language (Het Begint met Taal) is a national programme that supports local initiatives for 160 volunteer organisations on 250 locations nationwide. They provide practical materials, training and guides for language volunteers and their coordinators, who support the language learning of migrants. ‘It Starts with Language’ believes that in order to support their children, find employment and be active in their local communities, migrants must be able to speak the language of their new home country. Learn more about the ‘It Starts with Language’ programme.
    • The online platform helps people with social participation. It allows adults to improve their basic skills: reading, writing, numeracy and digital skills through thematic programmes, on subjects such as health, numeracy and money. They listed a number of ways in which the programmes of contribute to the social participation of citizens. ‘Professional further education comprises much more than just the simple transfer of knowledge. It is equally important to encourage the individual, social and political commitment of learners.’
    • The National Service also reminded us of the importance of knowing the target audience in order to attract participants and introduced the method KLASSE!, which has been designed to support organisations in understanding the profiles and needs of potential learners. All materials of KLASSE! are available to download for free (link available in Dutch). For more information get in touch with Marian Janssen- de Goede at 
  • Christine Bertram from the National Support Service in Germany introduced the online course DorfMOOC – encouraging rural communities to become more active. The aim of the course is to guide rural communities to become active in making their towns and villages more liveable and to re-establish a feeling of community. The MOOC applies a methodology of ‘observing, understanding, acting’ and takes participants (who at times live far from one another but in the same village) through 6 modules over 6 weeks looking at topics such as participation, integration of older people as well as migrants in the community, organisation and social media. It encourages the participants to view their villages with new eyes and to think about how they could tackle problems such as a lack of community meeting places or consider what a ‘good life’ means to them. A blog post about the DorfMOOC is available in German with links to the MOOC and the organisers. Tino Boubaris noted that there are similar activities in Germany called Dorfmoderation – village facilitation (link available in German).
  • Community Partner Lead Maria Flanagan introduced the An Cosán a Virtual Community College in Ireland, which aims to help learners succeed through an innovative model of community education. The college provides people of all ages with pathways to learning, leadership and social enterprise. It offers a variety of affordable short programmes, through to a range of options in community, further and higher education. Maria gave details of one module, Citizenship and Social Action, which explores theoretical concepts of democracy, citizenship and social action and is delivered using their model of blended online learning. Learn more at the college.
  • Martin Dobeš from the Czech National Support Service suggested that libraries have an important role to play in citizenship education, particularly in combating the spread of misinformation. He posted an example of such a programme from rural Poland:



  • Erika Kiss from Hungary told us about the now completed Erasmus+ project Nauru Game for Active Citizenship of Youth, which aims to stimulate a citizenship mindset and develop citizenship competencies of young people through the development of an innovative educational tool called Nauru Game (link available in English).
  • Latvian EPALE member Anita Apine posted a message about the lifelong learning course Balanced Life: Environment, Man, Society (link available in Latvian) organised by Valmiera City Municipality and Valmiera Public Library. The aim of the course was to encourage lifestyle changes to introduce a more balanced routine and follow one’s own needs as well as those of the community, nature and environment.
  • Tatiana Sokolova from Sweden recommended a case study from the Erasmus+ project Migrants and Refugees as Re-builders Erasmus+ Cross-border Intercultural and Societal Entrepreneurs. It explores what it means to be an adult educator working with migrants and refugees in Sweden, and presents an example of helping adult learners understand Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation in society.
  • Annalisa Pezzini told us about the REM project – Rights, duties, solidarity, European constitutions and Muslim immigration, which promotes intercultural dialogue, democratic values and fundamental rights and to prevent violent radicalisation (link available in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Spanish). For more information or to become part of the network, you can contact or visit the project’s Facebook page.
  • Swedish Lead Teacher Christina Njie introduced the work of a school within the Swedish municipal adult education system called LÄRVUX. There they focus on citizenship education for adults with a range of learning difficulties. Learn more about the system in Christina’s comment on EPALE.

Citizenship education events

Participants also gave us information about relevant events – face-to-face and virtual.

  • Karolina Jagodzinski from the German National Support Service told us about the thematic week on the European elections organised by the national teams of EPALE Germany, EPALE Austria and EPALE East Belgium. The aim of the event was to promote participation in the elections and discussion about for the future of Europe. Under the Slogan Shaping Europe Together! they compiled material to promote participation in the elections.
  • Zintis Buls  told us about a media literacy seminar held in Latvia in which librarians took part.  ‘It is very important that librarians who work with adults on a daily basis can inform and help them improve these vital skills in an age where the abundance of information can easily confuse an unaware citizen.’ The seminar was organised in cooperation with the National Library of Latvia and the University of Latvia. You can learn more about the seminar in this article (available in Latvian).
  • Andreas Koreimann from the Austrian EPALE National Support Service invited us to the EPALE Conference Citizenship Education in Austria & Europe: Objectives, methods and future prospects (link available in English) on 13 June 2019. At the conference delegates would discuss citizenship education, asking how and where it takes place, and what its key themes, approaches and methods are.
  • Melike Okkalı from the Turkish EPALE National Support Service told us about a regional workshop held in April whose aim was to increase the knowledge and skills of participants on concepts of citizenship and digital citizenship. You can read a report of the workshop here (link available in English).

David Mallows has 30 years of experience in adult education as a teacher, teacher trainer, manager and researcher. He was previously Director of Research at the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy (NRDC) at the UCL Institute of Education, London and currently represents the European Basic Skills Network in EPALE as thematic coordinator for Life Skills.

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  • Tino BOUBARIS portretas
    ... for comprehensively summing up the online event. Indeed, there are such a lot of promising activities across Europe as regards citizenship education, with adult learning providers playing a crucial and responsible role in this.