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Improving participation in Europe’s parliamentary elections: tools for adult educators

01/05/2019
minn Andrew McCoshan
Lingwa: EN
Document available also in: DE EL HR HU FI SV ET

/mt/file/eu-elections-adult-learningEU elections adult learning

EU elections adult learning

 

EPALE Thematic Coordinator Andrew McCoshan shows how work by the Council of Europe can be used to develop the competences we need for effective political participation

Europe faces politically challenging times. At European level, the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections come after years of falling participation. In 1979 the turnout was 62%; in 2014 it was 43%. Participation has been particularly low amongst the unemployed (31%), manual workers (35%), homemakers (37%) and young people (28% of 18-24-year olds). The main reason for not voting is ‘lack of trust in politics in general’. Such loss of faith in European democratic institutions is concerning indeed, and challenges us to think broadly and deeply about how to re-kindle trust in politics.

 

Equipping adults with the competences they need

Countries continue to develop citizenship education for school children, but adults also need to be equipped with the competences to participate effectively in political processes. But which ones? The Council of Europe has worked extensively on competences for democratic culture and the results provide useful tools and materials for adult educators. 

As shown in the diagram, four groups of competences are identified, although, as the Council stresses, ‘In real-life situations, competences are rarely mobilised and used individually. Instead, competent behaviour invariably involves the activation and application of an entire cluster of competences.’

/mt/file/competencejpgcompetence.jpg

So which knowledge, skills and attitudes are key for effective participation in political processes such as elections? Reading across the Council of Europe’s publications, we can identify a bundle of inter-related competences that may be needed including:

  • knowledge and understanding of political concepts, including democracy, and how political disagreements can be resolved peacefully;
  • knowledge and understanding of how democratic institutions work, contemporary threats to them, and the varied ways individuals can participate in them, including through civil society and NGOs;
  • knowledge of communication, of freedom of expression and its limits, and how political messages, propaganda and hate speech in the mass media and digital media are communicated;
  • communication skills to enable articulation of political views in different media - speech, written;
  • skills in cultural appropriateness so that discourse can be culturally sensitive where communications involve people who are perceived to have different cultural affiliations from oneself;
  • analytical and critical thinking skills, and the ability to adapt one’s arguments appropriately to political issues;
  • good knowledge and understanding of the political issues that are being debated and the ability to critique the views of others and to evaluate the arguments which they deploy.

This is not a complete list, and it provides a good starting point for adult educators to consider what competences their learners might need to develop further.

 

Using the right pedagogies

In a further publication, the Council of Europe shows how such competences can be developed through appropriate teaching and learning methods. It shows how teachers, as facilitators of learning, might use typical aspects of the leaning process to plan their educational activities for the development of competences for democratic culture. We can apply these to participation in political processes:

 

How to use the adult learning process to support political participation

Experience

Learning through experience, either real or imagined, is a fitting way to develop attitudes of respect and openness in political processes. Methods include games, activities, traditional media and social media, face-to-face interaction with others or through correspondence.

Comparison

Learners can benefit from exposure to different political opinions. Learners often compare what is unfamiliar with what is familiar and evaluate the unfamiliar as “bizarre”, as “worse” or even as “uncivilised”. Teachers need to be aware of this kind of comparison of value and replace it with comparison for understanding, which involves seeing similarities and differences in a non-judgmental manner and taking the perspective of the other.

Analysis

Behind similarities and differences there are explanations for differences in political opinion. Facilitators can support their learners in the analysis of what may lie beneath what they can see others doing and saying. This can be achieved, for example, by careful discussion and analysis, through inquirybased methods, of written or audio/video sources.

Reflection

Comparison, analysis and experience need to be accompanied by time and space for reflection and the development of critical awareness and understanding. Facilitators, especially in non-formal and formal education, need to ensure that such time and space is provided in a deliberate and planned way.

Action

Reflection can and should be the basis for taking action, for engagement with others through dialogue and for becoming involved in co-operative activities with others. Facilitators may foster political debate and encourage participation in elections.

Source: Adapted from Chapter 2, Council of Europe, Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture: Volume 3 Guidance for implementation

 

Adult education cannot solve the problem of declining political participation alone of course, and there are no quick fixes.  But developing and applying the work of the Council of Europe offers a hopeful way forward.


Andrew McCoshan has worked in education and training in Europe for over 30 years as an academic researcher and consultant. He is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Educational Disadvantage Centre at Dublin City University in Ireland.

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  • Teodor GHITESCU's picture
    Pedagogia europeana orientează educația spre consolidarea unui stat federal, numit Uniunea Europeana, care funcționează, de la înființare, în ilegalitate constituțională. În aceste condiții (lipsa legitimității juridice validate de majoritatea populației) nu se poate vorbi de democrație, ci de antidemocrație, în care o minoritate dictează legi împotriva majorității populației (controlul privat asupra intereselor publice, conform proiectului constituției UE, respins de singurele 3 referendumuri organizate).
    Aceasta dogmatizare politica a educației alterează profund gândirea noii generații spre adevărata democrație: guvernarea în slujba majorității populației și nu în slujba unei minorități bogate, lacome și sadice, adică o întoarcere a filosofiei de viață spre evul mediu, nu spre rezultatele științei și tehnologiilor din mileniul III!
    Mai mult, conținuturile educației sunt orientate spre o economie autodistructivă (după teoria economică marginalistă, un sofism malefic), împotriva rezultatelor științelor fundamentale și a celor destinate conducerii științifice socioeconomice, bazate pe filosofia de vârf a cunoașterii: filosofia sistemică (având două curente, realist - teoria Jay Forrester, accesibilă oricărui absolvent de liceu și cibernetică - Norbert Wiener, accesibilă doar celor cu pregătire matematică superioară și în programarea calculatoarelor).
    Spre abordarea sistemică realistă a cunoașterii se orientează tot mai multe științe socioeconomice, inclusiv pedagogia. Iată o scurta sinteză a ceea ce ar trebui să învețe dascălii (formatorii) pentru a nu-și mai manipula discipolii: https://www.academia.edu/38067783/Presentation_The_Systemic_Pedagogy_and...