The Centre participates in the World Forum for Democracy, “Democracy and equality: does education matter?”
From November 6 to 9th, 2017 the World Forum for Democracy brought together more than 2,000 participants from 100 countries to address the question, “Democracy and equality: does education matter?” in Strasbourg, France. Centre staff participated in the conference, meeting with several civil society organizations to discuss our approaches to education.
The Forum explored how education and democracy can nurture active citizens by building their critical and analytical thinking skills. The Forum also sought to identify experimental initiatives occurring at the grassroots level that can be integrated at a broader, systemic level to strengthen democratic societies.
Here are a few of the key ideas we took away from the Forum:
- History, values-based education and critical thinking around sensitive issues are key to building democratic citizens. The goal of the global education community to foster inclusive citizenship education aligns with the Centre’s work in this area.
- Reviewing how history is being taught and looking at ways to incorporate more inclusive narratives is key to pluralism. In that regard, efforts like the one being made in France will be interesting to follow. The aim is to reformulate history in positive terms (e.g. teaching about de-colonization instead of explaining what colonization was) and to recognize the contributions of minority groups.
- Participants agreed that the economic toll of globalization is not the main cause of the current crisis of democracy. Instead, it was pointed out that political disenfranchisement plays a major role. The new divide is between political and non-political individuals.
- The education system often promotes a “non-sovereign version of democracy.” Oftentimes, democracy is not being practiced in schools. Students have little to no decision-making power. This impacts the practice of democracy in the long term.
Solutions offered included:
- Instilling pluralism in governance structures and in the wider school community
- Redefining leadership: visions of compassionate, collaborative leadership should be mainstreamed in the education system, replacing the often competitive environment that students find themselves in.
- Increasing representation of diverse groups among student populations: According to PEW research, more than 50% of Americans believe that diversity is making their country worse. This percentage, however, is higher in areas with less ethnic diversity. It can be implied that the more diverse school environments are, the more open students become.