5.8 Raising political awareness among young people
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The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is responsible for citizenship education in school. The Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery holds responsibility to raise young people’s political awareness due to its competence for youth, as do the Federal provinces.
A network of nine regional Youth Information Centres spans across Austria and is brought together under the umbrella organization ‘National Network of Youth Information Centres in Austria’ (Austrian Youth Information Centres). The Centres provide information and counselling both in person and on their websites. Overall, 28 offices in all federal provinces offer nationwide services for young people between the age of 12 and 26. They annually answer approximately 160,000 enquiries on all youth-relevant topics, including work and training, living and mobility and compulsory military/community service. Additionally, every year approximately one million visitors use the online services of the youth information centres. Youth information promotes the social and political participation of young people and the knowledge of their own rights and obligations, which is one of the basic requirements for active participation in society. The majority of Youth Information Centres are organised as associations and are largely financed by the respective provincial government. The Federal Networj is a member of the International Federation of Youth Information Centres (ERYICA) and is the national coordinating body for the EU programme EURODESK.
The Austrian Citizenship Days (Aktionstage Politische Bildung) provide a forum for all topics related to Citizenship Education, provide an opportunity to discuss, and offer manifold approaches, including outreach programs, discussions, and methods. They takes place annually between 23 April (World Book Day) and 9 May (EUrope Day). New materials are presented throughout the event, e.g. on women’s rights, public health, young people’s participation, language rights, and freedom rights. Further materials include studies, videos, podcasts, padlets, workshops, and games. The Citizenship Days are an annual nationwide campaign, initiated by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and coordinated by polis.
Online election information point for young people (Province of Styria)
The online platform altgenug.st (‘old enough’) provides information on participation and elections. This platform is particularly addressing first-time voters. It is an initiative of the province Styria but available to young people all over Austria.
PoliPedia: multimedial information platform
PoliPedia is a multimedia information platform on democracy, politics and participation. Information is provided for young people and for teachers. A variety of different topics is discussed and participation projects are promoted. Among the topics are:
- Human rights (Menschenrechte)
- Poverty (Armut)
- Democracy and internet (Demokratie und Internet)
- School democracy Schuldemokratie
- Democracy and laws in the working environment (Demokratie und Rechte in der Arbeitswelt)
- The Austrian constitution (Die österreichische Verfassung)
The online youth portal serves as signpost for the wide variety of institutions, websites and other services in Austria and Europe and is, therefore, the national equivalent of the European Commission’s European youth portal. It also informs young people on current topics (e.g. up-to-date corona regulations) and its campaigns (e.g. ‘Your projects’ and ‘Get active’) via Facebook and Instagram. The Portal also features the Youth Reporter Blog (Jugendreporter), where since 2016 selected young people receive journalistic workshops and write blog posts and create podcasts for their peers on topics of their choice, e.g. climate, politics, education, travel.
The Austrian Youth Portal is commissioned and financed by the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery and maintained by the National Network of Austrian Youth Information centres (Bundesnetzwerk Österreichische Jugendinfos).
Fit to Vote (Fit fürs Wählen) und free newspaper subscription (Upper Austria)
The information campaign ‘Fit to Vote’ (Fit fürs Wählen) by the regional government of Upper Austria provides information on the province, the political system, political parties and voting rights. Furthermore, young people can take part in an online challenge and win prices by doing so. Moreover, schools can use the interactive homepage with information on Upper Austria, the parties and elections as teaching material.
The regional government of Upper Austria also provided free newspaper subscriptions for first-time voters to get information about regional politics prior to the election.
Neuwal (German word play of new election/whale) provides online information on politics and offers workshops for schools and offices. With their initiative ‘PopUpPolitics’ they deliver extensive knowledge, constructive arguments and ideas for the positive discourse on eye level in the digital era.
Talk together (ZusammenReden)
This initiative provides teaching material, brochures, workshops for schools, discussion evenings in municipalities, and intercultural training for for an intercultural dialogue. The imitative was started in 2009 by Caritas and is supported by public authorities.
Life tracks (Lebensspuren)
In 2005, the Austrian library network started an initiative which moves the libraries increasingly in the centre of integrative cultural work through information and workshops in public libraries.
Peer-Education Intercultural Competence (Peer-Education Interkulturelle Kompetenz)
Since 2012, the youth department of the province of Upper Austria offers a peer-education project for pupils. Pupils can gain knowledge about intercultural competence in education modules designed for their age. The aim is to recognise cultural diversity as an enrichment, to perceive potentials, to reflect culture, identity, prejudices and conflicts, to respect differences and to appear against misanthropic positions. The peers spread their experiences and knowledge to class colleagues and to the whole school – either in lessons, self-organised projects, by school actions or simply by passing time together.
Intercultural education in schools
Intercultural education is promoted as an underlying teaching principle in schools, based on the Framework Decree on Intercultural Education (Grundsatzerlass Interkulturelle Bildung, 2017), which the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung, BMBWF) passed. The Framework Degree is detailed in Chapter 4.5.
Migration(s) in textbooks (Migrationen im Schulbuch)
‘The critical analysis of migration narratives and representations of people with a migrant background in current Austrian textbooks are central to the project. The main research questions include ‘Which Austrian and European migration histories are narrated in the textbooks?’, ‘Which stories are marginalised or even ‘forgotten’?’, ‘How are people with a migrant background depicted?’ In this study, the widely varying perspectives of teachers and students alike on the topic of migration and their experiences with textbooks are used both methodologically and analytically. Such collaboration between researchers, teachers and students is not only an innovative and promising approach in textbook research in general, but it also reduces the danger of over-emphasizing the researcher’s view of the topic.’
List of good practices (Dialogforum Migration & Integration)
Co-financed by the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the Federal Chancellery, Dialogforum has curated a list of good practice examples in Austria. Examples include:
- Projekt Kontakt Tandem, which facilitates the exchange between young Austrians and young people from other cultures through various leisure activities.
- Verein JUKUS, an association for the promotion of youth, culture and sport with the intention to promote the acquisition of social skills.
- CULTRAIN provides cultural orientation training for unaccompanied minor refugees as a start-up aid for integration in Austria.
- Multicultural Network Association (Verein Multikulturelles Netzwerk): The intercultural project JUMIGG worked with 50 young multipliers against violence and dealt with different forms of discrimination.
- Somos Salzburg provides new spaces for encounter and dialogue through intercultural breakfasts for families.
There are no guidelines on transparent public communication targeting young people and no national or large-scale programmes or initiatives on providing training for policy-makers at various levels of suitable and youth-tailored communication.