5.7 “Learning to participate” through formal, non-formal and informal learning
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At this point, in Croatia there is no national strategy that has as its sole objective the development of the social and civic competences of Croatian youth.
The first indication of grasping the importance of adequately adapting the educational system to enable the development of youth citizenship competences emerged in 1999 with the adoption of a programme under the promising name National Programme of Education for Human Rights and Democratic Citizenship. The Programme consisted of the following elements: (1) Education for human rights; (2) Education for democratic citizenship; (3) Intercultural education; (4) Education for peace and nonviolent conflict resolution; (5) Education for sustainable development; (6) Education for the prevention of prejudice and discrimination; (7) Exploration of humanitarian law and practices, etc.
In 2010, with the adoption of the National Curriculum Framework citizenship, education was defined as a separate area, it created preconditions for the development of a new citizenship education curriculum. In this process, a Curriculum for Citizenship Education was developed, and the former Ministry of Science, Education and Sports endorsed its experimental implementation in the year 2012. The development of students’ citizenship competences was foreseen by the curriculum via six structural dimensions: human rights, political, social, (inter)cultural, environmental and economic.
After the pilot version of the curriculum, despite positive evaluation, an interdisciplinary and cross-curricular model which diverged from the tested one was introduced in schools. The programme included none of the student and teacher suggestions from the previous experimental implementation phase, nor did it offer any new content connected to human rights, intercultural education or citizenship participation (Kekez-Kostro, Horvat, Salaj, 2017: 24). A new Curriculum for the Cross-Curricular topic Civic education for primary and secondary schools in the Republic of Croatia is valid since 2019.
For the past two decades Croatia has witnessed a public debate on the need of the introduction of civic education in schools. However, despite clearly articulated needs and a degree of political consensus, the integration of this content has been at best sporadic and dependant on the motivation and good will of individual teachers and schools.
Since 2014 in Croatia there is the Programme of Cross-curricular and Interdisciplinary Contents of Citizenship Education for Elementary and Secondary Schools. With the adoption of the Cross-curricular and Interdisciplinary Civic and Citizenship Education Programme ‘civic and citizenship education is introduced cross-curricular so that education can contribute to the full development of civic competency in students. In doing so, it acknowledges the fact that all school subjects are directly connected with the general right to education and all other special rights which are guaranteed to every child, and require the development of specific skills and values that more or less contribute to the realization of civic and citizenship education.
Numerous studies, papers and international comparisons, clearly state the inefficiency, ineffectiveness and inadequacy of the existing programme.
Several local and regional governments have autonomously introduced and are implementing citizenship education as an elective subject in schools (Rijeka, Osijek, Sisak).
There are number of civil society organizations conducting various education programmes intended for increasing youth participation. Civil society organizations therefore provide educational activities, produce different didactic material and offer a platform for civic engagement practice. There are several structured programmes aimed towards young people covering a different perspective of the youth participation field.
It is particularly worth mentioning the Youth Studies programme which has been organized for over a decade by the Croatian Youth Network. The comprehensive programme is aimed at young people aged 15-30 who represent youth organizations or show high motivation for social change. It consists out of several modules which usually focus on youth work, youth participation, youth social movements and activism.
Apart from Youth Studies, there are different trainings by the GOOD Initiative aimed exclusively at civic education as such. Even though their trainings do not target only young people, but parents, journalists and teachers too, their scope and content correspond to the idea of this chapter – encasing youth participation throughout education.
There are no measures in regard to a reference programme or strategy.
Education and Teacher Training Agency organizes training for teachers in the area of citizenship education, however this is seen as unsatisfactory, according to a study.
Numerous civil society organizations are also conduction training for teachers and the most famous coalition of civil society organizations focused on civic education is the GOOD Initiative (GOOD inicijativa).