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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.7 “Learning to participate” through formal, non-formal and informal learning

Last update: 27 February 2023
On this page
  1. Policy Framework
  2. Formal learning
  3. Non-formal and informal learning
  4. Quality assurance/quality guidelines for non-formal learning
  5. Educators' support

Policy Framework


Learning civic skills is at the heart of public policies on youth and popular (non-formal) and formal education.

 The desire to increase the significance of participation by young people, especially as regards their learning about citizenship.This is achieved by teaching moral and civic education (EMC - éducation morale et civique), with curricula defined by ministerial decrees. (Orders of 17-1-2019 published in the BO (Bulletin Officiel spécial - Official special newsletter) n° 1 of 22 January 2019 and of 19-7-2019 published in the BO spécial (Official special newsletters) n° 8 of 25 July 2019).


Formal learning


Education in citizenship and acquiring civic skills constitute a long-standing challenge for formal education, which has always given importance to developing pupils’ knowledge of citizenship, as well as to going beyond the mere framework of citizenship, by developing actions in which pupils can experience citizenship.

Schools and educational institutions are effectively considered as places for “individual and collective learning about the democratic exercise of political citizenship.”

This learning is ensured through programmes such as the Civic Path (Parcours citoyen):

The Civic Path is a multi-disciplinary educational and civic programme mainly led throughout secondary school (collège to lycée). Its purpose is to teach and raise student’s awareness of their rights and duties.

Leaning on lessons, in particular Civic and moral education (enseignement moral et civique, EMC), and media and information education (éducation aux médias et à l’information, EMI), it contributes towards transmitting the values and principles of the Republic by broaching the main topics of civic education:

  • secularism,
  • equality between men and women and mutual respect,
  • the fight against all types of discrimination,
  • the prevention of and fight against racism and antisemitism, against LGBT discrimination
  • education on the environment and sustainable development, the fight against harassment. 


Circular no. 2016-092 of 20-6-2016 establishes the Civic Path (Parcours citoyen) during which “the student becomes a citizen who progressively gains awareness of his/her rights, duties and responsibilities […], tests his/her ability to act and collaborate through contact with others, to exercise such rights, duties and responsibilities and improve them through different activities. The journey also allows the student to learn to accept the diversity of opinions and disagreements, by promoting listening and debates. It provides him/her with the means to behave thoughtfully and responsibly and to develop his/her critical thinking abilities.”

The civic path relies on the mobilisation of educational teams, associations and other stakeholders within the school’s territory.


Learning to participate also takes shape through educational actions and teachings such as Moral and civic education (Enseignement moral et civique, EMC) or class councils:

Those programmes and actions include:

  • EMC – Moral and Civic Teaching (Enseignement Moral et Civique), set up by the programming and framework law of 8 July 2013 on refoundation the École de la République. EMC’s aim is to bring together “the training of future citizens and the formation of their critical reasoning”, to have secondary-school students and lycée students acquire “a moral conscience that enables them to understand, respect, and share humanist values of solidarity, respect, and responsibility.” Teaching EMC must be cross-cutting and interdisciplinary. In practical terms, it must include specific educational activities (regulated debates, student councils, etc.) and co-operative projects (artistic, cultural, etc.) that question democracy. That teaching is part of the student’s citizen pathway (parcours citoyen), defined by circular no. 2016-092 of 20-6-2016. In that citizen pathway (parcours citoyen), students take part in actions that encourage the training of the future citizen (EMC, media-education courses, Defence and Citizenship Day, etc.).
  • Class councils and the delegate elections (cf. 5.2) also take part in experiencing democracy, especially through voting, debating, exercising representation, and deliberating.
  • The citizenship pathway also links formal education with popular (non-formal) education, since commitment schemes such as the Universal National Service (see 5.5 Existence of a national strategy to develop the political and civic participation of young people) or international volunteering programmes for young people (of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs) are also part of this citizenship pathway, which can last a lifetime.

This module is complemented by a Media and Information Literacy (MIL) programme. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) helps to reinforce cross-curricular skills and develop critical thinking skills in order to participate in civic life. IME is integrated into the cycle of knowledge, skills and cultures (S4C) that every student must receive during his or her schooling, since the law of 8 July 2013 on the orientation and programming for the refoundation of the Republican school. Each rector appoints an EMI referent.

The Ministry of National Education and Youth organises, with the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL), the "Trophée des classes" (the class trophy) competition aimed at educating students about the media and information at school.


Non-formal and informal learning

Learning to participate and acquiring civic skills are also objectives of non-formal education, known as "people’s education" in France, whose values include emancipation, solidarity and the exercise of citizenship

Developing links and exchanges between formal, informal, and non-formal education, based on young people learning about citizenship, mainly takes the form of a range of initiatives and programmes put in place by public institutions in partnership with associations. Those actions include some that aim at:

  • Reinforcing  the participation of young people in the decision-making of schools
  • Encouraging young people’s involvement in civil society by implementing the Citizen Reserve (Réserve Citoyenne), which aims at encouraging the driving forces of civil society to become involved beside educational teams, or putting a gap year into academic careers. The gap is defined by circular no. 2015-122 of 22-07-2015; it involves students suspending their studies for a period of between 6 months and one year, in order to undergo a period of personal experience, professional experience, or commitment, either in France or abroad.
  • The implementation of the Wednesday Plan (Plan Mercredi) enabling volunteer local and regional authorities to offer each child educational, artistic and also civic activities during extracurricular time.
  • The developement of awareness of environmental protection and sustainable development.In 2019, the Ministry of National Education generalized "eco-delegates" in secondary classes. These eco-delegates will be elected by the authorities of their school. The role of eco-delegates is to promote environmentally friendly behavior at school (switching off lights, reasoned use of energy, selective sorting, etc.) and to propose any initiative contributing to the protection of the environment. environment in his school.

  • Support experiments on the acquisition of social and civic skills through non-formal learning. Several experiments supported financially by the public authorities, in particular those set up under the Youth Experimentation Fund (see Initiatives to strengthen the diversity of participants), have enabled young people to become involved and to value the benefits of this involvement.
  • Develop tools for valuing social and civic skills acquired through civic participation (bénévolat, volunteering, etc.), such as skills portfolios (see Chapter 2.7 Skill recognition) or the "Aki" application developed by the Franco-German Youth Office. This application makes it possible to recognise the cross-cutting skills developed in particular during international mobility.

The tool is based on a questionnaire that aims to value the following skills ("soft skills");

  • Adaptation to change
  • Self-confidence
  • Open-mindedness
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Sense of responsibility



Quality assurance/quality guidelines for non-formal learning


Associations that hold Youth and Non-Formal Education (Jeunesse et Éducation Populaire) accreditation (cf. 5.6) and receiving grants by reasons of that special partnership enter into an agreement that set out the objective of actions and results indicators. That procedure enables a watch to be kept on the quality of projects undertaken by the associations.


Educators' support


Several initiatives have been put in place to support and strengthen training in the development of civic skills of staff working in the youth field (teachers, youth workers, educators, etc.).

The Ministry of National Education makes its own tools and educational supports relating to education in citizenship, such as the CANOPE network, which lists works published on the subject. In addition, educational documentary resource centres (at national, regional, and département level) offer documents in different forms that concern teaching staff and pupils. Each establishment has a documentation and information centre containing resources on the topic. The web site of the Ministry of National Education,, “informs and supports” education professionals; it has a section on education in citizenship, where teachers can find topic sheets.

As regards training for teaching staff, training arrangements exist at various levels: national, LEA-level, and département. The initial training of supervisory staff and teaching staff makes those members of staff increasingly aware of civic challenges. The promotion of civic values by stakeholders in education is done in partnership with an association network, including the civic information centre (CIDEM – Civics and Democracy ) which has an educational-resource portal on citizenship.


In addition to teachers, facilitators and “youth workers” can receive training in citizenship. The various training bodies that offer access to professions and qualifications in the field of facilitation offer sessions on that topic. They are available for all qualifications in “voluntary” facilitation (Certificate of Competency to work as a facilitator in collective reception centres for minors, Brevet d'Aptitude aux fonctions d'animateur en accueils collectifs de mineurs) and “State qualifications” (Professional Certificate in youth, non-formal education, and sport). For example, the so-called “CEMEA (Centres for Training in Active Education Methods, Centres d’Entraînement aux Méthodes d’Éducation Active)” offers training in Education in citizenship and Collective reception centres for minors (Éducation à la citoyenneté et Accueils collectifs de mineurs) to facilitation professionals.


The Ministry for Sport also participates in promoting citizenship through the use of sport and the development of practical guides for sports educators.

As part of its campaign to prevent harassment and sexist and sexual violence in sport "#TousConcernés", the Ministry of Sports has developed the third edition of the "Petit guide juridique" which aims to better understand the consequences of "incivility, violence and discrimination"

The tool is structured in 4 parts:

  1. "What the law says about discrimination, incivility and violence in sport";
  2.  "What the law says about racism, LGBT+ hate, sexism, hazing or religious discrimination in sport";
  3. "What the law says for each actor in case of discrimination, incivility or violence in the field of sport";
  4. "Legal protection of victims in cases of discrimination, incivility or violence in sport".


For more information on support to educators, see 10.3.