5.7 “Learning to participate” through formal, non-formal and informal learning
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There is no national strategy for the field of "Learning to participate" covering the area of the formal, non-formal education and informal learning.
Social and civic competences are a part of the curriculum throughout the entire period of compulsory school attendance. There are two approaches:
- gaining of the competencies is integrated into diverse school-subjects (a cross-curricular approach),
- an individual educational school-subject.
On the 1st grade of primary schools (ISCED 1) the children/pupils gain these competences by means of a so-called integrated approach within several school-subjects, mostly, however, in the subjects such as Homeland learning, Ethics, Religious education (but also within other subjects).
The 2nd grade of primary schools (ISCED 2) encompasses an individual subject Civic education; nevertheless, these competencies are being also gained within the subjects such as History and Geography (but also within other subjects in line with cross-curricular approach).
Secondary schools (ISCED 3) include an individual subject called Civic education. These themes are being also tackled within subjects such as History and Geography. The other subjects contain some related themes, too.
Time allocation for an individual subject (ISCED 2 and 3A) - 1 lesson a week (approx. 33 lessons in a school year).
Within the formal education, the thematic area "The Man and the Society" (Geography, History and Citizenship education) focuses mainly on the development of the following competencies:
- social and personnel
- societal and civic/citizens' competences
- initiative and entrepreneurship
- the ability to learn to teach (how to teach)
- financial literacy
Civic education combines knowledge from several social sciences: economics, politics, philosophy, law, sociology, psychology. Pupils are to (ISCED 3A):
- understand the uniqueness of each person in society,
- form an awareness of their own identity and the identity of other people,
- accept their own personality and the personality of other people,
- respect and apply the moral principles and rules of social coexistence and take responsibility for their own opinions, behaviour and consequences of the proceedings,
- get acquainted with social, political and legal facts that form the framework of everyday life,
- be aware of the rights and obligations of a citizen of the Slovak Republic,
- respect the basic principles of democracy and tolerance,
- use appropriate means of communication to express their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and attitudes to defend their attitudes and rights adequately,
- gain respect for the cultural, religious and other differences of people and communities,
- master the basic categorical-conceptual apparatus of philosophy,
- present philosophy as a certain laboratory of human thinking and the performances of philosophers as an inspiring example of how human thinking evolved and changed over time.
One of many outputs of the national project NP PARTI is the newly created subject Public Policy in Slovakia. The subject is the result of cooperation between the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Civil Society Development and the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University and is taught as part of the study of political science and sociology.
The course provides students with relevant knowledge on currently dominant concepts of governance, such as open governance or participatory public policy making.
There are two types of structures enabling young people to participate within the Slovak educational system:
- school council at primary and secondary schools,
- academic senates at universities.
The Act on State Administration in Education and School Self-government (Zákon o štátnej správe v školstve a v školskej samospráve, §26) defines school council as an institution representing the pupils of a primary/secondary school through which pupils communicate their interests towards the headmaster and the management of the school.
The academic senate is defined in the Act on Higher Education (Zákon o vysokých školách, §7). It has at least 15 members, of which at least one third are students.
Programmes to support youth participation within school and local communities
IUVENTA – Slovak Youth Institute:
- provides non-formal education for members of school councils and youth parliaments,
- provides workshops and accredited non-formal education for school councilsˈ coordinators,
- provides accredited non-formal education focused on developing active citizenship,
- issues methodological publications on youth participation.
The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic, together with IUVENTA - Slovak Youth Institute, the Slovak Youth Council and the Association of Regional Youth Councils, regularly announces calls for the positions of youth delegates. Slovakia currently has 3 youth delegates for the European Youth Dialogue, 2 UN youth delegates and 1 WHO youth delegate. The role of the delegates is primarily to represent the interests of Slovak youth at the global level and to raise awareness of the agendas they have chosen as key ones (Agenda 2030, human rights, active citizenship, mental health, etc.). To fulfil these goals, they organize accompanying activities (workshops, discussions, etc.) for young people from all over Slovakia during their mandate.
In some regions more than others, regional youth councils, youth centres or youth organisations provide various activities for members of school councils, youth parliaments or young people in general to encourage youth participation. These activities are mostly financed through grant scheme of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic, Programmes for Youth, especially programme VOICE of youth that aims to increase the level of participation of young people and their awareness of active citizenship.
Apart from Programmes for Youth, organizations often rely on funding from the European Social Fund, the Erasmus + programme, International Visegrad Fund, various foundations or sponsors.
Examples of initiatives focusing on developing social and civic competences
Create & Control
Create & Control is an international project run by high school students for young people from countries of the Visegrad Group. The project seeks to respond to social phenomena in the region - it reacts to the rising support of extremism among young people and their feeling of not being heard in the society. It consists of competition and strategic activities that address multiple conditions necessary for the creation of a dialogue with the youth. Elements of fictional countries, model sessions of international organisations and methods of group activities are used during the competition.
Model United Nations conferences
Model United Nations is an UN simulation taking place annually in different cities across Slovakia (Martin Model United Nations, Zilina Model United Nations, Aprogen Model United Nations, Bratislava Model United Nations). During these MUN simulations, participants become the members of the UN committees and represent the interests of the chosen country. MUN conferences provide opportunity to develop and improve the speaking, debating, and writing skills, in addition to critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership while discussing about issues of global significance.
Model European Parliament and Model European Union conferences
Apart from the United Nations model conferences, young people in Slovakia also take part in the Model European Parliament conferences. Model European Parliament Slovakia is a simulation of the European Parliament for high school students. Working in one of the eight committees and representing the standpoint of their chosen country, delegates strive to agree on solutions within the committee sessions and then present these at the General Assembly. In 2020, first Model European Union conference was organised by Bringing Europeans Together Association Slovakia. MEU Bratislava 2020 was held online with participation of youth from countries of the Visegrad Group.
Open Schools is the programme organized by The Open Society Foundation in Slovakia since 2017. The aim of this programme is to support the democratic environment in schools and citizenship education through peer education and the work of student school boards. In the programme, the organizers focus on the work with primary-school students from various backgrounds such as the Roma. The project managed to develop quality cooperation with schools and create a model which helps not only towards the development of critical thinking, but especially enhances the interest and efforts of children and young people to participate in their school and local community.
Let's Put Our Heads Together
Let's Put Our Heads Together is a comprehensive educational program for young people aged 15-25, which aims to support a new generation of young civic activists who care about the place they live in and want to implement their ideas and have a wider impact on the local communities. The program consists of 3 trainings, a summer school, mentoring support, financial support for the implementation of projects up to 500 euros and comes with a network of similarly active young people from all over Slovakia.
Communities Friendly to Children and Young People
Project Communities Friendly to Children and Young People by Foundation for Children of Slovakia aims at strengthening the position of children and young people as citizens of their local communities, supporting their rights and promoting their participation in local issues that affect their lives. At the same time, it aims at bringing local actors – public authorities, civil society and children and young people themselves to one table to set the cooperation in order to increase the quality of life of children and young people.
Schools that change the world
Schools that change the world is a two-year training and mentoring program organized by the Institute for Active Citizenship designed primarily for teachers of social sciences at primary and secondary schools in Slovakia. The program focuses on the professional development of teachers and on the development of the competencies of their students, especially critical thinking, thinking in context, media literacy, democratic thinking, moral values, empathy, volunteering, civic engagement and responsibility. During a series of trainings, participants experience innovative forms of education first-hand, which allows them to introduce new elements more naturally in their pedagogical practice.
The Civic Education Initiative
The Civic Education Initiative was set up in 2018 as a group of 13 NGOs involved in civic education to promote quality and meaningful civic education that leads children and young people to form their own views based on proven facts, to learn in context and to build civic competences needed to maintain democracy. The organizations have joined forces to take concrete steps to better prepare children and young people for civic life. The leader of the working group is the Institute for Active Citizenship.
In 2020, The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports of the Slovak Republic approved the proposal of the Institute for Active Citizenship for experimental verification of a new form of civic education at primary schools and high schools. For three years, the institute will work with three schools to ensure that the civic education, as well as other subjects and activities at schools, really educate future responsible and active citizens. The supervisor of the experiment is the Faculty of Education of Comenius University in Bratislava.
There is no universally used system of evaluation of the quality of the non-formal education in Slovakia. In 2018 a special working group was set up to work on quality standards of youth work in general (10.8). If the educational institutions choose so they can apply for the accreditation of the educational program.
For that purpose, the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports of the Slovak Republic established an Accreditation Committee in the field of youth work (Act on Youth Work Support, § 7). It consists of eleven members from the ranks of experts in the field of youth work. The accreditation committee considers the application form of an educational facility and on the ground of satisfying conditions recommends the ministry to issue a confirmation on accreditation to the educational facility. The aim of accreditation of educational programs is to help the perception of youth work as an important tool for non-formal education.
When evaluating an application for accreditation, the Accreditation Committee proceeds according to the following evaluation criteria:
- educational goals of the program,
- educational plan and curriculum,
- non-formal learning in the program,
- the potential of the program,
- expertise of lecturers.
The Institute for Active Citizenship, the Open Society foundation and Youth Council of Slovakia have developed the Participation Index as one of the outputs of the project Creating mechanisms for the participation of children and youth in school decision-making processes and the public youth policy-making. It is a practical list, a self-assessment tool, that allows teachers, headmasters, youth workers or local politicians to examine the level of participation of children and young people in the school and community environments.
Educational institutions provide various accredited and non-accredited educational programs focused on the development of social and civic competences. The list of accredited educational programs is regularly updated and published on the website of IUVENA - Slovak Youth Institute. Information on dates of realisations of educational programs can be found on the websites of educational institutions or on the portal for youth and youth workers www.pracasmladezou.sk.
An accredited educational institution within the scope of youth work issues a certificate on acquired professional competence to participants after they have passed the preparation for a realisation of special activities within youth work.
Accredited educational programs are e.g:
- REFRESH – education for coordinators of school councils,
- Projekt je zmena - support of active youth participation within the local community,
- The Starter (Štartér) - training course for the ambassadors of the Structured Dialogue,
- Development of life skills/social and personal competences,
- Coordinator of child- and young-friendly communities,
- Lecturer of educational activities for youth participation,
- Leader of school council,
- SAMO - strategic planning in the field of youth work for local governments and more.
Support of the school councils – methodological materials:
- A Year with a School Council (Miháliková et al 2011, 2020)
- Handbook for School Councils at Primary Schools (Verešpejová, 2018)
- School councils - School of Democracy (Štefániková, 2018)
- The third wave – Professional Support of the School Councils (Bošňáková et al 2006)
Support of participation within self-government:
- To participate? Participate! - Textbook of Participatory Public Policy Making (Miková et al 2020)
- The Reading Book for Self-governements (Miháliková et al 2019, 2005)
- The Power of the Youth (Mičicová et al 2012)