5.7 “Learning to participate” through formal, non-formal and informal learning
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The National Programme for Youth sets as one of the major goals of organisations in the youth sector the promotion of participation. Social engagement and youth participation can be improved by increasing the participation of organisations in the youth sector or by participating in youth work. This represents a ‘planned programme’ (in particular, an experiential, non-formal education, as suggested in the National Programme for Youth 2013‒2022).
The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport allocates resources for the project on ‘strengthening social and civic competences of professionals’ in two substantive areas: ‘the challenges of intercultural coexistence’ (Izzivi medkulturnega sobivanja) and ‘only with others we are’ (Le z drugimi smo). The first project focuses on a special target group. The aim of the project is the preparation of the programme of work with immigrant children. There are seven themes, among which are: 1. Integration of immigrants and their families in Slovenia – the promotion of intercultural dialogue and the acceptance of differences, 2. Zero tolerance for violence, and 3. detection, management and resolution of conflicts; constructive and respectful communication.
Slovenia introduced important measures in the years just before the adoption of the Paris Declaration (‘Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education’). For this reason, Slovenia has made no policy developments in national education policies since the Paris Declaration.
In 2019, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport planned on implementing a separate subject 'Active Citizenship' into upper secondary schools. The curriculum was prepared by the National Education Instutute, however, the implementation never took place, as the students would be time-wise burdened with an additional subject more than is legally allowed. Instead, a decision was made that students will obtain knowledge on the topic through other school subjects and activities. At the upper secondary level, citizenship culture is implemented in 15 lessons per year in one grade of gimnazija (determined by the school schedule). It is cross-curricular, normally organised in the frame of so-called ‘compulsory elective content’. Though ‘open elective content’ (OIV) is part of the curriculum, it is usually carried out in a less formal way. The OIV content is usually organised at the end of the school year or just before Christmas holidays, and are perceived as ‘lighter’ learning content, when the attention of students to the education process is poorer. Due to the small number of hours directly intended for citizenship education, teachers usually introduce civic education as a cross-curricular subject.
Unlike in Slovenian primary schools, citizenship education is not implemented in secondary schools as a separate subject. However, some fields of citizenship education are integrated with other subjects. For instance, sociology and foreign languages: culture and civilization and education for solidarity. One of the main aims of the subject ‘Sociology’ is that students develop the capability of empathy and tolerance of diversity, and so develop the capabilities for democratic citizenship. The subject has two levels; the first (elementary) level is carried out in 70 hours per school year, and the second (‘mature’) level is carried out in 210 hours in two school years. Through foreign languages, culture and civilization is an optional subject that is designed to be interdisciplinary. The feature of this subject is that it is carried out in two years (in second and third grade of secondary school; 210 hours). This enables development of personal, national and civic identity. The last one is ‘Education for Solidarity’, which is also an optional subject and is carried out in 70 hours per year. One of the main aims of this subject is to encourage a responsible, proactive and participating civic role for students.
At the primary level, citizenship education is, according to national curricula, integrated with Slovene language, foreign language, environmental education, social sciences, history and geography (ISCED 1); Slovene language, geography, history, foreign language and elective subjects (ISCED 2); Slovene language, foreign language, sociology, geography and history (ISCED 3).
Schools in Slovenia also represent an important source of information on participation, and a place where young people have the opportunity to gain practical experience in this area. For example, ‘teacher guidelines in the subject curricula for history (in which citizenship education is integrated) state that teachers may use alternative forms of assessment, such as assessment of active participation in discussions and debates at class and school levels.’
Non-formal and informal learning is not legally regulated. Youth organisations (councils) should, in accordance with the law, also carry out activities in the field of public information and international cooperation of young people. Although active in the field, youth organisations struggle with the absence of a structured approach to citizenship education.
Participative structures within formal education setting
There is no top-level policy regulation or guidelines requiring or encouraging youth participation in decision-making in their educational institution.
In Slovenia, ‘basic schools (ISCED 1 and 2) have autonomy in the way they determine the organisation of pupils, but it is common practice in the majority of schools for students to elect class representatives.’ Basic schools (ISCED 1 and 2) also have ‘autonomy in the way they determine the organisation of pupils, but it is common practice for the majority of schools to establish student councils, usually called the Children’s Parliament, which is comprised of class representatives.’
The Basic School Act stipulates that all pupils (including therefore those at ISCED 1 and 2) from a particular class are members of a ‘class unit’ and, together with the teacher who is responsible for this particular class, they should discuss issues at class level. The curriculum specifies the number of discussion periods, and teachers are supposed to follow the official guidelines. No formal regulation exists for class councils at ISCED 1 and 2. Class community, the pupil's community and pupils’ parliament are forms of pupils’ organisation that aim at the active participation of pupils in the life and work of the school.
At faculties and universities student councils are set up for the purpose of co-decision, they both function as organs of the faculty or university, and the framework for their work is set by universities.
Measures to encourage student participation in the local community and wider society
Article 6 of the Public Interest in Youth Sector Act underlines in paragraph four that the bodies of the self-governing local community shall be responsible for implementing public interest in the youth sector at a local level. In addition, youth organisations and youth councils at local level have a legal background for the dialogue with the authorities of local communities. Youth councils of local communities are holders of youth work and youth policy, and furthermore are the entities of public interest in the youth sector at the local level.
The Institute for Youth Policy (Inštitut za mladinsko politiko) formulated the need for participation of youth organisations in a single local community. The local community has to enable youth to take part in the decision-making process. To encourage youth participation in the local community, authorities developed the web portal ‘I recommend to the municipality’ (predlagam-občini.si), which enabled a higher participation level for youth in the local level processes. Some municipalities have their own web portal, where people can send recommendations, for example the Koper municipality (https://predlagam-odlocam.koper.si/). It is the instrument of direct integration of all residents (including youth) in the decision-making processes. Similar web portal is intended for sending recommendations to the Government (https://predlagam.vladi.si/).
To encourage the performance of the youth council at the local level (Mladinski svet lokalnih skupnosti), the Youth Council of Slovenia and the Institute for Youth Policy introduced the new training form – Internet training for MSLS. Target groups for this portal are the youth councils of local communities that are at the initial phase of their operation, well-functioning youth councils that need new knowledge to upgrade their activities, and other youth organisations.
In the National Programme for Youth 2013‒2022, the authorities stressed the problem that 11 Slovenian municipalities do not have youth infrastructure. That is why they set the priority subfield to improve the infrastructure activities in the youth sector. The holder of this measure is the Office for Youth in cooperation with local communities and the youth sector. One of the main areas for encouraging political participation among youth is to inform them. In addition, the priority field to encourage information and counselling in the youth sector is set in the National Programme for Youth. One of the indicators of this measure is the number of informational activities on the local level.
Partnerships between formal education providers, youth organisations and youth work providers
There are no partnerships between formal education providers, youth organisations and youth work providers, at least not any long-term partnerships. Cooperation takes place mostly in a way such that a youth organisation comes to the elementary or secondary school to present its work, programme or possibilities.
There are no policy initiatives aiming to encourage the formation of such partnerships. Lately, they were suggested at some cross-sectoral conferences (e.g., ‘The Key to Inclusion‘).
There are no public funds available to support the formation of such partnerships.
Supporting non-formal learning initiatives focusing on social and civic competences
The Office for Youth has on this basis carried out three public tenders. The third public tender was the selection of the operations in the areas of social and civic competences of young people. The tender was published in 2013. Its purpose was to co-finance projects of NGOs in the youth sector that were dedicated to the development of the social and civic competences of each active participant. The main areas were support and implementation of unconventional political participation by young people and promotion or strengthening of permanent mechanisms of consultation with young people.
The Office for Youth has also carried out two public tenders on the topic of promoting young people's active citizenship in 2016 and 2019 (Javni razpis »Krepitev kompetenc mladih skozi aktivno državljastvo za večjo zaposljivost«), however, the purpose of those two tenders was improving young people's employability.
Currently there are no national programmes established to support non-formal learning on social and civic competences.
In Slovenia, a comprehensive research project, ‘Citizenship Education for the Multicultural and Globalised World,’ was carried out between January 2010 and August 2011 (54). An interdisciplinary project group reviewed the content, concepts, approaches, strategies and institutional framework for citizenship education, in the light of contemporary theories on citizenship education and approaches used in other European countries. The research found that the Slovenian approach to citizenship education did not sufficiently address the general social and political environment or the issues that present the main challenges in the 21st century, and that teachers did not have sufficient skills. This research project resulted in proposals to bring contemporary global and multicultural content to the curricula of citizenship education and to provide new teaching materials.
In the publication ‘Quality assurance recognition of non-formal and occasionally acquired knowledge’ (Publikacija Zagotavljanje kakovosti priznavanja neformalno in priložnostno pridobljenega znanja), issued by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport in 2012, the evaluation of non-formal knowledge is divided into five steps. The first is identification, the second is documentation, the third is validation, the fourth is testing and the last one is recognition.
In the quality assurance/guidelines for recognition of non-formal learning, two legally regulated methods are used in Slovenia. In Slovenia, two basic purposes for the recognition of non-formal knowledge are established:
1. for further integration into existing formal education (to continue interrupted education, to change the direction of education, to continue education at a higher level of education than already achieved)
2. for recognition of professional qualifications (NVQ) in the labour market.
The process of recognition of non-formal learning takes place in several phases: identification, documentation, evaluation, recognition.
There are several possibilities offered to teachers, trainers and youth workers to upgrade expertise and the further development of their social and civic competences. CIVICT (Initiative for CIVIC application of ICT) organised a couple of events for teachers and students of citizenship education in the framework of the projects: Active Citizens for Europe through School (ACES), Developing Active Citizens of Europe through School (dACES) and Tackling Radicalism through Active Citizenship of Europe in Schools (trACES). Participants received the Certificate of Attendance after the event.
The Initiative for CIVIC application of ICT also issued pedagogical material, ‘Selected topics in citizenship education’ (Izbrane teme iz državljanske vzgoje), which was a comprehensive document to support educators teaching citizenship education.
On the website of CIVICT, an E-classroom on a freely accessible, open educational platform (Moodle) is available for teachers, trainers, non-formal education workers and youth workers in the field of citizenship education. The E-classroom has more than 55 topics, which are tailor-made for every individual group: elementary teachers, high school teachers and youth organisations. The project has been labelled a ’success story’ by the European Commission.
The youth centre of Dravinja Valley is also offering some of the material on their website.
In 2015, the Youth Network MaMa cooperated as a project partner in ‘Youth creating solutions for meaningful participation‘. Within the project, four trainings for youth coaches were made in cooperating countries. The purpose of the project was to increase the qualifications of trainers in the field of youth integration, democracy and human rights. In Slovenia, the trainers were exploring the methods of informal learning and active participation among youth. The key outcome of this project was a final project publication.