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The power of civic education


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The power of civic education

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A recent report from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement noted a significant fall in knowledge some students had on the issue of citizenship in their respective countries. But understanding how civil society works and how it supports democracy is vital, so what can be done to reverse this trend? We take a look at some of the different approaches available in this edition of Learning World.

Our first stop takes us to Lyon, in France, where one of this year’s 400 model United Nations conferences was being held. By role-playing diplomats, teenage participants get practical experience debating and exploring pertinent, and often complex, political issues. Tackling the same running programme you would otherwise find in New York or Geneva – including discussions on drug trafficking, the Syrian civil war and potential of a nuclear crisis in North Korea – the young ambassadors try and find original solutions to some of the world’s age-old problems.

Our next example comes from Denmark, where considerable steps have been taken over the last 40 years to put into practice a citizen-oriented community model they believe gives society its backbone. With a focus on re-imagining urban spaces, we meet the group of citizens who succeeded in providing their local community with the option of a piping-hot bath during the icy Danish winters; the 4000-strong Copenhagen collective busily mapping the capital’s first neighborhood dedicated to innovative climate adaptation; and children who can see precisely where their ideas have impacted architect’s decisions.

Finally, we travel to Tanzania to explore a community project providing educational facilities to help raise awareness amongst local children about their civic rights. Whilst this is a fairly recent development, chairman of the school committee, Konimeshoko Mappi, shares a similar belief in the long-term benefits of empowering communities as our French and Danish interviewees: “For those children who will get the chance to learn about civic issues in the new school, I think they will be able to help their parents in future.”

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