The 3 day conference organised in Tbilisi, Georgia from the 31st of October until the 4th of November was inspired by the new Council of Europe Campaign “Free to Speak, Safe to Learn – Democratic Schools for All” and aimed at creating a platform for participants and experts from Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Georgia, Norway, Belarus and the United States of America to present their experiences, discuss different approaches to citizenship education and means of creating a safe and inclusive learning environments.
The conference focused on such topics as the importance of critical thinking in today’s world, prevention of radicalisation and extremism, the role of education institutions and educators in the development of competences for democratic culture.
Ana Perona – Fjeldstad, the Executive director of the European Wergeland Centre (Norway), addressed the audience during the official opening and introduced the participants to the Council of Europe Campaign “FREE TO SPEAK, SAFE TO LEARN – Democratic Schools for All” inviting all to continue the joint work in the field of citizenship and human rights education. Participants were also addressed by Armaz Akhvlediani, Founder and Director of the Tbilisi School of Political Studies (Georgia), and Elena Nemirovskaya, Founder of the Moscow School of Civic Education (the Russian Federation) – who have underlined the importance of enlightenment and citizenship education to ensure that young people can continue learn how to live in diverse and changing societies.
During the key note speech Prof Sergei Ignatov, Rector of the European Humanities University (Lithuania) and former Minister of education and science of the Republic of Bulgaria, stressed the importance of retraining of teachers mentioning that “youth are different, but many teachers are still prepared using the same methods as many years before”.
Participants were challenged to rethink the role of the teacher during the interactive sessions by Dima Zicer (Israel) and had the opportunity to get acquainted with exercises on prevention of radicalisation and extremism, presented by Zuzana Fialova (Slovakia), and with interactive activities developed in the frames of the “Medianavigator” project (https://medianavigator.org/toolkit), presented by Alena Paleika (Belarus). Prof. Vasily ZHARKOV, Russian Federation, in his lecture reflected on the history of relations of school and politicians. He started with a traditional question - why politicians need schools, and ended up with the modern issue of why do schools need politicians?
The participants also had a unique opportunity to pilot the new manual, based on infographics, developed in the frames of the “Practicing Citizenship” programme. Interactive sessions, conducted by the authors from the Russian Federation, covered topics such as “Development of critical thinking” (by Prof. Irina Igropulo); “Prevention of corruption” (by Alina Astafieva); “Prevention of Discrimination” (by Assoc. Prof. Elena Lukovitskaya).
Importantly the Head Trainer of the programme Marzena Rafalska, EWC and Council of Europe expert, presented the Council of Europe Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture with a particular focus on the model itself, highlighting the 20 competences as well as the use of the descriptors as learning outcomes for planning of project activities.
The conference also created a platform for sharing of experience on the international level. Thus, the experience of Georgia in citizenship and human rights education was presented by representatives of 3 different institutions: Medea GUGESHASHVILI representing the Office of Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia, Sulkhan CHARGEISHVILI representing the NGO Human Rights Association and Prof. Davit MALAZONIA representing the Ilia State University. While Daniel GUTCHEWSKY, United States of America, has presented the experience of his school as a community hub and the whole school approach to citizenship education.
We sincerely thank all the experts, partners and participants for joining this inspiring event conducted in the frames of the “Practicing Citizenship” programme.