All EU Member States have integrated 'citizenship education' into their primary and secondary school curricula - albeit with different approaches, according to a report published 31 May by the European Commission. Improving knowledge and skills for teaching the subject remains a challenge, however, with only two countries (UK - England and Slovakia) offering training for prospective specialist teachers in initial teacher education programmes. The report indicates a general consensus that citizenship education should aim to develop critical thinking, analytical skills and attitudes to foster active participation in school and society.
Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "Citizenship education endows pupils with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to actively engage in our society. We must encourage this because active participation is at the root of our democratic values in Europe. We also need to put more emphasis on teacher training in this area so that young people are inspired to become active citizens."
The report finds that schools in all European countries have introduced rules and recommendations aimed at encouraging democratic practices and participation through, for example, the election of class representatives, student councils and student representation on school governing bodies. This increases the likelihood that young people will actively engage in social and political life.
While all countries have guidelines to give pupils a voice in the running of their school, since 2007 more than half have implemented at least one publicly financed programme or project to cultivate citizenship-related values and attitudes outside school. These include initiatives to encourage pupils from different ethnic and socio-economic groups to get involved in joint activities (Latvia, for instance, has launched a project on these lines) or to bring children in primary schools together with old people in retirement homes (France is among the countries to encourage such 'intergenerational' projects).
Active participation is also increasingly used in pupil assessment. More than a third of European countries now take participation in school or community activities into account when assessing students.