New Approaches to Civic Education – 100 Years of Czech Democracy promotion

On Thursday, 21 June, a conference called New Approaches in Civil Education – 100 Years of Czech Democracy, took place at the Kaiserštejn palace in Prague. The aim of the conference was to bring  light in the current situation in this specific area of the education. At the beginning, the organizers’ representatives, Jan Šmídek from IKDP, Alena Resl from KAS and Gavin Synot from WMCES welcomed the contribution and need of this conference.

The first part of the conference focused on the views of experts from the academic sphere on the possible form of civic education in the Czech Republic. Olga Kofroňová of the National Institute of Education presented a review of curricular documents for general education, which opens the way for incorporating the elements of civic education into the general curricula of  basic schools. Michaela Dvorakova from the Pedagogical Faculty of Charles University also pointed out in her presentation, presenting approaches to civic education in the EU countries, and presented the outcomes of international research in this field, defining a set of competencies suitable for inclusion in educational schools programs. These competencies are crucial for pupils to adopt democratic values and to participate actively in civil society. Radim Sterba from the Pedagogical Faculty of Masaryk University presented a competency model for responsible citizenship based on a successfully adapted model in Austria. The proposal focuses on gaining political literacy, a democratic value framework, strengthening critical thinking and active involvement in civic society. Roman Štěrba elaborated this model in detail in the form of a publication which contains examples of integration into basic and secondary school education programs. This publication was distributed to conference participants.

The second part of the conference consisted of representatives of political parties who discussed the possible form of civic education. The panel discussions were attended by deputies Zuzana Zahradníková and Ondřej Benešík and experts Jiří Kozák, Jaroslav Poláček and David Wagner. The government in the panel was represented by the Director of the Section for Human Rights of the Government offfice David Benák. The debate was centered around the Council of Europe Competence Model, which strongly condemned Ondřej Benešík and pointed out the rejection of the European Committee of the Parliament on this matter, which was supported by a number of Members across the political spectrum. This issue has also sparked an audience response and led to a number of reactions. Jiří Kozák presented a publication on civic education aimed at pupils of elementary and secondary schools and should lead them to critical thinking and discerning the difference between democracy and totalitarianism.

Director Benák introduced the government’s planned steps in the field of civic education. The Human Rights Section, in cooperation with other central government authorities and stakeholders, plans to finalize the concept of civic education and submit it to the government for approval. The problem, however, is that the Ministry of Finance has refused to free up funds for the implementation of this concept in the long term, making the government’s efforts unrealistic. Then follow-up discussion audience about the future and form of civic education model for Czechia.