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Citizenship Education in Slovenia

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Citizenship Education in Slovenia

Marinko Banjac

/ 11 Minuten zu lesen

Learn more about the situation of Citizenship Education in Slovenia with a focus on the definition, the ecosystem of non-formal CE, the legal environment as well as on stakeholders and challenges. Additionally, the history of Citizenship Education in Slovenia is discussed on the basis of formal education.

Slovenia (© bpb)

1. Background Information

Citizenship education in Slovenia is a constantly evolving field in which a variety of actors and institutions are involved. As such, it can generally be regarded as an area of numerous programmes, activities as well as courses implemented mainly by the civil society organizations and of course within the formal education. Although the civil society therefore has an important role, citizenship education in Slovenia is most frequently associated with formal schooling. Therefore, to understand how citizenship education is today perceived, understood, and systemized and what kind of role it has in Slovenian society, a brief historical account of its development is necessary.

In general, citizenship education is predominantly linked to formal education because of Slovenia’s early and in-depth reform of its education. Furthermore, on the basis of the conceptual design laid down in The White Book on Education in Slovenia , the country adopted new legislation regulating the entire education system from pre-school to higher education . Citizenship education was introduced as a compulsory subject with the adoption of the Basic School Act in 1996 under the name Citizenship Education and Ethics at the level of basic elementary school education. The course was repeatedly renamed and is now entitled Homeland and Citizenship Culture and Ethics. The new legal framework along with new socio-political realities at the national, European and global level, and, at least in part, the competing political (ideological) outlooks on what should be the main aim of citizenship education all played a part in the comprehensive curricular reform of the education system. On this foundation, the citizenship education curriculum was prepared, developed, approved, and accepted in 1999. The citizenship agenda introduced during the 1996–1999 reform of public education was based on a common European heritage of political, cultural, and moral values.

In the process of systemizing formal education in Slovenia, citizenship education has also been acknowledged and accepted as a cross-curricular topic within other compulsory subjects such as geography and history, at the level of lower and upper secondary school level. Moreover, citizenship education has been introduced as the optional subject Civic Culture for Grade 9 and as an elective subject in general upper-secondary schools, while in two-year and three-year vocational schools citizenship education is included in the subject Social Sciences.

In the beginning of 2020, the new subject entitled Active Citizenship was approved and will be implemented at upper secondary schools (with specific adaptations for different types of schools) from the 2020/2021 school year onwards. However, while Active Citizenship will be compulsory, it must be stressed that it is not a ‘regular’ subject but a so-called compulsory content-set. As such, it will most likely not be thought of as a regular subject but rather as a form of educational work, such as study visits, non-formal group work, etc.

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

In Slovenia, there is no single definition of citizenship education that is recognized as official or is referred to by all the stakeholders in the field. Nevertheless, there are some key documents and reference points that are usually used when defining it.

A very common and well-known reference is the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education where citizenship education (education for democratic citizenship) is defined as having a focus on equipping individuals with knowledge and skills needed for the effective exercise of democratic rights and an active role in society. Accordingly, this article uses definitions of formal and non-formal education as provided by the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education. Formal education thus means the structured education and training system that runs from pre-primary and primary through secondary school and on to university. On the other hand, non-formal education means any planned programme of education designed to improve a range of skills and competences, outside the setting of formal education. Moreover, different actors in the field of citizenship education in Slovenia also use definitions that are given by other international organisations such as the European Commission, UNESCO, and the OECD.

Finally, an important reference point for defining citizenship education and its role in the formal education system is the curriculum for the compulsory subject in the lower secondary level, Homeland and Citizenship Culture and Ethics (7th and 8th grade). In the description of the subjects’ aims, the curriculum states that citizenship education should equip pupils with political literacy, develop their critical thinking and stimulate their direct involvement in social life.

3. Ecosystem of Non-formal Citizenship Education

As already indicated in the ‘Background Information’ section of this article, civil society organizations are indispensable actors in the citizenship education field, since they provide non-formal learning and training. Non-formal citizenship education in Slovenia is developed and conducted in various forms and through heterogeneous practices within the civil society. The latter experienced extensive growth after independence when, especially after the second half of the 1990s, the number of non-governmental organisations significantly increased. While some of the non-governmental organisations explicitly address citizenship education, the others provide citizenship education in a more indirect way through, for example, the organisation of volunteer and other community work understood as active citizenship. Non-formal citizenship education is provided predominantly by the non-governmental organisations through project-based activities funded by the Slovenian government or, for example, by European Union programmes. Because of the wide variety of implemented projects, there is consequently also a large number of different topics which are related to citizenship education. Among others, human rights, democratic participation, global education, active citizenship, etc., are of prime importance. Along with developing these topics, non-governmental organisations significantly contribute to the implementation of innovative, engaging and participatory educational methods in Slovenia that directly involve various target groups.

4. Legal Environment

The key frameworks and legislative documents for the current systematization and definition of citizenship education within formal education are the White Paper on Education in the Republic of Slovenia adopted in 2011, the Basic School Act of 2007 and the Organization and Financing of Education Act of 2008.

The aims of citizenship education are well defined in the White Paper on Education in the Republic of Slovenia. The paper provided new directions towards which citizenship education should turn. The paper recommended, among other things, the inclusion of the topics globalization, European integration and entrepreneurship.

Article 2 of the Basic School Act of 2007 (Government of Slovenia 2007) sets out the aims of basic education in Slovenia, among which those especially relevant for citizenship education are: (1) raising awareness of citizenship and national identity and improving knowledge of Slovene history and culture; (2) providing education about the general cultural and civic values originating out of European traditions; and (3) teaching mutual tolerance, respect for differences, cooperation with others, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, thus developing the competencies required for living in a democratic society. Similar educational goals for basic and upper-secondary education directly relevant to citizenship education are also defined in the Organization and Financing of Education Act of 2008 (Government of Slovenia 2008).

5. Stakeholders

Key stakeholders in the field of citizenship education in Slovenia can be divided into three categories: first, stakeholders in the fields of research, science and expertise in the theoretical and conceptual framework of citizenship education in Slovenia; second, stakeholders involved in the systematization and the preparation of the curricula and content of citizenship education in the formal education system; third, stakeholders in the field of non-formal education, focusing mainly on conducting projects and trainings that relate to citizenship education in its broadest sense.

The most important actors in the field of research, science and expertise in citizenship education in Slovenia are: the Educational Research Institute (ERI), Faculty of Social Science (University of Ljubljana), Institute of Ethnic Studies, Council of Europe (Information Office of the Council of Europe in Republic of Slovenia) and Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.. The above-mentioned institutions carry on various kinds of national and international research analysing and evaluating the content of citizenship education in the formal educational system (curricula and materials) and preparing new content and recommendations for improvements.

In the field of formal education, the most important stakeholder is the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport as a key and central institution responsible for the systematization of citizenship education. Under the Ministry, the National Education Institute of the Republic of Slovenia (NEIS) is responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of the curricula for citizenship education. In 2019, the NEIS Expert Group in charge of the assessment of the curriculum for the subject Homeland and Civic Culture and Ethics thoroughly analysed and assessed the current curricula of the subject. Based on the determination that some parts are conceptually weak, the expert group clearly stated that the curricula of the subject should be revised. It is thus expected that the subject’s curricula will be revised in the near future.

In the field of non-formal education, there are numerous non-governmental organisations, initiatives, youth organisations and projects focused on citizenship education in its broadest sense. Especially the National Youth Council of Slovenia (MSS), Zavod Nefiks and the national broadcasting organization, Radio-Television of Slovenia, are among the most recognizable organizations in the field of citizenship education in non-formal education.

6. Challenges

One of the most pressing challenges in citizenship education within formal education has to do with the teaching staff of the compulsory subject Homeland and Citizenship Education and Ethics at the lower secondary school level. Since only one hour per week is dedicated to citizenship education, educators who teach citizenship education primarily focus on other subjects, such as history, geography, or the mother-tongue language. There are no specific requirements or qualifications for teachers of this subject. Thus, it is too often taught by teachers who do not have enough knowledge about topics of citizenship education and who are not familiar enough with the teaching approaches relevant to this subject. This situation is in need of a prompt systematic solution to assure that only a qualified and skilled teaching staff be involved in teaching citizenship education. One of the concrete responses to this persistent challenge is a currently-running project entitled ‘The empowerment of social and citizenship competencies of the professional staff in education’ co-financed by the European Social Fund and the national budget. In the period up to the end of December 2021, the aim is to strengthen the social and civic competencies of the professional education staff.

Another challenge connected with the compulsory subject is the ongoing controversies over the educational agenda of citizenship education in Slovene public education, especially in regard to prioritizing its aims and objectives. One such issue is whether citizenship education should (and to what extent) prioritize patriotism. As a result of this controversy, in 2008 the subject's name was changed from Citizenship Education and Ethics to Citizenship and Homeland Education and Ethics, and again in 2013 to Homeland and Citizenship Culture and Ethics. As pointed out by Kodelja , the renaming of the subject was a political act that was not justified by experts and was not based on data on the achievements of Slovenian pupils in the international comparative analysis (CIVED and ICCS). On the contrary, empirical data shows that Slovenian pupils have a positive attitude towards their own country, also in comparison with the attitude of pupils around the world. Therefore, the renaming of the subject was not only a terminological change but also a conceptual one meant to emphasize patriotic content – a potentially dangerous move in the case of patriotism possibly overlapping with nationalism or patriotism becoming understood as similar to nationalism. Another example of these ongoing controversies over the educational agenda of citizenship education is the debate which emerged in the media during the process of developing curricula for the upper-secondary school subject (compulsory content-set) Active Citizenship. On the one hand, more liberal or leftist media generally supported the introduction of Active Citizenship in higher secondary schools, while the right-leaning media attacked the process saying that this was just another ideological tool used by the left-centrist government to spread its own worldview and agenda.

Within the non-formal citizenship education there is a wide variety of actors and a correspondingly large number of small-scale projects. While they are of great importance in terms of addressing different topics relevant to citizenship education, they are at the same time small-scale in respect to their duration and impact. In this regard, better coordination and cooperation between great varieties of activities by different actors active in the field of citizenship education is needed. While different organisations do implement diverse projects directly relevant to the field, they rarely collaborate (or, at least, not sufficiently) or have joint activities.

The article uses case study methodology with a focus on descriptive (What is happening or has happened?) as well as explanatory questions (How or why did something happen?) concerning the matter being focussed upon. In conducting the analysis, primary resources (such as policy documents, law, etc.) as well as already existing secondary literature and research on citizenship education in Slovenia have been collected and examined. Furthermore, in order to obtain data on the latest developments in the field, the latest Slovenian Mid-Term Review on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Europe Charter has been used. The data gathered and reviewed was then analysed, interpreted and structured in the article to meet the needs and aims of this particular publication.

Fussnoten

Fußnoten

  1. Krek, J. 1995. Bela knjiga o vzgoji in izobraževanju v Republiki Sloveniji [The White Paper on Education in Slovenia]. Ljubljana: Ministrstvo za šolstvo in šport.

  2. Krek, J., Kovač Šebart, M. 2008. Citizenship education in Slovenia after the formation of the independent state. Journal für Sozialwissenschaften und ihre Didaktik, Vol. 9 (No. 1), pp. 68-80.

  3. Šimenc, M., Sardoč, M. 2013. Slovenia. In J. Ainley, W. Schulz (Eds.), ICCS 2009 Encyclopedia: Approaches to civic and citizenship education around the world. Amsterdam: IEA.

  4. Council of Europe Ministers Committee 2010. Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education: Recommendation Cm/Rec 2010, p, 7. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing.

  5. This article uses definitions of formal and non-formal education as provided by Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education. Thus, formal education is defined as the structured education and training system that runs from pre-primary and primary through secondary school and on to university. Non-formal education is defined as any planned programme of education designed to improve a range of skills and competences, outside of the formal educational setting.

  6. Rakar, T., Deželan, T., Vrbica, S., Kolaric, Z., Crnak-Meglic, A., Nagode, M. 2011. Civilna družba v Sloveniji. Ljubljana: Uradni list Republike Slovenije.

  7. Krek, J., Metljak, M. 2011. Bela knjiga o vzgoji in izobraževanju v Republiki Sloveniji. [The White Paper on Education in Slovenia]. Ljubljana: Zavod RS za šolstvo.

  8. Pušnik, T., Zavadlav, A. 2011. Analiza stanja na področju državljanske vzgoje v Sloveniji: (analiza institucionalnega okvira, teoretskih podlag, učnih načrtov in učbenikov na področju državljanske vzgoje): raziskovalno poročilo. [Citizenship education in Slovenia: An analysis of the institutional framework, theoretical backgrounds, teaching curricula and text books in the field of citizenship education]. Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede.

  9. Pikalo, J. et al. 2011. Strategija razvoja državljanske vzgoje v Republiki Sloveniji. [Strategy of citizenship education development in the Republic of Slovenia]. Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede.

  10. Kodelja, Z. 2009. Dopolnitev državljanske vzgoje z domovinsko. Sodobna pedagogika (60), pp. 70-81.

  11. Šimenc, M. 2011. Patriotizem in nacionalizem slovenskih učencev iz perspektive Mednarodne raziskave državljanske vzgoje. Šolsko polje (22), pp.139-156.

  12. Kodelja, Z. 2009.See supra note [10].

  13. Neubauer, T., Močnik, Š. 2010. Neformalne oblike državljanske vzgoje: raziskovalno poročilo. [Non-formal Citizenship education: research report]. Ljubljana: Fakulteta za družbene vede.

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