|Learning civic skills||Text version|
We become citizens of a democracy through a process of growth and learning. Active citizenship calls for certain knowledge and skills, but participation can only be learned through participation. Experiences of personal participation gained at a young age are particularly formative for an active adulthood.
Research indicators show that levels of active citizenship go hand in hand with the duration of education. The longer a person’s education the more active they are in voluntary work, NGOs, political parties and as voters.
The disparities shown by indicators of social capital and active citizenship are particularly alarming. Democracy based on human rights is a demanding method of organising society that does not arise spontaneously.
From a democracy perspective it is important that citizens are able to assess the development of their society and use their right to vote accordingly. It is good if as many people as possible influence issues they find important as private citizens or members of NGOs.
Important civic education work is carried out by Finnish schools and other educational institutions. Basic competences include skills such as critical thinking, negotiation skills, public discussion, acceptance of difference, non-violent conflict resolution and the rules of constructive discussion. Schools are reintroducing activities such as student associations.
Liberal adult education institutions, including folk high schools and adult education centres, provide the opportunity to practice civic skills based on independent thinking. These include the ability to express oneself through speech and writing, negotiation and interaction skills and NGO skills.
People also improve their civic skills through independent study and by following public discussion of current issues. Well-functioning democracy requires educated people and educating people.
Updated on February 15, 2007