Why democracy needs education

Posted on 14. March 2014

by Veronika Sobolova

veronika-sobolova-modifieed10 members of FutureLab from 10 different countries were given the possibility to discuss the challenges of democracy back in our countries on the premises of Kind Baudouin Foundation in November 2013. During the lively debate we identified several problems with the functioning of democracies and we recognised that a majority of young people are generally discontented about the way government and politics are organised. Among others, we felt that political parties broadly ignore young people’s interests, which is, at the same time, a reason to stay away from democratic processes. Looking for solutions to tackle this lack of belief in the current state of democracy, we identified that education plays a fundamental role in overcoming the negative perception of young people towards politics. In particular, we feel that in the educational process there is not enough attention paid to public affairs and (European) citizenship.

Democracy is a form of social organization that should be learnt and experienced again and again by every generation in order to remain vital. Studies confirm that educated societies tend to be more stable democracies, with stronger citizen participation.1

In this respect, knowledge of democratic principles – such as the right to vote -is essential, but should be seen as a minimum. The aim of education should also be to increase the understanding of the basic democratic processes, their application and transfer to next generations. Educational institutions offer the perfect stage to engage young people with political processes. For example, having more opportunities to discuss the current political issues in the classrooms would lead to a greater interest of young people in politics in general. Also, this could help improving their critical thinking and communication skills.

Young people grow when they are given responsibilities. That is why they should have the opportunity to participate in democratic processes and be prepared and active in debating politics as soon as possible.  Schools and educational institutions play an essential role in forming their attitudes towards civic life and participation that cannot be undermined.

Footnotes

  1. See eg. Edward Glaeser & Giacomo Ponzetto & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. “Why does democracy need education?,” Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 77-99, June. Available online: http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/glaeser/files/democracy_final_jeg_1.pdfhttp://sch