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Month: September 2023

Child-rights based cooperation between the private sector and schools

The Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) has organised and hosted the Digital with Purpose Global Summit in Lisbon at the end of September. Parents International was invited to moderate a panel on child-rights based cooperation between the private sector and schools. We invited the Director of the European School Heads Association, Petra van Haren and Brian O’Neill as a chair of the expert group that developed the Council of Europe Guidelines on our topic to join us and share their thoughts about some ethical and practical challenges. With the active participation of the audience, we had a great session.

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Child-rights based cooperation between the private sector and schools 3

Collaboration with companies is often a sensitive issue for schools, but in the digital world it is an absolute necessity for delivering on the promise of SDG4 and the basic child right to the education that is best for each and every child. Digital tools are crucial for this, but choosing the right ones needs a collaborative approach between the providers of tools and schools. The Council of Europe has adopted Guidelines to support equitable partnerships of education institutions and the private sector in 2021. They were prepared by a unique expert team coming from policy making, the school sector and the private sector, and they were finalised after a few years of discussions.

The school closures of the past few years and the more extensive use of digital technology has made the topic more relevant. Although there is a consensus that school education should not go digital again, there is also an agreement that digital technology supporting schooling should remain. This needs an approach that considers a plethora of child rights, not only the right to the right education. In this parallel session, we will explore the ethical and practical aspects of digitalisation in schooling and education in a broader sense, considering all relevant child rights In Europe and in the USA this is even more topical as the General Data Protection Regulations of the EU (GDPR) and the American Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) are not aligned with child rights – a clash of legislation in Europe and a highlight of the problems around child rights in the USA, the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We were also presenting and discussing the outcomes of the SAILS project that offers tools for school leaders, teachers and parents to provide for the above.

Ethical challenges discussed:

The use of digital tools in education is best if schools/school systems are not only customers and companies are not only looking at increasing their market share. What kind of role the different players should play for a collaborative approach for the best interest of children – the basis of child rights?

There is no question that there is a certain hierarchy of child rights with the right to protection of life being a primary task for adults. We also know that even with the best intentions and all kinds of measures in place, accidents happen, even fatal ones. In recent years, children have been restricted in many fields, including digital in the name of protection. General Comment 25 to the Un Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is calling for an approach that balances the right to protection with other rights. What is the main ethical challenge for education professionals, for policy makers and for digital providers in this field?

The regulation on the age of consent in the GDPR is one well-know example of EU legislation not being aligned with the UNCRC, but there are several examples of similar situations at national level. How can education professionals, parents and digital companies navigate such situations having in mind the primacy of international treaties over lower-level legislation?

Access is one of the key elements of delivering on SDG 4 and child rights in this field. What kind of collaboration is possible/necessary to deliver on this?

Practical aspects discussed:

Both the regularity of using digital tools and the environment (public opinion, regulatory frameworks, professionals’ view and practice) has changed in recent years, not only with school closures. How is it possible to find relevant solutions for very different regulatory frameworks that are in place nationally?

What kind of tools are available for companies, for schools and for families to introduce this child-rights based approach? –  here we can talk about the Guidelines, the SAILS outcomes, Digilead…

The use of social media tools poses specific challenges – age limits, cyberbullying, netiquette, etc. What do you consider inspiring practice in a reality where 80% of children are registered and use tools underage?

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Presenting risk mitigation at the HELMeTO Conference in Foggia

Our consultant, Luca Laszlo participated and presented at the 5th International Conference on Higher Education Learning Methodologies and Technologies Online (HELMETO), September 13-15, 2023, in Foggia, Italy. The Conference was organized by the University of Foggia.

The paper she presented in one of the special tracks, SuperCyberKids! The importance of promoting cybersecurity Education Among Teacher Education Students is the legal research IPA has conducted to support our materials in the SAILS project, reviewing the legal environment of parent and child rights and duties in the online space. In the research, we have analyzed the international and European regulations and the national rules in Hungary, Spain, The Netherlands, and Greece. While all other projects presented at the conference have put a lot of focus on the dangers children need to be protected from, our position, based on overwhelming research evidence, particularly the work of Sonia Livingstone highlights the importance of risk mitigation. This means that, instead of pretending that we can protect children from all harm online by imposing the strictest rules, and violating their rights in the name of safety,  let them learn how to behave without these rules and make them resilient critical thinkers who can make smart decisions with their rights and duties in mind. In the SAILS project, together with the European School Heads Association, we have created complete handbooks for parents, school leaders and education professionals using this risk mitigation approach, full of evidence-based practical tools and suggestions as well as inspiring practices.

Handbook for parents:

Handbook for school leaders: Handbook for education professionals:

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Presenting risk mitigation at the HELMeTO Conference in Foggia 5

Education for Democracy Panel Presentation at ECPR in Prague

The European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) held its 2023 General Conference in Prague between 4 and 7 September. We had the possibility to present our paper in the impressive and inspiring Faculty of Law of Charles University together with colleagues from other partners of the Democrat project. The panel was a good opportunity to present our different starting points that brings Democrat partners together for a shared aim: supporting education for democracy. The Parents International paper focuses on learning by doing: child participation and parental engagement at school as education for democracy.

The panel focused on the opportunities to strengthen contemporary responsible democratic citizenship, that is the capacity of citizens to act as autonomous democratic agents in a responsible way. This has become an increasingly urgent need due to several recent and ongoing crises in Europe. The challenges such as mediatisation, technocratisation, disenchantment, radicalisation, populism, securitisation, digitalisation, illiberalism and others put pressures both on the democratic system and citizens.

The different papers discussed the conceptual and practical perspectives and innovative techniques supporting responsible democratic citizenship with a special attention on citizenship education. Both content and process related aspects can support the development of citizens as reflexive, autonomous and constructive democratic agents and address the challenges outlined above.


The normative tensions and opportunities in strengthening responsible democratic citizenship

Leif Kalev, Maarja Hallik – Tallinn University

Western democracies nowadays face various pressures. The challenges such as mediatisation, technocratisation, disenchantment, radicalisation, populism, securitisation, digitalisation and others directly feed into the tensions in democratic citizenship and the contemporary citizens need to navigate these in practice. One important aspect in building responsible democratic citizen agency in this context is making sense of the various ideations and normative perspectives embedded in democratic citizenship and developing integrity, reflectiveness and resilience vis a vis these different expectations. The paper will discuss the different perspectives on democracy and citizenship as sources of both tensions and opportunities and outline linkages to contemporary political, governing and educational practices that could strengthen responsible democratic citizenship.

A Global Perspective on Responsible Democratic Citizenship

Georgios Kostakos – FOGGS

Responsible democratic citizenship is a central issue not only for European states but for democracies of varied cultural origins around the world. Moreover, the polity of reference for democratic citizenship is not only the state or the (continental) region, but expands to the global level, especially in today’s globally interconnected world. This paper will focus on the latter aspect that is will review elements of democratic citizenship vis-à-vis the network of multilateral institutions and regimes that has developed in the post-World War II period, namely the UN system of organizations, and its core “constitutional” documents, the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is there in terms of institutions and processes that engage citizens in a responsible and empowered/empowering way at the global level, how is such a “global citizenship” shaped, and what may be lacking to make it appealing and inclusive, especially for young people today?

A competence scheme for responsible democratic citizenship

Dr. Karsten Krüger, University Barcelona; Maria Caprile, Notus

Internal and external factors put under siege the European model of liberal democracy. To reinforce the resilience and sustainability of democracy, DEMOCRAT develops a conceptual vision of Education for Democracy (EfD) and defines a competence scheme for responsible democratic citizenship. The aim is to elaborate curricula for (EfD) through a participatory approach, based on a framework of responsible democratic citizenship competences (RDCs), to test them in open, local, innovative learning projects and to develop a toolbox to support the development of transformative EfD practices in the EU and beyond. Based on reference works as the Reference Framework of Competence for Democratic culture (Council of Europe 2016), the European Framework for Personal, Social and Learning (EU 2020) and the Framework for Key Citizenship Competences (WeareEurope, 2016), but also Westheimer & Kahne (2004) and Johnson & Morris (2010), Democrat will outline a scheme of RDC competences, which will be discussed with experts, practitioners and political responsible at 6 national workshops. The conclusions of these discussions will be discussed at a transnational workshop again with European experts, practitioners and policy makers. Based on this participatory approach, Democrat will elaborate the RDC competence framework, which will be presented at this conference.

Participatory school leadership as a form of responsible citizenship education

Eszter Salamon, Luca László, Brigitte Haider

Decreasing participation, especially of younger generations as active citizens in community, elections and civic life is a worldwide phenomenon. Participatory practices in schools, engaging parents, children, teachers and others are effective for school stakeholders to experience active citizenship in a safe environment, and as well as the consequences of opting out of decision-making. Both parental engagement and child participation also have a direct positive effect on learning outcomes of the children, but also support the lifelong learning of parents and teachers. In the framework of some successful European transnational projects the necessary training, mentoring and coaching frameworks for teachers, parents, children and other stakeholders, as well as methods for school innovation for participatory leadership were developed and piloted, and in some cases upscaled. They have been accompanied by research-based policy advocacy. These would be presented here.

Responsible Democratic Citizenship: conceptual considerations from the Irish educational context

Benjamin Mallon, John Lalor, Justin Rami, Dublin City University

This paper explores the forms of citizenship conceptualised within the Irish education system. Drawing on national curricula at primary and secondary level, as well as further educational policies which shape these sectors, and initial teacher education, the paper considers the frameworks which shape the practice of Education for Democracy (EfD) in Ireland. Against an analysis of ongoing education inequalities, socio-economic challenges and questions regarding broader political participation, the paper will explore literature in the field of EfD (and related fields) within the Irish context, and presents an analysis of the multiple dimensions of democratic citizenship as theorised and practised across each stage of the Irish education system. This analysis will be situated within broader political systems, across the island of Ireland and neighbouring islands, and also within both a European and Global context.

Responsible Democratic Citizenship Education: perspectives into teacher education and learning sciences

Niclas Sandström, Maija Hytti, University of Helsinki

Notwithstanding the prominence accorded to EfD in public discourse, even a quick look at civic education in Europe reveals that it is typically not seen as a top concern for educational systems in their formal agenda and curricula. Köhler et al. (2018) list five different ways (a separate subject; integrated into another subject; mainstreamed into all subjects (cross-curricular theme); extracurricular activity (clubs, student councils); result of the school experience as a whole) to approach the context of citizenship and civic education. The Teacher Education Development Programme for 2022-2026 released by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture emphasizes lifelong learning to meet the needs of learning in 2020s. Whereas the goal of DEMOCRAT is to address the acknowledged shortcomings of present education strategies by fostering comprehensive EfD based on a transformative learning and educational approach, this paper looks at the issue through competences for democratic culture from previous research (Rautiainen, 2019), and focuses on giving an outline of developing teacher education. The overview reflects the skills sets envisioned in the DEMOCRAT project to the future goals that can be foreseen to be crucial for the teacher profession in terms of continuing professional development (CPD) and sustainability conceptualised as lifelong learning.