The proposal for a
European Agency for Citizenship Education

Photo Credits: BART MAAT / ANP / AFP

A European Agency for Citizenship Education would seek to improve the access to and the quality of citizenship education in all EU member states and support the development of a European dimension of citizenship education. The Agency would promote a comprehensive approach towards citizenship education, directed at all age groups, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and locations. Being needs-oriented, the Agency would focus on those areas and actors that require most support. In addition, it would foster innovative and digital learning methods, which have become especially relevant due to the new normal under COVID-19. The Agency would provide funding, learning materials, digital infrastructure and capacity building opportunities to educators. It would work in a decentralised manner and in close cooperation with local and regional actors, but also remain non-partisan and independent of governments and EU institutions’ political agenda.

Establishing an EU agency that focuses on citizenship education is an ambitious task. Several steps will be necessary to reach this goal, as the current political setup of the European Council is not likely to endorse the establishment of such an agency. National governments are reticent to push for more European action in education, despite regular declarations endorsing active citizenship in the Union. In the meantime, the EU should focus on investing in research and monitoring to better understand the state of play of citizenship education in Europe. The EU could also identify the necessary steps to establish such an agency by launching a Pilot Project and Preparatory Action, as part of the next Multiannual Financial Framework.

Main Objectives

Secure equal access to citizenship education

Access to education is a basic human right enshrined in Article 14 of the Charter. It is a particularly relevant right because education equality translates into equal opportunities. In the case of citizenship education, this means equality of opportunities to participate in social and political life. Securing equal access to citizenship education secures political rights and social inclusion. It is essential for social cohesion and a stable and democratic political system. By improving the equal access to citizenship education, the EACE would contribute to citizens’ ability to participate in political and social life at national and European levels. In addition, the EACE’s focus on lifelong learning and non-formal and informal citizenship education would also ensure equal accessibility for all age and socioeconomic groups.

Improving the quality of citizenship education

Equal access to citizenship education is only the first step. The EACE would also focus on the quality of citizenship education, given that learning outcomes can only be as good as the quality of learning opportunities. Providing high-quality citizenship education through the development of innovative and targetted learning materials and methods is, therefore, essential. The EACE would work in close cooperation with local and regional stakeholders to provide capacity building and training suited to the diverse set of learning environments within Europe. Putting learner voices and practitioners at the heart of the development of high-quality citizenship education would ensure that the Agency could deliver learning outcomes for all social groups across the Union.

Foster innovative and digital learning methods

Enhancing competencies, such as critical thinking and (digital) media literacy, is essential to strengthening democratic resilience in Europe. Disinformation campaigns and fake news are serious threats to social cohesion and democracy. The current COVID-19 context has further increased the need for digital and distance learning methods, which are likely to remain important in the future. The EACE would, therefore, focus on developing innovative and digital learning opportunities and improve citizens’ digital media literacy skills and help citizens to adapt to distance learning. This provides opportunities to overcome language barriers, set up learning programmes across borders and complement the EU’s existing initiatives in this field.

Guiding Principles

European

The agency focuses on European values as set out in Article 2 TEU and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Non-partisan

The Agency is non-partisan.
It provides balanced information on different political, social and scientific positions on the relevant issues from across Europe.

Demand-oriented

Citizenship education is fostered where there is a lack of or insufficient access to formal, non- and informal citizenship education. Existing structures for citizenship education are complemented, not duplicated or replaced.

Impact-oriented

Education programmes, content and methods should be oriented towards their target groups and cover the needs of various section of the population. The impact of the proposed programmes of the agency are monitored and evaluated on a rolling basis.

Sustainable

The agency fosters citizenship education and political participation across European member states sustainably.
This requires long-term structures and educational programmes.

Main Tasks

Research & monitoring

Provide long-term research and monitoring on citizenship education in the EU. The Agency should publish an annual report analysing the state of citizenship education across the EU27 and give recommendations to each member state as to how to improve quality and access to citizenship education.

Grant-making mechanism

Establish and coordinate a grant-making mechanism for non-formal and informal citizenship education, supporting civil society across the EU that seeks to promote European values.

Capacity-building

Provide capacity-building programmes on citizenship education for a range of different stakeholders and providing support on content and (digital) methods.

Teaching meterials and practices

Provide teaching materials and practices on citizenship education for all age groups and in all EU languages in order to support citizenship education. This way, educators from across the EU will be supported through a large database of materials to use both in the classroom, but also in other (non- and informal) educational settings.

Mutual learning and exchange of good practices

Establish a platform for mutual learning and the exchange of good practices for educators from across Europe.

Cooperation partner

The discussion paper was published in cooperation with the European Policy Centre (EPC), an independent, not-for-profit think tank dedicated to fostering European integration through analysis and debate, supporting and challenging decision-makers at all levels to make informed decisions based on evidence and analysis, and providing a platform for engaging partners, stakeholders and citizens in EU policy-making and in the debate about the future of Europe.