On the occasion of the most recent ACFAS congress, Marjorie Flon, specialist in citizen and public participation at the Institut du Nouveau Monde, presented some current gaps in relation to education for democracy, while insisting on this subject needs to be taken into account in schools.
Marjorie Flon's presentation took place during the conference “Education, a rampart against populism? », Presented by the Higher Education Council. Through this conference, the Council wanted, among other things, to fuel reflection on the role of education in preparing future citizens to face the challenges they will have to face in the 21st century. (see previous text)
From the outset, Ms. Flon wished to recall that only 8.4 % of the world population lives in a complete democracy (source: EIU 2021) and that, even in this context, electoral participation is in decline, likewise than people's trust in social institutions - everywhere.
Ms Flon's message was clear: “As we ourselves live in a democracy, we must recognize that the balance is fragile. Education for citizenship certainly becomes a bulwark for the maintenance of democracy. This is based on citizen participation ”.
She also listed some of the benefits associated with democracy education that have already been documented:
- Better understanding of social issues and issues;
- Higher quality of decisions;
- Increased support for political decisions;
- Increased confidence in democratic institutions (and therefore better social cohesion);
- Sense of personal and collective accomplishment.
Citizenship education is insufficient
Citizenship education is indeed present in the Quebec school training program (PFEQ). Yet, according to Flon, there are big differences between what is planned in the program and what is actually experienced in the classes.
“Teachers have few tools. The teaching is done in a piecemeal fashion, is not uniform and certain aspects are forgotten or neglected, ”she says. Likewise, active citizenship activities in schools (eg student councils) reach only a handful of young people since they are offered on a voluntary basis and often extracurricular.
Ms. Flon recognizes that citizenship education can also take place at home. She also mentioned that participatory democracy projects that combine school and family are those that are the most promising in her opinion.
Young people are eager to learn
Despite everything, Ms. Flon is reassuring. Young people seek to understand society and to take their place in it. They are aware of the importance of informing themselves, of debating and of taking action.
Through testimonials collected for the production of the podcast Us others, Ms. Flon noted that young people "drop out of democratic life" because they do not understand the functioning of the institutions in place. Thus, they abandon traditional forms of participation to explore new ones and find new ways of influencing society.
"On the one hand, this may seem positive since they have the desire to get involved, but if they do not find themselves in the current democratic vehicles, they will not be well represented there".
Ms. Flon believes that there must be more opportunities to awaken interest in democracy and civic participation among young people. This can simply be by discussing current issues with them (eg racism, immigration, vaccination), by discussing the functioning of democratic institutions (eg tabling a bill). To do this, teachers would still benefit from being better equipped.
“The revision of the ECR (Ethics and Religious Culture) course is an opportunity to fill certain gaps in the teaching of the knowledge necessary for the exercise of citizenship. For the moment, we do not know in which direction this reform will go, ”concluded Marjorie Flon.
Do you carry out citizenship and democracy education activities with your students? Write U.S! We would like to know more about your experience!