Speaking at the meeting of Education Ministers on 26 November in Paris, Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić underlined the importance of promoting digital citizenship education and history teaching in Europe.
Extracts of her speech:
“When the Council of Europe was established 70 years ago, it was with the firm belief that lessons should be learned from the past, and action taken to ensure a better present and future.
If we want open, tolerant and inclusive communities, education is vital.
Because we know this, the Council of Europe has long supported a range of education initiatives.
Key among these is our Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education.
Its flagship framework of Competences for Democratic Culture sets out the specific skills young people need to fully understand and participate in our societies:
But in an ever-more digitised world, we need to ensure that citizenship education is truly fit for purpose.
The online environment can expose people to abuse, crime, and misinformation – and young people are particularly at risk.
So how can we reinforce competences for democratic culture there too?
Recently, the Committee of Ministers adopted its Recommendation to develop and promote digital citizenship education.
Among other things, it guides member states to review their legislation, policies and practice; to train teachers and other education professionals;
History teaching, which was already specifically mentioned in the European Cultural Convention adopted in Paris in 1954, is one of the Council of Europe’s success stories.
In response to the rise of populism and xenophobia throughout Europe, history teaching is making a timely contribution to ensuring a balanced educational environment.
Accordingly, we have decided to inject new life into our approach and this process is now well underway.
We now wish to strengthen the link between history teaching and a culture of democracy.
Without learning about and understanding history, there is a risk that we will not understand what can happen when there is no longer any democracy, no longer any human rights, no longer any respect for human dignity, no longer any humanity.
Without learning about and understanding history, young people may more easily fall prey to those who promote prejudice, division and hatred.
Meeting at a conference organised under the French Presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the Ministers of Education of the Organisation (*) will discussed the ethical use of digital tools, the development of critical thinking and the proposal for an Observatory for History Teaching in Europe.
(*) The Ministers of Education of the 50 States Parties to the Council of Europe’s Cultural Convention (the 47 Council of Europe member states plus Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Holy See).