The Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (henceforward, the Framework) is intended for use by educationists in all sectors of education systems from pre-school through primary and secondary schooling to higher education, including adult education and vocational education.

The Framework offers a systematic approach to designing the teaching, learning and assessment of competences for democratic culture (CDC), and introducing them into education systems in ways which are coherent, comprehensive and transparent for all concerned.

The heart of the Framework is a model of the competences that need to be acquired by learners if they are to participate effectively in a culture of democracy and live peacefully together with others in culturally diverse democratic societies. The Framework also contains descriptors for all of the competences in the model.

Information about the Framework is provided in three parts. The first part is entitled “The RFCDC: context, concepts and model”. This begins with an account of the background to the Framework and of the previous work of the Council of Europe relevant to it, and then moves on to explain the concepts and theoretical assumptions underlying the Framework. These explanations are followed by a description of the model of competences.

The second part focuses on the descriptors in greater detail. It describes how they were developed and provides a complete listing of all descriptors.

The third part offers guidance on how the Framework can be implemented in education systems. It begins with three documents that discuss the use of the model and the descriptors in three stages of education planning, in the order they should take: developing curricula, planning pedagogy and designing assessment. These are followed by further documents which deal with the ways in which the Framework can be used in teacher education, and how it may be implemented using a “whole-school” approach. The following two documents (to be made available in early 2020) explore, respectively, the role of language and language education in promoting learners’ competences for democratic culture, and how the Framework can be implemented in higher education. The final document discusses how the Framework is relevant to addressing a pressing social and political issue, namely building resilience to radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism.

The information on the Framework concludes with a glossary of key terms and a list of suggestions for further reading.

Finally, there is one further document that describes how the Framework model was developed. It is of relevance to readers who wish to understand the development process, its rationale and the technical details of the model. It may be accessed here: Council of Europe (2016), Competences for democratic culture: living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg.

The model in the Framework describes the competences in detail, while the descriptors provide a means of operationalising the competences for use by educationists. The model is not an imposition of an ideal but a conceptual organisation of the competences to which reference can be made by users of the Framework. Users will decide how to adapt and implement the Framework in their own contexts for their own purposes. The Framework describes possibilities and options in its use, and users of the Framework will need to make their own decisions about which options are appropriate in their own context.

Volume one of the Reference Framework contains the model of competences for democratic culture that was unanimously approved by European ministers of education at their standing conference in Brussels in April 2016.

Volume two lists the descriptors of the competences for democratic culture that are intended to help educators identify learning outcomes, achieved proficiency after a period of learning, and areas for further development.

Volume three offers guidance on how the model of competences and the corresponding descriptors may be used in six education contexts.

Together, these volumes offer educators a reference and a toolbox for designing, implementing and evaluating educational interventions, in formal and non-formal settings.

Download the 135 key descriptors or the developped list of 447 descriptors for each competence from our descriptors page