On Friday, 28 October, the Council of Europe Office in Georgia hosted the official launch event of the Project “Democracy Starts in Schools – Engaging School Children in Decision Making Processes in Schools and Communities”.
Over 100 experts, school principals, teachers, education experts, representatives of government, international, and local non-governmental organizations working in the field of democratic citizenship education in Georgia took part in the national conference “Democracy Starts in School – the Role of Schools in Developing a Culture of Democratic Participation in Georgia”.
Tamar Makharashvili, First Deputy Minister of Education and Science, in her opening remarks the Deputy Minister underlined the importance of giving opportunity to students to learn principles of democracy from early age, which will allow them to practice the knowledge acquired at schools in their everyday life.
H.E. Heidi Grau, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, stressed the importance attached to the support of such initiatives. „In Switzerland, children are taught about democratic values and competences in the classrooms. As a result, they grow into active citizens and contribute to the democratic processes in their communities. We hope that, jointly with our partners, we will be able to establish a solid basis for children’s inclusive participation in school governance in Georgia”, she said.
Natalia Voutova, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Georgia, underlined in her opening remarks: “The project will build on our fruitful cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, whose partnership has been essential in developing this project and will be even more so during implementation. The project will support the ongoing education reforms in Georgia by helping apply in national education policy and practice a flagship Council of Europe tool in the field of education – the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture. We are pleased to note that this document is mentioned in the National Education and Science Strategy of Georgia 2022-2030 among the founding international frameworks.”
The key Council of Europe concepts and approaches to competence based democratic citizenship education and Georgia’s main achievements in this field were discussed, as well as the findings and recommendations of the baseline assessment report “Engaging School Children in Decision Making Processes” carried out by the project. The report analysed different aspects of school life that impact student participation, such as school climate, leadership and management, school boards, student self-governments, curriculum, teaching and learning, etc. It argues for a more strategic approach to democratic school governance in schools, focusing on the role of the school principal and the concept of a whole-school approach to student participation.
In the afternoon, participants actively discussed the importance of student participation and student voice, the practical steps to having a democratic governance of schools and the competences school leaders need to lead a democratic school.
The Project „Democracy Starts in Schools” is carried out under of the Council of Europe - Georgia Action Plan 2020-2023. The goal of the Project is to strengthen democracy in Georgia through increased participation of young people in the decision-making processes at the local level through democratic citizenship education and practices in schools.
The Project "Democracy Starts in Schools – Engaging School Children in Decision Making Processes in Schools and Communities in Georgia" is implemented by the Council of Europe and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).