The 2016 World Forum for Democracy gathered 2200 participants from more than 100 countries.Political institutions representatives, young activists,academia, media, business circles, civil society organisations, social innovators and educators discussed – including via a digital platform – offered perspectives and gave recommendations on the role of education in creating, shaping and buttressing democracy and in helping to reduce inequalities. Further, they pinpointed that education does not stop at the school gates. Young people are constantly forming their attitudes and opinions – also in non-formal environments.
Can education help reinforce democracy and bridge growing inequalities?
Nowadays there is a deep concern about the quality and stability of democratic governance, especially at the very heart of mature democracies. Democracy is above all knowledge in action. In order to provide adequate knowledge today, education needs to be democratic, to enable pupils to produce knowledge together and with the teachers, to critically assess it and to take a position. They can do this best if they place young people in the position of decision-making from the start. Schools are the central tool that we should use to prepare young citizens for life in a fast-changing and globalised world. Learning should also be focused on human rights and universal values, in order to open people’s minds and make them resilient to populist manipulation. Not all democracy and human rights learning needs to be concentrated in schools – civil society organisations also have an important role to play in this respect.
We must enable schools to develop the competencies for living in a democratic society.
We need to ask what else should be done to educate wise and responsible citizens. Where else is information coming from? What other forces are shaping young people’s opinions and views? What kind of education can foster democratic values and active citizenship? What can education do for democracy and what democracy can do for education? How can we empower young people to make a systemic change in democracy?