Democracy education & Council of Europe

Council of Europe Conference of the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers – Helsinki, 16-17 April 2019

The main goal of the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was to further strengthen the work of the Council of Europe in advancing human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This core mandate of the Council of Europe is particularly important now that human rights are being challenged at both the European and global level.

The main theme of the conference was “Encouraging Democratic Culture and Human Rights – Schools’ in Action” in order to promote the dissemination of the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (RFCDC) to be applied in member states in a system-wide manner.

Schools play an important role when improving critical and creative thinking, participation, collaboration and social inclusion of young people as well as eliminating bullying, hate speech, discrimination and marginalization.

The conference took stock of effective practices in Finland and other member states and identified areas and challenges that require further attention in the future.

Council of Europe and students from the French Finnish school of Helsinki

The Council of Europe visited the French Finnish school of Helsinki. The visitors were welcomed by school choir and voluntary students, who guided the members around the school.

In Finland, students are involved in the school life in many ways:

  • Decision making: Student councils, representation in the decision making bodies
  • Planning: Local curriculum, courses offered, multidisciplinary projects, actions..
  • Organization: student led activities, student welfare, various school activities, canteen committee, green committee, parties,..
  • Evaluation: Surveys, meetings, feedback, follow-up, questionnaires, etc.
  • School development: proposals, working groups, consultations …

During the school visit, the students asked a series of questions from the members of the Council eg. should 16 year old have voting rights? and should climate change be taken into consideration in politics?

Students and Council members discussing about the democracy

The discussion about democracy, values and elections continued in the canteen tables and workshops.

Mr Kivinen, the Head of the school presented the collaboration project  between the school and Faktabaari, the Finnish factchecking service which is run by a transparency NGO called Avoin yhteiskunta ry (Open Society association, Finland) and is managed by a voluntary staff of professional journalists, researchers, EU experts, teachers and technical staff with the help of broader network of topical experts and information and media literacy specialists.

The future European voters project brought together teachers, fact checking, media and voter literacy experts and organisations in order to create a voter literacy program to activate students – the future voters –  to take part in election discussion and follow-up empowered with critical thinking and media literacy skills to resist mis- and disinformation.

You can download the teacher toolkit from here:


The Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (RFCDC) was published in April 2018.

The 20 competences of democratic culture are presented in the first volume of the “The Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture” (RFCDC).   The competence table sets out the values, attitudes, skills and knowledge and critical understanding that all citizens need to participate actively in modern democratic societies.

According to the conference speakers, we should not take democracy for granted. Each generation has to discover the importance of democracy time after time. In the well functioning democracy several key ingredients are needed: sense of empathy, sense of history, critical thinking skills and a positive attitude to democratic values. The education systems play an important role in the learning process. You can find more information about the democracy education in the “Toward a better democracy” booklet published for the conference.

You can also download a PDF-copy of my presentation from here: Teaching democratic values in a Finnish school


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