Democratic citizenship and human rights education

Project Citizen

Project Citizen is a program which supports Education for democratic citizenship teachers in Romania to use a dynamic and interactive learning method with their 7th grade students: the students learn to propose a public policy in order to help solve a problem for their local community.

IIT is the Romanian partner of the CIVITAS Network, an international civic education network, initiated by the Center for Civic Education USA. This unique network of educators, civil society organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies has worked for more than a decade to develop quality curricular materials and train teachers throughout Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East.

Project Citizen is an innovative methodology for teaching civic education in secondary schools. In this 8-step methodology students select a problem of the local community that requires a public policy solution. They get to interact with local public institutions and with other public and civil society organisations. By going through this process, students are expected to develop:

  • Knowledge about the responsibilities and functioning of public institutions, about laws, procedures and decision-making processes
  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the role of citizens in a democracy
  • Positive attitudes towards civic participation, teamwork and constructive dialogue
  • Skills related to data collection, processing and interpretation, decision-making, cooperation, conflict management, public speaking, communication, organization, etc.

In 2004 IIT signed a collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Education, though which Project Citizen is recommended by the Ministry as a methodology for teaching civic education in the 7th grade. A national network of county coordinators was created in partnership with the Teacher Training Institutions (Casele Corpului Didactic – CCD). In this network accredited training courses were offered for teachers in the following counties: Timis, Arad, Caras-Severin, Bihor, Salaj, Satu-Mare, Cluj, Maramures, Bistrita-Nasaud, Mures, Alba, Harghita, Iasi, Botosani, Suceava, Brasov, Vaslui, Neamt, Galati, Constanta and in Bucharest.

Since 2010 IIT has been offering online training courses for advanced teachers at: http://cursuri.intercultural.ro.

From the end of 2012 the funding for the CIVITAS program was closed and all that the IIT could do with its own resources was to ensure the closing of the activities of the school year 2012-2013 and to maintain contact with some of the CCDs which kept their training programs despite of the cancelling of the funding for trainers and to support them in continuing the program.

In 2016, an external evaluation study was realised in partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation to assess the impact of the program and identify options for its further development. The 2016 project was based on GROW methodology, progressing towards the goal (G) to realise an efficient and sustainable civic education programme based on Project Citizen methodology, through analysing the current reality (R), identifying the opportunities offered by this methodology, the obstacles that could hinder its implementation (O), and the options for a way forward (W).

The evaluation study confirmed that the program continues in several counties, particularly in the counties where CCDs have had valid accreditation for delivering training on the methodology but that it has also stopped in many of the counties where it used to be extensively used, due to lack of local coordination, expiring of the accreditation for the training program or the fact that for various reasons many of the former county coordinators could not continue in this position without explicit external support. The evaluation study also revealed the need to revise the methodology and provide support with manuals, guidelines for teachers and online platform, as well as the need for a stronger bottom-up approach in terms of support offered to various stakeholders for the use of the method on a large scale in Romania.

From 2017, the program continues, with Romanian-American Foundation as long-term strategic partner. Building on the findings of the previous project and on the renewed strategic approach, the first period of the program (February 2017 – July 2018) has the following main lines of action:

  • Development and revision of Project Citizen methodology and tools (including an online platform, manual for pupils and guidelines for teachers, as well as support materials)
  • Implementation of the program at local level in Timis, Arad, Ilfov and Bucharest (training for teachers, implementation of the method with the pupils, post-training support and monitoring for teachers).

Face to face training courses have been organized in Bucharest (for teachers from Bucharest and Ilfov County) and in the following counties: Caraș-Severin, Cluj, Constanța, Galați, Hunedoara, Iași, Sălaj, Suceava and Timiș (for teachers from counties Timiș and Arad). An online training course is available every year for teachers from other counties.

We aim to extend the program over the next years, so that it will have national coverage, will continue to be supported by the Ministry of Education and the county educational institutions so that it will be constantly and regularly implemented in the classrooms by as many teachers who teach Education for democratic citizenship.

Starting with the school year 2019-2020 a new curricula for the Social education in 7th grade, Education for democratic citizenship, has come into force. This curricula recommends Project Citizen as good practice example in chapter Methodological suggestions, as well as in the chapter Specific competences and examples of learning activities.

The Project Citizen method applies the principles and tools of the Reference Framework of competences for Democratic Citizenship, developed by the Counsil of Europe. This Reference Framework was adopted as landmark for educational policies by the Council of Europe’s Permanent Conference of the Ministers of Education (2016), is included in the Recommendation of the Council of European Union on Common values, Inclusive Education and the European Dimension of Teaching (2018) and is reflected in the Romanian secondary school curricula. More details here in English and here in Romanian.