CIVIC EDUCATION IN SLOVENIA: FROM SOCIAL AND MORAL EDUCATION TO INSTRUCTION IN HUMAN RIGHTS


Mojca Pecak, Dr Ph., University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


In the beginning of this year, new educational legislation has passed the Parliament in Slovenia. Primary education will be extended to cover 9 and not only 8 years as is the case now. In the last three years, classes in three subjects at the most will be offered at two levels, a choice of subjects will be possible, private schools can be founded and children with special educational needs can be integrated in regular schools. Legislation ensures the realisation of principles of democracy, equal opportunities for all, together with respect for differences, which are principles founded on human rights and the conception of a legal state. Human rights are thus the principle defining the structure and organisation of the school system, as well as the principle according to which ethos and life in schools will be organised.

The new educational legislation concept of the school subject which we call "Ethics and Society" must be renovated accordingly. lt is the subject which plays an important role in enabling pupils to live in a pluralistic and democratic society, in fostering, preserving and defending democratic values. It is the subject which we could also call Civic Education.

The conviction that primary school must provide education for loyal citizens and moral individuals is as old as school itself. Before and during the second world war, that kind of education was ensured by religion. After the war, religion was at first a voluntary subject; in 1952 it was abolished and replaced by a subject which dealt with the questions of morality from the socialist point of view. At first we called this "Foundations of Socialist Morale" and later (from 1972) "Social and Moral Education".

In primary school, this subject was taught in the 7th and 8th grade, one hour per week, but its contents were also part of other subjects from the first grade on. It was taught by the class teacher, and in the 6th grade by the teacher of Slovenian language. So far the teachers tried to bring in understanding of interpersonal relationships like home, school, community, the wider society and qualities and valuing of personalities. In the 7th and 8th grade the purpose of this subject was mainly the acquaintance with the fundamental principles and values of the socialist morale, introducing the marxist doctrine, developing the need for active co-operation in the socialist self-administrating society. But in spite of the ideological content of the subject, the instructions for teaching required teachers to "avoid giving everywhere moral advice" and that pupils had to have "as many possibilities as possible for independent thinking about concrete ethical situations, for critical evaluation and awareness of concrete moral problems".

This subject was considered to be the main element in forming a socialist personality, but in spite of its importance for forming loyal citizens, we started to educate teachers for it not until 1974. It is also interesting that teachers for this subject were educated only for the upper stages, at the Faculty of Education in Maribor, and not in the Faculty ot Education in Ljuljana, educating primary teachers. In 1990, 46% of those teaching the subject were geography and history teachers, 15% were pedagogues, psychologists and teachers of science, art, languages, class-teaching and only 65 had the right qualifications. This subject was most often taught by teachers beginners and teachers whose own work load was not sufficient.

Teachers were not eager to teach this subject. It could not be presented without certain moral pressure which made it very similar to religious education. Teachers had difficulties with the concretization of the aims of the subject, with the setting of goals and with the evaluation and analysis of realised aims. But in spite of all the difficulties, attitudes slowly changed. By the end of the 80:ies in some schools the number of hours for the subject even increased. Teachers adapted the contents of the subject to suit the time, place, needs and interests of pupils, parents and social environment.

Renovation of the subject

Various complaints about the subject, the changed political situation, the foundation of the independent state in 1991 and the first democratic elections, resulted in the renovation of the subject. We received the experimental handbook "Ethics and Society", and in the year 1991/92 several schools experimentally implemented the subject 6'Ethics and Society". The renovated subject, as well as the handbook, were supposed to reach beyond the socialist selfadministering orientation of the former subject "Social and Moral Education" and direct it towards the "common human ethos".

The evaluation of this project showed that teachers and parents had become interested in a subject which would cover ethical questions and questions about society in the last two years of primary school, in the form of an independent subject. It also showed that it would not trigger any resistance arising trom different values or ideologies. Pupils showed an interest in 2/3 of the contents of the subject. In spite of that it was becoming more and more evident that what was needed was a correction of the contents, the articulation of the concept and a renovation of the handbook. The handbook was not approved by the Professional Board which gives the permission as to which textbooks can be used in Slovenia.

The main problems seem to be the expectations connected with the subject. lt is supposed to introduce the pupils to social science and compensate the lack of it in primary schools - and it is supposed to enable pupils to become upright citizens. There are also the expectations that the subject should offer opportunities to discuss and think about the problems pupils have during adolescence. The goals are expanding while at the same time we try to avoid its traumatic points.

One major problem is the pastoral side of the subject. The fact is that one can very quickly tread onto the field of indoctrination and moralisation. This is difficult to analyse, and it shows the necessity of articulating the concept more clearly. Experts have been invited to deal with the questions, and by the end of the next school year a new curriculum must be formed and accepted by the Professional Board.

Proposal from our research group

The proposals formed by the research group from the Faculty of Education in Ljubljana arises from the conviction that the concept of the subject must strive for the highest common factor attainable for all citizens. It must be capable of incorporating the diverse traditions and beliefs while still embracing the common civic principles which have been designed through history and represent the foundations of the present society. Ideological struggles and the intrusion of convictions could be avoided by establishing human rights as the organising principle of education. Wherever we are dealing with values. human rights should be our point of reference.

On which principles must such education be based?

According to the new primary school legislation in Slovenia, the school subject ''Ethics and Society" will be taught in the 7th, 8th and 9th grade one hour per week. In our opinion, however, this is not enough. It is necessary to form across the curriculum contents for all grades of primary school, within all school subjects. In this way the contents in the lower grades can be deepened in the last three years of primary school, within the subject "Ethics and Society".

To secure that this is realized in schools, the choice of the contents must not be left to teachers´ arbitrary will - it must be prescribed and supported by suitable didactic material and resources. Teachers must also be qualified for teaching such contents - and so must the whole school staff.

The task of the school is not only to furnish pupils with knowledge. For active, responsible and competent action in society it is necessary to provide pupils also with opportunities to develop skills like problem solving, consensual decision making, moderating, communication, verbal and written communication. And it is also necessary to consider, as D. Heater put it, that knowledge is only partially useful if it does not lead on to the formation of attitudes and the acquisition of skills; attitudes are but prejudices unless based in a firm and clear understanding; and action wants direction ensuing from attitudes, and is irresponsible and/or inefficient if born in ignorance.

Such education is therefore the responsibility of the school as a whole, of intercurricular contents and collective projects. It means acquiring certain knowledge and also everyday action, behaviour and response. This can be successful only in a democratic school with plurality and neutrality, with known and defined roles of behaviour and communication, respecting personal integrity, human and children´s rights.

The way of teaching is also very important. The most desirable methods are group work, team work, co-operation between different classes - because they all strenghten the ability to co-operate, agree upon, plan and co-ordinate different interests and needs. One can apply project work, research projects, visit different institutions, publish a school paper, organise exhibitions, have a school radio station etc.

The fundamental principles are to give pupils as much independence as possible and an awareness that problems arising during the learning process are useful and desirable. They enable learning through discussion, which is the most important method for understanding the persons´s place in society and the appropriation of skills needed in social life.

Purposes and content of civic education

Which are the purposes of this school subject and its content?
We worked out separately the purposes and contents for the 1st to the 6th grade, and for the 7th to the 9th.

Purposes:

to help the pupils to

- develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, others, surroundings, nature and natural resources
- learn what society is, how it is developing and functioning and what defines our everyday life and living conditions
- perceive the organisation of life in our country and in the world, as well as develop skills for co-operation in social life
- perceive and learn about different life styles, traditions and beliefs of different people and groups (in past and present, in the world an in our country)
- perceive common human values, human and children´s rights, develop understanding for how conflicts break out, learn how to solve them or live with them if necessary

Contents:

1. Interpersonal relationships and co-operation (family, school, state, Europe, world)
2. Democracy, politics, power and legal protection
3. Nature, natural resources, economy and protection of the environment
4. Technology and society
5. Our body and health
6. Christianity
7. Other religions and ideologies
8. Multiculturalism in our country and in the world
9. Importance of knowledge and choice of profession
10. Culture, art, mass media and their impact
11. Human and childrens´ rights
12. Peace and international understanding

References:
Osnovna sola, vsebina vzgojno izobrazevalnega dela, Zavod za solstvo SRS. Ljubljana 1973 pp 152-159
Evalvacija programa zivljenja in dela osnovne sole, Zavod RS sa solstvo, Ljubljana 1990
Pedicek. F: Etika v soli,v. Vzgoja in izobrazevanje, Ljubljana 1993
Heater, D.: Citizenship: The Civic Ideal in World History, Politics & Education, Longman, London -90

List of subjects dealing with ethic and civic education in six European countries.
From the descriptive, cluster and systematic analysis made by Tatjana Deviak, Slovenia, and also presented in the seminar. This analysis was made before the new law was passed in spring 1996, introducing the subject Ethics and Society.



From the table one can see that the only subject which appears in all the countries under consideration, except in our country, is the religious course; course in ethics is taught, as independent or alternative subject, in Germany, Norway and Slovenia, the difference being that it is in Germany and Norway available as an alternative subject throughout the entire period of primary schooling, while in Slovenia it is an independent subject, but only in the 7th and 8th grade. Education relating to civics and basic knowledge of social sciences and study of social life, as the subject is called in Italy, are available in Norway and Italy.

 

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