NECE magazine titel pageNECE was founded over 10 years ago, but what actually is NECE? And what does it stand for? To answer these questions to NECE “newbies” as well as long-established supporters, the Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb collaborated with various renowned authors to set up the first issue of NECE magazine. The 52-pages issue will be published in November, it will be available at the NECE conference in Zagreb and online (both for free). We’re proud to trigger your interest by publishing the following exclusive interview of the magazine in advance. In this Interview titled “All-inclusive” Audrey Osler talks to Marinko Banjac and Tomaž Pušnik from Ljubljana University about the need to understand and teach diversity, the BREXIT momentum and how human rights could be a framework for inclusion. Audrey Osler is a professor of Education at the Norwegian Buskerud and Vestfold University College, founding director of the Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education (CCHRE) and valuable contributor to the NECE network.

Marinko Banjac: Today’s world is one in which we can witness what well-known scholar Steven Vertovec calls a super-diversity: Population diversity is significantly higher and  this affects where, how  and  with whom people live. How do you see this super-diverse world?

Audrey Osler: First of all, it is very important to emphasise that diversity has  always been  a part of our societies, related to gender, sexuality, economic status and  social class.  But today’s European migration levels and,  in particular, the migration of visible minorities has  highlighted an increased awareness of existing diversity. There- fore Steven  Vertovec’s concept of super­diversity is very fitting for Europe today.

Why is it necessary for us citizens to understand diversity?

Awareness of diversity and sensitivity to different perspectives is very important in order to get by in the world, to communicate and to work. But also, of course, we need  diversity for democracy. Without diversity,  why would  we  need  democracies  in  the  first  place?  De- mocracy  is about  managing  different opinions and  interests, resolv- ing tensions and conflicts between people of different perspectives and identities.

Tomaž Pušnik: How then can we protect and  balance local, national, regional and  global identities in a time of crises and  populist victories, like Brexit?

Brexit makes  me very sad  and also angry because my European citizenship seems to have been snatched away from me. But setting my feelings  aside,  we  are  facing  far­right  nationalist  and  populist discourses across Europe,  and have probably underestimated their power.  Many of  our  leaders  in  various  governments have  not  re- sponded in a clear­cut way to developments which are dangerous or antidemocratic.  Also  the  media  have  often  misunderstood  how to handle  the  various  ranges of  opinion.  And I  think  we’ve  gotten to know the point at which there is a limit to freedom of expression. But how can we protect  ourselves against xenophobia and racism? First of all, by naming it. By not being frightened of talking and  writ- ing about  it. Racism is complex because it is constantly reshaping, so we have to recognise racism’s power and its ability to change or disguise its appearance and form. But that doesn’t mean that I think that racism is inevitable: We are educated into it and we can educate ourselves against it.

How can citizenship education protect diversity in the classrooms?

For me,  education is a process of extending our identities. Any classroom should be about  enabling each  individual to develop and feel more confident in a wider range of identities than when they first came  through  the classroom door.  One way to do this is to encour- age children and students to tell their own narratives. In this way you get to encounter stories and narratives which provide alternatives to the stories in the textbooks, which still, in most  countries, promote national (hi)stories. From those  individual stories you can  build new alternative  collective  narratives,  and  teach  students that  there  are many different ways of remembering the past,  for example.

Banjac: Is citizenship education then only a framework which responds to current situations?

Can  citizenship  education  be  preventative  rather  than  reactive? It can’t provide an absolute preventative, it can’t cure  society’s ills, but it has  to engage with societal issues. And it has  to be relevant to  peoples’ lives, it has  to  engage with contemporary problems. Teachers are often reliant on textbooks and those  textbooks cannot be  up­to­date in  that  sense.  Teachers need  to be  able  to engage with the real and immediate concerns of young people.

Pušnik: When exclusivist and  anti-immigrant voices are prevailing in society and  also in classrooms, hasn’t the project of citizenship education failed?

I  have  to be  an  optimist.  And I  have  to believe  that  the  results of education are not seen  in the short  term; there  have  also to be long term ones.  Brexit is a significant moment  for us to think about how we actually engage young  people and  it is an opportunity to encourage them  to take  on an internationalist perspective, to think more deeply about  the world in which we live. To teach, for example, that migration has  always been  part of human  activity; that people have always been  on the move. It is a critical moment  for citizenship education and for us to stand  up for our ideals. If we now just react by going along with the xenophobic policy agendas, which is a very big risk in many nations, then I think we will fail.

Banjac: What other strategies could citizenship edu- cation use to be more inclusive, up-to-date and  more related to contemporary challenges that we face?

First, we really have to think about  what we mean  when we say “citizens” and who is included and who is excluded. In our schools, in the classrooms there are students who are not citizens of the coun- try in which they are living. Some want or need citizenship status but there  will be others  who don’t aspire to citizenship, they’ve already got a citizenship that works for them.  We have to look at the status of all students and think about  a framework that is inclusive of allOsler at NECE conference 2015

Which  framework could that be?

Here  I  would  turn  to  human  rights,  because we  all  share  the same  human  rights, we all have that same  status. We should learn about   human   rights  principles  that  are  shared between citizens and non­citizens. That doesn’t mean  that we shouldn’t also look at human  rights in a critical way. We may be able to start off well with very young children, telling them  about  their rights. But as they get older,  we shouldn’t  teach  human  rights  as  if  they were  a religious dogma. We should help young people to see  that human  rights re- quire  active  involvement,  they are  not fixed,  they are  a developing project, weren’t written down in 1948 once  and for all.

Banjac: Is cooperation and networking the key to im- proving human rights and civic education?

The strength of  NECE and  similar  networks  is  bringing  togeth- er different  groups  in  civil  society.  Because citizenship  education, human rights education or any education which is about society and the  political,  it  cannot  rely  solely  on governments, it  must  engage with other actors  and sectors. A second strength is that NECE can respond much  more  quickly  to immediate  issues  than  other  (inter- national)  organisations  that  we depend on. One  of  the  major  chal- lenges  that  we are  facing  in  citizenship  education  is  to recognise schooling as a political project.

How so?

When  European teachers  enter  teaching they  are  usually very optimistic,  and  feel  a  strong  moral  commitment  to  their  students. But that moral commitment must  be matched with the recognition that  they have  a political responsibility to equip them  for life in our democracies.  That is  something  networks  like  NECE can  develop and communicate much more effectively to teachers and educators. To be more specific: Citizenship education is built on agreed interna- tional values. Our governments have signed up to these  values, they have ratified them  in international treaties. And we can  actually set those  principles out for students and be open  and explicit.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.