Civic education is a prime concern of every democratic society that is sustained by an informed, effective and responsible citizenry. Democracy is not a self-propelled machine, but must be consciously reproduced, one generation after another. Therefore, civic education in a democracy is education in self-government where citizens are actively involved in their own governance.
With these ideas about the role of citizens, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Thailand office has been supporting the Thai Civic Education reform movement since 2011. In line with its commitment to the project, FES organized a study visit in Germany from 22-28 October 2017 for the Thai Civic Education academic working group, composed of academics, educators, policy makers and activists from leading universities, the Ministry of Education and NGOs.
The visit aimed for the Thai participants to learn from the German experiences by looking at the institutions in place in Germany, and to use those ideas and inspiration to develop their project in Thailand. Moreover, it intended to create a German-Thai dialogue and create a strong collaborative bond between German and Thai educators.
Dr. Vachararutai Boontinand, one of the participants shared her experiences from the visit with us. A lecturer at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, she has been involved in the Thai Civic Education project as an academic adviser for more than three years.
I liked the fact that the programme offered the opportunity for us to see and learn about civic education in Germany from different perspectives. We learned about civic education in museums (such as the German History Museum, or the Memorial and Museum at the Sachsenhausen former concentration camp), school, academic institution, public agency and also through the work of FES at different levels. As an academic, teaching and researching civic and human rights education, I particularly appreciated the visit to the Institute of Didactics for Democracy in Hanover, as it highlighted the important link between research and practice. Learning about how conceptual change can happen was certainly encouraging.
I would say that civic education in Germany is everywhere. It is about getting people to think about and question everyday issues. It’s about pluralism and not indoctrination. Different opinions and values can be discussed and debated with respect and tolerance, although expressions that incite hatred and violate the rights of others are not acceptable.
I think understanding an approach to learning civic education that emphasizes questioning and discussing different ideas and values can be very useful for the way we think about and develop civic education in Thai society. Also, recognizing that civic education shouldn’t be confined to the formal schooling system (although this site of learning is still very important) but that it can be embedded in everyday life and issues, is an important lesson that we need to further explore when designing and re-designing civic education in Thailand. ###
For more information on the civic education project and the overall work by FES in Thailand, visit the country office website and contact the country director Stine Klapper.
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