Active citizenship

Active citizenship

Simon Coveney, the Republic of Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, said in a speech recently that democracy is “our world’s most precious metal, but if it is not looked after, it tarnishes easily”. In the USA – a country with a long history of democratic elections – the phenomenon of ‘election denying’ has gained a foothold. Even though electoral processes have repeatedly been shown to be fair and above board, many voters continue to question the legitimacy of election results and some candidates have even suggested they might not accept a particular result if they don’t win. As the recent Brazilian presidential election has shown, it isn’t just the USA that has its fair share of election deniers. That’s why initiatives such as UK Parliament Week, which comes to an end today, are so important.

UK Parliament Week (UKPW) is an annual event that aims to engage people from across the UK with parliament, spreading the word about what parliament is, what it does and how people can get involved. Last year more than a million people took part in activities aimed at primary and secondary schools, youth groups and post-16 groups.

The official UKPW website describes it is as “a fun way to bring the story of parliament and democracy to life for all ages” and “a great opportunity to empower young people to use their voice to make a difference and participate in their democracy both locally and in Westminster”.

Last year UKPW was collectively celebrated in all sorts of ways, including:

  • online Q&A sessions and quizzes
  • debating issues and holding votes
  • creating petitions
  • themed assemblies and school council elections
  • baking, crafting and colouring
  • virtual chats with MPs, members of the Lords, mayors, local councillors

Although UKPW is only one week a year, there are activity booklets and other resources available all year round on its website. There is also an excellent learning area on the UK parliament’s own website, packed with resources for schools, colleges, communities and home educators.

Life-Based Learning and active citizenship

In our blog Political literacy needs to be more than just a curriculum add-on, we argued that at a time when trust in the political process is low across large parts of the world, citizenship education – political literacy – is more important than ever so that young people can play their part as active, informed and responsible citizens.

A cohesive society, founded on strong communities, needs people to be politically literate and actively engaged as citizens. This means that we need to:

  • help children to understand how society, and particularly the political process in their country, functions
  • show children how to get involved and become active participants in their community and/or civil society more generally, and encourage them to do so
  • promote a culture of shared values based on tolerance, mutual respect and non-violence
  • teach children about their rights and their responsibilities
  • ensure that children are aware of the power, role and importance of the media and develop their ability to assess the accuracy and reliability of the information they consume

Read More About Active Citizenship

The image at the head of this article features on the Children & Young People Now website and Twitter feed and was retweeted by the UK Youth Parliament Twitter account.

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