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We asked Annabell Brosi, research officer at Transfer für Bildung e.V.  (Transfer for education), 3 questions on the research of civic education in Germany and the mapping of its agents. Here are her answers:

1. THE CIVICS is just finalising an extensive mapping of non-formal civic educators in 21 European countries based on an online survey. In your experience, what could be the added value of such undertakings for the research on civic education?

“Online questionnaires like the one by THE CIVICS provide very useful data. For example, out of the data, one can deduce what non-formal educators have in common such as their activities, topics, values, or organizational structure. In addition, one could do a social network analysis, i.e. examine the relationships between the organisations/actors, formed either because they have been working together or have been members of the same association. Such findings are key for the professionalisation of civic education because they make similarities and differences in the individual countries visible (e.g. with respect to educational concepts, topics, and target groups). They also provide indications as to whether and how intensely non-formal civic educators cooperate on a national level and/or across Europe. Based on such data one can think about ways of strengthening the cooperation between organisations. Transfer for Education (in German Transfer für Bildung e.V.) maintains a similar interactive map of research on civic education. The map provides information about researchers (within and outside universities) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland focusing on civic education.”

2. With the “Topography of Practice” mapping you’ve investigated all fields working on or related to civic education in Germany. What were the biggest learnings and challenges on the way?

““Topography of Practice” (in German Topography of the Practice of politische Bildung) depicts all formalized and institutionalized fields of civic education in Germany (formal and non-formal). We have created the clusters on the map based on legal, political, and theoretical definitions. The resulting clusters demonstrate that the legal and political frameworks have a very big impact on how civic education is practised and pave the way for interaction between individual fields. The challenge in our map comes from within those civic education fields or topics that cannot be clearly assigned to one cluster or the other. This is the case for example with education for sustainable development or with the topic of empowerment. Oftentimes in our workshops or consultations, the topography map helps the educators to allocate themselves and their work in the respective cluster. It definitely brings more clarity to educators when they understand how the different legal, organisational and professional frameworks impact their work and the work of others. A better understanding always leads to enhanced cooperation as educators want to break their bubbles.”

3. In Europe we use different words to describe civic education – some speak about citizenship, others about education for democracy, yet others focus more on describing the competencies or literacy one acquires such as civic or green, or democratic. Is there value in finding and agreeing on using one and the same term, especially in the field of non-formal and informal civic education (outside of school)?

“In Germany, civic education (in German politische Bildung) is still the common term, although the term democracy building (in German Demokratiebildung) is often used in youth work. Both terms have grown historically, and each is embedded in a specific discourse. Within extracurricular civic education (e.g. youth work, adult education, social work, elementary education) there is a consensus that the focus of civic education is always politics and the political. However, politics and the political are a matter of interpretation.
There is also a consensus about the needs of educators, namely knowledge-based competencies in civic education and a community of professionals. The problem here, however, is that there is no university programme or training for the field of non-formal civic education in Germany – this is different for civic education teachers in schools. Apart from that the debates about what civic education is or how else to call it, the development of different theoretical underpinnings and professional concepts are as old as civic education and strongly embedded in our democracy. The understanding of civic education, which also includes discussions about terminology, is part of the democracy discourse and is negotiated over and over again and again.”

THE CIVICS would like to thank Ms Brosi for her time and valuable insights!

Author Martin

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