Understanding Europe‘s educational approach is based on the promotion of key competences for a participatory teaching and learning culture. Through our inclusive and diversity-oriented educational formats, which are created by and for young people, participants are empowered to become active citizens committed to a pluralistic and open Europe.
Peer Education – education for and by young people
Understanding Europe works with the approach of Peer Education1, which aims to strengthen participation and self-determination. Peers are people who move in common social spaces and share similar interests and experiences. In our project, Peers are between 16 and 27 years old, and because of their own lived experiences are able to connect and relate to the life and perspectives of young people. They act as role models and mediators at eye level in the classrooms, implement projects on site, develop new educational material, and organize trainings for their regional groups. The project team at the Schwarzkopf Foundation coordinates and empowers the Peers and considers itself a learning partner and advisor in this process.
Inclusive and diversity-oriented democratic citizenship education
The aim of Understanding Europe’s educational formats is to enable broad access, and encourage self-determination and participation for all. In our workshops, which are targeted at students aged 14 and older, the Peers use real-life and low-threshold, application-oriented approaches and methods of democratic citizenship education. The aim of democratic citizenship education is to support citizens’ competences to actively participate in a democratic society. This process is supposed to evolve into an inclusive learning environment that must always be developed with the respective learning group. We therefore consider a participative, diversity-sensitive2 racism-critical 3 attitude of the Peers as an important prerequisite for inclusive education.
Competences for democratic cultures
We teach young people values, attitudes, skills and knowledge for taking democratic action in Europe. Understanding Europe focuses on the development of Peers’ competences and personal skills by enabling them to implement diverse educational and democratic projects themselves. It is through their participation in collaborative transnational education projects that they experience self-efficacy and reduce prejudices. They learn to listen, to be empathetic and to develop a tolerance for ambiguity4. The Peers then pass on these experiences to students in the workshops. Our concept of competence development is based on the reference framework “Competences for Democratic Cultures” of the Council of Europe (2018)5.
- Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie e. V. (2019): lebensweltnah & partizipativ – Mit Peer Education gesellschaftliche Vielfalt und Demokratie fördern
- Fereidooni, Karim (2020): Diversity-Sensitive Approaches and Competences in Pedagogical Work. In: Educational Briefing 2020. p. 4-10.
- Fereidooni, Karim (2019): Racism-Critical Pedagogy for Teachers and Multipliers in the Education Sector.
- Lenz, Claudia (2020): Tolerance of ambiguity –A Central Concept for Democratic Citizenship Education in Diverse Societies. In: Educational Briefing 2020. p. 12-20.
- Martyn Barrett et al. (2016): Competences for Democratic Culture – Living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies. Council of Europe.