On February 15, a Conference titled “The construction of the active citizenship of European young people: contributions for a discussion grounded on practices and policies” took place at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences (University of Porto). This Conference gathered youth stakeholders and members of the European Parliament around a common aim: to discuss the international results that emerged from the WP6, focused on the representations of the EU and youth active EU citizenship in educational contexts. In the Opening Session, conducted by Isabel Menezes (CIIE/FPCE.UP), José Alberto Correia (Director of FPCE.UP) and Lorenzo Floresta (IYP), the scope and breadth of the Project were introduced. In the first panel, the results from the 3-level analysis (textbooks’ analysis, interviews with teachers and focus groups with students) were presented by Carla Malafaia (CIIE/FPCE.UP) and the respective recommendations from the International Youth Panel were highlighted by Lorenzo Floresta (IYP). The discussion about the practical and political implications of such results took place in the two subsequent panels: 1) a roundtable with representatives of four youth organisations (National Federation of Associations of Basic and Secondary Education; National Youth Council; Platform Reset; National Federation of Youth Associations) to discuss the role of civil society organisations in promoting youth citizenship; 2) a symposium with two Portuguese Members of the European Parliament, Marisa Matias and Carlos Coelho, whose interventions were grounded on the contributions of CATCH-EyoU in terms of political structures and opportunities.
On February 20, in the same Faculty, a Seminar was held titled “The role of schools in promoting the active citizenship of European young people: teachers and students’ perspectives”. The Opening Session was conducted by Isabel Menezes (CIIE/FPCE.UP), José Alberto Correia (Director of FPCE.UP) and Sara Lopes (IYP), followed by a first panel dedicated to the presentation of the main results from the analysis of the Portuguese textbooks by Norberto Ribeiro (CIIE/FPCE.UP) and from the analysis of the interviews with teachers and the focus group discussions with students, by Filipe Piedade (CIIE/FPCE.UP) – Luís Grosso Correia (CIIE/FL.UP) and Carla Malafaia (CIIE/ FPCE.UP) chaired this panel. Based on these results, a roundtable was set up with four students who participated in the focus groups carried out in the study, representing the four schools that collaborated in the data collection in Portugal. The students’ comments on the results were moderated by two teachers, also from the participating schools (a History teacher and a School Principal). This discussion was then integrated in the final panel, chaired by Manuel Loff (FL.UP) and Sara Lopes (IYP), in which the Secretary of State of Education, João Costa, drew some considerations about the implications of CATCH-EyoU in terms of educational policies.
More than one hundred people participated in both the events, which were covered by local and national media, including widely-read Portuguese journals. One of the Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Marisa Matias, stressed the importance of promoting European citizenship, once “we are going through major transformations that motivate the reconfiguration of political structures”. About the shortcomings in the role of schools in fostering experiences to learn and practice citizenship (in- and outside the classroom), Carlos Coelho (MEP) stated the importance of “bringing citizenship into the school, of educating for participation”, acknowledging that “it lacked the capacity of reaching a consensus on what is fundamental learning”. The young students present in the Seminar also unanimously underlined that “schools have to create conditions for young people to be willing to participate”, fostering critical debate about central, political issues more than conveying “team-building type discourses” – as stated by one student referring to the motivational speeches that often go along with the preparation for the exams. Based on the students’ discussions, João Costa, the Secretary of State of Education, recognised that evaluation should not guide the school practices and the political role of school should be openly assumed, given that “an education project is always an ideological project; to pretend that it is not is the most dangerous thing to do”.
Calling the attention to initiatives aiming to connect schools and communities, Hugo Carvalho, president of the National Youth Council, mentioned the importance of local projects such as the participatory budget, “in which schools promote the election of a representative to execute a budget”, highlighting that “democracy and citizenship are to be experienced, they can not be learned only in books”. The same youth representative also noted that “plenty of youngsters commented on Brexit, plenty of youngsters commented on the election of Trump; we are increasingly away from traditional politics but we are attentive”. In fact, young people often play the role of “the poor relation of the State budget”, as stated by Tiago Manuel Rego, the representative of the National Federation of Youth Associations; this requires an ongoing effort to inscribe youth agendas in the policy-making sphere.