issue 1, year 1
Look at the webpage that we have reserved to our IAB, you can consult their bios, their publications, the projects they are invoved in at the moment.
But if you want to know why they decided to support us, and what are the challenges they see in our project, you (and we) have to hear from them…
For the first issue of the CATCH-EyoU newsletter we asked Martyn Barrett, who can be considered the “stepfather” of the project.
SPOTLIGHT. AN INTERVIEW WITH MARTYN BARRETT
Martyn, you coordinated the FP7 PIDOP project, you work as an expert advisor for the Council of Europe on the development of democratic and intercultural competence, and you are currently leading a project entitled Competences for Democratic Culture for the Council of Europe . What is Europe for you? Which are according to your research the competencies for democratic culture that should be promoted among young Europeans nowadays?
There are two questions here. One is: What is Europe for me? For me, Europe is above all else a continent that contains an enormous and incredibly rich variety of national groups, ethnic groups, faith groups, political groups, linguistic groups, and so on. This internal cultural diversity is the single most striking, exciting and enriching characteristic of Europe for me. The continent and its peoples cannot be reduced to a single set of core essential features – Europe has never been culturally homogeneous and it never will be.This diversity has important implications for answering your second question: What competences need to be promoted among young Europeans nowadays? Diversity brings not only variation and richness to Europe – it also brings significant and serious challenges. We are currently witnessing these challenges on a daily basis in the news: rising and very frightening levels of intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and hate crime towards minority ethnic and religious groups; the rise of xenophobic, far-right, populist political parties in many European countries; the complex and seemingly intractable problems associated with violent extremism, radicalisation and terrorism; and the truly horrible attitudes which have developed in Europe in recent months towards desperate refugees fleeing from terrible wars in which some European states have been major and culpable players. And all of these challenges are aggravated still further by large numbers of European citizens simply washing their hands of conventional politics, disengaging from mainstream political parties and conventional political processes, a pattern that is almost certainly linked to growing levels of cynicism and distrust in mainstream politicians, political parties and governments.The thing that saddens me so much about these current trends within Europe is that we know from existing research that education can play a crucial role in addressing so many of these critical challenges. We know that appropriate educational input and practices can boost citizens’ democratic engagement, we know that educational interventions can be used to reduce hatred, prejudice and intolerance towards the members of other national, ethnic and religious groups, and we know that support for violent extremism and acts of terrorism can be reduced through educational initiatives. Yet many European governments have simply failed to develop effective school curricula in citizenship education that serve to equip young people with the competences which they need to function as responsible active citizens. So, to come back to your question about my current project on Competences for Democratic Culture for the Council of Europe, in this project we are developing a new European reference framework of the competences which young people need to acquire in order to engage effectively with democratic processes and to participate in respectful intercultural dialogue with others who are perceived to have different cultural affiliations from themselves. The kinds of competences that we have identified include values (such as valuing human dignity and human rights, valuing cultural diversity, and valuing democracy, justice and fairness), attitudes (such as openness to cultural otherness, civic-mindedness, respect, responsibility and self-efficacy), skills (such as skills of listening and observing, empathy, communicative and plurilingual skills, and analytical and critical thinking skills), and knowledge and critical understanding (of the self, of language and communication, of politics, of human rights, of culture and cultures, etc.).We are currently writing documentation on how the reference framework can be used to renew national curricula in citizenship education, to develop new and more effective pedagogical methods to enhance these core democratic competences in young people, and to develop new forms of assessment which will support and encourage the acquisition of these competences. When it is completed, the framework and its accompanying documentation are going to be presented to the education ministries of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. This process will start in April in Brussels at a conference of the education ministers of the member states which has been convened to show-case the framework. We already have active expressions of interest in the framework from 10 ministries of education (and indeed one member state has already begun to plan teacher training programmes in the use of the framework), and we are very much hoping that the Brussels conference will awaken interest in many more countries. Sorry. My answers to your first two questions have been long! I’ll try to be more succinct in responding to your other questions.
How would you define the CATCH-EyoU project in 5 words? Ambitious, innovative, exciting, highly likely to lead to some very significant advances in our understanding of young people’s citizenship attitudes and behaviours, but also extremely demanding in terms of the work that is involved!
Which are the main strengths of the CATCH-EyoU project in your perspective? One of them is the fact that it is a multidisciplinary project. We know that active citizenship is influenced by factors operating at many different levels: political, economic, historical, institutional, educational, social, familial and psychological. And we know from the PIDOP project that the factors at these different levels interact in complex ways to drive young people’s citizenship behaviour. This means that collaboration between social scientists who work at different levels such as political scientists, sociologists, media analysts, psychologists and educationists is vital to obtain an integrated understanding of attitudes and behaviour in this area. Another major strength is the fact that the project is multinational. Data are going to be collected in several different national contexts. This is going to enable the project to explore and document the variability of citizenship attitudes and behaviours across a large range of different cultural settings. I am going to be fascinated to see the results.
“education can play a crucial role in addressing so many of these EU critical challenges.”
And its main challenges? Its logistical complexity. Plus, conducting a massive amount of research on what is actually very little funding, once the total amount of the grant is broken down across the numerous teams in the consortium and across the full duration of the grant. Those are the practical challenges. The principal intellectual challenge is going to be integrating explanations across disciplines and across the different levels of description which each discipline will yield in the project.
Which commonalities and which differences do you see comparing PIDOP and CATCH-EyoU projects? CATCH-EyoU is much more ambitious than PIDOP. It incorporates first-hand original empirical research on many explanatory factors which PIDOP only covered through the systematic review of existing research. Commonalities are numerous of course. Many members of the CATCH-EyoU project also worked on PIDOP, and this means that the understandings which these individuals derived through working on PIDOP can be, and indeed have been, transfused directly into the new project.
Martyn, you coordinated the FP7 PIDOP project and you know many of the team members of the CATCH-EyoU consortium. Based on your experience with EU projects, do you have any “special” recommendation or advice for Prof. Elvira Cicognani the CATCH-EyoU Coordinator, and eventually for any H2020 coordinator? To have compassion and understanding of the huge workloads which each team is carrying! To ensure that all teams adhere as closely as possible to the project milestones and deliverables that have been specified in advance – these kinds of projects can rapidly start to unravel once individual teams or work packages drift from the anticipated timetable. To be alert to possible changes that might need to be made to the work plan as the project proceeds. To always keep the EC project officer informed of any significant problems that might arise during the course of the project, and to discuss with the project officer ways that can be used to minimise the impact of such problems on the remainder of the project. And to keep smiling throughout!