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Active citizenship means people getting involved in their local communities and democracy at all levels, from towns to cities to nationwide activity. Active citizenship can be as small as a campaign to clean up your street or as big as educating young people about democratic values, skills and participation. Active citizenship is one of the most important steps towards healthy societies especially in new democracies like Hungary.
The Kurt Lewin Foundation conducted a one and a half year long research and development program in four schools located in eastern Hungary examining the relationship between schools and democratic citizenship. Students aged between 17 and 19 years old (11th–12th grade) and their teachers took part in the research which examined the place and impact of active citizenship, democratic values and social and political attitudes in education.
The report aimed to study the effect of the school as a place to develop the active citizenship of students. Though the concept of citizenship grounded in activity, responsibility and democratic values is emphasized in Hungarian educational policy, the views and opinions of the younger generation in Hungary are, it appears, changing in a direction not conducive to bolstering active citizenship. For this reason the Kurt Lewin Foundation constructed a research and educational project which comprised on the one hand an endeavour to enhance active citizenship by means of various developmental activities and on the other hand data collection around the issue of active citizenship.
As we understand it, active citizenship is a combination of knowledge, attitude, skills and actions that aim to contribute to building and maintaining a democratic society. Active Citizenship supports democratic cooperation that is based on the acceptance of universal human rights and the rule of law, values diversity and includes the whole community. Education towards gaining this knowledge and developing and practicing the skills take place in all levels of our shared social life, but schools play a very important role in it.
More and more, we see that extreme solutions are in demand when it comes to Europe’s problems. Active citizenship has a crucial role to play in this context to allow citizens to interrogate real solutions to problems rather than indulging in scapegoating, discrimination and other tactics peddled by extremists.