No. 12




Models of democracy and citizenship education in Estonian formal education: searching for a missing link

  • Anu Toots

    Tallinn University, School of Governance, Law and Society

Civics has been taught in Estonian general educational system since the very beginning of transition. Although a lot has been done, results are regarded mostly as dissatisfactory. According to the IEA CivEd Study Estonian students support neither conventional nor social movement citizenship model; they are below the international indicators almost at all attitudinal scales.

Author argues that there are two reasons for this situation. Firstly, citizenship curriculum is not put into theoretical context of models of democracy; instead it is left at the very general, even fragmented level. Secondly, teaching and learning goals have been set based on highly idealistic model of a “good citizen”. Therefore, it is not surprising that such goals cannot be reached.

The article uses four models of democracy suggested by D. Held to elaborate different types of citizenship. This matrix is then applied to the contemporary Estonian political culture and educational policy. Adding also empirical data from IEA CivEd Study and from national surveys, author suggests that different models have different potential to be implemented in Estonia. Taking into account traditions of teaching civics, as well as established pattern of educational policy makes the liberal, representative and elitist models seem to have better perspectives. At the same time, the European Union and the Council of Europe advocate strongly the pluralist and community democracy models. Nevertheless, successful introduction of the latter models, based on social movement citizenship, is dependant on domestic institutional framework. These models presuppose active engagement of civil society actors both into curriculum development and its implementation, which today is still just an imaginary possibility.

In conclusion, every model of democracy needs to be adjusted to the relevant implementation framework; otherwise a link between democratic theory and citizenship practices will be missing.

Full article in Estonian