Teachers in Europe working with learners from 9/10 years old up to higher education have the possibility to contribute to the piloting of the descriptors of competence for democratic culture in the framework of a Council of Europe project, endorsed by the ministers of education.

The piloting requires a preparation which can be done through an online course with the estimated duration of 5-6 hours and implies the organisation of educational activities, observation and filling-in an online questionnaire. Access to the online questionnaires and to the additional materials needed for the piloting is allowed only to teachers having attended a face to face workshop or the online course. The online course is open from June 2016 and can be followed by interested teachers at any time until the end of October 2016. Details are available at www.coe.int/competences.

The model of competences for democratic culture

The Council of Europe developed a model of competences that an individual needs in order to act as a responsible democratic citizen in culturally diverse societies. The model, developed by the project on “Competences for Democratic Culture” (CDC) consists of 3 sets of values, 6 attitudes, 8 skills, and 3 bodies of knowledge and critical understanding. These 20 competences are listed in the following diagram. Education which aims to prepare children and young people for their future lives as active democratic citizens needs to foster the development of these 20 competences.

Competences for Democratic culture


 How were the 20 competences identified?

Over 100 existing schemes of democratic and intercultural competence that have been proposed by academic researchers, national institutions and international organisations were audited and analysed. The CDC working group established by the Council of Europe identified the common core competences contained across all of these schemes. A draft document describing the model resulted was circulated in an international consultation involving academic experts, educational practitioners, educational policymakers, and experts nominated by the education ministries of Council of Europe member states. The responses received in the consultation strongly endorsed the contents of the model.

What are competence descriptors?

Descriptors are short statements of what a person is able to do if they have mastered a particular competence. They provide clear and explicit descriptions of the behaviours that are associated with the mastery of that competence. Some concrete examples are provided below.

Descriptors for civic-mindedness include:

  • Takes action to stay informed about civic issues
  • Collaborates with other people for common interest causes
  • Expresses the belief that helping other people is something that everyone should do

Descriptors for analytical and critical thinking skills include:

  • Can analyse materials in a logical or systematic manner
  • Uses evidence to support his/her opinions
  • Can make evaluations on the basis of evidence and experience

Descriptors for knowledge and critical understanding of the media include:

  • Can reflect critically on how the mass media are commodities that involve producers and consumers
  • Can explain what propaganda is
  • Can reflect critically on the effects of media content on individuals’ judgements and behaviours

All of the descriptors in the CDC framework are formulated using the language of learning outcomes. The current set of descriptors submitted to piloting have been validated through teachers’ ratings in an international survey involving 1236 teachers in 53 countries. Overall, there are 559 descriptors submitted to piloting but an individual teacher will only focus on a limited number of them.