School's role in democracy in focus of international conference
Schools are expected to play a crucial role in the formation of a democratic society, and to educate democratic citizens. But how does it do this and how should teacher education work to promote this work? This question was the focus of the Teacher Education for Democracy and Wellbeing conference, which brought together some 40 teacher educators from ten countries at Linnaeus University over two days in January.
“Schools are an important stakeholder in building a stable democracy. This means that we in teacher education must educate future teachers about these issues," says Charlotte Silander, associate professor of political science at Linnaeus University, Sweden, and one of the organisers of the conference.
“We need to learn more about how to train students to work on issues such as democracy, tolerance and diversity in teacher education.”
The conference aims to provide an opportunity for those working in teacher education at different universities and in different countries to meet and exchange experiences.
“There is a great need for international cooperation in teacher education. This is one way to contribute to that,” says Charlotte Silander.
The issue of the importance of education for democratic citizenship was the focus of Mikael Persson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who was one of the keynote speakers at the conference.
“Yes, education matters. The highly educated participate in politics and vote in political elections at a higher rate. But that may not be the decisive factor," says Mikael Persson, adding:
“School cannot solve everything. We must have realistic expectations of what it can achieve.”
Mikael Persson concludes with some tips on how teachers can create a climate that promotes democratic values in schools:
“There needs to be an open classroom climate, where different opinions can be heard and social and political issues are discussed," says Mikael Persson. “It's good to use new media and different teaching methods, in combination with traditional teaching. Evaluate continuously, and use the teaching methods that suit the class in question.”
Disa Bergnehr, Professor of Education at Linnaeus University.
Disa Bergnehr, Professor of Education at Linnaeus University, Sweden, was the second keynote speaker. She talked about how school health services can provide care and support in low achieving schools.
In conjunction with the conference, the Europan university EUniWell hosted a meeting for the EUniWell Teacher Education Arena. Representatives from the Universities of Florence, Cologne, Murcia and Linnaeus met on site in Kalmar, while representatives from the others participated in the online meeting.
The conference was organised by Charlotte Silander and Mattias Lundin from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Linnaeus University, in the form of Knowledge Environment Linnaeus: Education in Change.
The participants in the EUniWell Teacher Education Arena meeting.