mercredi 31 juillet 2013

Citizen engagement to transform education

Portraits of locally active young Europeans who contribute towards reinforcing communication and cohesion among inhabitants. Different initiatives – social, cultural or linked to citizen participation – which require to carry out a project, to use resources, to summon energies. Stories and testimonies about the paths of “ordinary people, endowed with an extraordinary willpower” as said by a former karate champion, who became an advocate for the values of courage and respect in the secondary schools of the Marne.

This is the kind of things I have been writing about since early spring. It is summer now and I keep on telling you these stories, hoping that they captivate and inspire you. But I should maybe put all of this into perspective again. What am I actually looking for? What are the questions I am asking myself? And how do these young project holders help me to progress in these questions?

Our changing world triggers challenges for our education

First, it is about observing that something is missing in our education. I had a quite successful school and university career; I acknowledge all its benefits, but I also know that I lacked some things.  Among other things, without any doubt, learning how group dynamics work.

A lot of studies agree on the point that nowadays, our educational model is not optimally adapted to the world. To have an idea about the different studies on this topic, I recommend you to read the excellent note “Training creative and collaborative knowledge-builders: a major challenge for21st century education”, written in 2009 by François Taddei in the framework of the OECD Innovation Strategy.

Our educational system does not take into account sufficiently at least three kinds of evolutions:
  • The evolution of information transmission. The Internet is now considered as a revolution as important as the introduction of printing.
  • Globalization and its impacts linked to mobility, meetings of cultures and the emergence of new cultures.
  • The evolution of the crisis. Its economic, social, environmental, political (crises of democracies) and – in some countries – demographic aspects have become structural.

These evolutions have many consequences. Even by looking only at their repercussions on sociability, one can notice the redefinition and the growing complexity of relationships among people. 


The action spectrum of interactions is now potentially unlimited, quantitatively and spatially. This triggers real opportunities. In parallel, one can notice a wilting of traditional forms of sociability and a lack of references to create new ones.

In our fast changing world, there are more and more possibilities, less and less recipes. The only recipe that seems to count is exactly the ability to live without any recipe: to adapt oneself, to show ingenuity and flexibility. These strategies are not always intuitive: one can learn and practise them.

Information, relationships to others and vocation

School, higher education and lifelong learning have obviously a role to play. First of all, through education, everyone could be perfectly aware that a changing world triggers both opportunities (and strategies in order to know how to seize them) and threats (and strategies in order to know how to protect oneself from them).

An education that would offer everyone a framework and tips to adapt oneself, to be creative...  This is an interesting prospect, but it also gives vertigo. To echo the three kinds of evolution I wrote about, education could attach more importance to developing strategies linked to:
  • Information. How could one learn and teach better while optimizing huge (and, in my opinion, slightly frightening) flows of information?
  • The relationships to others. To be oneself, to be with others, to be part of a group, to enjoy similarities and differences...
  • Vocation. How to find one's placeone's “element” as Ken Robinson says? What one likes to do and what one has a talent for, the field that gives one the feeling of usefulness and well-being.


Information, relationships to others, vocation: three fields that still require a lot of exploration, experimentation and creativity. In that sense, the theory of multiple intelligences can certainly help.

Education, project process and citizen engagement

To get back to my investigation, why do I interview young adults committed in citizen projects? What is actually the link between their stories and education?

First of all, it is about questioning the link between project process and education. From this point of view, I could also interview artists, performance creators and entrepreneurs working in any kind of field. The common point of these paths: they help to understand what the experience of an ambitious project can provide to one's self-development.

Some schools across the world have made the choice of offering “project-based learning”. By developing a project – from its original idea to its collective implementation and its impact measurement – pupils assimilate knowledge way better than through theoretical learning. In that way, they also have the possibility to develop other talents, such as the abilities to communicate well or to work in a team. These methods aim to give young people a taste for experimentation and creation, in order to trigger their wish to take initiatives.

Then, being interested in the paths of young Europeans whose action has effects on reinforcing the “living together”, I add a variable. Beyond the project process, I try to understand what may be the educational value of a commitment in favour of general interest, of an action towards others. This echoes my hypothesis that one has to learn the sense of otherness.


When I started my investigation, I had one word in mind: “skill”. And more precisely, “human skill”. This is quite a blurry concept, I admit... Today, I prefer to talk about “lessons in life”. Not in the meaning of lessons that one has to learn by heart, but in the meaning of “memorandums”, of “observations” made out of the stories of brave and inspiring paths.

Discover these life paths linked to projects in Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, and soon  in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece. In these paths, you may find some elements that would invite you to take a new look on education.

Because my approach is exploratory, I will not develop more today, despite the fact that I did not explain everything. Thank you for your attentive reading. I would love to know your opinion: feel free to use this blog's Facebook page.

1 commentaire: