Education ministers and officials from 50 countries attended the Council of Europe Standing Conference of Ministers of Education, in Brussels from 11-12 April, 2016, to discuss the theme “Securing democracy through education: The development of a Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture”.

Speaking at the event, which focuses on the democratic mission of education to face the challenges of violent extremism, migration and racism, Mr Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, commended the Council of Europe for “giving such high attention to the fundamental role of education in building and maintaining democracy and peace.”

Mr Tang presented UNESCO’s pioneering work on Global Citizenship Education and on Preventing Violent Extremism through Education, including the new UNESCO Teachers’ Guide on the Prevention of Violent Extremism and a forthcoming Guide for Policymakers to be launched in September this year in Paris.

In his welcoming remark, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe said: “If we want to promote democratic ideals we need to promote values, teach children to live with others equally.”

Minister of Education for the Flemish Community of Belgium Ms Hilde Crevits said: “In the long term education will be more important than any anti-terrorist law. Education plays a pivotal role in safety and security in Europe and beyond.”

The European Commissioner for Education, culture and sports Mr Tibor Navracsics added “While education is not the only solution, there is no other solution without education.”

New education tool to teach democratic values

The event also launched a new tool for teaching democracy and democratic values. The Reference Framework of Competences required to participate in Democratic Culture, developed by the Council of Europe with input from over a thousand teachers and experts across the continent, was launched at the event.

“UNESCO is supporting countries to deliver education programmes that build young people’s resilience to violent extremist messaging and foster a positive sense of identity and belonging” said Mr Tang. He also expressed the hope that the event would help strengthen collaboration between UNESCO and the Council of Europe in providing effective citizenship education to prevent extremism and combat radicalization and a look at the relationship between European and global challenges.

In a Final Declaration, the Ministers of Education invite the Council of Europe to reinforce cooperation with strategic partners in order to further support education reforms in member States, including the United Nations system and its agencies, notably UNESCO, for its work on global citizenship education and the prevention of violent extremism.