Defining participatory democracy and development of digital competence in school education (EE0047)
Action Plan: Estonia’s Third OGP Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Ministry of Education and Research
Support Institution(s): Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, Foundation Innove, Information Technology Foundation for Education, Government Office, universities; Interested citizen initiatives, teachers, school administrators, students
Policy AreasCapacity Building, E-Government, Education, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery
Description of the current situation or problem resolved with the commitment An open and engaging policy presumes the development of the social and ICT knowledge and skills of all citizens and especially the younger generation, in view of the opportunities of the information society and the e-state. To attract IT interest in the youth, both the Government of the Republic and the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) have launched several initiatives. At the same time, the youth’s skills in using the opportunities of the e-state for exercising their civic rights and duties have received little attention so far. Several studies on the impact of users of e-services and lowering the voting age of the youth show the passiveness of Estonian youth in comparison with the young in other countries. Main aim School education supports the defining of participatory democracy in the context of modern open governance and obtaining the necessary digital competences for coping in the information society. Short description of the commitment (max 140 characters) In the development work of the subject syllabi of social subjects between 2016 and 2018 the Ministry of Education and Research shall consult with the respective interest groups, incl. civil society organisations. The interested parties, non-governmental organisations etc. shall submit their proposals for supplementing/renewing the learning aims and learning outcomes of the field of social subjects in accordance with the general part of the syllabus.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 9: Defining participatory democracy and development of digital competences in school education
In the development work of the subject syllabi of social subjects between 2016 and 2018 the Ministry of Education and Research shall consult with the respective interest groups, incl. civil society organizations. The interested parties, non-governmental organizations, etc. shall submit their proposals for supplementing/renewing the learning aims and learning outcomes of the field of social subjects in accordance with the general part of the syllabus.
9.1. The subject syllabi of social subjects will be updated by 2019 and the study materials necessary for studying and teaching will be made available through the digital study resources portal e-Koolikott.
9.2. Plans of the drafts of syllabi will be ready.
9.3. According to the national syllabus, the schools must prescribe the development of their students, including digital competences, in their syllabi. Foundation Innove advises schools in developing their syllabi.
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Education and Research
Supporting Institutions: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, Foundation Innove, Information Technology Foundation for Education, Government Office, universities, interested citizen initiatives, teachers, school administrators, students
Start Date: 1 January 2016
End Date: 31 December 2019
This commitment sought to foster participatory democracy by improving Estonian pupils’ competencies related to democratic citizen participation and the use of ICTs. To this end, the Ministry of Education and Research committed to updating the syllabi of social science subjects taught at the basic and secondary school level, consulting CSOs and interest groups in the process. Advisory activities were meant to support the use of the syllabi and to develop teaching materials for the digital learning portal e-Koolikott.
Although some related work had already begun before the start of the action plan, the IRM Progress Report documented only limited implementation of this commitment. By the midterm, the Ministry of Education and Research had formed a special model for digital competencies and a working group of two teachers and two researchers to develop the concept notes for social science subject syllabi. The actual development and advisory work and consultations with civil society and interest groups had not started.[Note 67: Please see the IRM progress report 2016-2017 for more details.]
End of Term: Limited
At the end of the action plan period, the completion of this commitment remains limited. According to the government’s self-assessment report, some progress was made following the midterm evaluation, though none of the milestones were complete.
By autumn 2018, the expert group responsible for developing the syllabi of social science subjects produced an initial concept note describing the core competences and learning outcomes for social science subjects and was in the process of drafting the new syllabi based on this work.[Note 68: Pille Liblik and Kaisa Musting (Ministry of Education and Research), interview by IRM researcher, 22 November 2018] According to the Ministry of Education and Research, a few selected interest groups had been consulted in the process, including the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, the National Institute for Health Development, and the School Students Union. However, it postponed all broader stakeholder consultations to 2019.
According to Pille Liblik and Kaisa Musting from the Ministry of Education and Research, the delays in implementation are due to the logic and pace of an ongoing broader national-level reform in school curricula. This reform centers on a new conceptual approach to learning, which aims to give teachers more autonomy in developing their own teaching methods and practices and to foster democratic decision-making practices at school.[Note 69: See https://www.hm.ee/en/learning-approach for more information] As the curricula of all subjects taught at school are integrated, the ministry did not consider it reasonable to start changing the syllabi for social science subjects before reaching an agreement on the overarching reform goals. Therefore, most of the actual work on developing the new syllabi (milestones 9.1 and 9.2) only started in 2018, in alignment with the process of reviewing the whole curriculum.
Regarding milestone 9.3 (advising schools), part of the milestone has been implemented. The Innove Foundation provides advice to schools on a needs basis to support the implementation of the digital competences model. However, all advisory activities regarding the adoption of the new syllabi for social sciences have been postponed until 2019–2020.
The government’s self-assessment report and the interviewed officials also highlight the recent introduction of the concept of human rights in general education as an achievement toward the goals of the commitment. However, as this activity was not originally part of the action plan, it is not included in the assessment of the commitment completion.
Did It Open Government?
Civic Participation: Did Not Change
Estonia consistently ranks high in digital development.[Note 70: See, for example, the Digital Economy and Society Index 2017: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/document.cfm?doc_id=43003 ] However, evaluations of young people’s digital skills have found that youths’ understanding and use of ICTs for civic participation and interaction with the government remains limited.[Note 71: Cenely Leppik, Hanna-Stella Haaristo, and Eve Mägi, IKT-haridus: Digioskuste Õpetamine, Hoiakud ja Võimalused Üldhariduskoolis ja Lasteaias (Tallinn: Praxis Centre for Policy Studies, 2017), 5-11, http://www.praxis.ee/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/IKT-hariduse-uuring_aruanne_mai2017.pdf. ] This commitment aimed to contribute to an educational system and support participatory democracy by fostering digital competences of pupils. This would enable young people to effectively participate in civil society in the digital era. Although the impact of curriculum development on actual civic participation can only be observed and evaluated in the long term, the commitment also included the aim of involving civil society and interest groups in the process. In this regard, the commitment could have potentially contributed to open government practices within the time frame of the action plan. However, as the implementation was significantly delayed and has so far not involved notable stakeholder consultation and engagement activities, it has not changed government practices regarding civic participation. Moreover, some experts who have closely observed the process also claim that information about the progress of the commitment has not been available to all interested stakeholders,[Note 72: Kaarel Haav (Estonian Education Forum), interview by IRM researcher, 8 November 2018] thus limiting effective participation. The Ministry of Education and Research justifies this choice based on the logic of the curriculum development process – a broader debate on the syllabi of social science subjects is seen as yielding more fruitful results once a group of experts has formulated an initial concept note.[Note 73: Pille Liblik and Kaisa Musting (Ministry of Education and Research), interview by IRM researcher, 22 November 2018]
This commitment has been carried forward to the next action plan (Commitment 6 – “Develop attitudes towards and skills in participatory democracy”). Because the implementation of the commitment milestones was delayed, some of the same activities have been extended into the next action plan. The new action plan’s commitment focuses on the consultation and involvement of interest groups (including CSOs and youth organizations) in the development of the national research and education strategy for 2021–2035 and digital and democratic participation-related competences in school curricula. As expert groups finalized their work on drafting the concept note for integrated syllabi of social subjects at the end of 2018, the document will be opened up for a broader stakeholder discussion and input from January to April 2019, mainly through discussion seminars.