Island News

What is civic education?

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Welcome to the first part of a series of articles brought to you by the National Initiative on Civic Education (NICE) Project. As you
17 Apr 2010 12:00

image Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Welcome to the first part of a series of articles brought to you by the National Initiative on Civic Education (NICE) Project.
As you go through the articles each week, we hope to take you through a journey which hopefully will make you understand democracy, its principles and concepts, through Civic Education.
Understanding democracy and how it works, will also enable you to understand your roles as a Fiji citizen and more importantly, in contributing to a peaceful, stable and prosperous multi-ethnic society.
This week you will learn about Civic Education and the reason why it matters!
You may have heard the term before over the radio, national television or read about it in newspapers and magazines, but never understood its role.
Put simply, Civic Education is a process and a tool at same time, for citizens to learn how to effectively participate in the democratic and development processes of a country, both at local and national levels.
It is an important means of enhancing the capacity of society by empowering and preparing its people for civic engagement.
It is essential in strengthening a society’s ability to manage its own affairs.
At the core of Civic Education are the values and principles of transparency, participation, responsiveness, accountability, empowerment and equity.
Because Civic Education is targeted at changing attitudes, raising awareness and knowledge levels, perception and behaviour, communication and access to information are key and integral aspects to Civic Education.
Civic Education is generally understood to comprise of three elements: civic disposition (values), civic knowledge and civic skills.
Let’s look at each of these three elements separately.
Civic disposition involves citizens:
n Developing confidence to be able to participate in civic life (the life and time a citizen devotes or commits to public interests or engagements)
n Participating in civic life
n Assuming the roles, rights and responsibilities usually associated with citizenship in democratic systems
n Being open, tolerant and responsible in exercising their rights and responsibilities
Civic knowledge ensures citizens:
n Understand their role in public life and politics
n Know their social and economic rights as well as their political and civil rights
n Understand the roles, rights and responsibilities of citizens
Civic skills involve citizens:
n Acquiring the ability to explain, analyze, interact, evaluate, defend a position, and monitor processes and outcomes
n Using knowledge for informed participation in civic and political processes

So Why is Civic Education Important?

Civic Education is a critical and effective empowerment tool for promoting citizen participation in democratic and development processes.
It empowers citizens, both as individuals and as part of collective groupings. Citizen participation is built by protecting individual and collective rights and ensuring appreciation of each citizen’s obligations to the society of which s/he is a part.
Civic Education can also play a significant role in reducing poverty and achieving our development goals.

Is Civic Education the same as Civic Engagement?

Civic Education and civic engagement are not one and the same.
Civic engagement is stimulated, enhanced and deepened through Civic Education, that is, by developing the civic disposition (values), civic knowledge and civic skills of citizens.
Civic Education is thus a mechanism for civic engagement. Civic engagement consists of several interrelated but distinct processes. These include people being involved in decision-making, participating and contributing to development and political processes, and sharing the benefits from these processes.
Service learning (learning while involved in some kind of community service) and civic volunteering are two forms of civic engagement that contribute to greater participatory democracy and strengthening civic community.
Creating space and opportunities for voluntary action, especially for national volunteers in areas ranging from supporting people living with HIV/AIDS to electoral assistance and humanitarian relief, makes an important contribution to more cohesive societies by building trust among citizens.
Some local CSOs (civil society organizations) have volunteer programmes. By being active members in them, you are contributing to the strengthening of democracy.

Civic Education for All

Civic Education must be inclusive because all citizens – male and female; young and old; civil servants; politicians; rural or urban – can benefit from Civic Education programmes.
A reinforcement of civic values, civic skills and an enhancement of the knowledge base of all citizens can make a significant contribution to achieving the nation’s development objectives.
In Fiji, the National Initiative on Civic Education (NICE) project is responsible for civic education.
NICE is a Fiji Government programme directly executed by the UNDP, with support from the European Union and NZaid.
The major objective of the project is to create an informed, responsible and active citizenry through information, advocacy and awareness-raising amongst the adult population, of the principles and institutions of democratic governance in Fiji.
Ultimately, it is hoped, this would contribute to a peaceful and stable nation where the risks for instability seen in previous years would be reduced.
In the upcoming weeks NICE will bring to you relevant and important civic education topics, with the hope that you may better understand democracy and its concepts, how it works, and your role in sustaining and strengthening it.
It is also hoped that you may be inspired to start contributing to nation building (participating), for the common good of all.
This article was supplied by the National Initiative on Civic Education (NICE) Project, a Fiji Government Programme directly executed by the United Nations Development Programme, with support from NZAID and the European Union.
The article is based on Community Civic Education modules developed and used by the Project in Fiji.
NICE’s major objective is to create an informed, responsible and active citizenry through impartial, neutral and non-partisan civic education.
The NICE Project’s Vision is: “To Have a Peaceful, Stable, Participatory and Democratic Fiji Islands”.

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