Project Citizen in Romania
Project Citizen is an interactive civic education methodology elaborated by the US-based Center for Civic Education and used in over 60 countries, usually with secondary school students. It includes the following steps displayed over a period of around 12 weeks:
Introduction on public policies and identification of community issues which require an intervention from local or regional public authorities
Selection of the issue which will be studied by the class
Research of information about the issue: data collected from various sources, including interviews with citizens affected by the problem, contacts with local authorities, experts, media, internet, etc.
Formulation of a solution to the problem in terms of a public policy proposal
Advocacy action plan (to influence authorities to consider the public policy proposal)
Elaboration of a portfolio
Presentation of the portfolio in an event organized at school level and, if possible, also in local events organized by multiple schools
Reflection on the learning experience
By going through this process, students are expected to develop:
Knowledge about the responsibilities and functioning of public institutions, about laws, procedures and decision-making processes
Knowledge and critical understanding of the role of citizens in a democracy
Positive attitudes towards civic participation, teamwork and constructive dialogue
Skills related to data collection, processing and interpretation, decision-making, cooperation, conflict management, public speaking, communication, organization, etc.
The Intercultural Institute of Timisoara is coordinating this program in Romania since 2003 when it became member of the CIVITAS network. The methodology and handbooks were adapted to the Romanian context and a partnership agreement was signed with the Ministry of Education, which recommends to all teachers of civic education to use Project Citizen as part of their teaching. Teachers from across the country were trained to use this method with their students. An enthusiastic response was received from students who loved the method and felt empowered by it. However, after several years of activities, when the funding from the CIVITAS Network ran out, it was difficult to keep the program going using only the resources of the system.
In 2016, an external evaluation study was done to assess the impact of the program and identify options for its further development. The evaluation study revealed that even if in some cases teachers continue to use this method with their students without any external support, this support is needed in most cases to ensure long-term sustainability.
Currently the program is running with financial support from the Romanian-American Foundation which allows the Intercultural Institute of Timisoara to offer a complex system of online and offline support for teachers and to train more teachers, with the aim to cover the entire country in a few years, allowing thus, every child in Romania to benefit from this methodology. The support system consists of an online platform where students upload information about their projects (www.cetateanul.intercultural.ro), regular local meetings with teachers who apply the method, resources and professional development opportunities offered by the Intercultural Institute of Timisoara and a national network of teachers who keep in touch with each other online.
Additionally, Project Citizen is a method that has the capacity to develop exactly the competences identified at European level as key for citizens living in democracies, which were recently presented by the Council of Europe in the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (www.coe.int/competences). The Intercultural Institute of Timisoara collaborated with the Council of Europe in this endeavor and used this framework in a re-adaptation of the Project Citizen method, particularly with regards to students’ competence assessment.