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''Fare gli italiani'': citizenship education and the difficult pathway from migrants to citizens

Citizenship Education and Migrants’ Integration

Citizenship education: main guidelines
Similarly to the concept of integration, there is not one agreed definition of citizenship education among the European States. However, theoretical illustrations and guidelines are provided by the Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) strategic framework.
First, the citizenship education’s purpose is to inform students about the juridical dimension of citizenship, i.e., about the formal and informal rules of citizenship and the rights and duties they hold according to national Constitutions and laws. As previously seen, citizenship is today a multi-level concept, being enacted at local, national, European and international levels.

Accordingly, the legal status and expected behaviors envisaged by legal citizenship at a national level are reflected at supranational level too. Therefore, the basic knowledge of International and European Human Rights Treaties and Conventions (while deeper knowledge is up to University studies) should be promoted together with national Constitutions and laws (ET 2020).
In this regard, on the 10th December, 2004 the General Assembly of the United Nations established the World Program for Human Rights Education to introduce Human Rights issues in States Members’ educational programs (General Assembly’s resolution 59/113). This document has been promoted in order to teach students national and international democratic values and to promote respect for the fundamental rights which govern the life of citizens today. A common understanding, basic principles and methodologies of Human Rights education are expected to be progressively advanced together with the promotion of a concrete framework for action.

Second, this kind of teaching should promote a sense of belonging and identity, therefore enhancing active citizenship, i.e., participation to political and social life at a local and national level and gradually also at a supra-national level (Ibid).Nevertheless, this last point implies several obstacles, as addressed later in the essay.

The nexus between migrants’ integration and citizenship education
Even if it has not been explicitly made, it is possible to highlight a nexus between migrants’ integration and citizenship education. To begin with, by informing the students (migrants and natives) about the juridical dimension of citizenship (i.e., rights, duties and rules governing the national and European social and political systems), school will make students aware of what they can or have to do in practical terms and explain them which national and supra-national values do underpin those rules, rights and behaviors.
While awareness of fundamental values and rules seems obvious to most European natives, it is often not so for several migrants. On the contrary, migrants students may not know the rules of the country they live in. This occurs either because they come from a different social and political background or, even if born in the host country, adhere to diverse values and behaviors as conveyed by their parents.

The case of Muslims communities (Galli Della Loggia, 2016) highlighted in Chapter One is relevant here again. Several values and norms embedded in are often disregarded within their communities. By contrast, as the communities’ members adhere to norms expressed in their specific cultural and religious systems rather than abiding by the European States’ Constitutions, it is not easy for kids to get to know and fully understand the rules and values of the host country. Education is, therefore, needed to shed light on that and to show how to become good citizens.

Nonetheless, such kind of knowledge is not enough to become good citizens effectively. A possible negative outcome is that migrants learn the national and international rules and the democratic values as a sort of external dictation, completely far away from themselves, their communities and the perspectives about the world they have been socialized within their families.
By contrast, young migrants should spontaneously adhere to citizenship rules ad values. These should progressively become an integral part of their life and their way to behave. Moreover, rules and values should be shared with other community’s members so that everyone knows what to expect of each other and which conducts are to be avoided. In this regard, the actions of educational institutions to promote citizenship identity become significantly important, so much that it could be defined as the core element affecting the integration process.

Namely, school should orientate students towards a new kind of selfview as well. In other words, feeling a members of the host State, rather than foreigners. This perspective rejects the idea that identity -to be meant as citizenship identity -is perpetually static (Bertozzi, 2012). Instead, people build up their own identity – both as persons and as citizens of a country -through social interactions (Ibid). Consequentially, identity can also be modified, according to the relations an individual establishes throughout his or her life.

The educational institutions are, therefore, expected to become a kind of «crossing point», fostering the process of meeting, sharing and exchanging experiences, values, narrations, social and cultural backgrounds which have come to coexist in the same place at the same time (Bertozzi, 2012). The aim is to make easier for foreign students to progressively feel part of the class social context, by helping these kinds of relationships to grow. This is the first step to progressively feel part of the broader national or at least regional social community and to develop willingness among young migrants to progressively engage in local and national political and social life (Ibid).
Consistent with the multi-level evolution of the contemporary citizens, a further ambition would be that of creating a sense of belonging and willingness to be active citizens into a wider community, for example a European entity, among migrants and natives. It goes without saying that working on a multi-level moral dimension is far more challenging and hard to come than acting merely on the juridical dimension.

Looking at a European Union level, difficulties own to a key reason. Namely, EU’s fairly low participatory nature from both the political and social perspectives. As far as the earlier perspective is concerned, States’ citizens are very rarely called to directly participate to the EU’s political life and decision-making process, except from when voting to elect their representatives to the European Parliament. Moreover, the EU’s main legal acts are Directives, addressed to States rather than directly to citizens. It is true that other legal acts– such as, Regulations -are instead addressed to national or legal persons, yet these are generally less frequent.

Focusing on social participation, various forms of social engagement at European level already exist. By way of illustration, let’s consider exchange and cooperative programs such as the Erasmus program and the European Volunteering Service. The Erasmus program gives students the possibility to interact with their colleagues from different countries of the world and to make academic research together.
The European Volunteering Service makes instead young people cooperate in order to achieve a common purpose which brings benefits to their communities, especially to disadvantaged and most vulnerable groups. Activities range among a variety of fields: health, culture, international cooperation and development, environment protection. For examples, teaching children -also migrant children -in a foreign country (always member of the EU), volunteering into Hospital sectors, cleaning or improving the environment.
The main shortcoming of these projects is that sometimes an adequate harmonization among different countries is missed. Namely, the national recognition of study programs and skill levels of the activities made abroad is not so immediate and easy. Consequentially, this undermines the projects’ effectiveness and can act as a disincentive for young people to undertake such experiences.

Due to all these factors, the EU finally ends up being more an exclusive and bureaucratic rather than political and participatory entity. It is, therefore, difficult to develop a sense of belonging and attachment to such an entity which does not help the citizens’ active engagement in the social and political life. On the contrary, people living within Member States often see the EU far away from their live.
Distance and lack of voice are key issues for both migrants and natives themselves. The earlier are especially those born in different areas of the world (who had never heard about the European Union before), even if they have been socialized to the basic national and European values. Besides, lack of knowledge and faith in the European institutions is a fairly common feeling(e.g., Brexit in June 2016).

However, steps forward positive improvements are being made. Social, cooperative programs are more and more efficient and have been extended so to include new fields as well (think about the new Erasmus plus programs, encompassing also sport activities). Furthermore, the European Commission has recently started a number of projects and activities aimed at better informing people about existing participatory channels and enhancing their level of interest and willingness to contribute to the formulation of European policies.
Examples include public consultations, periodically launched by the EC, to illustrate the programmed initiatives and allow people to express their own opinions. Further examples are dialogues with citizens and civic dialogues, between the EC and civil society’s organizations specializing in a range of sectors.

In conclusion, it emerges that creating a wider sense of belonging is not at all impossible. Nevertheless, this should entail radical changes affecting the EU’s main mechanisms. Positive steps forward have already been made, yet they still need time to be known by citizens and to improve their functioning mechanisms so to be fully efficient. Higher participation and engagement should, therefore, be regarded now as also long-term outcomes.

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''Fare gli italiani'': citizenship education and the difficult pathway from migrants to citizens

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Informazioni tesi

  Autore: Irene Landini
  Tipo: Tesi di Laurea Magistrale
  Anno: 2016-17
  Università: Università degli Studi di Padova
  Facoltà: Scienze Politiche
  Corso: Human Rigths and Multi-Level Governance
  Relatore: Andrea Maccarini
  Lingua: Inglese
  Num. pagine: 120

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