At the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 26 November 2019 in Paris, the Ministers of Education of the Member States approved a joint Ministerial Declaration on Citizenship education in the digital era. The declaration reflects the common commitment of these states to prepare citizens for life in the digital era.
Emphasis on fundamental values
The Declaration defines digital citizenship as “the ability to engage positively, critically and competently in the digital environment, drawing on the skills of effective communication and creation, practicing forms of social participation that are respectful of human rights and dignity through the responsible use of technology.” The education should provide digital skills and competences for democratic culture to citizens. Furthermore, education should lead citizens to become responsible, informed and active members of the society in the digital era. The concept of digital citizenship education is described in the Digital Citizenship Education Handbook.
Today, digital technology and internet are part of our everyday lives and are changing interpersonal relationships. That is why the Declaration places particular emphasis on the fundamental values that form the base of our society and cohesion. These values include human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The need to start from an early age
The digital environment and technology offer citizens unique opportunities in expressing their opinions, discovering new knowledge, creative self-realization, learning, socialization and communication. In this respect, it is essential that citizens are those who control various digital instruments, and not the other way around. That is why the Declaration emphasizes the need to build digital competences from an early age, and build them for everybody, who can learn.
A special attention should be paid to the young people since it is them who are exposed the most to digital technologies. They must be prepared for potential risks and negatives that digital technologies carry. At the same time, however, they should be aware of the benefits of these technologies in the development of their education and be able to critically and analytically assess the mass of different information that they get through the digital world.
The Declaration also addresses artificial intelligence and bias in algorithms and emphasizes that education should pay sufficient attention to this topic. These algorithms often limit our freedom of choice and promote content that is often controversial. Despite these risks, however, the Declaration recognizes promising potential for artificial intelligence as an educational tool.
Specific commitments of Member States
In the declaration, Member States also commit to take concrete steps. These commitments include, for example:
At the same time, Digital Citizenship Education should contribute to meeting the commitments made under the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which aims, among other things, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality of education for all.