Schools are ‘microcosms of the society’ but social studies still lack behind


From an early age, schools needs to teach children thinking critically, interacting with others in a socially responsible manner, and support them in understanding why different groups have different interests and opinions, notes Eurydice. However, according to a recently published Eurydice Report on Recommended Annual Instruction Time in Full-time Compulsory Education in Europe 2017/18, in more than two-thirds of the education systems in Europe, with a defined minimum instruction time for social studies, it takes up only around 10% of the total instruction time, lacking far behind mathematics and natural sciences. In the primary education, it is even lower, with below 5% in Denmark, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Finland.

The report consists of a comparative analysis on the recommended minimum annual instruction time in full-time compulsory general education and its distribution across the curriculum subjects in 48 European education systems. It has found that since 2017/2018, there were no changes in the minimum instruction time in 25 education systems. Likewise, schools are still limited with respect to the allocation of instruction time per subject and the distribution of instruction time across grade levels and disciplines. ETUCE has repeatedly expressed its concerns regarding the fact that teachers in Europe are still often paid on the basis of instruction time, neglecting the time for lesson preparation, communicating with parents and the follow-up. Furthermore, teacher training often takes place outside of teachers’ working  hours, as found by the recent ETUCE Study ‘Education Trade Unions for the Teaching Profession: Strengthening the capacity of education trade unions to represent teachers’ professional needs in social dialogue’ (2018).

A particularly interesting finding of this year’s report is that instruction time of social studies is usually combined with another subject, such as citizenship education, in about one third of the education systems studied. ETUCE underlines the crucial role of social studies and citizenship education in promoting fundamental values of freedom, tolerance and respect for human dignity, and preparing committed, critical-thinking and active European citizens. This is highlighted in the Joint ETUCE, EFEE (European Federation of Education Employers) and ESHA (European School Heads Association) Joint Statement on Citizenship Education & EU Common values prepared in the framework of the joint EU CONVINCE project (EU Common Values Inclusive Education). Furthermore, the research report of the EU CONVINCE project underlines the crucial need for providing a relevant support to teachers, school leaders and other education personnel in implementing democratic citizenship and inclusive education at all levels of education.