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Mapped: Democratic Values at School

How democratic is our learning environment? We invited17 year old students at HTL Villach to analyse and map out democratic values they experience at school. Art has a positive impact, they say.

In 2023, we saw the average global democracy score fall to its lowest level since 2006, when the Economist Intelligence Unit published its first Democracy Index. Less than 8% of the world’s population now live in a full democracy, while almost 40% live under authoritarian rule. Against this backdrop, 20 students were asked to map out democratic values in the context of their school environment.

To sum up, we can say that students experience democratic values in the architecture of their school building as well as in interpersonal situations. For example, the section of the building where the headmaster‘s office is located stands out as a friendly, warm and welcoming area, thanks to the artworks that are placed there. The laboratory is described as a rather authoritarian, fear-loaded space – the difficult subjects and heavy exams that are situated in this area of the building give it a less positive touch. The outdoor space is perceived as a conversational, open-minded and friendly area. And the sportshall symbolises a space where students can freely express themselves, broaden their horizons, increase their team spirit, enjoy mutual respect and tolerance, learn to stick to the rules, play games and celebrate team and individual successes.

Most importantly, students realised that the better their 21st century skills, such as writing skills, critical thinking skills, empathy, creativity and team skills, the better they can participate in and ensure democratic processes at school and elsewhere.

Democratic schools encourage independent thought and celebrate humanity.

This project was carried out in cooperation with Poetry in Business and funded by OEAD and BM Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung.


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