How to do that with young people who are educated in an „illiberal democracy” in the middle of Europe?
How to tackle hot and relevant issues to young people when they have only exceptional occassions to express themselves freely and openly. Yes, in the Hungary of 2016 it is not evident for young people to raise their voice and speak up. Most recently a Youth Parliament deleguate was silenced in a plenary session because he was very openly criticising the public education system and urged for immediate reforms.
This year DIA joined an international project initiated by the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) entitled Debating Threats to Democracy. 15 European countries are represented in this project all committed to the values of the European Union. In the project secondray school students participate in public debates, debate contests, debate related projects discussing issues such as xenophobia, segregation, equal opportunities, the lack of civic education and its consequences, etc. Furthermore, the DTTD gives an opportunity for participants to meet with their contempraries from the other countries and acquire skills in raisonning, debating, argumentation, critical thinking and team work. One of the outcomes of the project is a policy brief young people put together and presented in Brussels.
What we did so far was to support two major events. One was a national debate contest, Szókrakész, organized by the pilot school of ELTE University in Budapest. Apáczai Secondary School has a long history of debate clubs and debate training so that last year the enthousisastic teachers decided to organize debate contests for teams coming from all over Hungary. In May, 22 teams from 11 secondary schools participated working on the following motion: It is worth organizing major international sport events. Surprising as it can be, this a huge issue in Hungary now, since the government pursues its plans to organize the Games in 2024 while a majority of the population is against since it has become obvious what happened to former organizing cities and countries. The teams enjoyed that contest, had heated debates and the winning team together with the organizing team went to Vilnius to the international DTTD event. The organizers will continue the tradition and will be involved in the school’s debate club which is open to students from other schools and the next debate contest is already in the making.
The other significant event which was organized under the auspices of DTTD was the General Assembly of the Independent Student Parliament (ISP). Our contribution was to help the organizers with debate and facilitation methods. The Assembly consists of a series of working group and plenary session s where close to 100 participants debate issues related to public education and the aim is to come up with policy briefs which will then be brought to the attention of decision makers in the State Secreteriat for Education (since Hungary does not have a Ministry of Education). The day when we worked together was a tough but very promising one. Student from all over Hungary from all kinds of backgrounds debated issues such as democracy in schools, civic education, student self governments, equal opportunities, school segregation, professional development for teachers, etc. After the 2 day event students will keep working in their groups until the next Assembly when they will present their policy briefs and make decisions on how to present them. A few participants expressed strong interest in building international relations through DTTD so will participate in the upcoming event in Bratislava.
In the same time, ISP is very active in speaking up for students’ and teachers’ rights in their schools and in the media. They are real role models for young people who care about democracy and its values.
DIA has long been committed to developing young people’s debating skills. Since we started being involved in such activities we have come far and achieved a lot. We trained hundreds of techers/coaches, over a thousand secondary school students who participated in debate clubs, public events, debate contests and various projects in their schools where they debated relevant issues with their contemporaries, their teachers and decision makers.
We are proud of being a part of these processes and contribute to the education of the next generation of active citizens and decision makers of this country together with dedicated teachers and young people.