Daniel Schmücking, head of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, said yesterday that civic education plays a crucial role when it comes to democracy.
Mr Schmücking made the comments during a discussion organised by Khmer Times, when he urged Cambodians to learn about their civic duties as citizens and increase their knowledge about the democratic process.
Mr Schmücking said civic education plays a vital part in the empowerment of citizens and that it boosts critical thinking.
“There are different actors and various approaches to create critical thinking so that citizens can deal with the information they get from the media,” he said. “It’s so that they question themselves, but also question the information they receive. That is civic education in Germany.”
“It’s democratic education – you have different opinions. Civic education in Germany is state-financed, but it’s not state-designed,” Mr Schmücking added. “It’s not the state telling [institutions] to be more active, what they should teach or what they have to do.”
Pa Chanroeun, director of the Cambodian Centre for Applied Philosophy and Ethics, said yesterday that civic education increases knowledge on how governments function, and how their decisions impact a citizen’s daily life.
“If we want to promote democracy in Cambodia, we need to educate our people to be informed democrats,” Mr Chanroeun said. “We need to put more effort in promoting civic education – not only in schools – but also in families, peer groups, the media and political parties.”
Mr Schmücking said family is the most important actor in promoting civic education.
He said that education starts with the family, while schools and universities come much later when opinions and ideas are already formed.
“If I look back into the case of Germany after the World Wars, there was also the younger generation challenging the older generation,” Mr Schmücking said. “Society changes, culture changes – and respect is as crucial as always. However, you should not respect people because of age, but for what they are doing.”
Mr Chanroeun said that civic education was implemented by the Education Ministry years ago.
However, he noted that the programme changed at the turn of the millennium. He said students now are focused on morality as well as civic education.
He noted however that culture dictates that the younger generation should always respect seniority.
“We have to re-think in what ways we can do to respect our seniors. We need to have some form of dialogue to bridge the gap between generations,” Mr Chanroeun said. “We need to find a way for both generations to come to an understanding and re-write our social norms.”