Strengthening democracy and rule of law through education

democracy and rule of law

Maaike De Ridder and Nadja Krotow, RECONNECT researchers, explore how democracy and rule of law can be strengthened through education and raising awareness

Faced with numerous challenges surrounding the European Unions’ foundational values democracy and the rule of law, the Union has been struggling with growing distrust to-wards its institutions. This has created a disconnect between the EU and its citizens. The four-year multidisciplinary research project RECONNECT(‘Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and the Rule of Law’) aims to understand and provide solutions to these challenges with a specific focus on making the EU more attuned to the expectations of its citizens. To achieve this, one of the initiatives developed by RECONNECT is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the ‘Rule of Law and Democracy in Europe’, which is spearheading the project’s efforts to contribute to citizens’ understanding of the current challenges and strengthen their engagement within the democratic system. By offering high quality, easily accessible, and free education, the online course is an interactive resource platform for EU- and non-EU citizens to learn about the European Union and two of its most foundational principles.democracy and rule of law

The course ‘Rule of Law and Democracy in Europe’, hosted on the leading MOOC platform EdX, explores the values of democracy and the rule of law in the European Union, how they have evolved over time, and which threats they are under at present. Moreover, the course examines how these values are put into practice and how they can and should be defended against ‘backsliding’ in the EU Member States. The MOOC instils learners with knowledge of the EU’s approach to tackle the erosion of its values and discusses specific policy areas in which its values are manifested, such as trade, migration, and most recently public health emergencies (COVID-19).

Concretely, the MOOC is divided into six distinct modules, each tackling one piece of the puzzle:

  • Module 1 covers a general introduction to the European Union, highlighting the evolution of various EU institutions and dissecting their competencies. This module also introduces the fundamental values of the EU as established in its founding treaties and looks at the present -day challenges that these values face;
  • Module 2 delves into the concept of democracy: What does democracy mean? How does this notion differ at various levels of governance, specifically at the level of EU Member States and EU institutions? How does democracy relate to one’s identity and belonging in the EU? These are all questions that this module aims to answer;
  • Module 3 examines how democracy is put into practice at EU and national levels. The lessons discuss the EU’s democratic legitimacy, the role of national parliaments in the democratic process of the EU, and potential avenues to reconnect Union and citizens through enhanced democratic practices;
  • Module 4 provides an introduction to the principles of the rule of law and its integration in the EU legal framework. RECONNECT scholars develop the exact meaning of the rule of law, touch upon how the notion might differ between countries, and link the rule of law to democracy as well as human rights;
  • Module 5 mirrors module 3 in looking at how the rule of law is practically applied at various levels of governance in the EU. The lessons explore the EU’s approach to enforce rule of law compliance in EU Member States, the phenomenon of rule of law backsliding, and how the EU has so far responded to this challenge;
  • Module 6 finally offers insights into how challenges to democracy and the rule of law manifest themselves in the context of specific EU policy fields (trade, migration) and how recently the COVID-19 pandemic has affected democracy and rule of law in the EU and its Member States.

democracy and rule of law

The course is taught by an interdisciplinary team of academic experts – legal scholars and political scientists – from 14 European institutions, as well as by practitioners in the field. The MOOC delves into the territory of EU values by means of numerous videos, complemented by reading materials, including RECONNECT’s own research. Exercises such as word clouds and drag and drop activities allow learners to apply the newly gained knowledge. Crucially, discussion fora offer learners the opportunity to exchange views with peers on pertinent questions surrounding the EU and two of its cornerstone principles. The MOOC directly engages with learners through open-ended questions and their input also feeds into RECONNECT research and dissemination activities. After successfully completing the exam, learners will receive an official EdX MOOC certificate.

As an introductory course, this MOOC is suitable for people from all educational and professional backgrounds and lifelong learners. Over the course of three runs, RECONNECT has already reached over 3500 learners from more than 90 different countries.

Previous learners have called the course “insightful and thought-provoking”, said they “learned all they were looking for in one place” and even testified that “Through the MOOC, I learned how the EU works, which rules are most important and I realized how important the rule of law is in the EU.” EU Commission Vice-President Vera Jourová, at a RECONNECT webinar in Spring 2021, indicated that she follows closely the project’s output and particularly highlighted that the MOOC is a great training and awareness-raising tool for the Union to directly engage with citizens. Follow their lead and enrol now!

The RECONNECT MOOC can be followed at an individual pace until 2 July 2022. A fourth run of the MOOC will launch from September 2022 onwards.

Besides the MOOC, RECONNECT offers several other resources to transfer open knowledge on issues crucial to EU citizens: RECONNECT experts regularly hold public webinars on topical developments, including a webinar series on the Future of Europe; scholars translate academic research papers into easily accessible blogs; we developed info sheets explaining the EU’s principal values specifically for the youngest EU citizens (9-12 and 13-17 years old); and primarily, RECONNECT has published over 100 public reports and academic articles since its inception in 2018 to date.

democracy and rule of law
RECONNECT – ‘Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and Rule of Law’, has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation programme under Grant Agreement no. 770142.

Please note: This is a commercial profile

©2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

Contributor Profile

RECONNECT researcher
Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies
Phone: +3216328725
Website: Visit Website

Contributor Profile

RECONNECT researcher
Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies
Phone: +3216328725
Website: Visit Website

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here