How we work: Key Activities
One of the bpb’s key activities is the provision of information on the major issues of our times. Large amounts of information are made available on our website and in a wide variety of print publications. The range of topics includes European integration, participation in politics and in society, issues relating to the economy and the financial markets, migration, and social change, as well as historical issues and democracy in general. Another one of our key activities is the ongoing creation of new projects and the development of new methods to meet the special informational and educational needs of people with different learning abilities and people from different age groups and different walks of life.
Our Mission: Citizenship Education for Everyone
The German Federal Agency for Civic Education, the so-called “bpb”, offers comprehensive information on topical issues and debates for everyone. Our website provides German-speaking readers with a wide variety of dossiers, charts, teaching materials, and debates on German, European, and international politics, as well as on issues surrounding globalization. They can also find discussions and materials on such general topics as history, democracy, society, economy, culture, media, and education. Everyone can make use of our online services, can order magazines, books or DVDs at www.bpb.de/shop, or can take part in our seminars, conferences, and public lectures.
We have also developed special services for different target groups and for key issues in citizenship education. This page presents only a brief sampling of the different approaches taken and the various projects and activities engaged in by the bpb.
Activities and Services for Professionals Involved in Citizenship Education
In addition to providing citizenship education opportunities directly to anyone interested, the bpb has developed a wide variety of materials and instruments to support professionals whose daily work involves the area of citizenship education. This starts with direct funding to partner institutions all over Germany, whose task it is to make sure that citizenship education is provided on a local level in every region throughout the country. There is also an information service on further funding opportunities and fundraising for citizenship education activities.
The bpb also provides professionals with training sessions and materials on teaching methods, as well as offering them its expertise on political, social, and economic issues. Material is available for the teaching of different age groups and for teaching in different learning environments, such as schools, workshops, or informal learning settings. The training activities include such things as seminars, study trips, and involvement in professional networks such as NECE, a European network, or in “Verstärker”, a German network primarily for those teaching or working with educationally disadvantaged adolescents. Two blogs are dedicated to the teaching of contemporary history and politics and to working with social media and new forms of media in schools and in informal educational settings.
Citizenship Education for Schools
The bpb provides teaching materials that help high school students understand complex social, political, and economic issues. These materials are available for different age groups, for intensive workshops, or for high school students with special learning needs. The bpb also produces two series of teaching materials that take into account the cultural diversity of schools today. It seeks to approach topics in a way that reflects the different migration backgrounds of high school students whose cultural values and perspectives are often quite diverse. The bpb has launched a number of peer education projects aimed at enabling high school students to learn from their peers or from members of their own cultural background. Teachers can also take part in workshops and seminars to discuss and learn about new approaches to teaching. Recent activities have focused on the use of social media and collaborative teaching methods.
Projects for Journalists
Local journalists play a significant role in fostering an active democracy. They know what is going on in their regions, cities or villages, and it is their responsibility, and not just something they can choose to do or not, to translate “big politics”' into something applicable to people’s everyday lives. Local journalists help people make up their minds about issues that matter, and we help journalists to do this. The bpb has been providing local journalists since 1972 with a programme especially tailored to them. In doing so, a simple and timeless philosophy is being followed: everything that improves the quality of political reporting also serves political education in the society. The so-called “Local Journalism Programme” organizes self-guided improvement training. A permanent team of local journalists and editors-in-chief creates practical training sessions, sets up meetings, and develops relevant guidelines. The bpb itself also organizes a range of events designed for local journalists. These include such things as the well-known annual conference “Forum Lokaljournalismus”, seminars, manuals, press services, and workshops. Tens of thousands of local journalists make use of the wide variety of opportunities offered by the programme. The press service called “drehscheibe” (literally the mechanism to change the direction of railroad tracks) is another service offered by the bpb to local journalists. This monthly magazine and website (updated daily) features examples of innovative local journalism throughout Germany by sharing interesting articles or special newspaper topics. The target group of this programme was expanded in 2004 to include radio journalists of local and regional radio stations. Of course local online journalists or cross-media journalists are equally welcome.
Projects for Adolescents with Low Political Affinity
The bpb has set up a department dedicated solely to developing and testing new approaches to reach young people with low political affinity. There is a sizeable group of young people who have no intrinsic motivation to inform themselves about politics and who cannot be reached with the customary set of educational tools. The bpb’s strategy here is to make citizenship education more elementary, i.e. to make political issues less complex without falsifying them. Surveys have been conducted to detect possible hidden or “invisible” topics of interests that might provide links or starting points for citizenship education. On this basis, the department has been developing new formats for school courses and for extracurricular use. Teaching materials and television and film projects have been developed to meet the needs of these young people.
Citizenship Education for Younger Children
The aim of the bpb's German/English bilingual website for children - www.hipharpigland.de - is to get children between the ages of 8 and 14 interested in politics in an entertaining and informative way. It presents basic knowledge and motivates children to become involved and to take an active and critical approach to political themes. Children are asked to give their opinions, to answer comprehension questions, to contribute to discussions in forums, and to vote. Soon they are even going to be invited to make their own small animated films. For reasons of security, all communication is moderated before its publication on the website. The media-educational concept of the website also includes the participation of the children in the development of the website, as well as extensive personal contact between the children and the editors of the various functions. The website is accompanied by printed comic books that contain episodes of the main characters of HipharpigLand, the land of hippos, hares, and pigs. A CD and colourful educational posters explaining politics are also available.
Film Literacy & Media Pedagogy
In contemporary society, the “reality” of the world we live in is largely transmitted through the media: social interactions, finding out about things, managing daily life at work or at home, processes of social and cultural integration, reflecting on one’s own position in society, public discourses, and historic narratives – all of this is unthinkable without media. Starting with traditional forms of media such as newspapers, radio, or television right through to more modern forms such as mobile phones and tablet computers, different types of media accompany us in nearly everything we do. Media literacy is therefore an essential skill that must be an integral part of everyone's educational process. The bpb’s work helps to enable people to use particularly the so-called “new media” in a critical manner. This includes being able to search for, access, assess, and monitor information and its sources, as well as being able to benefit from the personal and social empowerment that the new media makes possible. Another focus of the bpb is film literacy. Because films always mirror their social and cultural context, films must be viewed not only as a form of art, but the messages they communicate and the way they are portrayed must be looked at critically. The development of media literacy in all its facets should therefore be realised by including film in the education process.
Social Media Activities
It goes without saying that the bpb, as an open and dialogue-oriented public service institution, regards social media as a way of staying in touch with our “customers” and as a way of reaching out to people who are hard to reach with traditional means of communication. Since 2010 you can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/bpb.de. Check us out there and see what's new, and give us your feedback! On our Twitter channel - twitter.com/frag_die_bpb - you can ask us questions on political issues and we’ll give you answers you can understand in no more than 140 characters. With bpb.de/dialog, we created a new channel on www.bpb.de. Users can initiate discussions, comment on posts, and enter into a dialogue with us in a more intense way. But our social media activities go far beyond this: because we are very interested in having up-to-date teaching methods in citizenship education, the bpb is developing new online dialogue-oriented formats to address those target groups for whom the web has become the primary medium of communication. pb21.de - a cooperation between the bpb and DGB Bildungswerk e.V. in Hattingen - and werkstatt.bpb.de focus on digital education and Web 2.0. Both projects are designed to connect multipliers and stakeholders in political education, as well as to provide basic knowledge for the use of digital media in both formal and informal citizenship education.
Remembrance: Learning from History
The bpb has been involved with memorial work since 1980, focussing on the remembrance of the Holocaust. Our activities have contributed to the networking of memorials in Germany and creating public awareness. The bpb provides an online database on memorials of the victims of the NS period period at www.bpb.de/erinnerungsorte - also available as an app for Android and iphone. In cooperation with other partners, the bpb also offers seminars on educational-methodological issues and on research and its implementation in the educational work of memorials. The near disappearance of the last generation of witnesses and survivors of the NS period, as well as the growing time-distance, currently pose a new challenge for our memorial work. Different periods of state oppression – the NS dictatorship, Soviet occupation, and political persecution in the GDR – are all overlapping in a single memorial site. But also the rapidly increasing number of people with diverse migration and cultural backgrounds underlines the need to develop new pedagogical concepts for remembrance. Actually the whole spectrum of historical education is moving into the focus of our work, which is aimed at developing the learner’s ability to de- and reconstruct historical narrations. Rather than focusing on historical facts, the bpb is more concerned with sharpening perceptions and judgements of history and with ways to develop the learner’s skills to deal with history. The aim of citizenship education is to enable people to independently reflect on historical interpretations and to get involved in historical debates.
Right-winged extremism is still a primary concern of our work at the bpb. But extremism has taken on many other faces as well. In addition to right- and left-winged groups, extremism founded on a fundamental interpretation of Islamic belief has become a major issue in Germany in recent years. In response to such developments, the bpb has launched projects that not only analyse the phenomena of extremism and agitation, but also work at the ground level and support civil courage in society. This includes working with young prisoners and developing preventative measures aimed at young Muslims who are at risk of becoming radicalized. The website www.bpb.de provides a number of dossiers on right- and left-winged extremism and on Islamism. The bpb supports such nationwide networks as “School without Racism” and “Online Counselling against Extremism”, as well as “jugendschutz.net” - a NGO that identifies websites that are harmful to young people (e.g. by presenting extremist content in the web) and then contacting the service providers to have them deleted.