Civil Society and Education: Civic Engagement in Local Education Landscapes


In light of current societal challenges, which are intensified by the digital transformation, the aging of society and climate change, the public education system today is challenged more than ever. At the same time, various studies show declines in student performance, rising cancellation of classes in school, and also forecast a growing shortage of skilled workers. As a result, the focus is shifting more and more to civil society as an educational actor. In fact, civil society actors - committed individuals as well as organizations - make significant contributions to education on site and beyond. Volunteering mentors support young and old in developing certain skills such as reading or digital literacy. Parents associations provide financial and personnel support for schools and other public educational institutions. Foundations and associations offer their own educational programs or are funding providers of extracurricular educational institutions. In most cases, they involve volunteers.

The contribution that civil society actually makes and the extent to which it shapes the education system in terms of lifelong learning has not yet been researched systematically. The field of civil society actors has not yet been systematized and described in its diversity, which is partly due to the fact that education as a field of action of civil society is hardly present in the research of civil society. The project Civil Society and Education aims to open up the field of education for social science research on civil society and to build a bridge to educational sciences. The central thesis of the project posits, that new forms of engagement in education that are not tied to formal civil society organizations, are gaining importance.

The aim of the project is to close the research gap and to develop a mapping of civil society actors and their contributions to education and to analyze the frame conditions under which these civil society actors operate. The results of the project should provide practical knowledge for policy and practice. The project focuses on the question of how civil society actors can be strengthened in their work in order to increase their capacity to act in the medium to long term.

Methodologically, the project combines quantitative individual and organizational surveys with qualitative case studies. In addition, new ways are being tested to incorporate the knowledge and experience of civil society actors into the research process: Civil society is not only the object of study, but is actively involved in the development of the research instrument and in the derivation of recommendations for action.

The project of the Center for Civil Society Research in association with Stiftungen für Bildung e.V., sponsor of the Netzwerk Stiftung und Bildung, is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.