Croatia needs young people with a higher level of media literacy because they uncritically use the media and there is also a need for a higher level of civic education and quality civics in schools, said a round table debate on civil competencies and political literacy, held in the parliament earlier this week.
The findings of two surveys, conducted among general population and high school students this year by the GOOD civil society group, were presented at the event. The findings are worrying and require work on advancing the education system so that it could more appropriately contribute to the development of future generations' civic competencies and thus to society's democratisation, said the organisers of the round table - the GONG election monitoring NGO, the Institute for Social Research and the GOOD civil society group.
The survey of high school students' civil competencies shows that even though 85% of the respondents believe that they can imagine themselves having as a friend a person of another race, religion or ethnic background, they show much less tolerance towards minority rights in public spaces. Half the respondents believe that important cultural characteristics, such as ethnic minorities' languages and scripts, should not be used in public administration offices.
The respondents were least tolerant towards homosexuality, with every other describing it as a disease.
Even though young people are mostly in favour of punishing totalitarian symbols, 48.6% are not sure about the fact that the 1941-45 Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was a fascist creation. Their views on media and political parties are generally undemocratic - almost 52% are in favour of banning some media and 72% would ban some political parties.
The most relevant sources of information to young people are social networks, peers, web portals and parents, while daily consumption of 'traditional' media is relatively poor.
High-school student Hrvoje Kozic said he was not surprised by the findings and that he had feared they would be worse. "We lack political knowledge and at the same time are asked to know the political structure of France in the 18th century," he said, adding that civics was a good initiative going in the right direction.
"Civics has been forced on teachers who are not competent to teach it," claims high-school teacher Snjezana Klaric who believes that political scientists should be teaching civics.
Nikola Baketa of the Faculty of Political Science claims that political scientists are not the only ones capable of teaching civics. "In Austria that subject at institutions of higher education was created only after its introduction in school curricula."
His colleague Dragan Bagic believes that the system of secondary education should be urgently redefined and its targets set.
The other survey, conducted among the general population, shows that they lack the trust and will to participate in political processes. The most important civic responsibility for most respondents is compliance with laws and rules, followed by settlement of one's own financial obligations to the state.
As many as 80.2% of the respondents believe that most politicians are engaged in politics only for personal gain. The level of perception of corruption in public services is very high - 62.8% of the respondents believe that a large number of public servants are involved in corruption and slightly above 10% believe that corruption in public services is more an accident than a rule; 25.9% believe that public servants are committed or very committed to serving citizens, while a majority believes that they are not committed enough.
"All age groups in Croatia are in need of civil education and media literacy," said Vesna Roller of the Electronic Media Council.