The subject of study of this master's thesis are the topics of the European Union as taught in primary schools in the context of the environmental and social studies.
The students of Slovenian primary schools gain a variety of information and knowledge regarding their community, society, politics, work, values, etc. In the first five years of primary school, the majority of such information is obtained during the lessons on the environmental and social studies. However, such information is very rarely placed in the European context, i.e. in the context of the European Union and its values; perhaps due to the lack of updated curricula and inadequate textbooks or due to the lack of teachers’ enthusiasm.
We wanted to thoroughly explore this subject and describe the topics of the European Union that are currently included in the lessons on the environmental and social studies. The theoretical part thus covers the European and Slovenian education and school laws that include and promote the European dimension and the topics of the European Union. We examined various educational programmes and European projects that have been available to teachers at the time of writing this master’s thesis to upgrade their knowledge of the European Union and to strengthen the European dimension.
The next part is focused on the analysis and overview of curricula, teaching materials, textbooks, workbooks and teacher’s handbooks, as well as additional material available that might assist teachers in teaching about the European Union. The empirical part shows the results of the survey conducted among teachers and aimed at describing the current situation and teachers’ perspective on teaching these topics. The survey was carried out using a semi-structured interview and a questionnaire.
In the survey, we found that the European Union has no direct impact on national education policies, as the latter are within the exclusive competence of the Member States. After Slovenia had joined the European Union, Slovenian curricula were updated; nevertheless, only a few goals include the European dimension or the topics of the European Union. Since textbooks, workbooks, handbooks, and other required learning materials are based on the curricula, even these materials contain only a few topics related to the European Union.
However, teachers can benefit from many European-funded projects and additional training that they often attend. What is more, the European Union financially supports the issuing of materials; consequently, there is a lot of extra material on the European Union available for use in the classroom. Teachers are therefore the ones who decide to which extent they will further upgrade the curricula with the topics of the European Union. They have many freely available options in the form of different materials; we collected and evaluated some of them in our master’s thesis.