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The term participation implies both to take part in and to take part of something – being involved in something as well as sharing something. Participation can take different forms. It can be voluntary or not, bottom up or top down, active or passive, conscious or not, socially conformed or not, collective or individual. Political participation refers to the relationship between citizens and political system. A realist approach restricts political participation to legal activities such as elections, thus reducing citizens to spectators or consumers of politics. A normative approach in contrast considers participation as a way of improving democracy through active participation embodied in public discussion and decision-making. Social and civic participation deals with the relationship between the individual and the group or community in terms of involvement in associations or organizations. The evolution of modern states has extended citizenship from rights and responsibilities to user participation, especially in social services, which has been reinforced in the context of activating welfare policies characterized by increasing individual responsibility. With regard to young people’s transitions to work participation has therefore been defined as biographical self-determination. This applies also to lifelong learning while in school possibilities of participation are still limited. With regard to education however it needs to be considered that any learning implies the active participation of individual learners. In GOETE both young people’s participation in school and the involvement of all actors in educational policy at local level are central.


Barber, Benjamin (1984) Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dewey, John (1916) Education and democracy. An introduction into the philosophy of education. New York: Macmillan

Loncle, Patricia and Muniglia, Virginie (eds.) (2008) Youth participation, agency and social. UP2YOUTH thematic report. Download: [1].

Matthews, Hugh (2001) Citizenship, Youth Councils and Young People’s Participation, Journal of Youth Studies, 4(3), pp. 299-319.

Walther, Andreas, du Bois-Reymond and Biggart, Andy (eds.) (2006) Participation in transition. Motivation of young people in Europe in learning and working. Frankfurt et al: Peter Lang.

Wenger, Etienne (1998) Communities of practice. Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(Patricia Loncle, Laetitia Mellottée and Andreas Walther)