Universities in Macedonia and their Role in Creating a Sustainable Civil Society
University education is a crucial element for national peace and prosperity. It operates as a resource for economic development within a nation and region. Crucially, higher education also cultivates critical and innovative thinking – the kind of thinking necessary for activating a collective civic consciousness.
Civic consciousness is the extent to which a nation’s people possess the knowledge, commitments, and behaviors that empower them to be active, engaged, and responsible citizens. These civic attributes allow people to work and live together in mutually beneficial ways by reaching consensus about community problems, participating in and valuing democratic decision-making processes and institutions, and acquiring motivations to support community members of different backgrounds.
The Republic of North Macedonia is eager to achieve member status in the European Union. An important criterion in the accession process is providing evidence that the nation’s social institutions foster democratic participation and civic engagement among its citizens. Specifically, the Council of the European Union highlights “promoting active citizenship” as an important objective of the education system in Europe. To date, projects and strategies designed to encourage civic engagement in North Macedonia have worked to establish and institutionalize basic infrastructures of democracy – good governance, rule of law, anti-corruption and transparency, election support, and public services. Crucially, this work has addressed youth engagement with programs designed to strengthen community organizations and feelings of belongingness. Less emphasis, however, has been paid to the role of the educational system in supporting democracy, citizenship, and civic values.