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60 case studies have been identified. The case studies focus on intercultural issues, integration, non-discrimination values and human rights at school.

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Écoles Citoyennes


Name of the teacher
Bruno Derbaix
Subject taught:
Religion teacher and sociologist


Name of the School:
Institut de la Sainte-Famille d’Helmet
School Typology:
Lower Secondary School, Upper Secondary School
Web site:


Background and Context:
Institut de la Sainte-Famille in Helmet is a school that main includes Belgian students, but most of those students are of foreign origin. Out of over 500 students, there are about thirty origins and about thirty nationalities. It is also a multi-religious school.

This school is recognised as “differentiated supervising” (the educational supervision it benefits from depends on the students’ socio-economical background). It receives extra means to improve basic learning, fight failure, foster immediate remediation and prevent early school leaving.

Like many schools, this one is confronted to violence, an insidious form of violence according to Bruno Derbaix: beating, racketeering, violent games or antisocial behaviour (vandalism, thefts).

Confronted to these kinds of behaviour, the school was helpless.
Factual Description:
The “ Ecole citoyenne” project
The management allows student to vote a law and to have it respected getting involved in the working of the school, through a citizen council.

On the initiative of Jean-Luc Tilman (teacher, trainer and psychopedagogist) the project was born in the school.
During a forum at the beginning of the school year, the classes define important points to respect in order to coexist, common points to all classes create the law that all students commit to respect from then on.
Respect of this new law is managed by a citizenship council attended every week by adults and students. Its role is multifold: besides respect of the law, it enables the welcome of new students and encourages citizen actions. One student per year has a seat, as well as the headmistress, three teachers, two coordinators and one educator. Student representatives are elected during polls at the beginning of the school year.
A system of belts awarding a good citizen attitude has also been implemented.
The law issues from students, this is the great strength of a project dedicated to involving students in school life and teaching them democratic values. Students start making the project their own, among other injecting their own language in the law, and create new links with teachers. The latter are sometimes reluctant, feeling this new autonomy as a loss of personal.

To increase the pleasure in being together and reduce acts of violence and destruction in the school. To develop a sense of citizenship among students.

All school stakeholders: students, teachers, the headmistress in cooperation with the whole education team.
Activities carried out:
Education tool
The initiative “Ecole citoyenne” was developed by MIEC (Mouvement des Institutions et Ecoles Citoyennes) and its founder Jean-Luc Tilman, in 2007. The objective was to provide tools to all the actors of school and non-school life in order to reduce (or even stop) violence in schools.
The school can change, emphasising internal democracy, collectives, active learning: the aim is to regain values, to manage conflicts and feelings, to restore the institution.

The citizen school project is based on two great principles: to build the law together with all school stakeholders and to involve students as much as possible in managing respect and in school life.

A “Charter” featuring ten articles constitutes the foundation of the initiative:
1. Human and children’s rights constitute the ethical guide of our field action.
2. We focus our professional preoccupation on the student, and more generally on young people. We use (teaching) methodologies that are adapted to their basic needs. We propose to schools and institutions to train critical citizens who are able to integrate and develop in society.
3. In the democratic school, we are all educators, for we respect and make respect the law negotiated and built with all the actors. We do not yield to societal permissiveness.
4. Setting up a pedagogic team is a guarantee for coherence and efficiency within the school.
5. The pedagogical project is built with all the actors of the institution, which has to be clear in managing its projects. The pyramidal system must give way to a circular system in which all the actors become a driving force for citizenship. Responsibilities are different but everyone is taken into consideration in the democratic assembly.
6. The school and the institution are built in partnership with all the psychosocial and cultural actors within the framework of networks focused on the integration of critical citizens.
7. Positive communication fosters good relationship with students and young people. This approach can be individual or institutionalised (listening space, chill out space). Verbal or non-verbal conflict can make one grow up and become a basis for progress in the relationship. Contact with nature and opening oneself to one’s environment foster socialisation and integration.
8. Evaluation is in no way a segregation or sanction tool.
9. Social science is a pool of resources and strategies for a constant action-research.
10. The charter is assessed and updated each year according to the field reality.

Education expert
MIEC (Mouvement des Institutions et Ecoles Citoyennes)
This association was described by Inforef on the “School Safety Net” portal:
Assessment and lesson learnt:
Results achieved
Violence decreased (but did not stop altogether) and the school has more tools to solve it.
It is a beautiful project, but it has difficulties, according to Bruno Derbaix (coordinator and kingpin of the “Ecole citoyenne” project since its creation in 2008-2009: “Firstly, it requires a cultural change on the teachers’ part. Yet, some fear to lose their position of "master" in their class, to have to justify themselves before a un jury that includes students. Then, communication in the school is not easy. Finally, work on citizenship with students takes time. Building repairs in relation to incivility (a work on drugs following a cannabis issue, for example) instead of a never-changing and meaningless punishment (such as detention) usually requires more time. Yet, this approach could, with young teenagers, be too slow. It runs the risk of introducing a climate of impunity that is even worse. To these difficulties must be added the lack of human resource for this type of project.”
Many schools use this project in French-speaking Belgium. Currently more than fifty.
Two examples:
• Institut de l’Enfant-Jésus in Etterbeek (Brussels): Claude Legrain is a teacher there. She confirms that a citizen school exists!
Lire l'article paru dans la revue Prospective Jeunesse n°57 "L'école des ressources"
• A specialised education school in Liège, the “Ecole citoyenne” project of which was described by Inforef on the “I am not scared” project portal:

Explanations of the success
• The devices proposed are concrete, practical. They perfectly meet difficulties encountered at school and their implementation is supervised by the MIEC trainers.
• Moreover, these devices bring answers to the priorities of the “Mission” decree of education in French-speaking Belgium:
- to promote confidence and self-development in students,
- to bring all students to master knowledge and achieve skills that make them able to learn all their life and have an active part in social, economic and cultural life,
- to prepare all students to be responsible citizens, able to contribute to the development of a democratic, solidary, pluralist and open-minded society,
- to guarantee for all students equal chances of social development

The school keeps its missions to train and educate, which implies there is no equality between adults and students: the formers have expertise and provide services to the latter.
But there is a need to restore dialogue between all the actors, to show everyone deserves respect, to re-invite everyone to behave as citizens, and especially to avoid democratic spaces be mere “empty shells”, which involves a change of “culture” in the school.

The devices are transferable to any school/institution provided that its actors adhere to the charter of MIEC.
Description of the Case Study in National Language:

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.