Since the well-known work of Schön, it has been generally accepted that these days competence means more than knowledge, skills and attitudes and is mainly about reflection. In our globalised and increasingly diverse world, people have to function in more complex and therefore unpredictable contexts. So, creativity, innovation and dealing with unpredictability and diversity are becoming more important. That is precisely why action must be accompanied by reflection about that action. That means reflection before taking action “what shall I do?”, reflection while taking action “what am I doing?” and reflection about the action “what have I done?”. However, this is increasingly being supplemented with a fourth dimension. The first three are obviously about “am I doing things right?” That should be supplemented with a more social question: “am I doing the right things?”.

The condition for developing that reflection is the capacity to question certainties, to be open to new insights and ultimately to learn to think out of the box. That is perhaps one of the most difficult but also one of the more important skills. After all, it requires meta-thinking, or thinking about thinking. Education for democratic citizenship is correctly being presented by Europe as a key educational task. There is considerable confusion, however, about what it means.

A leading contemporary thinker and professor of education who has written on this subject is Gert Biesta who, in turn, has been much inspired by Jacques Rancière’s thinking about education and social equality. In his study of democratic processes in children in diverse educational and other contexts (including vocational training) he shows that democracy cannot be taught, but that democratic citizenship can be developed at school through practical experience. An important precondition for this is the creation of contexts in which democratic practises can develop. More specifically, Biesta demonstrates, it means having moments when the existing order is suspended, creating doubt and reflection about the existing order.

Democratic events are events whereby individual needs take advantage of this temporary hiatus to develop into collective expectations. Education for democrat ic citizenship is therefore not in essence teaching what democracy is, nor the acquisition of certain skills as conditions for social participation. On the contrary, it is about utilising the potential alr eady present in pupils, triggering unsuspected talents, by creating moments of participation. For this, the temporary (or spatial) suspension of elements of the existing or der is extremely helpful.