Acta Paedagogica Vilnensia
Acta Paedagogica Vilnensia

Acta Paedagogica Vilnensia ISSN 1392-5016 eISSN 1648-665X

2020, vol. 45, pp. 10–29 DOI:

Is Social Responsibility Present in the Agenda of the National Educational Policy Documentations? View from a DIALLS Projection

Lilija Duobliene
Vilnius University

Sandra Kaire
Vilnius University

Irena Zaleskiene
Vilnius University

Abstract. The article familiarizes the reader with the main goals and implementation structures of the DIALLS (Dialogue and Argumentation for Cultural Literacy Learning in Schools) three-year project (2018–2021), supported by EU Research and Innovation program HORIZON 2020. The project is coordinated by Cambridge University in partnership with 9 EU universities. In Lithuania project activities are implemented by the Institute of Educational Sciences at Vilnius University. The theoretical concept of Social Responsibility in the context of Cultural Literacy and Educating for an Active Citizenship is analysed in the theoretical part of the article. Some empirical data on addressing the concept of Social responsibility in the National Educational Policy documentation is presented and discussed from the view of DIALLS projection. Finally, some concluding points on addressing the concepts of Social responsibility, participation, cooperation and citizenship in the national educational policy documentation are drawn up.
Key words: Social responsibility, Citizenship, Participation, Cooperation, Educational Policy documentation

Socialinė atsakomybė nacionaliniuose švietimo politikos dokumentuose: DIALLS projekto perspektyva

Santrauka. Straipsnyje autorės supažindina su pagrindiniais DIALLS (Kultūrinio raštingumo ugdymo(si) mokyk­lose) projekto tikslais (2018–2021 m.). Aprašomas projekto veiklas koordinuoja Kembridžo universitetas, finansuoja EK mokslo ir inovacijų programa HORIZON 2020, įgyvendina 9 Europos ir Jeruzalės universitetai. Vilniaus universitetas yra vienas iš konsorciumo narių/partnerių, o veiklas Lietuvoje įgyvendina Ugdymo mokslų institutas. Teorinėje straipsnio dalyje analizuojama socialinė atsakomybė kultūrinio raštingumo ir aktyvaus pilietiškumo kontekste. Empirinėje dalyje pristatomi, atskleidžiami ir lyginami empirinio tyrimo duomenys. Remiantis literatūros šaltinių ir empirinio tyrimo duomenų analize, pateikiama keletas įžvalgų apie socialinės atsakomybės, dalyvavimo, bendradarbiavimo ir pilietiškumo atspindžius nacionaliniuose švietimo politikos dokumentuose.
Pagrindiniai žodžiai: socialinė atsakomybė, dalyvavimas, bendradarbiavimas, pilietiškumas, nacionaliniai švietimo politikos dokumentai

Received: 29/10/2020. Accepted: 18/11/2020
Copyright ©
Lilija Duobliene, Sandra Kaire, Irena Zaleskiene, 2020.
Published by
Vilnius University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Education for Social responsibility in contemporary research literature (Tibitts, 2019) is seen as one of the main purposes of education. Authors look at education as a process for social responsibility as a creation of a communality bridge which connects people from different stakeholders, multiple activities, multiple cultures, etc. Thus education for active citizenship is seen as a creative way for every personality willing and able to participate in building this type of bridge, which leads to a socially responsible, more coherent and sustained social environment for everyone. This understanding deepens and adds some additional values for understanding an extended cultural literacy concept, which helps to disclose that people feel like participants in co-creating and supporting lives not only for themselves but for others as well.

We argue that Social responsibility is an important attitude and action used to support the concept of Active Citizenship. Strengthening education for active participation/citizenship in schools could give much stronger provisions for developing sustainability, especially from the climate changing perspective. Education of personal social responsibility is still most challenging for educational researchers; thus, new methodologies, means, and methods like dialogue and argumentation are investigated, the effectiveness of which must be measured in the nearest future.

Therefore, the authors raised the research question: Is social responsibility on the agenda for cultural literacy learning and education for active citizenship?

To answer this research question, we used some data from the DIALLS (Dialogue and Argumentation for Cultural Literacy Learning in Schools) project led by the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. DIALLS is “a three-year project working with schools to understand and develop how children and young people make sense of Europe and its differing cultures. Cultural diversity is one of Europe’s most valuable assets but we need to support young people to build the skills and competences needed for effective inter-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding about each other’s lives” ( The project is run by the consortium of 9 EU universities as well as the University of Jerusalem. First of all, the project philosophy emphasizes the concept of cultural literacy in relation to argumentation and multimodality. In the context of the DIALLS project the detailed diagram (given below) of main interrelated fields, areas and elements within them was developed and allows us to understand all distinct elements in relation to each other. In other words, holistic approach is taken towards fostering cultural literacy.

From the viewpoint of authors, who are the members of the DIALLS research team at Vilnius University, education for active citizenship and education for social responsibility are seen as strongly interconnected with cultural literacy learning as it‘s understood and presented by the DIALLS project, seeking to help young people in schools to build up more dialogic, more friendly, more active, more respectful and responsible communities and civic societies as a whole through empathy, tolerance and inclusion.

Firstly, the paper looks into the relationship between social responsibility and cultural literacy learning and education for active citizenship and provides a theoretical framework for analyzing social responsibility in relation with these two other concepts. Secondly, the paper focuses on the appearance of the concept of social responsibility in the educational policy documentation. The empirical part of the paper presents some findings of the policy documentation analysis accomplished in the DIALLS project. The policy documentation analysis was carried out between June and October 2018 focusing on documents that deal with core education policies at the European and national levels. The national education policy documentation was carried out using those official national documents that are applicable for the entire school system in the participant country of the DIALLS project. The examination of the policy documentation at all levels was conducted as qualitative content and concept analysis extended with a quantification of the analyzed concepts. The paper focuses on the findings from national policy documentation analysis.

So, we articulate the purpose of the article as to conceptualize “social responsibility” in the contexts of cultural literacy and education for active citizenship as well as to disclose empirically how the concept of “social responsibility” is reflected in the national educational policy documentation. The research methodology includes an analysis of research literature and national education policy documentation from Finland, Lithuania, England, Spain, and Portugal, and was conducted as a qualitative content analysis extended with a quantification of the analyzed concepts. Some limitations exist in selecting policy documentation due to their variety in different countries with regard to the types of educational policy documentation as well as the language of the documents.

1. Social Responsibility in the Contexts of Cultural Literacy Learning

Social responsibility is one of grounding stones of Cultural Literacy conceptual structure, composed by the DIALLS group ( First of all, we are going to describe the concept of cultural literacy because it is central for the project. It expresses the situation of students living in more or less multicultural societies, who have to communicate with those “who are different” every day, correspondingly they need adequate education. The concept of literacy nowadays is changing rapidly and is understood not as singular and autonomous skill progression of learning to read and write, but it is in its essence “social practice” (Street 1984, Carter, 2006). The concept of cultural literacy is also changing and its understanding radically turned from Eric Donald Hirsch, who was the pioneer of the concept. Hirsch explicated the view in “Culture and literacy” (1980), “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” (1987), adapted the concept for student education in “A First Dictionary for Cultural Literacy: What Our Children Need to Know” (1989). He used the concept in the sense of schemata – sets of knowledge, which can be understood and shared among community based on knowledge in history, heritage, values, and collective memory. He described his position in the following way:

“Back-to-the-Basics needs to be supplemented with Back-to-the-Classics: back to content, shared knowledge, cultural literacy. Cultural literacy implies, does it not, teaching shared knowledge about ourselves, our history and our world, our laws, our political, economic, and social arrangements, our classical texts from a great many domains including TV, the movies, and literature” (Hirsch, 1980, p. 45).

Hirsch’s theory was adapted to education in the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal and some other countries, unfortunately, his theory started to be criticized from many points and nowadays it is understood in a broader sense, facing peculiarities of contemporary culture and social life. One of the main critical points is insufficient attention to democratic values, social activity of students, their street discourse. Henry Giroux and Stanley Aronowitz (2003), Peter McLaren (1999), Giroux (2005) argue that only understanding of students’ new vocabulary and their everyday life, acquaintance with their symbols and signs can change the teachers’ position, enabling them to communicate with students in a democratic, non-elitist way and teach them new content, citizenship and social responsibility.

Turn from Hirsh and rather narrow understanding of cultural literacy towards broader understanding of this term appeared in the European network of Cultural Literacy. This network describes cultural literacy as

“an attitude to the social and cultural phenomena that shape and fill our existence – bodies of knowledge, fields of social action, individuals or groups, and of course cultural artefacts, including texts – which views them as being essentially readable. This legibility is defined by the key concepts of textuality, rhetoricity, fictionality and historicity ... which are understood as properties both of the phenomena themselves and of our ways of investigating them” (Segal, 2014, p. 3).

From one side, the concept of cultural literacy was developed in relationship with intercultural communication and pedagogy, stressing dialogue and ethics, as we see in the theory of Paulo Freire, Martine Abdallah-Pretceille and some others, who were following the ideas of philosophers Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. This approach was elaborated already by the researchers belonging to DIALLS project Fiona Maine, Victoria Cook, and Tulli Lähdesmäki (2019). The approach is very important to creating the methodology for teaching dialogic communication, being/living with the other, and being able to take part in cultural encounters. From the other side, the concept was elaborated in slightly different directions by the New London Group (Cazden, Cope, Cook, Fairclough, Gee & others, 1996) and their followers, such as Bill Cope & Mary Kalantzis (2000), Colin Lankshear, and Michele Knobel (2011). It appeared, spread in social discourse, and broadened educational vocabulary reacting on contemporary challenges. The newly rethought definition of cultural literacy as multiliteracy and new literacy was strongly related to new ways of communication, multimodal education and meaning-making strategy using combination of the different media, also careful and responsible participation in virtual space and social networks. The authors (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011) stressed work with blogs, wikis and other resources of information and communication in the virtual space, specifics of coding information as well as online technique. Accordingly, teachers should be designers, able to work within multiliteracies, different discourses, a metalanguage, especially visual materials, which help to describe and interpret design elements and multimodal artefacts constructed with digital materials or other audiovisual materials.

Nevertheless, worries about the young generation’s values grew; the danger of the new media and the transgression of visual culture occupied the research fields of many scholars. Bernard Stiegler (2010, 2017) a prominent scholar of visual technologies, rethought the habits and behavior of the young generation, also their thinking and values, expressing the students’ view as “I don’t give a damn.” Stiegler’s followers in education, Jan Masschelein and Maartin Simons (2013, 2015), drew the vision of modern teachers, emphasizing, first of all, their ability to foster values and responsibility and, secondly, their ability to manage a high-speed flow of information, work with content and form, composition and recomposition. Social involvement, communication, dialogue, and responsibility were mentioned by contemporary researchers of education as very important for work at all stages of teaching. New pedagogy and new literacy, based on cultural literacy and its new aspects, were introduced for the improvement of citizenship skills, and consequently the working, private, and public lives of the future generation. That fresh approach can be treated as a great pillar for cultural literacy, which stems from intercultural education and dialogic communication (the another above mentioned more traditional approach), and which is prioritized in the frames of DIALLS.

Education for social responsibility started to be perceived neither as a way to ensure an increase of the professional prestige of companies, as happened to be the case during the 19th –20th centuries (Crave, Matten, Spence, 2014), nor as a way to increase power, which was treated as roots given to the development of Corporate Social Responsibility in 1960 (Davis, 1960). Nowadays social responsibility appears as an important social action with a strong cultural perspective; i.e., social life is built up and further developed by people from different cultures, based on their own traditions, patterns of behaviorism, and lifestyles in which values of taking socially responsible actions in everyday lives are so different. Another important perspective while outlining the context for social responsibility is the personal perspective, which could not be separated from the educational perspective.

Going back to the concepts of the DIALLS project, it must be said that in the diagram, which was created using theoretical and empirical analysis, four main fields of research and practice are distinct: Being European, Dispositions, Living together and Social responsibility (Figure 1). Despite of the fact that all mentioned research fields are interrelated, close and sometimes overlapping, every field has its own specific areas. The field of Social responsibility, which is in the center of our paper, was defined in five areas: Sustainable development/climate change, Social and civic competence, Citizenship, Active participation and Cooperation. Some values, especially tolerance, empathy and inclusion are prioritized in all fields and areas of research and practice.

In the brief description of distinct areas in the DIALLS project, mostly drawn from the European policy documentation and also theoretical analysis, every single area of social responsibility is treated the way the project team understands and presents them (Lähdesmäki, Koistinen, Ylönen, Zaleskiene, Duobliene, Kaire, Maine, & Cook, 2018)

Citizenship is described as being a member of a country and having rights and responsibilities because of it. Any national of the EU country is considered to be a citizen of the EU. The EU citizenship does not replace national citizenship: it is an addition to it. Citizenship is linked to tolerance and democracy, with active citizenship defined as “building an open and democratic society”.


Figure 1. DIALLS Cultural Analysis Framework (2018). Source:

Social and civic competence includes personal, interpersonal and intercultural competence and covers all forms of behavior that equip individuals to participate in an effective and constructive way in social and working life, and particularly, in increasingly diverse societies, and resolve conflict where necessary.

Active participation refers to individual’s involvement in relation to the civic, political, social, economic, legal, and cultural spheres of society.

Cooperation is understood as working together for common good. This occurs in a variety of levels, from among individuals to countries.

Sustainable development/climate change relates to societal and economic issues and is defined traditionally as “meeting the needs of present generations without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (i.e. ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come). One aspect of sustainable development is tackling climate change.

There is no doubt that social responsibility is very important for teaching cultural literacy across European schools and all over the world. Especially in the time of climate change, the time of the destruction of nature and the human relationship with it, rapid developments in IT and the flow of information, the growing manipulation in social networks, new waves of migration, the robotization of our organic life, etc. In other words, responsibility becomes as one of the most important values in multicultural communication as well as in dealing/living with others especially those, who are different.

That is why social responsibility occupies a significant part in the composition of other parts (fields and elements), united in Figure 1, and has a special role assigned to it.

Social responsibility can be seen as the most stable and at the same time very fluid part of the cultural literacy conception because it deals with rapid change in society, its needs, habits, behavior, style of life, requiring to react immediately on a new content and new forms of life and education. It is no coincidence that the New London Group rethinks the relationship between What and How in education and the possibility to transform What into How. To foster new skills in students, every teacher has to be acquainted with cultural and social awareness, know the technique of argumentation and communication, know how to take part in a dialogue, and how to teach proper expression of facts as well as creative ideas. Therefore, to know that becomes not as significant as to know how to find proper ways to implement into everyday life situations. The rhetoric of a teacher should be supported by visual knowledge and skills, allowing work with multimodal content and new forms of visual culture, coding and decoding, using tools of critical, creative, and affirmative thinking, all the time taking into account social responsibility and values. All these points in the DIALLS project come together in the newly constructed understanding of “cultural literacy” as a social act.

2. Methodology

The examination of the national policy documentation was conducted as qualitative content analysis extended with a quantification of the chosen concepts. This methodological choice was motivated by constructivist perspective on concepts, emphasizing their contested, controversial, and transforming nature (e.g. Koselleck 2002, Guzzini 2005). The analysis of the national policy documentation in this paper encompassed 5 countries – Finland, Lithuania, England, Spain, and Portugal. The selection of the national education policy documents was carried out using the following criteria: a) those official documents that are applicable for the entire school system in the country; b) those official documents that are the same or similar among all participant countries and are available in English. Following these selection criteria, in this paper we concentrated on five particular countries of the DIALLS project as selected documents provide equivalent comparative analysis among all these countries. The qualitative and quantitative content analysis was conducted based on 14 national policy documents[3]. The documents were selected following consultations with universities participating in the DIALLS project in each country.

The conceptual and content analysis of the educational policy documentation in this paper focuses on such particular concepts as social responsibility, cooperation, participation, social and civic competence, and citizenship (see Figure 1 above). The conceptual and content analysis of the national documents was undertaken with the assistance of MAXQDA18 qualitative and mixed methods software program that can be used for data coding and retrieving coded segments. MAXQDA software includes various data management features (e.g., coding in multiple colours, memo creation, and coded segments retrieval) as well as various visual tools for data analysis.

The analysis included several phases. Firstly, the quantitative analysis of the core concept social responsibility and sub-concepts of cooperation, participation, social and civic competence, citizenship in the selected national documents was made, i.e. within MAXQDA software a search was conducted (function lexical search) to see how often each concept was used in the selected national documents. The lexical search also involved searching for similar variations of each concept, e.g. cooperation – cooperate; citizenship – citizen, etc. Secondly, close readings of the paragraphs containing each concept were made and the initial coding of each concept was held. Thirdly, the initial coded segments were retrieved (function code matrix browser) and re-read. During this stage all coded segments were re-checked and thus, additional coding changes occurred (i.e. sub-coding). Finally, the analysis also consisted of searching for connections or “relationships” between different concepts in the documents of each country by using matrix analysis.

The qualitative content analysis included the following core questions [2]: a) How are the concepts either explicitly or implicitly defined? b) What is the conceptual context of these concepts? c) What is their cultural/societal context to which they are connected in the documents? d) What kinds of cultural/societal phenomena are mentioned in relation to these concepts? The quantitative and qualitative findings of the national policy documentation in the paper are described by following the core questions and are organized by each concept.

3. Findings

3.1. Social responsibility

Surprisingly, social responsibility as a single two-term concept actually does not appear in the analyzed national policy documentation of all five countries. Looking into the national policy documentation, it is difficult to identify the obvious reasons why the term of social responsibility (or social and responsible) does not appear, especially as there is some scientific analysis about the significance of this particular concept for the educational system of one or another country. For instance, Tuomas Rauhansalo and Vytautas Kvieska (2017) analyzed the significance of social studies and social subjects in the Finnish educational system and revealed that the Finnish National Board of Education identifies social studies as a significant element for basics of democracy education, like equality, respect of human rights, social responsibility and freedom of opinions. Another example is the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model proposed by Don Hellison (2003). It is one of the most consistent intervention programs that can be applied in physical education classes, and which has been widely explored in Spanish education context (e.g. Escartí et al., 2013, Carbonero, Martín-Antón, Otero, & Monsalvo, 2017).

Therefore, in order to grasp the manifestation of the concept of social responsibility, we looked into co-occurrences of the words social and responsible in an interval of one paragraph in each analyzed national document. The analysis revealed implicit manifestations of social responsibility in policy documentations of each country that gave the initial picture of this particular concept.

Having analyzed Finland’s national documents, we found the closest relation between social and responsible in the statement of national goals of the Finnish education. Specifically, the first national goal of education that steers the preparation of the National Core Curriculum is identified as Growth as a human being and membership in society (The Core Curriculum of Basic Education, 2014). The description of this particular goal distinctly stated that “supporting the pupils’ growth as human beings and into ethically responsible members of society is a central goal” (p. 25). We could grasp another close occurrence of social and responsible in the descriptions of the curricular subject of social studies. Such repetitive statements as “the task of the subject of social studies is to support the pupils’ growth into active, responsible, and enterprising citizens” (p. 344) or “acting in society as responsible and active members of different communities, for instance, in the class and the school, in different pastimes and organizations, in the media and economic activity” (p. 346) appear in the descriptions. However, in all these cases the relation of social and responsible is more implicit than explicit.

In other co-occurrences the terms social and responsible are barely linked with each other. In the Core Curriculum of Basic Education we also find such recurrent statements as “the pupils’ growth into responsible member of his or her community and the democratic society as well as a global citizen” (p. 192) (repeatedly occurs in the description of religion subject) or “pupils’ encouragement into responsible interaction in different communication environments” (p. 151) (repeatedly occurs in the description of native language and literature subject). It pre-supposes a close relation between society and person’s responsibility. However, more often social and responsibility in the Finnish documents occur as two separate terms or concepts. However, social and responsibility more often occur as two separate terms or concepts in the Finnish documents.

Similarly, in the national documentation of Lithuania the co-occurrences of the terms social and responsible occurred not as united but as supplementary or separate elements. For example, in the Education Law of Lithuania (2016) we see obvious separation of two concepts where responsibility is directly related with formation of human being, meanwhile social element is exceptionally significant for modern social competence of an individual. These two terms also occur in the Curriculum Framework of Primary and Basic Education (2008) of Lithuania where educating a responsible citizen is directly related with pupils’ social integration and lifelong learning.

In contrast to Finland’s and Lithuania’s national policy documentation, England’s educational policy documentation gives the only connection between social and responsible within citizenship education. As it is stated in the Secondary Education Curriculum (2013), citizenship should

“equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically [--] and should also prepare pupils to take their place in society as responsible citizens” (p. 59).

Yet the concepts of responsible citizens and social issues are also, as in Lithuania’s case, identified as separate purposes of the citizenship education subject. These two terms also occur in the formulation of the aim of education where educating a responsible citizen is related to pupils’ social integration and lifelong learning.

The concept of social responsibility in Portugal’s Education System Law (1986/2009) is also implicitly related with social or civic citizenship. For example, the formulation of the General Principle of the Educational System mentions that

“the educational system must respond to all needs, pertaining to the actual social reality, and promoting a complete and harmonious personality development of the individuals, fostering the formation of free, responsible, autonomous and supportive citizens, valuing, above all, the human dimension regarding work” (p. 2).

The Students’ Profile: Skills for XXI Century (2017) also repeatedly states that the conceptual frame of a pupil orients towards training of autonomous, responsible, and engaged citizens who are not only self-aware, but also conscious of others and the world and become active participants in society. In Portugal’s national documents responsibility is also combined with another concept – integrity. Responsibility and integrity are considered as the values that should be developed in schools. The concept is described as

“respect for the self and others; know how to act in an ethical way, aware of the obligation to answer for their own actions; to give thought to their own actions, and of others, for a common good” (Student’s Profile, 2017, p. 11).

The analysis reveals that social responsibility as a singular concept sporadically occurs in the national documents. These two concepts are regularly considered as complementary or separate aspects in school education. Certainly, this particular concept manifests itself in national policy documentation through other sub-concepts that will be hereafter described, whereas the general frequency of each concept can be seen in the table below.

Table 1. Quantitative frequency of sub-concepts in analyzed national policy documentation







Finland. Education Act (2011)




Finland. Core Curriculum for Basic Education (2014)




England. Education Act (2011)




England. The national curriculum in England. Key stages 1 and 2 framework (2017)




England. The national curriculum in England. Key stages 2 and 4 framework (2017)




England. Teachers Standards (2017)




Lithuania. Education Law (1998/2016)




Lithuania. Curriculum Framework (2008)




Spain. The Education Law (2006)




Spain. The Education Law (2013)




Spain. Basic Secondary Curriculum (2013)




Portugal. Education System Law (1986)




Portugal. Student’s Profile for the XXIst Century (2017)




Portugal. National Plan of Education for Citizenship (2017)




However, such rare reference to the concept of social responsibility in national policy documentation of all five countries inevitably minimizes its significant contribution of promoting and practicing cultural literacy and making sense of Europe.

3.2. Cooperation

Generally speaking, the sub-concept of cooperation in the national education policy documentation of analyzed countries is considered as working together for the common educational goals and is related with individual, community as well as inter-institutional levels [4]. However, the dominant meaning of this particular concept in the national documents is primarily related to international cooperation among educational institutions or internal cooperation among educational community members (e.g. between school administration and parents, school administration and teachers or teachers and parents). For instance, in Finland’s national documents the sub-concept of cooperation is the most frequent from all analyzed concepts (588)[5] and is explicitly defined. In the Education Act of Finland (2010) cooperation is mentioned in an organizational context of education (e.g. it is used as international cooperation, home-school cooperation, cooperation with the National Research and Development Centre). Meanwhile in the Core Curriculum of Basic Education (2014), cooperation is considered as one of the crucial elements of educational organization that is needed to

“reinforce the single-structure approach to basic education and its integrity and quality, to increase the openness of the activities and to support the pupils’ learning and growth. Cooperation is also needed to safeguard the diversity and safety of learning environments and the well-being of the school community. The cooperation is systematic, and its implementation is evaluated together with partners” (2014, p. 50).

Beside such a meaning, cooperation in this particular document also manifests as: a) cooperation between the home and school; b) internal cooperation and cooperation with other parties; c) cooperation as pupils’ participation. Cooperation between the home and school manifests through close communication and actions (e.g. providing information about the progress of a pupil’s learning process and growth) between the education provider (i.e., the primary responsibility of a guardian) and a pupil’s family (also minorities, as Roma or Sami families) both at the communal and individual levels. Internal cooperation and cooperation with other parties in a school refers to the cooperation among members of school community, in particular among teachers and also refers to close cooperation among various schools. The sub-concept of cooperation in Finland is mainly related with another concept – participation (e.g. cooperation for participation in learning process, cooperation for participation in school life, etc.). Cooperation is also related with another concept – culture. Precisely, the concept of cooperation occurs in those cases that emphasize special issues regarding language and culture (mainly Roma or Sami minority groups).

In comparison with Finland, the concept of cooperation (or similar word cooperate) in the national documentation of Lithuania occurs very fragmentarily (5). It mainly refers to two possible meanings: a) the teachers’ participation in planning educational process; or b) cooperation of Lithuanian educational institutions with entities of education systems of foreign countries in order to participate in international programs or other common activities. Similarly, in the national documentation of Spain (Organic Law of Education, 2006; Organic Law of Education, 2012) cooperation is predominately used (36) as a term to describe the organizational process of education. Precisely, this concept appears as common work among education administrators. It also refers to territorial cooperation among administrators, local administrators, parents, the State or autonomous communities. In Portugal’s case the concept of cooperation is not frequent (8) and is also mainly considered as the establishment of cooperation between education at home and education in school.

Interestingly, in all five countries cooperation is more rarely meant as working together at the individual level, i.e. among pupils or between a pupil and a teacher. In Finland’s Core Curriculum of Basic Education (2014) cooperation as pupils’ participation is implicitly related with the concept of responsibility and in schools manifests through comprehensive pupils’ involvement in planning their own school work and their group activities; through their involvement in planning and developing the activities of the school and the learning environment; through giving opportunities for pupils to take part in the preparation of the Curriculum and associated plans at school.

In Spain’s national documents cooperation is mentioned as a significant individual and intercultural value that pupils should develop in schools. It is stated that the educational system of Spain aims to achieve

“education for peace, respect for human rights, community life, social cohesion, cooperation and solidarity between nations and the acquisition of values which favour respect for living things and the environment, especially the value of forests and sustainable development” (Organic Law of Education, 2006, p. 35).

In this instance cooperation is directly related with other concepts – solidarity, tolerance and human rights. In Portugal’s case cooperation is also considered as a significant element for solidarity, civic and socio-affective maturity of a pupil, safe and adequate being/communication with other people. For instance, the Students’ Profile (2017) states that after compulsory education a pupil should “be apt to think in a critical and autonomous way, to be creative, and to work on a ground of communication and cooperation” (2017, p. 10). However, in these cases cooperation occurs without a deeper explanation.

3.3. Participation

The sub-concept of participation in the educational policy documentation[6] of analyzed countries is generally meant as an individual’s active functioning in the civic or cultural spheres of society. For example, even though participation occurs rarely in the national documentation of Lithuania (2), both times it is used with the additional word active. In Finland’s Basic Education of Curriculum, the concept of participation primarily manifests as one of the transversal competences and is directly related to the civic activities of a human being.

However, we found varying meanings of active participation in the national policy documentation of different countries. On the one hand, active participation refers to pupils’ involvement in educational processes. For example, in Portugal’s’ national policy documentation this particular concept is not frequent (16), yet it occurs with the additional word active and primarily refers to a person’s active participation in both daily school life and the society. Specifically, the beginning of the Students’ Profile (2017) states that this particular document aims to create a conceptual frame that “includes and presupposes freedom, responsibility, the ability to value work, self-awareness, inclusion of the individuals in the family and community, and active participation in society” (p. 3).

On the other hand, the meaning of active participation is also related with the aim to educate an active, creative, and responsible citizen who will acquire the competences required for social integration and lifelong learning. For instance, participation occurs frequently in the national documentation of Spain (60) as it is often used as a term to describe schools’ management process or is meant as preparation of pupils in schools for an active participation in social, cultural, and economic life (specifically mentioned in the description of vocational training), i.e. as an active, autonomous, free, responsible and committed citizen.

Meanwhile in Finland’s national documentation, the term active participation (94) has a broader spectrum of meanings than in other analyzed countries. Firstly, it is considered as one of the transversal competences and is distinctly attached to the civic activities of a human being. Secondly, the reinforcement of participation of each pupil is considered as the school’s mission. In this sense, participation is considered as pupils’ active involvement in educational process, i.e. planning of his/her learning and involvement in individual or group learning processes. Therefore, the concept of participation often appears in descriptions of various curricular subjects, including the Finnish language, foreign languages, environmental studies, physical education, visual arts and music. Thirdly, participation means pupils’ active involvement in their local community (e.g. subject of guidance counselling) and the world (e.g. subjects of languages or environmental studies).

In comparison with other countries, participation in Finland’s national documents is not considered as pupils’ preparation for active civic engagement in different life spheres in the future, but as the active operation on both the local and global levels of society here and now. Participation in this particular country is also considered as a significant element of the formation of pupils’ linguistic and cultural identity and is closely related with culture and active citizenship. In the national documents of Portugal participation appears with additional words such as democratic (e.g. democratic participation or participation in democratic life) or community (e.g. community participation in education; or communitarian participation). However, in all cases this concept is mentioned, but not explicitly defined.

3.4. Citizenship

The sub-concept of citizenship in analyzed countries mostly refers to an active, democratic and responsible participation of an individual in the society. For instance, in Finland’s national documents the concept of citizenship is not frequent (11), but it is attached to a variety of other terms, such as active, global, democratic, or responsible. Looking into the different extracts of the Core Curriculum for Basic Education of Finland where the concept of citizenship is mentioned we can grasp that the expected outcome in schools is to educate pupils as active citizens who respect human rights, use their democratic rights and freedom responsibly and act for a positive change in the local and global context. Thus, the concept of citizenship in Finland’s case has a variety of possible meanings.

On the contrary, the meaning of the concept of citizenship (28) or citizen (56) in the national policy documentation of Spain is more “closed” and most frequently attached to the additional words active or democratic. The terms active citizenship or democratic citizenship refer to the main qualities of a citizen. In the Education Law (2013) we also find references (15) to the importance of democratic and active citizenship, yet it is not explicitly defined in the national documents what is meant by both terms.

The concept of citizenship is the most visible (110) concept in the analyzed national documentation of Portugal. However, it is actually related only with one of the analyzed documents – the National Plan of Education and Citizenship (2017) which focuses on citizenship education. Meanwhile in the other national documents, i.e., in the Education System Law (1) and in the Students’ Profile (4), this particular concept hardly occurs. These documents do, however, use the term citizen. In the Students’ Profile this term often occurs with an additional word: socially engaged, active and engaged and also refers to the prospective characteristics of a citizen.

Meanwhile, the National Plan of Education for Citizenship (2017) of Portugal includes a

“set of rights and obligations that must be part of the citizenship training, with children and young people, so that, in the future, they become adults capable of performing a civic conduct, respecting and prioritizing equality in interpersonal relations, being able to integrate and overcome differences, respecting Human Rights, and prizing the concepts and values proper of a democratic citizenship” (p. 2).

In the given extract we can grasp the essence of the concept of citizenship – becoming an adult that is capable of civic conduct and one who prioritizes equality in interpersonal relations, being able to integrate and overcome differences, respecting human rights, and valuing democracy. Indeed, another word that is sporadically used with the concept of citizenship is democratic. This term highlights the importance of democratic values in citizenship education.

The National Plan of Education for Citizenship explicitly describes the organization of the curricular subject of Citizenship and Development that is based on three axes: personal civic attitude (identity as citizen, individual autonomy, human rights); interpersonal relations (communication, dialogue); social and intercultural relations (democracy, sustainable human development, globalization and interdependence, peace and conflict management).

In the case of England the concept of citizenship occurs (9) only in the Secondary Education Curriculum (2013) Framework, i.e. as a curricular subject citizenship is taught in the years of secondary education. The meaning of citizenship in the national policy documentation of England is generally attached to an individual who is not only active in society, but also actively engages in the political sphere of the State. This particular document states that an active citizen: a) plays a full and active part in society and becomes a responsible citizen; b) understands political principles and systems (the themes are related with the political system of England); c) thinks critically and debates political questions, etc. In particular, citizenship education refers to active involvement of an individual person in the social and political life of the country.

Meanwhile in both analyzed educational policy documents of Lithuania the concept of citizenship occurs very fragmentarily (4). In the Law of Education (1991/2016) the term of citizenship is used for the description of the rights of foreigners and national minorities to receive education in the State’s and native languages. Thus, this term is mainly used to explain Lithuanian citizenship rules. In the same document this term appears alongside with an explanation what national minorities and foreigners should be taught.

“The Lithuanian language shall be taught in the primary education curriculum in the integrated manner, and in the basic and secondary education curricula – during the lessons where the Curriculum themes of the Lithuanian history and geography, understanding of the world, basics of citizenship are taught” (p. 26).

Thus, in both cases the meaning of this concept is clearly related with national citizenship. In the Curriculum Framework for Primary and Basic Education (2008) of Lithuania the concept of citizenship occurs as one of the themes (1) of the principle aim of education – sustainable development. Citizenship (1) is also visible as part of social sciences, i.e. citizenship is one of the curricular subjects. The concept of citizenship also occurs in the formulation of the aim of education “The aim is to develop the spiritual, intellectual, and physical capabilities of an individual and to educate an active, creative, and responsible citizen who will acquire the competences required for social integration and lifelong learning” (p. 6). However, it is hard to grasp the explicit meanings of this particular concept in the Curriculum Framework.


Social responsibility is one of the most important components of cultural literacy; unfortunately, interrelation between cultural literacy and social responsibility is still in ongoing development. That is because the understanding of cultural literacy is changing rapidly, depending on global changes and the appearance of new social, cultural, and economic challenges. If cultural literacy was first understood as a set of knowledge for many years, later as skills for cultural communication, today it is much more related to social actions towards the implementation of a common understanding for living together with those “who are different,” collaboration, and caring towards sustainable development and social responsibility when using or creating culture with technological tools. In the contemporary situation of changes, social responsibility becomes much more important than it was a few decades ago. On the one hand, it builds bridges among different cultures and keeps alive their communication, transforming passivity into activity, creates conditions for living and working together for well-being in the future; on the other hand, it saves people from disinformation, manipulation in the real and virtual spaces.

The DIALLS project implements dialogue and argumentation for cultural literacy learning in schools. It seeks to help young people in schools to build up friendlier, more dialogic, active, respectful, and responsible communities and civic societies as a whole through empathy, tolerance, and inclusion. A conceptual diagram within this project was created. Social responsibility is one of the four fields in the conceptual structure of cultural literacy. Social responsibility is divided into five areas such as Social and Civic Competence, Citizenship, Active Participation and Cooperation, and Sustainable Development/Climate Change. Correspondingly, the concept of social literacy was investigated using the sub-concepts in content analysis of national documents and presented in this paper.

Even though the significance of social responsibility for education is obvious, the quantitative and qualitative analysis showed that this particular concept is hardly visible and present in the national educational policy documentation. The content analysis grasped some possible manifestations of this particular concept that is mainly connected to the sub-concept of citizenship. Specifically, social responsibility is implicitly considered as the formation or growth of an active and responsible citizen that acts as a responsible member of society. Meanwhile the relation of social responsibility with sub-concepts of cooperation and participation is more porous. On the one hand, it is possible to state that active membership of a responsible citizen undoubtedly manifests through a person’s actual participation and cooperation in social as well as civic life. Yet, on the other hand, in national policy documentation the concepts of social and responsible frequently appear not as united, but as two supplementary elements that are not necessarily interrelated. Therefore, the relation of social responsibility with the sub-concepts is unstable.

The quantitative analysis revealed that the sub-concepts of citizenship, cooperation and participation occur in the national policy documentation, yet the frequency and description of the concepts in different countries apparently variate. All sub-concepts appear in the national policy documentation of Finland, Lithuania, Spain, and Portugal. Yet, in the national policy documentation of Lithuania, all the sub-concepts are rarely visible. In Finland’s national policy documentation the most frequent concept is cooperation; in Portugal and Spain’s cases – citizenship. Meanwhile, the only sub-concept identified in the national documentation of England is citizenship.

The qualitative analysis revealed that all three sub-concepts are often overlapping, porous, and open to varied interpretations. However, the relation of all sub-concepts is not equivalent. In all national policies, citizenship is the dominant and most visible sub-concept, meanwhile cooperation and participation commonly manifest not as the equivalents, but only as the components of active citizenship. Moreover, the analysis revealed additional concepts of sustainable development/climate change, integrity and democracy that become visible in the description of analyzed sub-concepts or overlap with other analyzed sub-concepts and in this way demonstrate their growing importance.

The qualitative analysis also revealed that in some cases the sub-concepts occurred in contexts not relevant to the cultural literacy concept. The analysis showed that cooperation is frequently used to identify international cooperation among educational institutions and internal cooperation among educational community members (e.g. school administration and parents). Meanwhile cooperation as working together at an individual or social level occurs sporadically. Participation is also commonly related with school context, i.e. planning of his/her learning process or being involved in school life.

The discourse in education policy documentation utilized a broad variety of possible meanings of the analyzed concepts that might have crucial importance for cultural literacy and active citizenship. However, the analysis revealed that the education policy documentation in countries seeks to guide education administration and teachers through the concepts which meanings are rarely defined, explained or related with cultural literacy and active citizenship. Therefore, it is hard to confirm, that social responsibility is actually on the agenda for cultural literacy learning and educating for active citizenship.

Finally, the analysis revealed how the education policy documentation seeks to guide education administration and teachers through extremely broad and ambiguous concepts, which meanings varied even within the same document. Therefore, it becomes crucial that policymakers reduce the ambiguity of policies by being explicit and precise with the concepts used in them.

Responding to the findings of our research study, DIALLS would recommend national educational policy makers, researchers, and practitioners to strengthen education in social responsibility as a key element for cultural literacy learning, developments, and usage of citizenship participatory skills in everyday life.



Aronowitz, St., & Giroux, H. (2003). Education under Siege: Conservative, Liberal and Radical Debate Over Schooling. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Berman, S. (1990). Education for Social Responsibility. Educational Leadership, November. Retrieved from

Berman, S. (1997). Children’s Social Consciousness and the Development of Social Responsibility. University of New York Press.

Berman, S. (2011). Leading for social responsibility. In P. Houston, A. Blankstein, & Robert Cole (Eds.), Leadership for Social Justice and Democracy in Our Schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Carbonero, M. A., Martín-Antón, L. J., Otero, L., & Monsalvo, E. (2017). Program to Promote Personal and Social Responsibility in the Secondary Classroom. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00809.

Cazden, C., Cope, B., Cook, J., Fairclough, N., Gee, J. & others. (1996) Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review. 66 (1), 60-91.

Carter, S. (2006). Redefining Literacy as a Social Practice. Journal of Basic Writing, 25(2), 94-125. Retrieved from

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. Psychology Press.

Crave, A., Matten, D., & Spence L. (ed.) (2014). Corporate Social Responsibility. Readings and Cases in the Global Context. Taylor & Francis: Routledge.

Davis, K. (1960). Can business afford to ignore social responsibilities? California Management Review 2(3), 70–76.

Escartí, A., Gutiérrez, M., Pascual, C., Llopis, R. (2010). Implementation of the personal and social responsibility. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 10(3), 387–402.

Giroux, H. A. (2005). Border Crossings. Cultural workers and the politics of education (2nd Edition). New York and London: Routledge.

Guzzini, S. 2005. The concept of power: A constructivist analysis. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 33(3), 495–521. doi:10.1177/03058298050330031301.

Hellison, D. (2003). Teaching personal and social responsibility in physical education. In S. J. Silvermann, C. Ennis (Eds), Students Learning in Physical Education: Applying Research to Enhance Instruction (p. 269-286). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Hirsch, E.D. (1980). Culture and Literacy. Journal of Basic Writing, 3(1), 27-47.

Hirsch, E.D. (1989). A First Dictionary for Cultural Literacy: What our Children Need to Know. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Koselleck, R. (2002). The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2011).New Literacies. UK: McGraw-Hill Education.

Lähdesmäki, T., Koistinen, A., Ylönen, S. Zaleskiene, I., Duobliene, L., Kaire, S., Maine, F., & Cook, V. (2018). Cultural Analysis Framework. Retrieved from

Maine, F. Cook, V. and Lähdesmäki, T. (2019). “Reconceptualizing cultural literacy as a dialogic practice”. London Review of Education, 17 (3), 383–392. DOI

McLaren, P. (1999) Schooling as a Ritual Performance. Toward a Political Economy of Educational Symbols and Gestures. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Masschelein, J., & Simons, M. (2013). In Defence of the School. A Public Issue. Leuven: ACCO.

Masschelein, J., & Simons, M. (2015). Education in times of fast learning: the future of the school. Ethics and Education, 10 (1), 84-95. doi:10.1080/17449642.2014.998027.

Rauhansalo, T., & Kvieska, V. (2017). Finnish Education System in Integrated Social Education Context. Social Education 2017, 46(2), 24–39. doi:

Segal, N. (2014) Introduction. In N. Segal, &D. Koleva (Eds.) From Literature to Cultural Literacy (p. 1-15). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Stiegler, B. (2010). Taking Care of Youth and the Generation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Stiegler, B. (2017). Philosophising by Accident. Interviews with Élie During. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Street, B. (1984). Literacy in Theory and Practice (Vol. 9). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

United Nations (2013). Education for Social Responsibility. Retrieved from

Vallaeys, F. (2014). University Social Responsibility: a Mature and Responsible Definition. GUNI Report. In Higher Education in The World, 5, 88-96.

Vallaeys, F. (2018). Defining Social Responsibility: a Matter of Philosophical Urgency for Universities. Retrieved from



The Education Act 2011 (2011). Retrieved from

Department of Education (2013). The national curriculum in England. Key stages 1 and 2 framework document (Primary Education). Retrieved from

Department of Education (2013). The national curriculum in England. Key stages 2 and 4 framework document (Secondary Education). Retrieved from

Department of Education (2011, introduction Updated 2013). Teachers’ Standards. Guidance for School Leaders, School Staff and Governing Bodies. Retrieved from


Basic Education Act 628/1998. Amendments up to 1136/2010 (2010). Retrieved from

Finnish National Board of Education (2014). Core Curriculum of Basic Education. Helsinki: Next Print Oy.


Republic of Lithuania (1991/2016). Law on Education, No I-1489. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania (2008). Curriculum Framework for Primary and Basic (Lower Secondary) Education. Resolution No. ISAK–970. Retrieved from


Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (2006). The Organic Law of Education. Madrid: MEC.

Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (2013, published 2018). Organic Law 8/2013, Of 9 December, For Improving Educational Quality. Retrieved from

Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (2013). The Basic Curriculum of Compulsory Secondary Education and Secondary Education.


The Education System Framework Law (1986), No 46/86, October 14.

Student’s Profile: Skills for the XXI Century. After finishing compulsory education process (Under Ministerial Decision N. º 9311/2016, July 21) (2017).

Education for Citizenship. National Plan (2017).


[1] The entire glossary of terms, used by DIALLS, can be found here:

[2] The comprehensive description of the guidelines that were jointly created in the beginning of the DIALLS project is available in the Appendix 2 of the Cultural Analysis Framework (2018). Available:

[3] The entire list of the analysed national educational policy documentation is given above.

[4] Cooperation in England’s national policy documentation does not occur.

[5] In the analysis the quantitative frequency of the particular concept (or sub-concept) is written in the brackets.

[6] Participation in England’s national documents is only mentioned (1) in the Secondary education curriculum (2013) as participation in volunteering. Therefore the England’s case in this section is not analysed in detail.