Although we assume that the younger generation is more ethical and demands fairer governance, research shows that young people are more tolerant of corruption than older people (aged 15-29). An interesting contradiction emerges: young people tend to not recognize corruption, but at the same time those in power are found to be corrupt and efficiency is preferred to freedom of corruption in government.
As the reasons for this situation, we see that young people have not been exposed to corruption in a democratic Estonia in the same way as older age groups, and the nature of corruption is not talked about in a way that would help young people to recognize it better. However, in order to ensure an increase in the transparency of Estonian society and government, we need to raise the awareness of young people about the nature and harmfulness of corruption as well as about democratic values and active citizenship.
Democracy starts at school. To address this, we are helping to shape young people’s attitudes and raise awareness of corruption so that they are more aware of and willing to fight corruption. We are also creating opportunities for teachers and schools to actively shape young people’s anti-corruption attitudes. More specifically, we take the following actions:
- Participatory budgeting in schools. In the 2020/2021 academic year, we started implementing participatory budgeting in Estonian schools, in the course of which the school allocates a small part from its budget, the use of which will be decided by students. During the project, the students will be able to participate in important decisions for the school community, gain experience in project management, budgeting, campaigning, negotiation and (e-)voting. Research shows that thanks to participatory budgeting students awareness of participation methods, citizens rights and responsibilities, and of democratic processes improves. As the strength of democracy and the prevalence of corruption are strongly related, participatory budgeting is an intervention tool to introduce youngsters to the values and skills needed to participate fully in society. TI Estonia supports the project with a workshop on corruption, the Estonian Cooperation Assembly has created an online platform kaasavkool.rahvaalgatus.ee to show the ideas and conduct e-voting, and if possible, NGO Demokraatiatrenn (Democracy Fitness) will execute trainings to target specific democracy muscles.
- Creating a network of democratic schools. From the spring of 2022, the association will lead a network of schools who implement participatory budgeting, so teachers can share ideas, hear about international practices and support each other. The aim of the network is to grow into a network that promotes school democracy by sharing initiatives and tools that can then be put into practice to activate students and promote school management democracy. We consider it important that the student receives the experience of democracy at an early age and from school.
- Creation and distribution of materials and tools. We create teaching and guidance materials on corruption, school democracy and whistleblowing, which we then share with teachers. We also offer guest lessons through our expert members to reduce the burden on teachers. We are primarily looking for schools and teachers who want to continue with the topic of corruption in the future. Conducting surveys will help to support activities by mapping the current situation and designing new activities on the basis of the results.