Why should I organise an event to raise awareness about abolition with my pupils?
ECPM’s school events at middle and high schools are an opportunity to raise awareness among young people in France about a problem which is still topical today as 55 countries still retain this punishment in their legal arsenal. Despite the 35 years which have passed since abolition, support for the death penalty continues to rise in France: 60% to 52% of citizens look upon it favourably according to the latest opinion pools (Ifop, May 2015). The younger generation is particularly susceptible: at an age where the distinction between justice and vengeance is still being learnt, this is the leading age group to desire the return of the death penalty.
In view of this, education about citizenship and human rights is a means of combating the increase in violence, racism, extremism and intolerance. These events also enable young people to understand the challenges of a non-violent penal system as it exists within the European Union and how such a system operates. Teachers can widen the topic to include other fundamental societal subjects such as the notion of justice, punishment, perpetuity, victims and pardons. It is also an opportunity to encourage independence among pupils and their ability to debate, and initiate them in international solidarity so as to prepare them for their role as active and responsible citizens.
Who are your events aimed at?
We work with students from Year 9 to Sixth Form in middle and high schools in mainland France. Our events can be organised at the initiative of anyone from the school’s educational team: teachers of any discipline, librarians, etc.
Upon request, ECPM also carries out events with other organisations working with young people (youth groups, child protection services, etc.) and organises conferences at universities.
Is ECPM recognised by the French Department of Education?
Thanks to its project Teaching About Human Rights and Abolition of the Death Penalty, ECPM is an organisation approved by the Department of Education in France.
How much does it cost the school to organise an event?
Our events are free. We simply ask that schools sometimes cover the travel expenses (and, where necessary, accommodation costs) of those participating in the event.
When do the school events happen?
ECPM organises events throughout the year with schools which have shown an interest. We also organise cycles of events around key dates in the human rights calendar. All schools in contact with the organisation are invited to sign up to these events by email.
How long does an event last?
A standard event last two hours and takes place during the school day.
How many pupils can take part in an event?
A school event can involve one or several classes. With more than two classes, it is simply a question of making sure that the session can take place under good conditions (room and equipment adequate for such a large audience, discipline among pupils to take turns speaking).
What happens at a standard event?
Our events are always divided into two sessions to allow for both a theoretical and a concrete conversation with pupils.
First, a specialist from the organisation is there to lead an in-depth debate with pupils, making sure that all the arguments for and against the death penalty are raised, and recalling the context of abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981. He/she then looks at the subject in more detail by providing pupils with information about the current situation of the death penalty across the world.
Then, through an activity or a guest speaker, we like to show young people the human implications of the death penalty: this can either be through a witness account (via a ‘witness’ who is present or through an appropriate video) or role play, particularly our game Abolition Now.
The entire session is carried out interactively with pupils to enable them to express their opinions, provide any prior knowledge they may have of the subject and ask the organisers questions.
Who are the ‘witnesses’ who could be involved?
The ‘abolition witnesses’ we invite to participate in the school events all have one thing in common: they can recount their personal experience of the death penalty. But, they can have very varied profiles: someone sentenced to death and subsequently released, someone closely connected to someone sentenced to death (family or correspondent), a victim of terrorism, a journalist, a press cartoonist, a lawyer or a representative from a field organisation committed to taking action against the death penalty overseas.
What equipment should be made available to the organisers?
The ideal room for the event would have a computer with an internet connection, a projector and speakers.
Also, when there are a lot of pupils it is important to have at least two portable microphones and enough chairs.
What teaching tools can I use to prepare this topic with my pupils before the event?
ECPM has created all-inclusive teaching tools for teachers. Via the lesson modules, available as exercises for students and as a corrected version for teachers, staff can raise the issue of abolition of the death penalty in their classes independently, while respecting the curriculum of the Department of Education. Adapted to the level of the various classes and subjects, these teaching tools are currently available to teachers from various disciplines: English, art, civic education, Spanish, French and History/Geography.
What can I do with my pupils afterwards to take the topic further?
It’s not just about a one-off meeting. Every year, ECPM sets up class projects inviting pupils to express their vision of a world without the death penalty through the creation of their own medium for raising awareness about abolition. These projects allow pupils to take an interest in abolition of the death penalty from a practical angle by allowing them to find out about new skills (graphic art, journalism, video production, etc.) and, sometimes, even encourage vocations! Specific teaching guides are provided by ECPM to assist and advise young people in their creations.
Their creations (posters, press cartoons, magazines, videos, etc.) are then publicised (publications and broadcasts, exhibitions overseas, etc.) and the young people participating are rewarded for their civic commitment (official ceremony at the end of the project, prize giving for the winners).
If you would like your pupils to participate in the class projects currently proposed by ECPM, please go to the Current Action page.