Our international comic competition “Animate Europe”, currently running in its third round, is one attempt to create interest in the topic of Europe, launch discussions, thought processes and foster civic engagement, for an informed and open society. It is one examples, how graphic arts and the often neglected comic scene in particular, can be a valuable approach to discussing and presenting social and political issues. The Civil Development Forum, partner in our 4liberty.eu network, has for several years used a similar approach – with the main difference that they focus specifically on economic education. Marek Tatala, Vice President and Economist at the Civil Development Forum (FOR Foundation) shared with us their ideas and strategies behind the project.
Democracy relies on well-educated and informed citizens. This includes knowledge about fundamentals of economics, rule of law and individual rights. All of these aspects should be taught to children at an early age and in a way, which makes it accessible and attractive to them.
In November 2016 FOR Foundation published already the 8th edition of “Econ-Comics” (“Komiksy Ekonomiczne” in Polish).
This year’s topics include:
- How does a stock exchange convert investors’ money into real investments?
- Is digitalization leading to higher unemployment?
- From central planning to market economy – successes of the Polish economy since 1989 transformation
- Benefits from mobile technologies in the banking sector
Previous editions covered topics such as the importance of deregulation and private ownership, negative consequences of excessive minimum wage, economic growth in the EU, and many more.
“While economy-related education should perhaps be attractive, it most certainly should not be boring” – Professor Leszek Balcerowicz
Creating economic comic books
We do not draw the “Econ-Comics” ourselves, of course. Instead we organize a contest with cash prizes, thanks to the generous support of a bank, which has been our key partner since the 1st edition. This year over 200 people submitted their proposal, based on our prepared topics and guidelines. The people we want to reach are amateur and professional artists and other talented people. We reach them via traditional and social media, websites about comics and arts, comic book shops, etc. All pieces received by FOR are assessed by our panel of judges, including Professor Leszek Balcerowicz (Economist, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and FOR’s Founder), popular Polish artists, as well as satirists. The winners are presented at the International Festival of Comics and Games in Lodz. The festival is running since 1991 and it is the biggest comic event in Poland and Central-Eastern Europe. During the Festival, FOR Foundation has a booth and an exhibition in the venue to promote our project among participants.
“Combining economy and comic books has proved to be a fantastic idea. Each year, the competition has been enjoying a growing interest among Poles. All participants can present their skills before exquisite cartoonists and satirists” – Jakub Przezdziecki, FOR project coordinator
Comics – an educational tool
The important part of our project is obviously education. The best comics are published every year in a special printed volume and can also be found online on our project website: www.komiksyekonomiczne.pl.
We send them free of charge (printed versions and CDs) to thousands of teachers interested in using them during their lessons. The teachers can order our materials via a special online form. They are mostly used in Social Studies (“Wiedza o Spoleczenstwie” in Polish) and Introduction to Entrepreneurship (“Podstawy Przedsiebiorczosci”). Both are official and compulsory subjects in the Polish lower (12-15, gymnasium) and higher (15-18, lyceum) secondary schools. We are in touch with both teachers and schools’ headmasters to promote our product. FOR is also present with our “Econ-Comics” at major educational events and conferences for teachers, where we establish networks and receive orders for our volumes.
Before we send the volumes to schools we ask experienced teaching methodology consultants to prepare lesson outlines, based on the official school curricula. Our project has an honorary patronage of the Ministry of National Education. Apart from the lesson outlines we offer two additional programs: firstly, we organize lessons and presentations in schools ourselves. We talk to students and teachers and we use case studies from our economic comic books to discuss important economic or legal issues. We visit schools all around Poland and in 2016 we started a special educational project with Swidnica – a town in South-West Poland which we regularly visit with FOR’s educational team, coordinated by FOR project coordinator Jakub Przezdziecki. Secondly, since 2014, we have been organizing conferences about comics and other innovative methods to teach economics. These conferences attract around 150-200 teachers every year. As one teacher wrote in the feedback form that we collected: “It is something new and different and gives students the possibility to freely express their opinions. The materials are definitely more interesting than the textbook itself”.
Improving knowledge about basic economics, rule of law and individual rights among pupils and adults is a long-term process. But we can make it more efficient and fun thanks to our economic comic books.
Marek Tatala – Vice President and Economist at the Civil Development Forum (FOR Foundation)
The project is possible thanks to a generous support by one of the largest banks in Poland – BZ WBK (member of the Santander Group).