Citizenship Education: Does It Have a Place in the Curriculum?

Article excerpt


The call for citizenship education as a compulsory part of the curriculum has met with a varied response worldwide. While everyone would espouse the ideals of ensuring our young people grow up to be active and fair-minded citizens, why does citizenship education not figure more prominently in our curriculum'? This article discusses the past, present, and possible future of citizenship education in the New Zealand Curriculum.


The call for citizenship education as a compulsory part of the curriculum has met with a varied response worldwide. In the United Kingdom it was made a compulsory cross-curricular theme in 2002 (see, for example, Kerr, 2002); in the United States (where it is known as civics) it is a curriculum area with a set of national standards (Pederson & Cogan, 20(12); in Australia there is ministerial endorsement of Discovering Democracy (a programme that is federally funded and distributed to all states) and there are active citizenship programmes in most states (O'Brien & Parry, 2002); in Canada there has been renewed interest across the provinces (Hebert & Sears, 2001); in New Zealand, it barely rates a mention.

This article takes the notion of citizenship education and discusses its relationship to the current New Zealand curriculum. Why has this concept not taken root? I will argue that although it is not specifically named as such, it does exist in a range of guises. I will also argue that there is huge potential for enhancing and strengthening the threads that do exist. This article begins with a general discussion of citizenship and citizenship education. I then examine the history of citizenship education in the New Zealand curriculum and discuss its current status before concluding with recommendations for strengthening its potential.

Citizenship: what is it?

If not born in New Zealand or of New Zealand parentage, an applicant for New Zealand citizenship must, under the Citizenship Act 1977, have:

* completed a period of permanent residency for three years (or two years, if married to a new Zealand citizen);

* the intention to continue to live in New Zealand;

* the ability to understand and speak English;

* a knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of New Zealand citizenship; and

* been certified to be of good character. (1)

So what are these "responsibilities and privileges"? Yvonne Hebert and Alan Sears (2001), writing for the Canadian Education Association, define citizenship as "the relationship between the individual and the state, and among individuals within a state" (p. 1). Rob Gilbert (1996, p.108), an Australian social studies educator, views citizenship as a contested term. He explains: "Some definitions emphasise the nation stale as an entity to which people should give allegiance and loyalty. Other definitions emphasise individual rights or a sense of shared loyalty. Others focus on citizen participation in government." Gilbert outlines four major views of citizenship:

* as a status implying formal rights and duties;

* as an identity and a set of moral and social virtues based on the democratic ideal;

* as a public practice conducted through legal and political processes; and

* as participation in decision making in all aspects of life.

When discussing citizenship in New Zealand elsewhere (for example, Mutch, 2005) I have adapted these categories as follows, with the second one being separated into two to make a total of five: citizenship as status; citizenship as identity; citizenship as the democratic ideal, citizenship as public practice; and citizenship as participation.

Citizenship as status relates to the legal rights and responsibilities that a person has as a member of a nation state and of a community within that political entity. Citizenship as identity is broader than purely national identity--it can include religious, political, ethnic, regional, or other affiliations, a notion that Kymlicka (1995) calls "multicultural" or "multiple citizenship". …


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.