Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

What Does a Decade of Research Reveal about the State of Citizenship Education in New Zealand?

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

What Does a Decade of Research Reveal about the State of Citizenship Education in New Zealand?

Article excerpt

Abstract

Citizenship education, in a range of guises, has been an integral part of the school curriculum in New Zealand since 1877. This articles synthesises a decade of citizenship research by the author in order to reflect upon the place, state and impact of citizenship education in New Zealand. It begins with a brief discussion of what is meant by citizenship and citizenship education. The main focus of the article examines citizenship through seven lenses: historical, political, curricular, pedagogical, practice, achievement and outcomes. An underpinning argument is that citizenship education reflects our developing identity as a nation throughout history and holds a mirror up to show how we see ourselves now and what the possibilities might be for the future. Given current ideological influences, will it continue to have the potential to prepare our young people to take an active role in shaping a positive future?

Keywords: citizenship education; curriculum history; social studies.

Introduction

Citizenship education has been an integral part of the education curriculum in New Zealand. Although the vehicle through which it has been taught has changed over the years, it has remained a constant presence. What is less easy to discern is whether citizenship education in its various iterations has had any impact on what our young people learn and how that shapes us as a nation. This is something I have been puzzling over for more than a decade. I have investigated citizenship education, for example, through historical and political analyses (Mutch, 2002, 2005a, 2008); school-based research (Mutch, 2003); international comparisons, (Mutch, 2004); curriculum-focused research, (Mutch, 2005b, 2005c); pedagogical practices (Mutch, 2010); and an examination of national and international studies (Mutch, 2011a).

This Special Issue on social sciences education provides the opportunity to pull all of these threads together in a coherent manner and make a comprehensive statement about the place, state and impact of citizenship education in New Zealand. I begin with a brief discussion of what is meant by citizenship and citizenship education. The main focus of the article takes a decade of my research and writing on citizenship education and synthesises it into seven themes, or lenses, that focus on particular aspects of citizenship education. The lenses are historical, political, curricular, pedagogical, practice, achievement and outcomes. The article does not claim to cover all citizenship education research undertaken in New Zealand nor cover all themes in New Zealand-based research but aims to synthesise one scholar's body of work on this topic. Drawing on this work, I argue that, overtly or covertly, citizenship education in its various guises, and disguises, reflects our developing identity as a nation and continues to mirror how we see ourselves now and in the future. While its contested nature reflects the ideological debates of the time, I argue it does have the potential to prepare our young people to take an active role in shaping a positive future.

Citizenship

Being born into a liberal democratic nation, such as New Zealand, confers sets of citizenship rights and responsibilities (Barr, 2005; Hébert & Sears, 2001; Mutch, 2005a, 2005b). If not born in New Zealand or of New Zealand parentage, the main rules to gain citizenship are related to residency, intention, competence in the English language, knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of New Zealand citizenship, and certification of one's good character.1

But once citizenship has been conferred, it does not necessarily mean it is clearly understood. The concept of citizenship is complex and contested (Gilbert, 1996; Mutch, Hunter, Milligan, Openshaw, & Siteine, 2008). Gilbert (1996, p. 108) elaborates, "Some definitions emphasise the nation state as an entity to which people should give allegiance and loyalty. Other definitions emphasise individual rights or a sense of shared loyalty. …

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